It all started off innocently enough. It was a month or so into the semester when a cute girl in the International Relations and Comparative Politics class I was taking changed seats and started sitting next to me. I’d like to think she moved because she wanted to sit by me, but the truth was she just wanted to get away from the person next to whom she had been sitting. Little did we realize the effects that would come from this seemingly un-extraordinary cause.
Just over 18 months after that fateful moment, and 30 years ago today, that cute girl and I launched what has become an adventure of a lifetime.
A week after tying the proverbial knot, and a few days on the beaches of the Bahamas, we hit the road for Ft. Gordon, GA where I was to report for duty as an Army Signal Officer. After that it was to Germany for three years, where I worked way too much (the Cold War was still brewing, after all) but we still made time to be with each other.
Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Yugoslavia (while it was still Yugoslavia), The Netherlands (Julie made that trip with friends, remember what I said about working too much). We spent our first anniversary in Venice. We were in Germany when the wall came down, and when we went to war in Iraq.
Climbing, camping, walking, eating, drinking the incredible beer. Even though we lived on post we made an effort to participate in local events and meet “the locals”. We added the first new member to our family, a bobtail (aka Old English Sheepdog) named Merlyn who went with us everywhere. The story of our return to the States, with Julie pregnant and Merlyn in the largest crate we could find, is an adventure tale all its own.
Our family grew again while we were again at Ft. Gordon, GA, and Zeke and Merlyn were instant buddies. We weren’t there too long (just for school) before making our way west, a bit closer to home at Ft. Riley, KS. Baloo (a Bouvier des Flandres) and Ian (a human child) joined the family. Closer to home than we’d been since we got married, we made quite a few road trips to Northwest Arkansas and St. Louis to see family. (Yeah, you guessed it, a lot of adventure tales to tell there – two babies, two dogs, are we there yet?)
Like every adventure, ours has had its share of challenges to overcome. It was at Ft. Riley that we learned that Zeke is autistic, which would prove to be an ongoing challenge for both of us to grow from. Not that Zeke was a challenge; he was the sweetest boy you’d ever meet and has turned into an incredible young man. No, the challenge was for us to understand and go beyond our own expectations of what parenting is and to become the parents that both Zeke and Ian needed us to be. As much as I learned from Zeke through all of this, I learned ten times more from Julie.
In addition to being autistic, Zeke was hyperlexic. It was Julie who thought to carry around a small whiteboard on which to write things. It was Julie who would write out the alphabet and words tirelessly as she helped Zeke build his communication skills. It was Julie who worked with our fantastic occupational therapist to put labels on everything in the house so that Zeke could learn the names of things. I could go on like this forever.
As in Germany, I worked entirely too much while at Ft. Riley. As a Company Commander, I was basically working all the time. But Julie was not just an incredible wife and mother during this time, she was an unbelievably awesome commander’s wife. If you’ve served in the Army, you know what I mean.
After a few months apart as I attended various schools and Julie remained at Ft. Riley, we ended up at Ft. Monmouth, NJ. Where, as you are probably expecting me to say, I worked way way too much, including a crazy amount of time away from home. As Zeke was entering school (which, by the way, the doctors said he would probably never be able to do), we found that the challenges related to autism were just beginning. I’ve written elsewhere here on the blog about some of that, so won’t hash it out again. Except to say that Julie was the driving force for making sure that Zeke got what he needed.
This gets us to just about the halfway point, about twelve years in to our adventures together. I could go on and on, but hopefully by now you know where I’m going with this.
I can’t believe it has been 30 years already, and I can’t wait to see what the next 30 bring.