Just a couple of hours

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Today we celebrated thirty years of marriage. That is a long time, and if you’ve spent it with me, it’s a whole lot longer.

I still remember when my dad stepped off the train in Utsunomiya, looking pretty dashing after having flown all the way from Texas to be at our wedding. My mother-in-law said he looked like Sean Connery. I remember the bullet train ride to Tokyo on our wedding day. I remember the bulletproof glass that we stood in front of when they married us in the U.S. Embassy, and the rather bored bureaucrat who made it official when we presented our paperwork at the city office in Minato-ku.

I remember dinner that night at the Washington Hotel with Yasuko, my dad, and her parents. And I remember waking up the next day rather mystified that I had come to Japan for a couple of weeks to see the country, and ten months later I was married.

My wife and I did all this without a manual and against the advice of friends and close family. We didn’t have any personal experience about how marriages should work, although we both had a lot of experience observing how they shouldn’t. Most surprising of all was the fact that, her being twenty and me being twenty-three, we didn’t really bother to take note of the fact that we were strangers.

None of it mattered. The language of the other that neither one of us really spoke; the ways and means of the completely different cultures we’d both been raised in; the things we thought were important and the things we thought that that weren’t … all of it seems, in retrospect, like a recipe for a three-week marriage rather than a three-decade one. And perhaps that’s what it would have been had the babies not started coming and had we both not realized that the fun and games were over and suddenly we were responsible for another life, then another, then another. I’d say we grew up quick, but the truth is that we stayed young and dumb and faked the hell out of it.

Throughout it all, I kept riding my bike, which kept me sane and her not. “I’ll be home in a couple of hours” became The Battle Hymn of the Cycling Wife Republic. There was the time I went out for a couple of hours and got lost in the mountains on a dirt road outside Shimogo, six hours from home, and almost froze to death lying down in the snow from exhaustion. There was the time I went out for a couple of hours and got hit by a car bombing a descent outside of Nikko. There was the time I went out for a couple of hours and got hit by a car going the wrong way down a one-way street, taking out the guy’s windshield, only to have a yakuza show up a few days later wanting to know whether I’d be paying for the damage in cash or in teeth.

There was the time I went out for a couple of hours and didn’t turn around until Inobozaki, 80 miles from home. I missed the special luncheon that had been prepared that day, a/k/a Our Anniversary. There was the time I went out for a couple of hours and a blizzard hit and my friend Tom Malone froze his Mr. Business and I had to warm it up for him by sticking my wool cap down his shorts. I never asked for the cap back but it took forever to get home due to his excessive groin pain.

There was the time I went out for a couple of hours and got into a confrontation with a truck driver who literally had his hands around my throat and then suggested we go have a drink, so we wound up in a bar until midnight before I realized that I was supposed to have been at the kindergarten piano recital a couple of hours ago, like ten. And of course there was the time I went out for a couple of hours in the Panhandle and got home so late I missed my birthday dinner, on Christmas, and the time I went out for a couple of hours in the morning and got home after dark, long after the police had been called.

One time I went out for a couple of hours and ended up in the ER with a broken hip, another time I went out for a couple of hours and didn’t get home in time for Thanksgiving dinner because the police wanted to talk to me for many hours about a drive-by shooting I had pedaled past. I also remember going out for a couple of hours with strict instructions to be home for a child’s birthday pancake breakfast but the guys were going pretty hard and I had good legs and so I went for the city limit sprint, broke a fork and still could have made it home in time but the guy who was giving me a ride home convinced me to swing by the bike shop to see if we could get the fork warrantied. We couldn’t because the warranty didn’t cover hitting a manhole cover at speed and flipping into a ditch, but we ended up shooting the bull and losing track of time, like, a lot of time.

I will never forget the morning I went out for a couple of hours in a light rainstorm that the news idiots called a tropical storm, flatted both tubulars twenty miles from home and then had to ride home on the rims. It took a long time and I reportedly missed her parents’ arrival, their first and only visit to the USA.

To make up for all this I made big plans for her 40th birthday, arranged all kinds of great stuff, but since it wasn’t going to start until noon I went out for a couple of hours and the guys were on fire and I had great legs so we headed for the hills and then someone wanted an even hundy so I missed the surprise birthday party, which was a big surprise.

One time I went out for a couple of hours and got back just in time not to see my son hit a home run in the final inning of his last Little League game, and another time I went out for a couple of hours and almost made it back home in time for her 50th birthday party, missed the dang thing by a lousy 240 minutes.

This morning was, like I said, our 30th anniversary and we had big plans for the day. I got ready to go out for a couple of hours, but this time she didn’t bat an eye, didn’t make me swear on a stack of bibles I don’t believe in that I wouldn’t be late, didn’t make me sign a contract agreeing to be home in time for the festivities, didn’t say a single mumblin’ word.

What she did was, she suited up and rolled out the door with me. And we got back in time.

Weird.

thirtieth_anniversary

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