What are the degrees of love? Is love just love or does it grow, change, get hotter or colder as you grow older?
You were the first person I saw when I walked into the reading room of the New Wine Coffeehouse. I noticed three things: your wide smile, the wooden cross hung around your neck with a leather braid and your large forearms and hands. You welcomed me, talked to me, gave me a tour, sat with me during the concert by a friend who had told me about the Coffee House.
I had grown up in Columbia, MO but New Wine was a new place that had started as a Christian outreach on Ninth Street. I didn’t know anyone there except Brian who I casually knew from high school. No one wanted to come with me so it was good to have a new friend to sit with.
Afterwards, you and Ricky showed me around downtown, my downtown. But I had never walked the concrete rock wall that at that time went from Ninth Street and down Cherry Street. I had never climbed up a tree on to the roof of a downtown business watching as you and your friend skittered pebbles on unsuspecting friends outside the coffee house below. I had never been introduced to the small alcoves that sit on either side of Missouri United Methodist Church front doors. I never knew anyone who had inched their way up the wall in the alcove to where they stood hidden in the alcove while they made chicken noises and watched as passersby craned their neck toward the sky as if to see a chicken flying overhead.
I think my love for you began to blossom that day, to what degree I wasn’t sure.
You were a breath of fresh air in my life and after that day we were almost inseparable for the summer. At the end of the summer, I was torn. Do I go back to college or…the alternative scared me, I have to admit. You wanted marriage and though I felt for sure you were the one God had for me to marry, I knew, too, that God had ordained for me to finish college. Surely the both could be done?
So we stayed in touch through letters and in person on holidays and summers seeing each other but not committed. When my senior year of college rolled around, I was ready to marry you but you were not sure. And we ended what we had both felt at different times was right.
I went to Virigina to work at my first big girl job. Within a year, I heard from you one of those letters that I knew meant we would really never ever speak to each other again or we would get married. It took me several months to get the courage to write back and when I did it was a simple note about when I would be home for Christmas. When we got together, the time was right and the decision was made sitting in the Interstate Pancake House at midnight that we would get married.
It was nearly four years after I met you that I became your bride. I felt I could never possibly love you any more than I did that day. We promised to grow old together and just for the record, I want to say, that we are no older than when we first met. Well maybe older in body but not in spirit, not in the plans and desires and ideas that drive everyday living.
You are the strongest, most consistent, most loving, most caring, most easy-going, most together man I have ever known. You undergird me in every way. You are my rock, my solid source when the world seems to be turning upside down.
I have never doubted your commitment to me and to our family. One of the most fun and most loving Daddies, some of my fondest memories are of you reading to our children or you taking Andrew for a motorcycle ride when he was a just a little guy. Or climbing up a fire tower or a mountain or a rock or down a water slide or roller coaster. Or taking a drive with no destination in mind and yet discovering something different to explore along the way.
I watch you today with our adopted grandbabies and know you haven’t lost the touch. They seek you out when they come in the house and if you are not here they ask why. You pay attention, even to the little ones. They know that you are giving them your undivided attention. You give and give and give some more.
Today, I just want to say thank you for who you are. If love has degrees, I love you even more today than I did the day I first met you, the day we said, “I do,” the day we moved into our first house, the day our children were born, the day you agreed that I should quit my full-time job to stay home, the day our first foster son put a hole in the wall and screamed unmentionable words in our house, the days that each of our parents went to be with Jesus.
In good times and bad we have stood together. And if love does have degrees I will love you even more tomorrow and each of the succeeding tomorrows we have together. I can’t wait until I am 100 and you are 108. Perhaps by then we will have a love that blows the top off the thermometer.
Happy Birthday to the most awesome man, husband, father, friend forever.