Our Anniversary

I got a little tied up last week by the kind of crises that those of you out there who are landlords understand as some of the best reasons in the world to question the sanity of investing in real estate rentals.

Honestly, there’s got to be a better way. Maybe I should invest in Amazing Live Sea Monkeys, who appear to live in the relative harmony not demonstrated last week in our little four-plex community. Goodness.

Anyway, I plan to comment further on Mark Driscoll, as well as to weigh in on last night’s GOP Presidential debate, but for today, let me just publicly thank God that I’ve been married to my best friend, lover, and companion for 27 years today. On a hot September afternoon in Tucson, where, I had forgotten, outdoor weddings really ought not happen until at least the end of October, Jeff and I exchanged our vows in front of a hundred or so friends and family — me in a most un-Bridezilla-like simple white dress and veil, him in a stifling but handsome navy blue suit, and the people around us joyful even in the 90 degree heat. It was magical, and only one person passed out from the swelter — his grandmother.

Thankfully, she was a hearty and forgiving woman.

Anyway, a lot of people, some even at the wedding after the beer and champagne flowed, said we wouldn’t make it. We were too different, our families were too different, our histories were too different, and besides — he’s such a NICE person! It’s distressing to think that people partaking of my parents’ hospitality should be so uncouth while doing so, but I knew, and Jeff knew, that our Savior had brought us together. Forever. Period. Besides, Jeff thought then and thinks now that I’m a pretty nice person, too; I’ve never wavered in agreeing with the rabble that he is, in fact, an uncommonly decent person. And it’s by the grace of God that we would come to see that about each other through the mail.

Yep. Through the mail. Jeff is a mail-order husband.

In March 1983, I had been working for about four months in Odessa, Texas, with my BA in journalism tucked in my belt and my reporter’s notebook always at the ready. Mine was the cop beat — crime, vice, and disaster, all day most days, and every day most weeks. In that one year, I saw more dead bodies, more violence, more squalor and injustice and noxious bigotry than I’d seen even growing up in Tucson, and I had only been a Christian a couple of years, maybe three. Jeff, meanwhile, had also come to Christ in the spring of 1980 or so, and he was working 18 hours a day, every day but Sunday, to build a greenhouse and scratch out a nursery business. He lived in a nasty old trailer on site, and I had what was, to me, a posh apartment in the newest section of Odessa. If you’ve ever been to Odessa, you know that’s a little like saying your cockroach has the shiniest shell. It wasn’t much, but it was mine, and my workmates and editors were beginning to see that I had some talent as a reporter and writer.

One afternoon, my mother called and announced that Jeff’s parents were visiting Tucson from somewhere in Washington-State-Near-Seattle, and that their “boy” was “still single and religious in that same way you are.” In fact, the Spirit had worked in Jeff to lead his family to Christ, while my parents, still married at the time, were politically Catholic and politically unchurched, although it was hardly a “mixed” marriage. Jeff’s mother got on the phone and said she’d have him write to me, since my mother had taken pains to tell her how terribly lonely I was in Texas and how violent everything there seemed to be. I thanked her politely, but cringed at the thought of a still-single religious nutcase peppering me with unsolicited letters.

About a week later, a very simple sheet of paper came in the mail, tucked in a hastily-scrawled envelope bearing a Snohomish, Washington, postmark. He wrote:

“Well, our parents know each other. That’s nice. Hope all’s well. Bye, now.”

It’s true that our fathers had been best buddies from junior high on and that the families had kept in contact throughout the years, although all I knew about Jeff, or Jim, or Joe, or whatever his name was, was that he had part of a finger sliced off when he was 9. It seemed so heroic, so exciting, so very Johnny Tremain. But I couldn’t let this maimed frontier woodsman think that I was at all lonely, lacking in friends, or lost in the oilfields of West Texas, so I wrote back something like:

“I don’t NEED you to write to me. I make A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH and I have a NEW CAR and an apartment WITH A DISHWASHER, and I can date ANY guy I want to date,” and on and on and on . . . Almost a week later, I got this on a single sheet of
5 X 7 yellow notepaper, without which even today Jeff is rendered nearly mute:

“Hmmmmm. The ‘still single’ part makes a lot more sense now . . . “

I was smitten. We wrote almost every day, after I apologized for my haughtiness, and had already talked about the Big Stuff even before our first telephone conversation in August 1983 — a call he had to make twice, because I was so nervous and so thrilled when it rang the first time, I threw up. Like his grandmother, he’s a hearty and forgiving sort who never once said he didn’t know it wasn’t just, ummm, static on the line. There were a couple of months when my phone bill was higher than the rent on my apartment, and it became clear that we needed to meet, having already discussed marriage.

He flew me to Seattle to see him in November, and I got off the plane realizing that I had shared my secrets to, talked about marriage with, and fallen utterly in love with someone whose face, not even in a photograph, I had ever seen. I panicked as I walked through the gate; he said he’d be wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. It was Seattle, Washington, in the early 1980s. Who wasn’t?

But a very handsome man with the kindest blue eyes I’d ever seen stepped out of the crowd, gave me a chaste peck on the cheek, and handed me a yellow rose. I was more than relieved — I was ecstatic. Jeff was every bit as wonderful in person as I’d hoped he’d be, and my five days with him at his parents’ HUGE home in Issaquah were phenomenal. He treated me wonderfully, and I left for Odessa thinking that this was either something real and lasting, or the worst cosmic prank in recorded history.

We got engaged on December 14; I moved up to Snohomish on January 30, 1984 and lived with his cousin while we planned our wedding. We wanted something simple, outside, and beautiful, and the entire event, my dress included, came to about $1200. His parents were ecstatic, as were mine; our fathers beamed beyond what was proper or common to 50-year-old men at that time, but it was wonderful to have their support.

Now, as we head off to Nosh in downtown Moscow, I look back and think that somehow God has let the doubters know that what he joins together, not even Keely, or Jeff, even, have ruined. He’s been a father unlike any I’ve ever known to our sons, and my own dad freely acknowledged having learned things from his son-in-law. I have never been Mrs. Jeffrey Mix, and not even Mrs. Keely Mix, but I’ve been proud every day of my life to be Keely Emerine-Mix, and to wake up next to a guy who isn’t perfect, but who’s perfect for me — and who thinks I’m pretty darned wonderful, too.

2 Responses to “Our Anniversary”

  1. Elise says:

    Happy, happy anniversary to you two! Hope you enjoyed your dinner together downtown. I LOVED reading this – and just realized that I’d never asked you exactly how your story together started! You’re both wonderful so it’s easy for me to see how it’s lasted all these years. :) Love to you both (and I sure miss you!!), Elise

  2. Thanks, Elise! I miss you guys, too. Nope, it’s probably not how you think we got started, and not what I’d recommend in most cases, but it’s worked for us! We love you both,


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