He walked into the choir room in a baby blue tux and I thought my heart would burst. That night was our spring choral concert; a few girls had joined me to coerce him to participate and he was happy to have a class he didn’t have to study for. I won the competition between us girls and soon the cute blonde and I were dating.
But our relationship had ended a few weeks prior. That tux convinced me I had made the wrong decision. Gratefully, Daddy secretely slipped him a twenty to invite me out after the concert. He wasn’t a bit fond of the former boyfriend I had allowed to convince me to dump Benny so I could be his date to the Senior prom.
The rest, as they say, is history.
My heart still often squeezes when he walks into the room. I love how he consistently opens doors for me and insists on carrying things — even when they’re not heavy. He rarely leaves the house without kissing me goodbye and comes to find me when he gets home. He babysits grandchildren when I’m not around, makes sure my dog gets fed on time, and offers to get me food when I’m working on the computer and forget it’s long past lunchtime. He goes shopping with me when he’d rather do most anything else, just to be with me. He is quick to forgive and doesn’t hold my sins against me. He laughs out loud, even when he’s watching TV alone. And his young adult passion for God and His church has only grown through the years.
I know he’s gotten mad at me, but I remember only one time when he spoke sharply to me. (How I wish he could say that about me.) He’s frugal but loves to find a way to say yes to my requests, even if it takes time and savings. He loves quiet but eagerly welcomes our big and loud family into the house (and only occasionally do I find him hunkered in our bedroom reading the Washington Post on his computer). His love for the Redskins and Auburn doesn’t keep him from recording a game to watch later when someone needs their pastor (no small sacrifice for a die hard fan).
Yes, we argue. And sometimes things about him drive me crazy. Like when he takes the last cookie without asking anyone else if they want it or leaves it to me to see our conversations deepen rather than fall flat or wants to talk sports when I want to talk important stuff. But, of course, I frustrate him, too; especially when I’m quicker to point out his faults than to draw attention to the many evidences of God’s grace in his life, forget (again) to turn off my curling iron or get irritated when I have to repeat myself because he can’t hear as well as he used to (shhh…don’t tell him I said that; he’ll deny it in a heartbeat).
Three of my sons are married. During challenging times in their marriages I remind my new girls that “Phillips men are like fine wine; they get sweeter as time goes by.” When we were younger, Benny and I were both more self-centered. Most things were all about us: our comfort, happiness and preferences were at the top of the marriage list. I wish I would have practiced “esteeming others as more important than himself” (Phil 2:3) as much as he has. The “other” in his life is most often me.
Today is our 42nd Valentines Day together. 42 years of being sweethearts. Yes, he has sweetened…and he still has my heart. He doesn’t have as much hair as the guy that walked into the choir room that night in 1972, and he recently joked about requesting info about Debby Boone’s LifeStyle facelift for his aging skin. Yet there’s a certain way he grabs my hand and slips it into his that often makes my heart flutter and reminds me of how deeply blessed I am to have been loved by him for over four decades.
Happy Valentines Day, Benny. You are still adorable to me — and I pray our sons will age as sweetly as you have. It’s unlikely we’ll be around when they celebrate 42 Valentines Days with their wives, but your legacy will live on, God willing, for little boys we’ll never meet and their blessed ladies.
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.