She was there before me.
He loved her—maybe more than he loved me at first— and I knew it. Not in the “classical” sense of love however, there was no denying she owned and occupied a significant piece of real estate in his heart and I would have to learn how to deal with it.
What else could I do?
Even his mother understood this and the story is told how when they first met she asked, “David… what kind of girl is going to go around with you in that thing?” His response?
“One who can climb up in it!”
I was more than willing (ahem) and “she” was a 77 Jeep CJ-7, the love of my husband’s life. Big ol’ tires and a bikini top, this vehicle was the stuff of his rough-and-tumble, adventure-seeking dreams come true! Honestly, I might have loved him just a little more for having her around.
I knew just enough about vehicles and mechanical things to pitch in where I could so I learned to care for her the way he did. I could do little maintenance things and once I changed her water pump. Yup…we were family.
Five months later to the day, he and I were married and she carried us off on our “exotic” treehouse honeymoon at the youth hostel in Brunswick, Georgia.
Then came the Air Force because sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. With a mound of debt between us and no job offers in sight, it seemed like this was the best option for getting back on solid ground. A month and a half after we said “I do” we said “goodbye” sending him to Lackland, Texas for basic training.
For eight weeks, it was just me and the ol’ CJ-7 looking forward to tech school and the day we’d all be together again. Packed to the gills (with a cat and 4 kittens– don’t ask) I drove West to breath-taking Colorado for a short but glorious chapter in our lives.
From Colorado we were on to Illinois and finally able to explore what the stable, married life could be like. He worked at the base while I tried going back to school and working full time at a daycare center.
Truth be told, we had a lot of growing up to do but enjoyed life while learning what that meant. We found a church and began to deepen our understanding of God, ourselves and what a Godly marriage was supposed to be like. Money was tight and we argued over our poor decisions
a lot occasionally. Some things meant walking through to the end but we were in it together.
I’m pretty sure we were both very involved in the planning of our first child or at least we thought this was a good idea whether we understood how to plan or not! I’m can’t lie— we were clueless. We only knew we had love to share and so…we did.
Medically, the military takes care of it’s own so affording the pregnancy was never a problem. However, even our combined salaries couldn’t do much to take down the mountain of debt incurred before we met— school loans, poorly managed credit cards— two car payments all collided with daily living expenses. Now a baby was on the way and we knew— something would have to change.
I don’t remember the discussion. Even now I can’t imagine it was easy for him to place the ad to sell our Jeep. I get choked up just thinking about it… I mean he loved her. However, he was now a husband ..about to be a father and tough decisions needed to be made. It wasn’t an easy sell but eventually someone came along and we waved good-bye.
This should have been the end of the story. UGH! we were so naive. Because we mercifully floated the loan to another Airman trusting that with his steady job, he would make the payments to us and we’d pay the bank. That worked for a few months. Then nothing. He was discharged and went silent.
It took a long time to find him and when we finally went to get the Jeep… the damage was unimaginable. No way could we afford the towing fee. We had to leave her… and our hearts, behind. Oh… it was terrible. Now not only did we not have the Jeep… we had no choice but to continue paying her off.
So. much. ouch.
This was 24-ish years ago. I know there are things we should have-could have done, but it was too late for a do-over. We had to keep moving forward. It was sad and we had regrets. He loved her, no doubt about it… but he loved us more.
The “happily ever after” part of this story was born later that November. Now a new girl had won his heart.. one who would be the first to call him “Daddy” and one for whom he’d gladly sacrifice a Jeep…. and so much more.
Oh.. I know he still thinks about those days and the time we spent running around in the CJ-7. I’ve caught him looking at other “girls” and getting a little hot with Jeep-envy from time to time! Maybe someday.
In the meantime, three of the best decisions we ever made will truly celebrate him as their father on Sunday and from what I can tell, there’s nothing in the world he would take to go back to or trade for the priceless position he holds in their lives.
Somebody wiser than me once said: “Most any man can become a father but it takes a real man to be a Daddy.”
That’s Him: my God-fearing man…husband of one and proud Daddy to three… the love of my life..