There are so many other things I could write about that happened during the next two years. We would go to extremes to see each other. At least once a month, he would call me on a Friday and tell me he was headed my way. He could drive the 590 miles in about 10 hours.
(This photo was taken in Kent’s apartment in Mississippi. You can almost see that he is wearing The Ugly Shoes. Now I’m noticing that my shoes weren’t exactly pretty!)
I would visit him as often as I could. I would convince my dad to give me a plane ticket. Or I would pack up my red Sunfire and make the long trek myself. It took me about 12 hours to drive all that way, past St. Louis, through the tip of Missouri and part of Arkansas, through Memphis and finally across Mississippi.
I bought a CD player “boom box,” and I would check out audio books from the library. The books only came on cassette tape at the time, so I couldn’t play them in the CD player in my car. I filled the front seat with D batteries so I could keep my boom box going as I listened to book after book on that long drive.
I have always loved to ride my bike. Once we started dating we started riding mountain bike trails. Kent would leave Mississippi around 4 p.m. on Friday and get to Springfield around 2 a.m. Somehow, we had enough energy to ride the mountain bike trails on Saturday.
(Here we are after a ride in Springfield. Our bikes were always covered with mud. This photo was taken in front of the garage to my apartment, “The Berkeley.”)
We would enjoy every second of that day together, but the whole time we had this sense of impending doom that Sunday was on its way. Usually around noon, he would say good-bye and begin that long drive down south.
We also liked to play tennis. Several times, I would leave Springfield on a chilly day in early spring and we would play tennis all weekend in shorts in Mississippi.
We loved the warm weather in the south. But neither of us ever adjusted to the culture in Mississippi or the heat and humidity in the summer. The first time I went to visit him, we walked into a restaurant for lunch and saw his co-workers sitting together at a table.
“Look at that!” one of the guys announced. “Kent’s got himself a woman.”
I was so embarrassed.
(This photo was taken in Jackson, Mississippi. I thought it would be hilarious to take a photo in front of that big monument to “The Confederate Dead of Mississippi.”)
After about a year making the Mississippi commute, he had the opportunity to take a job in the Chicago area. While we would still be about four hours apart, it seemed like next-door neighbors compared to Mississippi.
From that very first weekend when he made the unexpected trip to Springfield, we both knew we were meant to be together. We just knew. We had barely started dating, and yet we had known each other nearly all of our lives. I knew his family and he knew mine, so that alone gave us a jumpstart in our relationship.
He moved to the suburbs in October and that next June we got engaged. On Nov. 15, 1997, we were married. We had dated just over two years and had lived in separate towns the entire time.
I can’t imagine my life without my husband. He is my rock.
I’m the one who is always out there, pushing the limits and trying new things. I’m not afraid to learn something or try something new. But I always seem to doubt myself or need reassurance.
He always puts me at peace. When he’s out of town for a long period of time, I start to go crazy without his calming presence. He keeps me grounded. He helps me see the good in me. Sometimes, he seems to understand me in a way that I don’t even understand myself.
We’ve been married and been parents for long enough that sometimes it’s hard to remember that life was ever different. But once in a while, I glance at him and remember seeing him ride his BMX bike in sixth grade or walking across the field in high school in his football uniform.
I remember sitting in the back of his dad’s car shouting out directions or The Ugly Shoes or the drive to Mississippi. I think about the Thai restaurant or The Berkeley or riding our mountain bikes around Springfield.
It’s hard to believe that those two people are parents with four children. It’s hard to believe we’re even responsible enough to keep things going sometimes.
It’s fun to remember those days.
It’s good to remember when life was so much less.
I’m so thankful for today that life is so much more.