Being There

Our youngest on the Shelby Street Bridge in our hometown, Nashville TN

Our youngest on the Shelby Street Bridge in our hometown, Nashville TN

If I could paraphrase the goal in one phrase it would be this: to get where we are going together.

We had a succinct beginning on December 16, 1989, but nothing since then was predicted.  We couldn’t see Columbia, SC via Williamsburg, KY through Crawford, TX from the altar in Nashville, TN.  We couldn’t see emergency c-sections and umbilical cords knotted and wrapped around baby’s neck.  Couldn’t see graduate schools and career disappointments.  Couldn’t see arguments epic. Couldn’t see a hole in a neck cut open to save life.  Couldn’t’ see dehydrated faith and long stares into nothingness.  Couldn’t see a borrowed house. Couldn’t see old friends leaving and new friends arriving.  Couldn’t see Anglican.  Couldn’t see trying this hard.

And we couldn’t see how satisfying the view would be when all the hard mixes with all the good and we notice ourselves lovingly paying attention to each other because it would suck to be alone on this veranda.

“Will you keep blogging now that the year of Tired Dating is over?”

Probably.  Maybe.  We’ll see.

But, this blog was never the goal.  Alykev.com was merely a delivery system.  “Tired Dating” was an artistic label we attached to our married life entering our 23rd year together.

We captured our domain, set up the blog and managed the process. Amazed by clicks, views and visitors in the thousands, we originally thought only stray family members would happen by.  This has been fun, a good outlet, and an opportunity to communicate some marital authenticity that is evidently needed in a world with scarcely little.

But, this blog was never the goal.

The goal was, and is, something that cannot be tracked by WordPress analytics.

On many days I absolutely don’t understand why Aly thinks what she thinks.  And she says the same about me.  We aren’t trying to figure each other out.  Anymore.  Maybe we are trying to accept who the other is and just keep moving, not knowing where, but doing so together.

That’s what we said we would do.  Get there together.

Wherever that may be.

Congaree National Park, 20 minutes from our front door, Columbia SC

Congaree National Park, 20 minutes from our front door, Columbia SC

Plural Dating

When Alyson and I married twenty-three years ago we were the youngest of adults, both a few months past our twenty-second birthday.  From our vantage point now, I would say we were kids at the altar.

Now, we have kids of our own, and with each passing day they live closer to their adult years than their childhood ones.

My sweet wife is now the shortest member of the family. Again.

And while that may seem like a strange way to begin a tome about our most recent Tired Date, a double with fun friends, I know of no other way than to name the overwhelming context of our lives right now: time flies.  And it is scary.

It’s true.  We are afraid.  Granted, we love Jesus.  We pray to God.  We worship regularly.  And as yet, we haven’t found the magic button that eliminates our fist clenching frustration at bouncing checks.  We lament some of our dreams more apt to be crossed off the list than realized, much less attempted.  Our career angst is palpable.  Our retirement plans are but a whiff of smoke in a wind tunnel.  And the kids, well, we have never been here before, raising a middle school-er, a high school-er, and a collegian at the same time, so wondering if we are doing it right is a daily question.

So while you may think our double date with Chris and Lisa A. was just that, a momentary diversion from the rote survival of every day, think again.  In a way, it was salvation, and I do mean the eternal kind.  See, without divulging any of their stuff, I will tell you here that doing life with people who are walking a similar path is not only a good idea, but essential to health.  And that is Gospel, because at its very core it is communal.  The best marriages I know aren’t lived in a vacuum, but rather, in community.

With Chip and Jo…we had no idea how tired we would all be twenty three years later.

Comfort of any kind starts with the elimination of loneliness.  I cannot imagine doing life without dear couples that have accepted our invitation to live seasons with us and have invited us to do the same.

While I won’t list the brilliant names of friends dating back to 1989, I will say an existential ‘thank you’ to all of them by way of thanking Chris and Lisa for going to dinner and a movie with us while embodying the spirit of what we love in all our dearest friends: authenticity.

And Chris, in closing, I do want to thank you for an act of friendship that no man, let alone any person, has ever provided me.  When I was looking at our photos from Saturday night, I noticed a special gesture on your part.  While I took the picture at the movie theater, you placed your hand on my seat to keep it warm.

Real men keep their buddy’s seat warm

Wow. No fear, a tad creepy, but oh so authentic.  Thanks man.

Makin’ Bacon…or not.

It used to be a bakery...got nothing for that one.

Hey, it was a bakery a long time ago. I love bread.

[POSTSCRIPT:  several have inquired, a few at church this morning, with the question, “so how was…breakfast?”  Because he has “an acute sense of propriety,” a True Gentleman never tells.  He will say, however,  the best part was the laughter.  And after 23 years, he’ll take that all day long.]

A few weeks ago unbeknownst to me Alyson purchased a “romance package” from a local boutique hotel.  The deal includes dinner at Garibaldi’s, the restaurant where Tired Dating began six long months ago, and one overnight stay in above average environs at the boutique hotel conveniently located half a block from the restaurant.   Our date is tomorrow night, so you know what I am thinking? Riiight.

Its not one of those “Pink Neon” places.

I couldn’t be happier.  Any man reading this is happy too, whether he admits it or not to his spouse or girlfriend.  Although probably afraid to cop to his smirk, upon reading this entry he may explain the grin as the byproduct of how much trouble he imagines I will incur for writing this entry, let alone posting it.  But if tortured to truthfulness, he will admit it. He will scream it… “I am smiling for Kevin, because he is going on a date at a hotel, which means he gets Hotel Breakfast! Aaaaahahahahaha!”

Perhaps it’s a fraternal thing, but common to most men is a healthy and pervasive expectation for Hotel Breakfast.  And we don’t care how we get it.  Gourmet Buffet with waffle and omelet station.  Sit down order from the menu.  Quick and free dash to yesterday’s donuts and egg substitute sterno tray.  Or the bag of almonds from the mini-bar.  Doesn’t matter.  There’s hopefulness, an excitement.  Hotel Breakfast, in varied and surprising form, will be different from what we consume at home.

The ice sculpture has no nutritional value whatsoever.


The ice sculpture has no nutritional value whatsoever.

Imagining hotel breakfast triggers a miniscule particle in our brain which then alerts chemicals and nerves and natural occurring narcotics to direct the limbic, circulatory, musculature, skeletal and hydraulic systems to contemplate the meal ahead.  I think it might even border on obsession.  We wonder in delirious thought: “Bacon…will it be maple cured, or perfectly crisp?  Will there be an obnoxious cornucopia at a big table inviting me towards breads and rolls and danish and loaves I haven’t seen since the last hotel date?  Will the fruit be carved into unknown geometric shapes?  Can I pour my milk into my junior box of Frosted Flakes like I did when I was a kid?” No, wait; retract that one, wrong memory bank.  But you get my drift.  And I almost forgot the most important one, “Will I be allowed seconds?”

Given the full disclosure already offered in the above paragraphs on behalf of truthful men everywhere I guess I should admit to times when our buddies, co-workers, and the occasional homeless man selling newspaper at the corner might happen to find out about an upcoming hotel date.  It’s like a relay team sharing the Gold medal, high fives for everyone.  The lone caveat is the guy who has become accustomed to skipping breakfast or going without for one reason or another, bless his heart.  He really doesn’t know how to process the option of chopped pecans on a waffle, much less a cold cup of yogurt with homemade granola.  Mostly he’s just bitter, and no one really likes to be around him anyway. I know, I know, it’s sophomoric, but breakfast at a hotel?  In the words of Brother Dave, “the worst I had was wonderful.”

But a myopic view of Hotel Breakfast is discouraged. It’s not the most important thing on the date.  And it never will be.  One focuses solely on breakfast at ones peril.  Maybe the kitchen is closed, or the doughnut delivery is late, or there is an early checkout mandated by circumstance.  It happens.  And when it does, the important thing to realize in a relationship is this: neither man nor woman can live by Hotel Breakfast alone.

(There’s always lunch.)

Dish Rag Date

Tired Dating promises to give you the honest unadulterated dish on all our dates.  We pledge honesty, and we edit it accordingly, mainly for our own children, two of which have already replied “gross” or “I’m never reading that again.”  Maybe it was “The ‘N’ Word” or any mild reference I have made to marital dalliance.  Hey, no apologies here, maybe some of the marital dysfunction in our system today is because too few practitioners of the art and craft of marriage talk about the journey with honesty and reality.  This is hard work.

And so is being committed to dating each other in tired middle age.   We willingly and daily give our best efforts and energy to our children, but that often translates to a scarcity remaining for each other.  Too often all we have left are the few drops wrung from the already dehydrated cloth of life.   That is probably a bad analogy, but let’s go with it: If your marriage was a kitchen rag, what would it be like?  A new Williams Sonoma with embroidered Rooster?  (Why is Kitchen Rooster décor so popular nowadays?  I think someone should bring back the “Kitchen Monkey” or the “Kitchen Snap-on Tools Calendar.”)  Or, is your marriage, more akin to that wadded up rag in the far corner of the counter that begs to be laundered, the one while being completely dry smells like wet tennis shoes and mayonnaise pot pourri?

Both examples are extreme.  If you have dragged multiple offspring into your third decade of marriage like we have, one glance in the mirror or bank account probably leaves you with several conclusions.  One, plastic surgery or hair plugs might not be bad ideas.  Two, maybe you should have stayed in that crappy job just for the money.  Or, hopefully, the third conclusion fits best:  No journey that doesn’t leave its mark on the traveler is worth much.

Take our March date for example.  We made it to date night with no plans other than using a gift certificate to Solstice Kitchen.  One hundred bucks, so it was a good meal, but because of our poor planning, the remaining reservation was 9 o’clock.  The only people I know who eat that late are Skinny Girl Bethany Frankel and the Amish during harvest season.

But we needed it, that late dinner.  And it was one of the best I can remember.  Halfway through, already past ten, we were laughing about my recent cost saving propensity for digging food out of our trashcan.  I realized how naturally our conversation was flowing.  We didn’t need a double date wing couple to aid the flow.  We were genuinely engaged in the moment, and Alyson ALMOST bought my logic about how it is completely okay to retrieve the night’s chicken carcass from the trashcan to make our own chicken stock.  “You boil it anyway, like three times, it’ll be fine.”

We got home about eleven I think, or maybe a tad after.  Grace Ann was home for spring break, and all three kids were still up.  They had made some cookies and were watching a movie.  And what they thought they knew was their parents had just been out for dinner.

What I hope they will learn is their parents are doing the best they can. And, if there will ever be a success story they can tell their children about us, it will be this one:  they washed their kitchen rags regularly, and a few are still in use.