Later this week Don and I will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary. I don’t think that anyone who knew either of us at that time could have imagined us as a couple, let alone getting married and raising a family together. To be honest, it took us by surprise as well. He was just a few years out of college. Although he majored in forestry, lack of available work in that field led him to take a job with a fire department in Southern California. I had a recent degree in athletic training, but jobs in that field were limited so, through my part time college job with parks and recreation, I ended up taking a temporary position as a forestry crew supervisor in the Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC). As it happened, his fire department was tasked with oversight for that YACC program. I ran a crew of troubled, unemployed young adults as we worked on various and sundry tasks,including firefighting. Don was my boss. He did his best to turn us former recreation leaders into competent forestry crew supervisors.
It was a residential program with the young enrollees required to live at the mountain camp from Monday through Friday. The crew supervisors and the fire department staff had sleeping quarters on site and took turns at overnight duty shifts to maintain order and to respond to emergencies. It was during these evenings in camp that we got to know each other better. There were a few mostly short-lived “romances” among the staff, but I wasn’t looking and Don wasn’t available. I was still trying to figure out what to do with my life and still grieving the loss of my brother. He was slowly coming to grips with the unraveling of his marriage, so mostly we spent a lot of time sitting around sharing stories about the unbelievable antics of our young charges as well as talking about our lives, dreams and aspirations. We both loved the outdoors and travel though he was drawn to hiking and backpacking while I loved road trips and car camping. I was outgoing and could be loud and chatty while Don was much more reserved and never a fan of small talk but was not shy about creative profanity. His taste in music leaned toward artists like Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Moody Blues, The Byrds, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. I was into Motown, Fleetwood Mac, Carol King, and Carly Simon. On the surface we didn’t have a whole lot in common. But we eventually became friends.
After Don separated and later divorced, we began spending a lot more time together. That’s when we discovered that on the most important issues, we were in agreement. We shared a strong faith in God and a belief that we have an obligation to give back to our communities and to those who are less fortunate. We both strived to be hard working, honest and dependable. Taking care of financial responsibilities while putting away savings for future wants and needs was important to both of us as well. More importantly, we learned to respect our differences, not to sweat the small stuff, and to strengthen the passions that we share. Don’s salty language is just a part of who he is so I don’t take offense when he uses colorful words to make a point. I enjoy visiting family much more than he does so if he doesn’t want to go along on every trip, I take comfort in knowing he will be home to water the plants and take care of the dog. I believe that our love continues to grow stronger as the years go by because we accept each other as we are. We may have our occasional disagreements, but we both know we are loved and that’s the most important thing to remember.