Happy Birthday

I moved to Strathmore when I was ten years old. Just another small town on the list of towns I lived in. This one was different in many ways but it had one thing that made it special. It was home to the boy who would one day be my husband. While helping my daughter with her garage sale recently, I met her neighbour who was born and raised in Brooks, as was her husband. She told me she had once read that if you live in a small town, you most likely have already met the person you will marry. I don’t remember meeting Rene’. I spent a lot of time in his home because of his sister but I can’t pick out that one moment I first saw him. I just feel as if I have always known him. I guess she was right. At the age of ten I had already met the man I would marry.

Rene was five years ahead of me in school so it is doubtful I made any impression on him in the younger years. We were shadow people in each others lives. Always around but on the periphery. My Dad could tell you the exact moment he met Rene. Dad worked for the county and Rene’ had a summer job cleaning and washing school busses. He was fifteen years old. I remember Dad singing Rene’s praises one evening at the supper table. What a nice young man and a hard worker as well. Dad always was a pretty good judge of character. Our wedding day was a dream come true for Dad. Rene’ was the same age as my brother Tim so I was at their high school graduation. Rene’s sister Suzanne and I were there in our geeky long dresses. Sitting over in the corner on top of the highest bleachers. From there we watched the pomp and ceremony as our brothers graduated from high school. I was just thirteen and Suzie was still twelve. Two little girls dreaming about our future with boyfriends and dates. I did watch Rene and Tim play sports now and again. The year the Harlem clowns came and played our High School basketball team was pretty exciting. They called my future hubby Peewee.

Rene was off to university the year I entered grade eight. He came home to visit but we didn’t run in the same social circles so our encounters were brief. He was coming and going and I was just there somewhere with Suzie. We always slept in his room when we had sleepovers. He was never there and his room was in the basement. So much easier for us to sneak out of the house. In the summertime Rene’ worked on the railway and was only home one day a week so again we rarely ran into each other. Frankly I doubt we spoke more than five words to each other. He was quiet and polite and I was not on his radar. When I was in grade eleven Rene’ was done university and back living at home. He still worked the railway in the summer but again we ran in different crowds. There are cliques in small towns and ours very seldom crossed over. This was the year Suzie started to hang around more with her brothers friends. It was about this time that Suzie and I were catching the older boys attention. A lot had changed in four years. Alas, I had a boyfriend and Rene’ was shy. Soon I was off to boarding school for two years and I saw very little of Rene’. Coincidentally we both attended Mount Royal College for a year. We met for coffee now and again but as usual I had a boyfriend and Rene’ was still shy. And so we grew to know each other but the timing was always wrong. And then it wasn’t…

I remember it so well. Stampede week. At the downtown Ranchman’s. I went with Suzie and he was there with friends. We talked and danced the day and night away. And when it was time to leave Rene’ left with his friend. Sparks flew between us and he left with his friend. I think I know why it took so long for us to get together. As he remembers it, he had an obligation to leave with the friend he brought. A guy for crying out loud. I don’t know if bro code was invented yet or not but Rene clearly didn’t understand it. In the end, he was a gentleman. I wasn’t a pick up. He called me afterwards and asked me on a date. It was sweet. I would learn through the years that this was a man of incredible integrity. Years later when I talked about that day he remembered what I was wearing. At first I thought it was such a sweet thing but it turns out those white pants were pretty tight. Very memorable.

In the beginning my friend Derek asked me why I was dating Rene’. As I said, we had different friends. They were not the same in any ways. I drifted towards his crowd and away from mine but they were his friends. Rene’ didn’t really fit with mine either. I think we found out early that we really belonged together. We moved to Calgary and life changed. We drifted away from all but the closest friends and made our way together. When you are young your circle of friends truly is based on proximity. We began making friends together. Our friends. Neighbour friends. Hockey parent friends. Cabin friends. And still we are a very private couple. I think we are the only two people on earth who don’t travel with other couples. We don’t holiday with others. In fact we do very little with other couples. We are quite content with our little twosome. It was a bumpy road some times but I think we are where we are supposed to be. Together.

Recently we were at our nieces wedding and I was chatting with Rene’s brother in law Randy. At one point he was very surprised to hear about Rene’s romantic side. Rene’ has written songs and poetry. He is very artistic. Mostly, he is very kind and thoughtful. When Ethan died I found great comfort in the song “The Dance” by Garth Brooks. Twenty years later on our Anniversary, Rene’ made a video recording of himself playing the guitar and singing the song so I would have it forever. He buys the best gifts. Years ago I raved about a book I was reading. For Christmas he bought the next book by the same author. It was only in hardcover and he couldn’t find it anywhere so he had it shipped from New York so I would have it for Christmas. I loved the book Heartburn by Nora Efron which was later made into a movie. A couple of years ago he bought me the movie. He remembered how much I loved it. He has bought me clothes and shoes. Somehow they always fit. Once he bought me my own baseball bat. That one was a mystery. When the diamond fell out of my engagement ring I had the ring cut off. I had gained a few pounds since the wedding. I didn’t get around to having it repaired so he bought me another wedding ring. It was a retro ring on Ebay with a tri-gold design. It matches the one he wears. I still haven’t fixed the old one. This one is perfect. I don’t like to shop and try on clothes. In the younger years when we had corporate parties to attend he would shop on his lunch hour and bring me home a dress. They always looked great. While he is conservative, I am more hippyesque. He see’s funky things and buys them knowing I will like them. One night many years ago we were going to bed when he opened his night stand and handed me a box. A pair of diamond earrings. When I asked why, he said “Because it’s Thursday.” He was very proud that they were on sale. We call him Sally Wisebuy that wonderfully thrifty man.

Ultimately when you are with good people they make you better. Rene’ is honest. When our house was broken into they stole both Televisions but left the crappy VCR. A friend told him to hide the VCR and say it was stolen. Rene’ just answered “But isn’t that stealing?” When he was laid off he received a substantial severance package. He was wanting to retire anyways so we were happy about the layoff. Later on when the severance ran out, he qualified for unemployment insurance but didn’t take it. He wasn’t planning on going back to work so he would be lying if he took the unemployment benefits. He felt it was a program for people who needed it and we clearly didn’t. Being married to Rene’ has made me a better person in many ways. He sometimes plays devils advocate too much and makes me crazy. Through it all there are lessons he taught me. Showing me the other side of a story or situation. As spouses we have messed up and hurt each other all the time growing and learning. As parents we have done the same. Where my parents left off, my husband took over. Helping me to become an adult. I often wonder why we ended up together. In the early years when life was harder I would wonder what I had done in a prior life to have such difficulties. Now I sometimes think, what did Rene’ do that I became his punishment. Buddhists believe each life brings you lessons. Is it luck or fate? Predestined or free will? I do know that 99% of our problems came from outside interference. Left alone, Rene’ and I are perfect together. They say you chose the life you need to live in order to learn the lessons you have missed. We chose well. Looking at our life on a graph, the lines started far apart and gradually came to a point of intersection. There was a point of wavering until a state of homeostasis. Now it looks like one merged line. Once in a while it splits and then comes together again. Peace. That’s what its all about. In life. In marriage. It always comes together for us. Peace.

Today this funny guy turned 63. I don’t think he is funny yet oddly enough he thinks he is hilarious. Part of me just can’t believe I am married to such an old fella. At lunch with our granddaughter 3 year old Maybe, Rene’ asked if she was married. “Nope”, she came back. “Are you?” “Yep” he said. “I am married to this old woman right here!” He pointed to me. “Really?” Maybe replied. She was quite surprised. How is it that our grandchildren have no idea we are married. And why is it that he calls me an old woman? Britt once asked “What do you see in Dad?” Our children never knew us when we were young, without the chubby middle and wrinkles. I realize that when Rene’ and I look at each other we don’t see who we are, we see the person we fell in love with. Time has a way of softening the edges. Maybe that is why our eyesight gets worse as we age. Or, maybe it is the fact that sharing a life with someone makes you truly become one person. I look at this old man this morning as he leaves for hockey and I hope those young fourty year old guys aren’t too rough on him. He doesn’t remember how old he is. He leans down and kisses me and says “Love You” as he always does. As he always has. All these years. And I see before me that sweet young guy with the black camaro, who held me in his arms at the Ranchmans all those years ago. Yep. I’m lucky. We are lucky. Happy Birthday Rene’. You sweet young thing.

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