Sunday, August 23, 2015

Our Thirtieth

This public tribute to my bride is part of my 30th wedding anniversary gift to her.

Deborah and Forrest Carr have now been together as man and wife for 30 years.

It boggles the mind to hear the words.  30 years is a long time.  We’re now entering our fourth decade!  Most marriages do not get anywhere near that point.  Ours is strong.

Let’s be honest and admit that our current circumstances are not how either of us wanted to be spending our 30th wedding anniversary.  Both of us had a little bit more adventure in mind.  I had promised her I would take her to London at around this particular period of time.  Alas, my health issues now preclude that.  I have to face the reality that my stamina really doesn’t allow me to be on my feet for more than a few paces, after which my legs start hurting and a pain sets up in my back that can go from bad to intolerable within minutes.  In addition, the simplest tasks—including going up and down stairs—leave me winded like a marathon runner, at which point I have to sit down or run the risk of falling down.  And I have to face the reality that my last two hospitalizations came with no warning, the first of which nearly killed me.  I would hate to run into that kind of medical crisis while far away from home. 

My first picture of Deborah-1983
So, for all these reasons a long trip is out of the question.  We’ll be celebrating our 30th in a much more mundane fashion, such as a trip to a local steakhouse, which will be nice and afford much less risk of medical drama.   And, due to the financial realities that come with all this, there will be no explosion of expensive gifts, either, or anything like that to mark the occasion.

It’s a measure of the strength of our marriage that Deborah is just fine with all that.  We have each other and that is what counts.

Many of you who’ve been keeping up with my medical travails via this blog have taken the time to share with me how much you appreciate it and how eloquent you find it to be.  I really appreciate that feedback.  In actual point of fact, in today’s blog entry I’m attempting the impossible and stretching my alleged writing skills past the breaking point in an effort to explain to my wife and to you what she has meant to me over the years. 
San Antonio, TX 1984
It’s an attempt at a tribute and also an attempt to pay off a debt that cannot be paid.  Words are not adequate to the occasion—or at least, mine aren’t, but I have to try.

Our story begins with the dissolution of other relationships, as stories like ours often do.  She was coming out of a bad breakup, and so was I.  In fact, on the very day I first met Deborah, I filed for divorce from my first wife.  My boss took me to the bar down the street to celebrate that occasion.  I was so schnockered that I didn’t want to drive home afterwards, so I (foolishly) came back to the TV station to wait for it to wear off.  I was the drunkest I’ve ever been (before or since)—and it was in this state that I found the courage to chat Deborah up.

You have to understand that the moment I met Deborah, I knew I would marry her.  Well, of course, no one can really know that, but I found her to be the most incredibly attractive person I’d met in years, and I set out to see if I had a chance.  So I spent much the rest of that particular night trying to convince her that I don’t normally drink (which was true) and didn’t normally go around the newsroom hugging people as a consequence of it (also true).  The look on her face was dubious at best.

My radiant bride-1985
The next day, it was pouring rain.  Did I let that stop me?  No. Now, the only thing I could remember about Deborah from the haze that enveloped my memory of the previous night was that she was a new employee (actually, an intern—and you can quit your snickering because I was not her supervisor and not that much older than she is), that she lived in a dorm at the University of Memphis, and that her last name sounded British.  So what did this young Lothario do?  I pulled down the student dorm directory from the assignment desk, ran my finger down the column of names and stopped on the first one that had a last name sounding remotely British—“Bullington.”  Then I made a call. Yes, friends and neighbors, based on that one clue, I really did place such a blind call.  And I got her on the first attempt.  I managed to explain who I was, and convinced her that I was sober, but then the first thing I did was to ask her out for a drink.  Yes, I did that, too.  She told me she didn’t drink.  So I countered by asking her if she eats pizza—it’s hard to turn down one of those if you’re a college student, and she didn’t.  And so that is what we did—in the pouring rain.  I felt like I’d won the lottery.  And the rest is history.

No marriage is perfect and I would not try to tell you that ours has been.  But it’s been better than perfect; it’s been spectacular.   We had some early bumps in the road, mainly from me being overly flirtatious.  I don’t think she’d claim perfection in her conduct, either, but we got through rough patches because of three things.  One, we learned the art of adult compromise.   Two, we never fell out of love with one another.  And third, we learned that we cannot stand being apart from one another.  Or at least, I learned that’s how I feel about her.  The fact that she’s put up with me all these years suggests she feels the same.

They say the fires of passion cool with time and all that, and I suppose that is true.  As you age your hormones calm down.  But without revealing anything too intimate let me just say that both of us have remained attracted to each other this entire time—or else, we’re faking it very well.  We’ve kept steam in the kettle and that’s all I’m going to say about that, although I do have to acknowledge that my recent medical issues have taken a toll.

From our honeymoon cruise
But of course there’s more there than the merely physical.  There has to be for any great marriage to stay together and thrive.  And here is where a blog entry like this one crosses into the impossible, because what am I going to be able to say about my mate at this point that other, far more eloquent writers and poets who’ve also been lucky and triumphant in love haven’t had to say about theirs in a better and more effective way?  I can’t.  I’m a decent writer but I’m not going to be able to invent new ways of saying “I love you” and “she completes me” and “she uplifts me on the wings of love” in a blog entry—all of which would be true and all of which would be annoyingly, cloyingly cliché.  Where to go?  What other words are there?  What’s the point of trying to reinvent that poetic wheel?

The point, of course, is that words can’t convey the reality, but that this is my story and I have to tell it.  Deborah has been the rock and foundation of my life. She’s the center of my universe, to the point where she has given meaning to everything I’ve done and everything I’ve wanted to do.  We’ve shared in all of it—and she’s made some significant sacrifices in her life and career to help make mine happen.  These are things for which I’ll never be able to repay her.  And more to the point—how do you pay someone back for agreeing to share their life with you anyway?  It’s the most incredible gift one person can receive from another—in fact, aside from life itself, it’s the most amazing gift anyone can receive, period.   This is why some men take a knee when proposing.  They should.  They’re asking (and, on a good day, offering) a great deal.  If ever there is a sacred moment in human relations, a marriage proposal is it.

Tampa, Florida, 1988
Of course, when you’re doing it you have only a vague impression of the importance of the occasion.  Because all futures are shrouded in mystery, you can’t really know what you’re asking or even what you’re offering.  I won’t say that either one of us was immature at the time we got married, but we were what we were, young adults without much thought of what lay ahead except the notion that we could not stand the idea of spending that time apart from one another.  We had no idea what career challenges lay ahead; no idea what city moves lay in our future; no idea when and if children would come; no idea what health issues may lay down the road.  Marriage is a precipice off which you jump without knowing the outcome or what lies below; it’s an ultimate act of faith.  And the sad truth is that for many people, if not most, it doesn’t go well.

Now I’m looking at 30 years and realizing that in my case, selfishly, the act of faith paid off.  I have enjoyed the most incredible mate a man could ask for—someone who is supportive, loving, warm, always determined to make the marriage work and work well. 

South Padre Island, Texas, around 1989
The way she has supported me during my illness is a perfect example.  When I went into UMC with sepsis in June, the hospital ran out of  beds so they had to keep me in ER for a while, where there was nothing for Deborah but a cramped chair crammed into a corner of the room.  She stayed with me all night.  I was out of it when my blood pressure was hovering in the low 40s over the low 30s; but Deborah was right there holding my hand, and in moments of consciousness doing things for me like fetching something cold to drink when I needed it and making sure the nurses didn’t forget my medicines (they didn’t but it was good to have a champion).  It was a very long night.  That’s how she’s conducted herself since.  Her rule is that whatever I need, she wants me to have it.  She’s not questioned anything and has had only my comfort in mind, while putting her own to the side.  That is who this woman is.

But it’s just a small part of her personality.  I see our marriage—and my spouse—as a flower that never fades.  The thing is, I just never get tired of knowing Deborah.  I wait at the edge of my chair every day eager for her to get home and tell me what her day has been like.  We have always made each other laugh and still do, often completing each other’s punch lines.  And yes, I still think she’s attractive as hell.

During  my work sabbatical I spent most of my waking moments writing, disappearing in to the study for long periods of time including on weekends.  But we always made sure we had time set side each other every day, if to do nothing else than bond over conversation or TV.  I’m finding myself with more time on my hands lately because the energy levels I need to write, especially in book form (the blog is a bit different) just aren’t there due to the effects of my illness and the painkillers I’m taking for it.  Deborah has always been content to find something to do futzing around the house when I’m writing, but what is she doing now that I am not so buried in the keyboard?  Recently we rediscovered the joy of an old (and very dated) board game called Trivial Pursuit, and enjoyed ourselves capitally while playing old tunes off my iPod on the big stereo.  We’ve also rediscovered an old card came called Rook, which is loads of fun.  We never seem to fail to enjoy one another’s company, or to find new ways for doing that.  We really are best friends.  Relearning chess is next.  Maybe backgammon after that.  Oooh, and Monopoly.  And there will be day trips.  Okay so we’re not burning the neighborhood down but we are having fun and we’re doing it together.

The Grand Canyon, 1991
I feel guilty that I’m a drag on the relationship now that I’m sick, but Deborah doesn’t look at it that way and refuses to let me look at it that way either.  I think she sees it as a way to spend actually more quality time together.  And so that’s what we do, whether it’s playing a board game, watching Cops on TV (a truly addictive show) or just holding hands.

I feel very blessed to be around such a person.  You know, in every moment of every day each human being makes a decision about how to treat other people, and we have choices.  Deborah treats me with kindness.  If you don’t have that in your life, you’re going to be worse off for it.  You might even be miserable.  My life is good because of it.  Life can be filled with little frustrations and it’s easy to pop off with snide comments.  But every snide comment detracts from your peace of mind, doesn’t it?  These moments are crossroads and each crossroad presents a choice of whether to add positive energy to the  universe, or negative.  The choice to fill the moment with kindness instead of ugliness or even neutrality is a gift, which one gets not because one is deserving, but because that is who your spouse is.  My spouse is kind to me in moments where she could reasonably act otherwise (hey, I’m no peach to live with).

From our recent California trip
Yes, we have had our ups and downs.  But I look back over thirty years and what I see and count are the ups.  I feel like I’m the most blessed person on the planet.  And when I look around myself—interestingly, shows like Cops and yes, Judge Judy are a good place to start—it’s not hard to see why.  A truly good marriage is so hard to come by.  Many people live lives of grim desperation, hoping that today will be different and finding out that today actually is going to be pretty much like the misery that came the day before if not worse.  What have I done to deserve the life I’m living now thanks to my spouse?

The truth is, nothing.  But at least I am capable of recognizing my luck and the gift I have been given.

Deborah doing what she does-lighting up the house.
The words “thank you” do not rise to the occasion.  The words “you have saved me” come closer.  The best I can do is to let Deborah—and hereby, the world—know I feel that way.



  1. You are such a romantic, and you're bringing tears to my eyes. True soulmates. So happy you are on this scary journey together. Happy 30th!

  2. Read every word. Forrest, you are a lucky man !! Peter