20 Years Down, Forever to Go

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a private person. You won’t catch me posting photos of my family on Instagram, I keep my birthday to myself, and I would never upload sappy messages to my husband on Facebook. Not that there’s anything wrong with this kind of sharing; it’s just not my style. In fact, I didn’t even create a Facebook account until I launched a business two years ago. But, as our 20thwedding anniversary approaches, I’m temporarily breaking out of my private little world to write this essay as a gift to my husband.

My husband is a pretty special guy. He’s gregarious and charismatic; a joke teller, song singer, and party starter. He’s passionate and witty, and after all these years, he can still make me laugh. He has a brilliant business mind, a sharp intellect, and a heart bigger than him. His mission in life is to help and inspire others, and he never fails to leave a trail of smiles in his wake. Look in the dictionary under “extrovert,” and you’ll see his photo. Not sure why, but I’ve always loved a good extrovert. I’m just naturally drawn to passionate, high-energy personalities, particularly the ones who can make me laugh. Maybe it’s because I’m not an extrovert. In fact, I’m the complete opposite.

So, as you might guess, we didn’t meet at a party. We met in the parking lot of our building, and developed a sweet friendship over quiet conversations in our neighboring apartments.  With Lyle Lovett playing in the background, I pretended to like beer, while he pretended not to notice. I made sure to sit on the couch, while he sat comfortably across the room. I felt safe and relaxed during our hours-long conversations about our families, our jobs, and our dreams. I questioned him about the shillelagh on his wall and the guitar in the corner, while he posed delicate questions about my dad’s recent passing.  These long, in-depth conversations perfectly suited an introvert like myself.

He traveled most weekends visiting friends and partying up and down the coast, while I studied for my master’s degree and watched Saturday Night Live. Every so often we’d cross paths in the parking lot and arrange to meet up later. We’d sit in our assigned seats listening to music, laughing, and sharing. He’d retell stories of his wild weekends, and I’d tell him about my last disastrous date or next boring exam. He was definitely a cool guy and I liked him, but I hadn’t planned on marrying someone who had a shillelagh on the wall. We were just too different.

This went on for months, until he finally suggested a formal date.  I’m fairly certain that he wasn’t wondering if he could marry someone who had a menorah on her shelf, but I was convinced that a relationship between us couldn’t possibly work, so I resisted. However, at that point we had crossed over into that “weird” place where friendships either become romantic or crash and burn.  I relented, and we went on our first “date.”  I had never been out with someone who I already knew and liked, and it went just fine, but I still wasn’t convinced. What I didn’t realize, however, was that as much as my head was resisting, my heart had already opened. I arranged for him to meet my girlfriends, preparing them with multiple versions of “he’s not my type,” and held my breath as they all chatted over drinks. And you know what? They loved him. They loved him for him, and they loved him for me. It was at that moment that my already open heart turned completely to mush.

We soon became inseparable, and married five years later. We had a daughter and son shortly after, making our family complete. In celebration of our 10-year anniversary we spent a romantic week in the Caribbean, returning home very tan, very rested, and very pregnant.  Nine months later, we welcomed identical twin boys, making our family complete-r.

Life’s been a bit of a whirlwind ever since, with plenty of ups and downs.  We’ve had 25 years together, 4 kids, his MBA, 3 jobs, 2 houses, and way more than our share of major surgeries, illnesses and crises. None of it has been easy, and there were times when we struggled to see a way through. But deep down we both knew that our connection was authentic and true, and most of all, worth fighting for.

Though we may appear to be complete opposites, my husband totally understands my need to be alone and quiet, while I understand his need to escape into music.  I fully support his pub and poker nights, and he knows when to take over the dinner prep, sending me to bed early.  And when we do find time to go out alone, it feels exactly the way it did when we were dating. Our yin and yang still dovetail perfectly, and we always settle into the same silly groove we discovered so many years ago. To others, we may be difficult to understand, but our connection is simple, genuine, and forever.

We’ve got two high schoolers and two fourth graders now, so life’s a crazy combination of American Eagle, baseball, and catching frogs. We’re often tired, overwhelmed, and stressed, as are many parents, and an empty nest is very far off. But I’m not worried about what’ll happen after the kids are gone. In fact, I can’t wait to have my husband all to myself again.

So, before I dive back into my private world, TK:  I just don’t know what I’d do without you. Your undying love, passion, support and humor have melded into my soul, and I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I’m so grateful to have shared the last 20 years with you. Bring on forever!


Abby Helman Kelly owns and operates Gluten-Free New England. She has a master’s degree in Counseling and lives in Simsbury with her husband and four kids. She can be reached at abby@wickedglutenfree.com





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