As I was floating in my mother's amniotic fluid in May of 1974, a little baby girl was born in Iowa, 2 months before my own birth into this cruel, yet beautiful world. Like an astronaut tethered with an oxygen tube to a space station, I was floating with an anti-gravitational bliss tethered with an umbilical chord to my own source of space and meaning, my mother. I was in Denver. How could I have known that a little baby girl was being born in Des Moines that would be my wife? But there she was, entering this world like the early bird getting the worm, a two month jump on me in this mystery called life.
We didn't meet each other for 18 years until our freshman year of college. But she was well taken care of upon our introduction. She was the daughter of a dad she adored and still adores to this day. He protected her heart like he was guarding the Ark of the Covenant. He prayed for her every morning as he woke early and knelt beside the couch brooding over her soul like the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters at the genesis of the world. He prayed for me before he knew me. He fought for her heart when someone would treat her unjustly...that made her feel protected. He bought her treats after school and when she would tilt her head in the passenger seat it would guilt him into stopping by the gas station for a goody...those things made her feel special.
He drove countless miles to pick her up from parties that were getting unruly and making her feel uncomfortable...he did this without complaint...it was the least he could do to shield her from any innocence-violating movies or conversations, or situations. She always felt he would do anything or travel anywhere to rescue her from harm's way. He never made her feel like she was "in the way" or "asking too much". He took care of things.
In fact, just a couple years ago I said, "I'll take care of it." She about cried and said, "That's what my dad would say all the time." No matter what it was, her dad would take care it, take care of her. She knew she was spoken for. He would go to the store to get her feminine hygienic products late into the evening, he would clean her car and fill it with gas, he would run an errand so she could go out with friends, he would fix dinner and clean the plates off the table and wash the dishes so that she could enjoy the evening. He would love her mother with such a sacrifice that she never had to lay in bed wondering whether "Mom and Dad" were ok. She just knew deep in her heart that they were in love with each other for better or worse till death did them in. Because of this, she slept like a baby her whole life, secure and safe within the undying, unconditional love of her parents, and the bastion of her home.
This is not to minimize the love of her mother...believe me, I could go on and on about that relationship that is more of a friendship with a best friend than anything else, but today, I'm thinking of that moment when I was standing at the wedding and her dad, David Cortner, said these words that hit me like a ton of two-by fours, "Her mother and I." It was the classic response to the question asked by the officiant, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?" I stood there as he placed his beautiful girl in my care, under the banner of my love. This is a hand off that doesn't get enough time in the wedding ceremony, especially when you've been sheltered under the banner of love that my wife enjoyed from the day she was born. I remember putting out my arm, and him tucking her arm under mine and sheepishly turning toward the altar. I shutter at the thought of it all. I was going to take this girl from her daddy, who, truth be told, loved her more in that moment than I did. Let's be real, there's no way that my romantic love for her the last 4 years leading up to our wedding could eclipse the sacrificial and sensational love of her parents for the last 22 years...no way. And unflinchingly he gave her to me to "lay down my life for" as he had. He expected that I would drive any distance to rescue her from a compromising situation. He expected that I would never put any of my ambitions above her or let any other woman pull my heart away from the exclusive affection hers required, deserved.
He didn't flake out, and he trusted I wouldn't either. He didn't slack off even in the hard moments, and his eyes told me that he believed I would carry that same torch. He was the watchman on the walls looking out for danger and he was handing off that devout responsibility to me. And I felt the weight of it all, but not anything like I do today. The weight of taking care of her is mine.
And I'm not sure why I felt the urge to take this written journey into the backstory of her birthday today, but I guess I just feel like the token well-wishes don't come close to honoring the weight of one's life. It's not just a day...it's a life. And as the man who promised that he would cherish this life that has been cherished from the beginning, I wanted to renew my vows to do so on this special day.
I feel the weight of my calling to carry on the care that you've been given since the day your were born, and though my love for you couldn't compare to the love your father had for you on our wedding day, my love for you now makes his affection pale into a pleasant backdrop at best. I will take it from here, my bride, and live to honor the love that has taken care of you all along, from Des Moines to Clarks Summit to Bellefontaine and now in Lowell. I will take care of you from now until the end of time...
I love you, babe.