I’m on I-65, just outside Birmingham. I’m in the passenger seat, writing. My wife is driving.
It’s early. The sun is still low. In the last three days, we’ve been in four different cities. We just ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel.
Now, more driving.
I remember the day we married. I was standing in the groom’s dressing room. I wasn’t nervous until I unzipped the tuxedo bag.
Then, my body got cold. My forehead developed a thin film of sweat.
There was a knock on my door. It was my future father-in-law.
“I’m here to tie your bowtie,” he said.
I stood before this man, rocking on my heels while he secured my neckwear.
Then, he slapped my shoulder and said, “Couldn’t ask for a better looking son, if I do say so myself.”
The preacher arrived. He straightened my collar and whispered: “I have to say this to every groom: it’s not too late to change your mind if you’re not sure…”
I told him he was wasting his time. Granted, I might not have been a smart man, but I’d never been more sure of anything.
“Alright,” he said. “Let’s go make history.”
And we did. I stood in a small chapel. Half of Brewton, Alabama, had driven an hour and forty minutes to watch the schmuck in a monkey suit marry one of their town’s fair daughters.
My family was represented by three. My mama, my sister, and my uncle. Mama’s mascara was running. My sister was in a dress.
The doors swung open. A woman walked the aisle.
I would tell you that she was beautiful, or that she took my breath away, but that would be selling her short. She was more than that.
She was everything.
She wore her trademark smile. The same smile she wears today. When she grins, her right eye closes more than her left. Her whole face seems to say:
“Hi, nice to meet you. I am a stick of military grade dynamite, capable of ripping mountainsides in half. What’s your name?”
The preacher opened his book. “Who gives this stick of dynamite away?” I could swear I heard him say.
Anyway, you know the rest. We made vows. We kissed. Cue the music. I was too happy to cry or breathe.
People applauded. There were a few “Roll Tide” cheers from the congregation of God’s sanctified saints.
And that’s how it happened. That’s how a kid with a sad life and a shattered family inherited a second chance.
And that’s why I’m here. That’s why I write. Because a woman I trust very much once told me I had it in me.
The same woman who tutored me through college. Who lived in my twenty-eight-foot trailer. Who edited my first book. And my second.
The same woman I once dropped off at UAB Hospital while I held vigil in the waiting room. The woman who squeezed my hand when they buried her father. Who cried for him one year thereafter.
I wish you could see her. She’s yawning. Hands on the wheel. She looks at me and grins.
I-65 is quiet this morning. Not many cars. My fingers are tapping on this keyboard. She has no idea what I’m writing about. Sometimes, I wonder if she knows how much she means to me.
So I’ll just say it:
You are everything to me, Jamie.