This Valentines Day

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Love is in the air; or is it really? Valentines Day is traditionally the time to get close to your sweetheart, and remind them of how much they mean to you. But what about those couples–particularly longevity couples–who look at it as just another work day? You know who I’m talking about. Maybe it’s Mr. and Mrs. Jones down the street, who have been married for 30 years. We always see him or her, but never him and her together. Perhaps we’re talking about Mr. and Mrs. Smith who have seen 20 years of marriage, and now only pass each other in the hallway on their separate ways to another one of their kids’ activities. Maybe we’re thinking of Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, over on Peach Street, who have been married for 11 years now. Everyone in the neighborhood admires their big house and flashy cars. But, everyone knows that while Mr. Bailey works crazy hours, Mike the mailman visits the Bailey home frequently. How much mail do they receive in a day?!

Marriage is work folks. Tonight, I’m not talking about the kind of work required to avoid confrontations. No, I’m talking about the kind of work needed to remind your spouse that he or she is still important to you. Deep down, we all want to be desired. In the beginning of our relationships, it’s easy to be desirable because everything is fresh and new. As time marches on, we have a tendency to become distracted by everyday life, and it’s unwavering demands. Moms, once hot little numbers dolled up specifically for our attention can wake up to find themselves the sweatpant-and -hoodie bus driver for the kids. Dads, once the sexy masculine-suited hero with eyes only for you (lady), overnight find themselves relegated to wearing that favorite yet horribly faded and frayed college T-Shirt, plaid shorts and flip flops to every place you two go.

Don’t get me started on intimacy. What’s that anymore?

(Okay, we’re all adults here, so I can go there…)

It used to be that special time you both looked forward to sharing, where your bodies were each other’s personal playgrounds, and there were little to no boundaries. Yet, as the years of marriage glide by, the intimacy for some couples morphs into a job for one partner, and a simple means of sustaining an otherwise boring existence for the other. And we wonder why infidelity is destroying marriages everywhere.

We have to fight for our marriages. Sometimes that fight takes place in the safety and security of our own homes. We have to fight the world around us, to save and secure our marriages.

  • Date Nights
  • Planned Dinners
  • Impromptu Getaways
  • Midday Lunches

We need to do these things with our spouses to keep the love strong, and to let them know thy are not only desired but needed. It’s important to date your wife, or to cater to your husband every one in awhile. Don’t give them any reason to look for attention outside of your arms.

And for Pete’s sake, have sex with your spouse! Be involved and remember the first time. Christian folks wanna get all uppity and prudish, when it comes to this subject. You better make love to your spouse, and quite regularly! And it better NOT be a one-sided deal, either. If you think I’m being crass, then you need to read your bible:

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NKJV)

Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

I know a brother in Christ–yeah a brother in Christ–who struggles with pornography, because he and his wife are not intimate. Satan will find a way to wreck our marriages, if we refuse to fight for them.

So this year for Valentines Day, I challenge you, dear readers, to take a good long look at your spouse. Remember that first look into their eyes and rekindle the flame. It may take effort for some of you, but it’s worth the work.

 

 

Always Love You

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Hey there,

I’ve been pretty busy lately. The new job is going well and my family is enjoying a season of humble prosperity. Things are good. My oldest sons are growing into fine young men, and my daughters are both growing into beautiful young ladies. My lil guy is at that special age where I simultaneously want to wrap my arms around him in a protective bear-hug, but also seal his mouth shut with duct tape. He’s mostly the cause of my blooming gray goatee. My wife likes the silver. She thinks it’s sexy and wisdom looks good on me. I’ll take that. Everyday, I see more of the woman she’s destined to become and it brings me joy. We’ve been through some things over the years, but by the grace of our father, we’re about to celebrate 15 years of marriage. I wouldn’t trade her or her special brand of crazy for all the money in the world. She was made special for me. I see it all the time now. And I’m thankful for them all. They are my family.

There are days when I feel as if life has become so busy that I’ve placed you on the back burner, as some afterthought. But you know my heart. And even though I probably don’t need to say it, I will because I know you like to hear confession from the lips. I think about you all the time. No matter what I may be doing in my busy days, you’re always there. Sometimes I can hear past conversations and then marvel at how things have turned out. Sometimes I imagine your voice answering a spontaneous question. Sometimes I smile when I think to myself that its perfectly fine to love someone else the way I love my family. But then, you are family, aren’t you? I can’t exactly pinpoint when you officially became family to me, but I know it’s true.

I wanted to write this to you, just as a reminder. I know its a big world and you’ve got things to do that don’t necessarily involve me. But, I also know that you still love me. I know you’ll love me forever. I know you think about me often, because I can feel it from time to time. It’s that special bond we have. I hope I make you proud as not only the man I’ve become, but as the man I am becoming.

Some folks may read this and have no clue what it means. Others may read it as a misconstrued cryptic message. But you know exactly what it all means, and you know it’s straight from my heart. In time, people may turn away from you; maybe even close loved ones. That’s gonna hurt something terrible. But I want you to remember this truth: I figured out a long time ago that I’m going to always love you. Do you understand that? I’m going to *always* love you.

Good night.

 

 

 

One Last Time

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Where did time go? These days, I look in the mirror and see the evidence of its subtle passing: gray peppers my goatee, a constant receding hairline and extra pounds round my waistline. But, one day I rounded the corner and saw her sitting quietly alone. All at once, time not only stood still, it rewound.

There was my old friend, just as I had always remembered her. Despite time’s undaunted march, she hadn’t changed a bit. Suddenly, all the love I had stored inside—love I thought had long since faded away—came back in a spectacular explosion that left me dumbfounded. She never saw me hesitate; too busy entertaining her smartphone. She didn’t see my smile, didn’t see me choke back emotion at the mere sight of her again. I couldn’t believe how happy I was to see her after so much time had passed. Yet, it was as if no time had passed at all.

By the time I walked to her, my façade was in place: a light joke; a gentle hug; a quick glance into her eyes, just to let her know I was really with her. Her eyes were still just as beautiful and deep as I remembered, but…but…something…

I met her children; each one just as beautiful as their mother, with a hint of their father in each innocent face. We watched them play as we talked. I watched them cling to her in their own individual ways, and saw her easily and instinctively love them as a mother should. The love in my heart multiplied. I was so proud of the woman she had become; the mother and wife I imagined she would someday be.

Suddenly, I remembered a scene from a lifetime ago; and yet it seemed to be just yesterday. My friend, kneeling down in a flower bed, planting. I watched her from the window of her apartment and saw the woman she would someday be; the woman she is now, sitting here in front of me, loving her children. She didn’t notice me whisper a silent prayer of thanks to God, for watching over her, for the past 15 years. She didn’t know I praised him for giving her the man she’d asked for, and her beautiful babies.

Our small talk was just that. I loved my friend enough to respect her new life. There would be no professing how much I missed her presence in my life; how deeply I still loved her, though the love I harbor is far removed from lust. The fact that I can’t talk to her whenever she crosses my mind, sometimes seems unfair, but it is a price that I accept, if only to know she’s okay. It is the moment I’ve prayed for a hundred times.

“Please God. Bring us back together one last time. Let me look on her, and see her happiness.”

Something in her eyes. My façade faltered and I showed my worry. I gazed into her eyes, but she looked away, trying to convince me a dozen times that she was fine. My heart hurt for her. There was nothing I could do but pray that God would fix whatever was broken. In my humanity, I wanted to pry; I needed to know if there was anything I could do. But this was not my place, and I knew it. I had been on the road she was now traveling, and knew what bumps lie ahead. My friend; despite her blessings, she was sad inside.

As we parted ways, I casually told her I loved her, and she responded in kind. And as I walked away, I could feel my age and my world return to their rightful place in my life. Yet, every day since, I pray for my friend and her entire family. I pray that God would work a miracle to bring joy and happiness back into her everyday life. And I pray that she knows, someone outside of her everyday world, an old friend will always love her.

Seriously; 12 Again?

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“This can’t possibly be reality,” I keep telling myself, as I go through the familiar motions of preparing for another year’s first day of school.

Last night, I went to sleep on our lumpy mattress; a 42-year old dad stressed out about the mounting bills, the kid’s braces, the wife’s car problems and the possibility of my overtime being cut at the job. The last thing I remember before nodding off, was wishing I could go back and start over, wherever it was that my life took a turn.

So how in the world did I wake up in my childhood bedroom, in 1985, on the first day of the 7th grade? While it all feels surreal, it actually feels familiar at the same time. I heard dad’s radio clock click onto News/Radio 950 at 4:30am, just like it always did. I heard him shower; smelled the fresh Folgers coffee brewing around 6:30am, mingled with slightly burned toast. I heard the side door close as he left for another day at Chrysler. When Ma flipped the switch to our bedroom light at 7:30am, I immediately hopped up first, to get to the bathroom before my little brother, Andre. I didn’t even realize the change until I walked past the bathroom vanity, took an absent glimpse at myself as I passed by the basin, and noticed I was too short to see my own reflection.

“What the hell?” I shouted.

“Boy! What did you just say?” My Ma yelled from the kitchen.

I clamped my hands over my mouth, disbelieving what just came out. That was the voice of my eight-year old son that just cursed.

I look up in time to see the flash of brown, followed by an incredible sting across my forehead. Ma’s patented bee-sting backhand.

“Don’t you ever let me hear you use that language again, Ennis Smith! Get your scrawny butt in that room and get dressed!”

“Yes ma’am,” I squeaked, as I rubbed the tender spot above my eyes.

Andre broke into laughter.

“What are you lookin’ at butthead?”

That line from ‘Back to the Future’ had become my favorite quote when I was…now. This age. Not back then, but right now! That’s when it all hit me like a ton of bricks.

“I don’t believe it. I’m 12 again? Seriously; 12 again? Why couldn’t I dream of being 24, or 27? What did I eat last night?”

“Ma, Enn’s talkin’ crazy in here,” Andre yelled. “I think you hit him too hard.”

My punk, kid brother was a snitch back when we were young. Suddenly, instead of freaking out about the whole situation, I actually began to revel in it. Somehow, I had gone back to 1985. Okay, it’s absurd but it’s whatever. But, I’ve still got every bit of knowledge and physical skill I’ve obtained over the last 29 years!

“Son-of-a-bi-”

“Ma! He’s in here cuss-”

I slapped a hand over the kid’s mouth. “Shut it squirt, or I’ll pound you! I won’t cuss anymore; I promise.”

He nodded furiously. I set him free, and he immediately goes for his new school outfit. Meanwhile, I’m standing in the middle of our bedroom looking at the peach colored walls, the bunk beds, the wooden table. Our Casio keyboard and cassette tape recorder on top of the table. I spin around when I hear the panting from behind me.

“Tiger? Tiger! You’re here!” I yell at our slightly overweight Alaskan Malamute. He died of cancer when I was 18. But here he stands, rubbing his wet nose into my palm, just like he used to do when he wanted to be petted. I can’t help myself. I burst into tears, knowing there’s no way this can be happening, but wanting to stay in the moment for awhile longer.

Thirty minutes later, I’ve eaten breakfast, brushed my teeth, brushed my hair and slapped on my brand new Addidas. Andre and I are in the living room watching the new season of the Transformers, while Ma is putting on the finishing touches of her makeup in preparation for another workday. I remember how much I hated seeing Optimus Prime die in the movie this past summer, and how much I hated the new cast of Autobots and Decepticons. Seriously, Rodimus Prime could never replace Optimus. And Galvatron was simply Megatron with a new paintjob.

None of that stuff really plays on my mind beyond memory, right now. I’m too busy trying to remember what was significant about my first day of school, in 1985. Apparently, it was important enough for God to send me back. Maybe I’m supposed to correct a mistake?

“Let’s see: Mrs. Johnson is gonna be my teacher. Eventually, I’m gonna hook up with Charles Barnett, Chimpes, and Richard Ramirez. Misty Nielsen is going to…”

And suddenly, there it was. It was her. Misty Nielsen. The infamous first day of school. The day I would tell her how much I really liked her, only to have her laugh at me. I remembered laughing along with her, but deep down inside, it had killed my confidence. It was the type of blow that a boy never recovers from. For the rest of my days, through adolescence and into adulthood, I was a shy introvert always afraid of being hurt by someone. I would never again take risky chances, and eventually, my life would become a series of unfulfilled accomplishments due to my lack of trying my best.

“Not today. Today it’s gonna be different.”

The first few hours go by like a blur. I flow through the motions, easily remembering names associated with faces, and try my best to maintain the rhetoric of an 80s era 12-year old. These kids know nothing about iPods, smartphones and WiFi. So morning conversation is restricted to Run-DMC, the freshest arcade game out, called Super Mario Bros., my cousin Lasker’s latest and biggest boombox (everyone always wanted to talk about him), who was the bicycle cat-walk king of the summer, and so on. And then, 11:30am. As the classroom breaks for the half day, I spot her in the hallway, just where I remembered. She turns to descend the steps headed out of the building. This is my chance…again. I remember I had planned this all summer long, and had finally built up the nerve to approach her. This time would be different, because no 12-year old girl was going to stand a chance against my 42-year old mentality and vocabulary.

I break away from Dushaun Madison, just as he was beginning to talk about how much he hated his sister watching ‘Gem and the Holograms’. I was always a quick little guy. Three good strides place me down the linoleum floored-hallway and around the corner, just in time to see her leave the building. I take the steps three at a time. Man, it feels good to have knees that don’t ache. Once I explode through the door, I almost bump right into her as she stood on the concrete steps waiting for her mother. She turns to look at me, and all at once…I really am 12 again. Deer caught in the headlights. Her eyes are so green and captivating, I can’t move; can’t even speak.

“Hi…Ennis. What’s up?” She says.

Gall Darn it, say something, you idiot, I think to myself. I open my mouth and hear a replay of that faithful day.

“Uh, hi…Mi…Misty. I just wanted…you know, I mean, I wanted to tell you…”

I can feel my eyes starting to shift away from hers. She stands there, and begins smiling, making me feel uncomfortable all over again. Second time at 12, and she’s doing it to me again. I’m failing!

“NO!” I suddenly shout. She jumps, not sure what to make of my outburst.

I take a deep breathe, and remember who I really am, and what I came to do.

“Uh, are you okay? You need the see the nurse or something,” she says.

“As a matter of fact, I am okay. And I’m gonna be okay. I just came out here to tell you that I really like you, Misty. I think you’re beautiful and I would love to go steady with you. But you probably think I’m a joke. Maybe I’m too small for you, or not tough enough, or too shy, or too skinny. Whatever the case may be, you won’t appreciate my giving you my heart. So what I’m gonna do is…”

I quickly scoop her hand into mine before she knows what’s happening. I peck it with pursed lips, the way the old guys used to do in the black and white pictures my Ma used to love watching. Then I release her, like her hand is a rotten potato I didn’t want to hold on to anymore.

“Someday I’m gonna be somebody big; someone important. You? You’re gonna chase all types of lowlife guys in some ridiculous search for real love, and none of them will be able to provide it for you. They’ll never measure up to the man I’m going to become, starting today. So, I just wanted to say, I’m gonna love you for the rest of my life. But, unfortunately, I’m just too good for you. Hasta la vista, baby.”

“What?” she says. But…she’s not laughing. In fact, the look on her young face is curious bewilderment.

That’s my que. Exit, stage right. I wink at her, the way my dad winks at my Ma. Stepping off the concrete porch, I poke my scrawny chest into the wind and walk toward home with my head held high. It’s a confidence I’ve never felt before. Yet somehow it is distantly familiar. As I walk down Outer Drive, everything around me takes on a dull fade, as if a movie is fading to black.

I open my eyes. I’m staring at a vaulted ceiling with an expensive ceiling fan quietly rotating. My back should be stiff from another rotten night’s sleep. But…I feel as if I’m laying on feathers. The pillows underneath my head are so fluffy. My sheets are so comfortable; expensively comfortable. I shift my head to the right, where my wife usually sleeps with her back toward me. I’m met with the most lovely pair of green eyes I’ve ever seen. She’s smiling at me. It’s her. She’s here, right next to me…today.

“Good morning, Mr. Smith,” Misty says with a devilish grin.

“Good morning, baby.” I reply. It’s all so familiar, yet so different. But different isn’t so bad.

“I had the weirdest dream last night,” she says. “Do remember when we were about 12 years old?”