On the first afternoon I ever spent with Paul, we sat and talked for hours, hidden in the branches of a magnolia tree next to the sidewalk that led to the campus library. We had bumped into each other between classes and climbed the tree on a lark. The leaves shaded us, the breeze blew, and sitting in the dappled fall sunlight with a friend was entirely more enticing than facing an hour and a half of economic history in a dark lecture hall. Every now and then, someone we knew would walk by, and we’d call out to them, laughing at how long it took them to think of looking up before they would find us, wave, and walk away chuckling and shaking their heads. Classes came and went, the sun crawled across the sky, and still we sat up in that tree, discussing life (at least as much of it as we had seen in our some-teen years), the secrets of the universe, and the emotional reverberations of Sting’s latest CD, reveling in the sparks of recognition that leapt between us as fast as words could carry them.
Too silly to recognize a good thing when I saw it, it took me several more months and a mismatched boyfriend or two to realize that the sweet and funny guy who really listened when I talked might just be what I was looking for all along.
Two years of long walks, long talks, and long kisses later, we got married.
If you know Paul, you probably already know how wonderful he is. He loves God and life and people. He’s a courageous, honorable man, a loving, considerate husband, and a fun, involved dad. He’s nearly impossible not to like.
If you don’t know Paul, I want to tell you what you’re missing, and why I smile whenever I see a magnolia tree. Here, in no particular order, are ten of the many reasons I’m glad to be walking next to him.
1. He makes me laugh. The other day we were watching a romantic comedy together when I piped up, “That guy may be good-looking, but just watch–she’s going to choose the funny guy. Women always go for the funny guy over the hot guy.”
“Oh, is that what you did?” he teased.
“Of course not!” I protested, “I got both!”
If laughter helps you live longer, then I’m going to be immortal. Paul keeps me laughing–at the absurdities of life, at the silliness of people, even at my own mistakes. Tears and laughter go together at our house, and it makes the traveling easier, whatever the road may look like.
2. He can talk to anyone. Last summer, after a family picnic at the city park, we walked along the lake and stopped to let the kids play at the playground. On our way back to the car, we passed a group of guys playing hacky sack on the wide, green lawn. Before I knew it, Paul had jumped into the circle and was kicking and tossing and chatting as if he’d been there all along. Another time, at a restaurant, he walked up to a table of people and told them a joke he’d just heard, causing a riot of laughter before he sauntered back to our seats, a cheesy grin on his face. He recommends software to other shoppers at the electronics store, he starts up conversations when he’s waiting in lines, he asks questions of strangers and always gets answers. Everywhere we go, Paul seems to meet people. I think they’re as enchanted as I am by his open manner and his friendly confidence.
3. He “buys my chairs.” It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie Phenomenon. Robert Duvall’s character, Doc, is talking to Banes, a man who’s having trouble with his woman:
Doc: Banes… how’s your lady love?
Banes: We… um… we broke up.
Doc: Really? That’s too bad, yeah. Now George has a love at his side and she is sticking with him. You know why? Because he bought her chairs. That’s pretty smart to me. You ever buy Lisa’s chairs?
Banes: Doc’s real drunk tonight.
Doc: Every woman has her chair, something she needs to put herself into, Banes. You ever figure out what Lisa’s chairs were and buy ‘em?
Paul buys my chairs. Whatever passion lights up my heart, whatever goal I decide to pursue, he is always right there with me, encouraging me and celebrating me and valuing my dreams no less dearly than his own. He doesn’t just support my scrapbooking habit; he lingers over my pages and thanks me for preserving our family’s memories. He doesn’t just read my writing; he soaks it in and talks to me about it and encourages me to share it. He believes in me, in whatever I’m doing, and the warmth of that belief sustains me even when I fail.
4. His kung fu is strong. My cherished geek. I can’t overemphasize how valuable it is to have someone around who speaks Computer fluently. Paul is a great human/electronics translator. He explains to me, in very simple English, why the computer is not properly running my word processing program under its current configuration. He then explains to the computer, in ones and zeros, how close I am to throwing it out of the window. An agreement is reached. No one is harmed. Life goes on.
5. He is committed to us. Several years ago, our marriage ran off the road and into a big ditch. We’d had flat tires before, but this was nearly a total. When the world finally stopped spinning, we looked around to assess the damage. That day, we decided that the only way to go was forward, and so we did. It wasn’t easy in that dark time, but minute by minute, day by day, slowly at first and with God’s strength holding us up, we rediscovered the joy of being together, of pulling in the same direction. Over the months that followed, witnessing Paul’s open heart, his patience, his vulnerability, his determination, his honesty, I grew to appreciate the man I married more than ever. It’s been a lot of work, but we are back on the highway, speeding along at sixty with the windows down and the wind blowing through our hair, laughing and playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. I can’t wait to see where the road leads!
6. He does all those “guy” things. I know, I know. In the age of feminism, it’s not cool to admit this, but I really like having a guy around to take care of those day-to-day things I’d rather not handle myself: killing spiders, opening jars, moving furniture, changing tires, hanging pictures, taking out the trash, car maintenance, and the like. Fortunately, Paul completely accepts my sexist demands.
7. He does a great orangutan impression. Really. In fact, back when we were involved in youth ministry, the kids at the events could often be heard chanting “Mon-KEY, mon-KEY, mon-KEY” in an effort to coax Paul into bringing out the ape. He would run all bandy-legged around the room, loose-boned and slack jawed, clapping his hands over his head and picking imaginary bugs out of people’s hair. He usually ended by leaping wildly off of a chair or other platform to the roar of applause and whistles. He’d perform at the least provocation, at least until the night his final leap ended in him lying on the floor with a sprained back. After the embarrassment of explaining “the orangutan” to the E.R. personnel, he retired the monkey, putting him away to be brought out only on special occasions like birthday parties and trips to the zoo. I guess even simians have to make some concessions to their thirties.
8. He likes Jane Austen. Sears has a softer side, and so does my man. To the envy of all my friends, Paul doesn’t groan when I return from the video store with Elizabethtown instead of Lethal Weapon IV. On our movie nights, we effortlessly mix buddy cops with debutantes, Jet Li with Emma Thompson, and exploding warheads with explosive social commentary. He especially appreciates the lively dialogue and gentle satire of Jane Austen. Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park are all favorites at our house, and after I finally saw the newer cinematic version of Pride and Prejudice this week, we shared a great discussion about the differences between it and our much loved A&E adaptation.
Oh, my. I hope this revelation doesn’t damage his reputation as a grunting, scratching, mouth breathing Neanderthal. I mean, he still watches boxing.
9. He is the best company. I’d rather spend the day with Paul than with anyone else I know. Time with him is sure to be filled with laughter, intelligent conversation, good food, and sweet, quiet moments of perfect understanding. I love taking road trips together, the longer the better, feeling the hours stretch while the landscape passes by and the talk spins out long and leisurely in comfortable companionship. And if we stop for ice cream, well.
10. “Just because.” Paul knows the power of “just because.” It’s the reason he calls me from work to tell me that he loves me (oh, and that Apple Computer is adopting the use of Intel processors, just in case I wanted to know.) It’s the reason he stops at Chevron on the way home to fill up my 52-ounce Big Gulp cup with Diet Coke. It’s the reason he offers me a backrub at the end of a hard day and sends me to the coffee shop to relax with a good book while he spends time with the kids. It’s the reason he leaves me notes jotted on napkins, priceless ephemera of the connection between two hearts. Yes, grand gestures are nice–a trip to Europe, a diamond pendant, a dozen roses–but in the end, it’s really all the little things, the “just because” moments, that tell me I am always with him in his thoughts, and paint the picture of a life that’s so much richer than it would be without him in it.