35 years ago today on a beautiful, warm, sunny Jacksonville, Florida day, Tony and I were married at St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church. Seriously. Neither of us is Greek, but I was attending this church at the time. Tony was basically agnostic, and I had been raised in the Russian Orthodox Church. I would have been happy being married on the beach, but Tony thought we should be married in a church. Since there was no Russian church in Jacksonville, we opted for the Greek church. The ceremony was all in Greek, and we said no vows. To this day, we joke about wondering if we’re really married. (We are; we have the paper to prove it.) In 1980 we became Evangelical Christians, and we’ve often thought of renewing our vows in a “real” church, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. We met under unlikely circumstances which, in retrospect, were perfectly orchestrated by our Lord. I had recently moved to Jacksonville from my hometown of Endwell, NY, having just graduated from college. I was teaching 6th grade, and another teacher friend and I had just moved into an apartment in a singles complex, overlooking the pool. Originally from St. Louis, Tony was in the Navy stationed at Cecil Field, with only a few months left of his 4-year enlistment. He and 3 Navy buddies had an apartment at the opposite end of our building. One weekend in late August of 1973, the 2 gals next door to my roommate and me were having a party. They didn’t know how to tap their keg, and they spotted a couple of scruffy Navy guys in the pool. Dating protocol in Jacksonville, where there were 3 Navy bases at that time, strictly specified avoidance of any Navy guys below officer grade. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures, so the neighbor girls went down to the pool and reluctantly offered to let the guys come to their party if they would tap the keg. Of course, the guys jumped at the chance. After all, there would be women and free beer. That evening, as I sat on the floor with my roommate and some other people, I looked up to see 4 clean, nicely dressed young men parade past the sliding glass door and enter the apartment. Two of them weren’t bad. I talked to one, then the other, during the course of the evening. The second one turned out to be the keeper. Tony and I talked pretty much all that night, and we’ve been together ever since. We were engaged by Thanksgiving, and the following April 20, we were married. We were both 24. Our wedding was pretty unconventional. Tony had finished his Navy commitment and had recently started his career with IBM. We didn’t have a lot of money, and we had to pay for the entire wedding ourselves. We decided to have our reception at the recreation room at our apartment complex. Everyone had to stand and visit because there were only a few chairs and sofas. Our rehearsal dinner consisted of pizza and beer at the rec room as we decorated for the reception the following day. Not being very wedding savvy, I forgot to appoint someone to add the ginger ale to the fruit juices to make punch for the kids, so they served themselves from a punch bowl full of thick, brown glop. Our honeymoon was very brief -- a long weekend in an old hotel in St. Augustine with no air conditioning, just 30 minutes south of Jacksonville -- because I was in the middle of the school year and Tony had just started working at IBM. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Like all couples, we’ve had our ups and downs, our crises and joys, but for the most part things have been smooth sailing. Jenni was born in 1977, with Erika to follow in 1979. They have been the light of our lives, and now that they are married to wonderful, Godly men and have produced 3 amazing grandchildren, our lives are full, satisfying, peaceful, and happy. We are so blessed. I have to brag about Tony yet again. When he retired a year ago, I was unsure as to how his being home all the time would fit with my working from home. I can honestly say that we coexist very well together in this new lifestyle. He is so amazing, and his love language is clearly acts of service. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t ask me what he can do for me that day. I am so spoiled! He willingly does laundry, dishes, cleaning, yard, pool, bills, home maintenance, and any other “honey do” chores I can think of, taking so much of the pressure off me as I continue to work to help supplement his pension. And it’s just so nice knowing he’s little more than a room away. He is also available whenever the kids need assistance, and he adores spending time with our grandchildren. Like Tony says, he was made for retirement! So, to my husband Tony -- my soulmate, my friend, my love, and my life – I wish you a very happy 35th anniversary, and many more wonderful years to come. I love you. And don’t think I’m going to let you off the hook for our celebration even though you have to go to Sherman today for federal jury duty. Remember, we have a date to have dinner at Pappadeaux as soon as possible. May God bless us during our next 35 years!
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