Getting Married vs. Being Married — Sept. 23, 2021

One of the interesting truths about this whole “living” thing is that we make so many important decisions before we know what the hell we’re doing.

For example, I chose my career path the same year I got my driver’s license. I had absolutely no concept of a mortgage and office politics and exactly how much Uncle Sam would be taking from each and every paycheck. I just knew I liked to tell stories.

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

It sounds good. It’s also complete bullshit.

It didn’t take me long to realize that doing what I love wasn’t going to support the family I wanted to have and allow us to live the not-extravagant-but-not-extremely-frugal lifestyle we wanted to lead. I wanted to have a home of my own in a safe neighborhood, and we wanted to homeschool our kids and, yes, I really dug emerging technology like smart phones and home audio and the like. Telling stories for newspapers wasn’t going to allow that to happen, and had I known that when I was choosing a career, I would have taken a different road.

Today marks the 26th anniversary of the day I got down on one knee on a burgundy, silk handkerchief on the side of a dusty road in front of Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa, and asked Wifey Poo to marry me. We were 21-year-old seniors in college who loved each other deeply and had been together since the first month of freshman year, minus a few months during our sophomore year when I was kind of a butthole. (OK, more than “kind of.”)

I was thinking a lot about this as the day approached: What the hell does a 21-year-old know about 47? I would say that asking Wifey Poo to marry me was the biggest decision I’ve ever made and will ever make. Some might argue that the decision to create new life is the biggest, and that’s fair. Maybe they’re 1A and 1B. But I was thinking this week about how much I didn’t know when I took Wifey Poo’s trembling hand and slipped the engagement ring I’d worked the previous summer to pay for on her finger. I had no concept of what being married was like. I knew I wanted to get married, but “getting” and “being” are vastly different. Getting married is a moment in time, a wonderful party in which you’re surrounded by your friends and family and all the attention is on the happy couple and then you get to go away for a while and come home to a pile of presents.

Being married, on the other hand, is hearing a thud from the bathroom in the middle of the night and pushing open the door to find your fever-riddled spouse passed out on the floor with a pool of his vomit in the sink. Not a pretty picture, true, but it’s one Wifey Poo could have taken.

Being married is having your heretofore charmed life shattered with the words “Your baby most likely won’t live much past birth” and then standing by each other for four torturous months as the pregnancy continues until that eventuality happens.

Being married is saying things in the heat of the moment you never thought you’d say to that person into whose eyes you stared so lovingly at the moment you said “I will.”

Being married is about somehow retaining the individual freedom to grow and expand and evolve and change into the person God or destiny or the irresistible march of time would have you be while doing so in a way that keeps you walking side-by-side with another individual who is subject to the same forces.

I knew none of this 26 years ago today. None of this, and not only none of this but so much more.

So what does 21 know about 47? The reality is, not much. It’s why the statistics say that couples who get married young these days don’t make it more often than they do. Things happen and people change and there are so many more forces pulling people — not just couples — apart now than there were when Wifey Poo and I agreed we wanted to be married to each other.

Yet here we are.

I woke up this morning at 5:59 a.m. Next to me was this woman whom I met 29 Septembers ago in the basement of a dorm in the middle of Iowa. We make a cute couple lying in bed. I have a mask shooting air up my nose and she wears a mouth guard to keep her from snoring and recently has taken up wearing this foot contraption to help her plantar fasciitis. That’s not something you picture when you think about getting married.

I stood in the dim light of early morning and looked at her, how one foot was sticking out of the covers like I know she likes, even on the coldest mornings, how her hair was a tangle. I looked around the room. This is the 10th bedroom that has held our marital bed since we said our vows. Yes, we’ve moved around a bit.

I stumbled into the kitchen, made my coffee, sat down on the back deck in the cool morning air.

What does 21 know about 47? Not a whole helluva lot.

But here’s the thing: Knowing can be highly overrated. I spend a lot of time trying to figure things out, trying to decipher the whys and how-comes of topics most people don’t give a second thought. I want to know why we’re here and what’s the point of our existence and how I am supposed to find peace and joy and tranquility in a world that so often seams so not about those things. Some things truly are just unknowable.

And so had I known that the future Wifey Poo and I would have together would be pocked by such unimaginable grief as that caused by the sight of a tiny coffin holding the son you held in your arms so briefly being lowered into the ground, would I have asked her anyway? If I knew that our future involved me putting laborious burdens on her because of ailments of various organs and bones and muscles, would I have chosen to do that to someone whom I admired so greatly at the time I asked for her hand? Would it be cruel to say “yes” to those questions?

Twenty-one-year-old me had no clue what being married was like. Forty-seven-year-old me could write a book on the topic. The 26 years in between have have been so deliciously unexpected. And therein lies the beauty of being married vs. getting married. Everyone knows what a wedding looks like in our culture. No one knows what your marriage is going to look like. Many of us start out unknowingly trying to emulate our parents’ marriage — until we realize that the way they did things ain’t gonna work for us. That’s when the real fun begins. If I put you in a functional boat in the middle of an ocean, you might know how to get to shore. But if I put you in some contraption of which you have no familiarity? Good luck.

In some ways, Wifey Poo remains a mystery to me. In others, I know what she’s thinking before she even thinks it. Sometimes she surprises me. Sometimes she is completely predictable. Though we have both grown and changed over time — me far more so than her, I think we’d agree — there’s still that something that we saw in each other as she looked down at me on bended knee all those years ago that makes us know that — no matter the trial put in front of us, no matter the hurt, no matter the pain, no matter the stupid moments of the fellow human being we live with — the rest of this ride is one best and most beautifully taken together.

The Cost of a Kids’ Game

Boy The Younger’s baseball team got shellacked last night, 24-0. My little baby boy was on the mound for 14 of those runs in the first inning, a frame he did not complete. To be fair, about one of those runs was earned, but the number of errors only brought an early start to the time the other team took its foot off the gas pedal.

The team BTY was playing is called Premier Baseball Academy. As ball after ball after ball was finding their way into holes and gaps, I did some googling to learn a little bit about them. I also filled out a form to see exactly what it takes to earn a spot on their team.

By the time my boy was showering off the sweat and dirt, I had a response and a PowerPoint of unimaginable depth extolling the virtues of Premier Baseball Academy. Having seen their team play, they didn’t need to do much selling to prove the point that the kids who play for them are well trained and well coached. Nonetheless, I was shocked by three things.

  • The Premier Baseball Academy is obsessed with data and metrics. The PowerPoint had charts and graphs on things like “scaption strength” and “IR/ER symmetry,” their kids improvements in the 60-yard run, throwing velocity, bat speed and attack angle.
  • Premier Baseball Academy teams are filled with kids from parents who love them more than I love mine. Well, at least that’s the case if you measure this based on the size of the financial commitment a parent is willing to make to his child’s baseball career. I think I spent around a hundred bucks to sign BTY up for this fall season, and even that strikes me as a bit ridiculous. For the low, low price of TWO-THOUSAND-ONE-HUNDRED-AND-FIFTY-DOLLARS (!!?!?!?!?) for SIX FREAKING MONTHS you too can put your talented-enough kid the Premier Baseball Academy 12U team. And what does that absurd sum get you? They helpfully spell it out:
    • A paid coach (Ours is the executive chef at a restaurant I’d like to try.)
    • Fall and summer tournaments
    • Fall and summer leagues
    • Practice fields
    • Hitting pass
    • Agility training
    • Blast Motion Bat Sensor, with subscription
    • Weighted bat training program
    • Mental training program. (Side note: WTF?!?)
    • Winter training
    • BTL lesson w/ current MLB affiliated athlete

The list goes on and on and on. Now, the good thing is that Premier Baseball Academy guarantees your kid will get to the Majors or at least a great Division 1 baseball program.

Or they don’t.

Which leads to No. 3.

3. For your investment, the best of the best end up going to obscure college baseball programs and have essentially the same shot at making the Majors as my kid. The PBA website has a section called “college committments,” which, besides being misspelled, shows which of its athletes are furthering their careers where.

Vanderbilt? Florida? Arkansas?

Or how about the mighty Greyhounds of Moberly Area Community College? The vaunted Lindenwood University squad? Or that pipeline-to-the-majors that is Champion Christian College.

In other words, for a $2,150 investment times about seven or eight years, you too can send your kid to a no-name college with no chance of him ever being able to pay you back from the earnings he doesn’t make in baseball.

Listen, I don’t want to get all “Back in my day,” on you, but back in my day, we signed up for the town’s Little League team and we played ball. We didn’t give a crap about attack angles and 60 time. Our coaches were our dads. Our teammates and opponents were our friends. And somehow, we put a pretty damn good product on the field game in, game out by the age we were expected to look like more than a bunch of doofuses out there. I’m sure The Parents spent something to have me play on those teams, but if you consider the fact that I played organized baseball from age 7 until my elbow exploded at age 16, they maybe shelled out $2,150 total on my baseball-related expenses. Go ahead and adjust for inflation. I’ll wait.

I understand that this is the way the game has gone and that it’s not just in youth baseball. But it’s sad. Sure, the kids who demolished our team last night played better than our kids. But they’re all still just kids, and the astronomical odds are that exactly zero members of either roster will be suiting up for any Major League affiliate, let alone an actual MLB ballclub.

So I ask: Are the kids really any better off because they know their scaption strength? Do they care? Because if they do, perhaps we should be steering them away from a career in baseball and toward a career in medicine.

Oh, and if you’re interested: The 12U team currently has one opening and is in urgent need of a pitcher.

The ‘Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Say It’ of the Day

‘Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.’

Erma Bombeck

Today’s Reasons to Keep Living

  1. Tomorrow is date night with Wifey Poo!
  2. You get to see fun things through my office window, like a guy climbing a really tall tree with a chainsaw. He was way up there and cut off some really big limbs. The tree’s. Not his.
  3. I’m making dinner tonight. Don’t want to leave the family hungry.

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