It was August of 1991 and I had just driven myself in my awesome Honda CRX down I-95/ 695 around Baltimore and then Westward, Ho along the I-68 into Morgantown, West Virginia. I had spent the past three years rebelling against my strict parents by pissing away the $16,000 a year they were spending on my private college education. I think during my final semester I was registered for three classes totaling 9 hours and I got a C, a D and an F on my report card. Stellar work, genius. But I sure had fun!
Actually, I did not have that much fun. I was lost and trying to figure out who I wanted to be. And I had no freaking idea how to do that.
I transferred to a different, much less expensive college that accepted such impressive transfer grades (fortunately I had a decent high school transcript), and hunkered down to actually get a tertiary education.
Now, I do not know if any of you remember West Virginia University and/ or it’s reputation in the early 1990’s. Suffice it to say that the town was just beginning to come down off the high it brought to an entire state with superstar quarterbacks (and Heisman Trophy candidates) Jeff Hostetler and Major Harris. There were endless stories of burning couches being a staple at the end of all-night or, more commonly, all-weekend block parties on Sunnyside. The rumors and urban legends ran wild and almost every one involved raucous partying and drinking and almost unbelievable stories of ridiculous behavior. I may have even attended one or two events that were remnants of the good ol’ days in my first days and weeks in Morgantown, but the locals lamented that it just wasn’t quite the same. Many reckoned it never would be again.
Fortunately for me that was true, at least during my time there. I needed to focus on studying for and passing my classes, not partying like it was 1999 (which was still cool because it wasn’t yet). But I still found time to attend football games just down the stadium access road that meandered past my apartment. I was earning a liberal arts degree – not training to be a nun – for goodness’ sake.
On one such Saturday (September 14, 1991, to be exact) South Carolina was playing at West Virginia. My roommate and I held a small pre-game gathering in our apartment and then we eased on down the road with our friends to watch some football. The way that WVU tailgating worked back then was pretty standard… there were rows upon rows of cars and trucks and trailers and tents set up with varying degrees of food and drink awesomeness for the enjoyment of the masses. Fans would make our way down the access road and stop whenever we saw someone we knew to exchange pleasantries, meet new friends and partake in said food and drink. It was under these magical conditions that I met Sheepdog.
He and his friends were running a keg about halfway to the stadium. My friend knew him from high school days so we stopped and said hello. Sheepdog smiled and offered me a solo cup and then he introduced me to his redheaded girlfriend. My friends and I moved on. WVU won that game 21 – 16.
A few days later I was taking a shower in my apartment and I walked out of the bathroom, through the common living area that lead to my bedroom. I was honestly quite surprised to find Sheepdog sitting on my couch. I was wearing nothing but a towel, which was surprising to no one. He claimed to be there to “reconnect” with my roommate’s boyfriend, but I was no dummy. I put on my best jean shorts and fluffed up my Jersey hair as big as it would go and we all went out to a bar called The Underground.
Immediately after that, the redheaded girlfriend got her walking papers. Being emotionally immature (and chronologically immature… I was only 20 years old), I kept trying to push him out of my life. But, damn if that boy was not tenacious. We did the most logical thing and got engaged a few months later.
Our parents were actually supportive of the union (especially since I didn’t seem so lost anymore), as long as we waited to get married until after we had graduated from college. Our WVU Graduation was in May. We got married one month later, on Saturday, June 19, 1993. We were both twenty-two years old. And I wasn’t even pregnant.
Today marks our nineteenth wedding anniversary. I write that with such pride and joy that I almost want to use smiley emoticons. But not really because they are so stupid.
There were times that we almost didn’t make it. There was even a time before we had Kids D and E, when we had decided that divorce was the right option for us and Sheepdog planned to look for an apartment just after the holidays. Then we had the most relaxed, fun Thanksgiving and Christmas break with the girls and with each other and we decided we were even dumber than our decision and we needed to fight to make our marriage work. So we went to more counseling and we learned how to communicate better and listen better and how to just be better to each other. We worked hard but we were also very lucky.
We are lucky to have found each other and lucky to have so many fundamentals in common. We are lucky that we are both so very stubborn. We are lucky that we are yin to each other’s yang and our parts fit together well. And we are so lucky that we still like each other after all these years. At least most of the time.
But the thing that I feel luckiest about is the wedding song that we selected to dance our first dance together as man and wife. While our contemporaries were swaying to Real Love by Mary J. Blige, Can’t Help Falling In Love by UB40, and Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang by Dr. Dre, we chose a quirky little love ballad by the heavy metal band, Extreme, called More Than Words.
Family and friends, and even the emcee/ deejay during the ceremony, made fun of our choice. I guess they wanted us to pick something more mainstream, like Knockin’ Da Boots by H-Town. But we went our own weird way with it and – like our marriage – it has stood the test of time. More Than Words has become a kind of a classic. I hear it all the time while I am out running errands, in elevators, in doctor’s offices, in the grocery store. Every time I stop what I am doing to bust out the best lyrics of the song… “Hold me close don’t EV-AH let me go!” And every time it reminds me that I am a very, very lucky girl.
Happy 19th Anniversary, Sheepdog. xo