We met twenty-one years ago, January 1991.
It was during a time when I thought the world was crumbling. My first husband had fallen in love with another woman and had left me on Christmas Day.
Oddly, when the Gulf War began in January, the addition of this distant war to my personal chaos made me feel as if the entire world had just gone mad and all I could see before me was a dark abyss filled with bitterness.
I was terrified.
I remember driving for miles. Screaming.
And then unexpectedly, I met this man.
Kind, caring, and incredibly patient, this man helped pick me up (admittedly, he did this quite literally on more than one occasion) and gave me encouragement, advice, and sometimes just a swift kick in the ass for forward momentum.
We became the best of friends.
We spent a lot of time together, we laughed constantly, we took road trips, and when we weren't dating other people, yes, we even had... benefits.
We didn't call it anything as witty as "benefits" back then. I don't remember what we called it, if anything, but regardless of the name we used, I remember it was passionate and amazing.
Yet, we never forgot we were just friends.
Love, with the safety switch on.
Eventually, we moved across country together and spent a few more years as friends and roommates.
We learned a new coast and a new town and in time we reached the realization that neither of us could imagine a life without the other.
On the Summer Solstice of 1997, we went sailing off the coast of Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, and just before sunset, we stood together with a couple of friends and said the vows that we'd written to each other in the Safeway parking lot only a couple of hours prior.
We began with the words, "We are here, not to mark the start of a relationship, but to recognize a bond that already exists..."