If you're telling the story of your life, it's likely that there will be at least a chapter or two about love. I've already told you these stories aren't coming in order of importance, but no matter which order I tell them in, there are inherently going to be a few stories about women that aren't currently married to me. One way to mitigate any potential issues with that? Talk about your wife first.
I'm not ready to tell the whole story of Kelly, and God knows she's more than one chapter in this narrative, but I do have an aspect of our relationship that I'd like to share with you now.
When I met Kelly I had been separated for over a year. January to January again and then on to May. I had also already rushed into a relationship with someone badly matched for me that had broken my already badly wounded heart. I was not interested in a serious relationship.
Every single "rule" I made to slow down or impede mine and Kelly spending time with each other, I almost immediately broke. Panicked at my growing feelings for her, I even tried to chase her off once (something she occasionally, lovingly reminds me of still).
But I was unsuccessful in my attempts to shake loose of this fiery redhead, not because she chased me down but because I am preternaturally and uncontrollably drawn to her. I cannot help but want to be around her, and it has been this way since the moment I first saw her.
I want to hold her hand, and stroke her hair. I want to smell her and kiss her and squeeze her. I want to be below her and above her and inside and around her. It's an all-encompassing desire that I'm only recently coming to understand can be completely overwhelming for Kelly too. Imagine that?
Mind you, it’s not just a physical thing. It’s at least as much pschological and emotional as physical. I feel better when she’s around. I am agitated and uncomfortable when she’s not. I am a real mess when we’re fighting and actively avoiding each other.
Am I in general a very touchy person? Not especially, although I've always been physically affectionate in a romantic relationship. But the draw for Kelly is deeper and more powerful than that natural inclination. I don't just want to "pet" her, I want to be WITH her, always. Because of this, (and her awareness of my ailment) it's basically impossible for me to stay angry with her. There is (so far) no level of frustration or miscommunication that she cannot instantly disarm with a kiss, or a squeeze of my butt, or even a ribald joke or saucy wink.
Does the nuclear disarmament extend both ways? Not at all. In fact, a butt pat during an argument coming from my direction is liable to escalate not dissipate hostilities. It's really no fair at all.
To her credit, more often than not she indulges my interest and generally finds my attention flattering rather than a nuisance. And perhaps because of this she’s very capable of surprising me, even 7 years after we met, and surprise me she does all the time.
A perfect example is the night we unpacked a box from my old closet at Mom and Dad’s and found an Electric Battleship game set. Kelly immediately suggested we play. I scoffed, "Battleship? You and me are gonna play Battleship together at 10:30 at night?"
Her eyes twinkled, and her mouth curled into a smirk as she answered, "Yeah. Strip Battleship!"
I've loved playing games my whole life, from Solitaire and War that my Papaw taught me before I could count, to Monopoly when no one else in the family could stand to sit through a game, to Canasta which my Nana taught me how to cheat at, to Settlers of Catan with my buddies Josh and Richard for the last few years, I've always loved games.
But until you've sunk a battleship and then been rewarded not only with the electric alarm of an early 90's microchip recorded voice but also with the woman of your dreams and the love of your life slipping out of her skivvies, friend, you haven't played anything.
I lost the game in the end, by the way. But if you're playing with the right person and playing for your clothes, are there ever really any losers?
It's not all naked board games and drive-thru daiquiris around here. Most of the time, we've got our hands full raising four rambunctious kiddos and building an empire to support the six of us. But it's nice on a random weekday morning, between a grocery run and carline pickup to spend an idle moment or two remembering that long after the kids are grown and gone, and the bills are all paid and the job is done, your love will be right there beside you, ready to sink your battleship all the way through retirement.
For now, I'm Joel. This is my story, or one of them anyway. Thanks for listening.