Twenty-four Years

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My husband, Matthew, and I married exactly two weeks after we met.

I was twenty-seven. A graduate student at the end of my degree plan. The year prior, I had purchased my first Rottweiler, Toby, after jumping on the back of my drug-dealing neighbor to prevent him from killing his wife on our shared porch. The neighbors were evicted. Toby and I stay on at the duplex near the dog park.

Toby was the man in my life. He slept on my bed, on his back, with his head on a pillow, and that was just fine with me. I didn’t want anything to do with men.

I was a year and half out from a break-up that crushed me. It drove me to cut my long bleach blonde hair short for the first time in my life. Think of a cross between Peter Pan and a Marine – it wasn’t pretty and neither was my mood. I renounced all things feminine and started lifting weights. It was the angriest, least attractive phase of my life.

My husband fondly remembers me as looking like a Russian swimmer, circa the Soviet Block era.

I was planning a move to Alaska after I earned my MSSW. When Matthew met me I was saving to buy the protective undercoating for my old-school station wagon to make it over the Alaskan Highway. I wasn’t looking for anybody to date, much less marry. I was going into the wilderness and never coming back.

Matthew was twenty-four and experiencing his quarter-life crisis. He had been one of those overachieving types in high school earning straight A’s while placing out of two years of college through correspondence courses. When he got to UT he was a business major, athletic, motivated, and pledging a fraternity.

Then he snapped.

He dropped out of school and became a waiter/massage therapist. This was back when being a massage therapist was out there, particularly for a guy. The economics of his new path tilted more toward the waiter side of the equation. When I think of this time, I remember him in a white shirt, black pants, and odd old man shoes. He had black curly hair, dark eyes, an easy laugh, and an enormous smile.

He had the sweetest little German Shepherd, Maude, and the meanest Maine Coon Cat, Echo.

We met on the stairs at the 10th street dog park as the sun was coming up. I had to get Toby exercised early so I could get to class. Matthew was taking Maude on a quick walk before the breakfast shift. Toby and I were usually the only people in the park. I remember Toby watching Matthew and Maude walk by on the sidewalk.

Matthew was in a hurry and wasn’t planning on going into the park. Maude had other plans. She ran down to where Toby was sitting. It was love at first sight.

My Rottwieller was aloof by nature. He was loyal to me and ignored all other living beings. Maude was a worrier, a bit high strung and kept to herself. This unlikely canine couple were head over heels. Matthew and I introduced ourselves and sat together on the steps watching their love affair unfold.

We decided that that we had to get them together again soon. Matthew called later that afternoon for a dog walk. We didn’t know it yet but somewhere along the Barton Creek Greenbelt all four of our fates were sealed. Mathew and Maude moved into my duplex after a couple of days. There were no dinner dates, or meet the parents. There was no fan-fare or announcements.

We were married two weeks later by a Justice of the Peace in the gazebo next to the court house.

I wore a black dress I bought at a second hand store and Matthew wore a purple and black shirt with jeans. My best friend at the time attended but Matthew’s best friend was not able to make it on such short notice. We went to dinner and then started our lives.

We grew up together, rooted and bloomed. We earned degrees, moved to Minnesota and back to Austin, started careers and businesses, bought houses and added four kids to the mix.

Every couple has a creation story. I once read that psychologists can predict the state of a couple’s marriage by the way they each describe their beginning. It’s all in the telling – changes in either partner’s tone or word choices across the years are the keys.

As any couple with a few decades under their belts will tell you, it’s not always easy. I truly believe that our story actually saved our marriage several times over the years.

Who could walk away from that kind of luck, that story.

We both still light up when we tell people we married after two weeks. The story is always the same, every telling – even during times when harsher words were spoken behind closed doors.

To this day, I cannot fully explain our beginning. Our whirlwind was not a romance with its usually giddiness. There was a seriousness about it – an earnestness. I choose to think of it as serendipity. We were two sidelined players that decided to get back in the game. We were what each other needed. Nothing more, nothing less.

Besides, the dogs loved each other.

9 thoughts on “Twenty-four Years

  1. Lovely story. I can almost hear the tone.
    I disagree about your haircut not being feminine, by the way. I’ve always liked short hair. In your picture you remind me of Robin Wright in House of Cards. Very sexy.

  2. So many things to love about this! I love and honor that you’re the kind of person who would jump on an aggressor’s back to save a neighbor’s life. As practical as you tell it, I love how romantic it is that you and Matthew saved each other’s lives. You are living the hero’s journey, Elizabeth! By my estimation, yours is a powerful enough story to save other people’s marriages too. I also love that you and I have uncommon whirlwind courtships and 24-years-and-going marriages in common. Onward!

  3. Love it, and you… Your creation story is heartfelt, even if you think it is without emotion, all serious serendipity… No wonder you have lasted as you have. Dick and I have a similar story, even if played out on a lengthier stage… Love at first sight is what your dogs felt. It is what Dick and I felt, still feel, always. May you have another 2-5 decades together, smiling… oxxo

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