Ten years ago, on October 28th, my wife and I were married. We were both 22, but we felt much older than that. When I think back on that time, on the tuxedo I wore, and the wedding line, and the I do’s, and the rings, I recall feeling as ready as I ever would. I recall looking at Mel, her sweet smile, and soft, beautiful face, and feeing a mix of emotions. Near the top was confidence that I was making the right decision. I felt love and excitement. There was fear in there too, and a little anxiety, I will admit, but it was mostly overshadowed by a positive warmth that came from my future wife.
Now, when I look photos of us during our one-year engagement, I look like a child in cargo shorts with patches on them and t-shirts from punk shows. And Mel, she looks so soft-faced and petite that she could probably pass for a high school student. In fact, when I first took Mel home to meet my mother, she pulled me into another room and asked, “How old is she?”
“21,” I said.
“Did you check her ID?”
That’s how young we looked. Those were the roots of our marriage. The raw earth that we grew out of. Now, looking back, I can say that I’ve watched my wife grow into many things. I’ve watched her grow into a responsible person who can manage our money. I’ve watched her grow into compassionate wife who I trust more than anyone else. I’ve watched her grow into a mother, with a love and passion in her eyes for her children that is wonderful and sweet and makes me love her more than I thought possible. I never really knew what strength and endurance really meant until I watched my wife carry our children for nine months. Near the end of her first pregnancy, I watched her hobble around our small two-bedroom home with swollen ankles, one hand on her lower back, the other below her round stomach, her face covered with red splotches. Everything about her said, “I’m done.” I thought about how every time I get a cold the first thing I say is, “I’m dying,” and realized that she was far stronger than I was. And after I watched a doctor tear the baby from a gaping wound in her stomach, and I realized that she was the strongest person I’d ever met.
I’ve changed a lot too, mind you. When Mel and I met, I was working at a hardware store, racing mountain bikes, and spending most of my money on tattoos and adult entertainment. I was in the process of getting a job as a prison guard. One year later I was ordained an elder in the Mormon Church and Mel and I were married in the Mormon temple. I’d been raised Mormon, but I never really cared much about it until I met Mel. But there was something about her that made me want to make life changes. To clean up my act. I often look back at the person I was when Mel and I met, and ask her what she ever saw in me. Her response is always, “I recognized you from heaven.” This statement always seems cheesy to me, honestly, but at the same time it seems like the only way to explain how a sweet, soft spoken, smart girl fell in love with a gruff, foulmouthed boy with little to no life goals. After dating Mel for six months, I looked at her and realized that I was going to need to do better. I needed to match how wonderful I thought she was. And yet, I didn’t know how I was to do that. I’d been out of high school for almost four years. I’d tried going to college once, but failed out. But there was something about trying to be the person she deserved that made me want to go back. One evening I said, “I want to go to college, but I don’t know how to type.”
We were in her one-bedroom, run-down apartment that was across from the state liquor store at the time. Mel had just finished her associate’s degree, and to me that seemed like a remarkable feat. She looked me in the eyes and said, “That’s fine. I will type your papers.”
This was the start of so many things Mel has done to help support my life change from a young man with little direction, to a supporting husband and father. With her at my side I went back to college, and eventually learned how to type. I finished my degree with both of us working. When I decided to get a graduate degree, she helped me with my applications, and then, together, we uprooted our family of four and moved from Utah to Minnesota, a place we’d never even visited. And when I graduated with a master’s degree, I recall looking at her in the audience and thinking, her name should be on it next to mine. There is no way I could have done this without her.
She has helped me turn into a stronger husband and father. Together, we are raising a family of crazy goober kids, and although it is stressful and exhausting, I can say honestly that Mel helps make it enjoyable and satisfying. I couldn’t do it without her, nor would I want to. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
It’s been an amazing ten years, and I look forward to what comes next.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.