While there have been a number of those in my lifetime, the date March 26, 2004 is among the very most important for yours truly because that is the day I married the person who changed my life completely. To honor the occasion, my post this week and next Monday will be focused on Mrs. Tony C...no wait...make that Candice. She is truly her own person outside of the matrimonial title and deserves the recognition of her name being used in my post. She was Candice long before she was Mrs. Tony C...and became My Candice on our wedding day.
I'd like to say that date was my very first rodeo, but as this picture so clearly points out, I was a package deal. Somewhere in the whole process of reentering bachelorhood, I had convinced myself that marriage just wasn't my thing. The relationship with my daughter had become the important focus in my life after given her the short end of my time for far too many years. I moved so she could start Kindergarten at one of the best school in our area without hesitation.
Unlike quite a few before her, I trusted Candice completely with my daughter from the start. Her qualities were exactly the qualities I knew my daughter needed demonstarted to her young self. Candice wasn't threatened or intimidated by the preexisting bond that she walked into that first Summer. Seamlessly, she made a family of two become a family of three and quickly became the anchor I desparately needed in my life. A real blessing from God that I just didn't deserve.
There are a number of years between our ages, so don't let my boyish good looks fool you (eye roll). As she approaches the milestone of no longer being twenty-something, I am coming to my own milestone in a few years of half a century. The age difference has always bothered me far more than her. Most people who know us personally don't even realize (or forget) that I actually went to school with her parents. Now let me state for the record, my 8th grade class was located at the high school during this time, and they both were seniors. I'm not sure that holds much consolation in the overall picture, but it does makes me feel a lot better stating that fact!
While the age difference hasn't been an obstacle for us, the fact remains we are very, very different people. If the proverbial picture is truly worth a thousand words, the difference could best be summed up in this manner:
We decided to go the beach with her parents who liked to camp on their vacations. They had a very nice fifth-wheel camper that was almost like pulling a mobile home to the beach, so we stayed with them in a campground where they had been frequent patrons.
An evening, moonlit stroll with my wife on the beach and a failed attempt to reenact the famous scene in From Here to Eternity left me both frustated...well...you know...and covered in sand. Hey. I don't mind getting a little sandy in the whole risk/reward context of things, but...
No way! Somebody might see us Tony!
So, the equation wasn't balanced despite the fact no one was around to see...well...you know. We arrived back at the campground around 10:10 or so that evening. Apparently, the cold shower coming off the beach had relieved one of my frustrations, but I still had stinking sand all over me!
Tony C: Let's take a dip in the pool and get rid of the sand before we head back to the camper.
Candice C: Sure sweetie.
As we approached the campground pool, nobody was to be found and a sign was hanging on the 3-foot high gate- Pool Hours 9 am to 10 pm Daily.
Candice C: Oh sorry honey. The pool is already closed.
Tony C: What?! It's just a little past 10! It's summer! We're on vacation! I've got sand in my...
Candice C: Tony! It's closed. We can hose off at the camper.
Tony C: Whatever...(looking around and jumping the low gate)
Candice C: (trying to yell at me but in a whispered voice) Tony! Tony! You can't do that! The pool is closed!
Tony C: Come on Candice. Live a little. Worst they'll do is tell us to get out, and by then, I'll have the sand out of my...
Candice C: (still whispering in a panic) Tony! Get back over here right now. They'll kick us out of the campground!
Tony C: Pleeeeeeeasse! They're not going to kick us out for swimming a few minutes past close. (taking one last look around) But now this (dropping my swim shorts) might very well get us kicked out!
Candice C: (near tears but still screaming in a faint whisper) PUT...YOUR... SHORTS...BACK...ON...RIGHT...NOW!! I'm mean it Tony! We're going to get in big trouble!
Tony C: (laughing while doing a backstroke across the pool) I'm pretty sure accessory to skinny dipping isn't a crime even in South Carolina.
With the sand gone, a good laugh for me and a near stroke victim in her early 20's...we headed back to the camper in silence. Well...except for my frequent chuckles. I shared the story with her parents when we got back (minus my attempted beach folly of course) and even they had a good laugh.
Unfortuately, I got one of the very few sunburns in my entire life the very next day and looked like a cooked lobster the remainder of the trip, so the last laugh was on actually on me.
I just hate it when God is on her side...which is most of the time...