Dear Curtis James,
It’s 8:30 on Wednesday night and you are somewhere over Minnesota while I type, headed home. Your job doesn’t ask you to travel much, but we miss you when you are gone. The herd always knows when you are gone.
Curt! Saturday is your birthday!
This is where we started, you know?
[Y’all go ahead and click on that link above and refresh your memory… I’m warning you: it ain’t pretty.]
Two years later, we married and spent our first nights together at the Amway in downtown Grand Rapids.
This year, on your birthday, we’ll be at the Amyway again- for a marriage retreat.
It’s as if every part of our relationship up to this moment has been leading to this weekend!
I hope I don’t screw it up.
Also, I hope there’s room service at some point.
It’s been twelve years since we first met in California, nine years since we married and started sharing a bathroom, seven since our first kid and me dragging you out to the country, and five since the cows joined us in the pasture. How are you feeling about all of that? You’re (soon to be) 36. You’re a successful project manager known in Michigan and beyond for being calm, focused, and extremely adept at excel spreadsheets.
You’re a father to three kids. THREE! What in the world, Curt? What were we thinking? We weren’t thinking. It’s too many kids. Together, we juggle the three of them well, I think. Actually, let’s face it: Abby takes care of herself so really we just deal with the older two. Your patience, your ability to stay un-affected, and your complete devotion to peanut butter sandwiches on Saturdays makes you a rockstar dad and counter-balances my I HAVE NO PLAN plan to a perfect degree.
I do not know a harder worker who can push himself so far for so long without complaining or faltering. It is so incredibly… annoying. Seriously. What is my role here? Realism? Evening out the curve for our kids? Someone has to cook, I suppose… you are terrible at that. Cooking and ironing.
Not that you’re not an excitable person. People still talk about the night around the fire when you looked up an owl call on your phone and then had all of us sitting, literally, on the edge of our seats hoping right along with you that it would work and an owl would swoop down to join us. You’re enthusiasm is contagious. Owl calls. Truly.
I’ve watched you walk across a metal barn roof in the dead of an icy winter with no harness and no fear, and I’ve lived through about 800 cycles of research for the “next” thing: a skid steer, a car, a pair of shoes. I’ve watched you deal pragmatically with excruciating back surgery, kidney stones, and cavities. You go all-in, every time.
Your brain is a little scary. I think maybe it’s only numbers floating around in there. Numbers and engine parts. You calculate tire rotations and RPMs and speedometer accuracy to stay awake on long drives. You use Google Earth to figure exact linear footage of property for cattle fencing. You ask for maps of dirt roads and county lines. You explain frost cycles to friends over dinner, and make it educational and completely normal.
You will drive anywhere. Connecticut, overnight and back again with a 30-foot trailer and a friend? Sure. Kansas for a sale but we’re not buying? You bet. Texas for a 4-day weekend? Pack it up.
In Enneagram World, you are an uncontested 1– a stoic problem solver.
I am a 4– a creative, unique, emotional (and maybe a little lazy) spirit.
There is no logical or emotional reason we should be married or even friends.
Our marriage is the very definition of what is possible when two people with fall in love and let God fill in the cracks. There is no other way save Grace that an intense, focused, achievement-oriented guy would fall for and devote his life to supporting a gypsy of a girl who is constantly searching for solid ground.
Or maybe I found it.
Maybe you show me stability every day… that you’re not going anywhere (except maybe to Connecticut “real quick”), that you love me unconditionally (but it would help if I would not read so late into the night with the light on and page-turning), that you believe in keeping and honoring promises (so you’re kind of stuck).
It’s our first marriage retreat ever. On your birthday! At the Amway! I can’t wait. These past 12 years have been an absolute blur of life. We are not new to this relationship or parenting thing anymore. And rather than let this next stage of life run over us with eleven more years of rising and setting suns, we are going to attempt to be intentional about it. I am excited to sit down and make space to talk to you and pray with you and eat dinner with you. Alone (except for every one else attending). I’ll try to take it seriously. But, honestly, Curt… if there’s a budget portion or even a “where do you want to be in 5 years” workshop, I’m gonna need a Coke and some Cheetos. ALL THE PLANNING. LAWD. I’m sweating already.
Happy birthday, Love. You’re amazing. You are the best bonfire-builder, farmer slash engineer, sword-maker I know, and I am just so darn happy to have you on my team.
I pick you. Every time.
Except when I’m panicking and then I pick another 4 who will hold me through the commotion instead of mapping out a (ridiculously effective and efficient) solution grid.