Yesterday, Today, and Forever Tomorrows

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Last week’s column was about a trek through the Ridge Nature Preserve with our two granddaughters and Yours Truly that resulted in a surprising ending with Mr. Horsefly.

Sometimes the best moments in life occur when you least expect them — and at the spur of the moment. No great planning or deep thinking goes into the event, rather the event develops all on its own as if guided by forces you and I can’t possibly understand. Some call it fate; others call it destiny, still others just dumb luck. But when the stars in the night sky align just right, magical things can happen down here on Earth.

This week’s column is about such an event — another hike through a state park that also ended with a surprise  … and a plate full of pancakes. Changing everything in two people’s lives, the hike took place a long, long time ago just yesterday.

Early one morning when asked what she would like for breakfast, the young lady with dark brown hair replied without hesitation, “Pancakes. But the best pancakes I’ve ever had were in Tennessee.” Agreeing that a pancake breakfast would be enjoyable, the couple got into their car and drove to a local restaurant. After breakfast they headed back home, at least that’s what she thought. Driving for half an hour, they reached downtown Atlanta when she finally asked, “I thought we were going home?” His answer made her laugh.

“Nope. Going to Tennessee to get those pancakes.”

The young lady had spoken once before about the little mom and pop breakfast place near the Ocoee River whose specialty was pancakes. By chance it was the very restaurant he had eaten at after hiking the nearby Chilhowee Recreational Area four years earlier. At the end of that hike was the most tranquil place he had ever seen — Benton Falls (aka Bridal Veil Falls) — and he’d promised himself if he ever met that special someone, he would ask her to marry him at the base of those falls.

Two hours after they had finished breakfast, the young couple arrived at the top of Chilhowee Mountain, got out and started the forty-minute hike to the falls. Steep stone steps led the way down to the large flat rock at the base of the falls.

Surrounded by the falling mist, he dropped to one knee and asked her if she would marry him. He never heard her answer over the roar of the waters, but a picture taken by a stranger captured the very moment. That framed picture has been on their bedside table ever since they were married. How do I know this? That young couple that went on a road trip for pancakes were The Wife and me.

The day we were married, walking back down the aisle as man and wife for the very first time, I looked over at her and thought it impossible to love her more, but I was wrong. Through our life together, her positive outlook, unique perspective, and wit have shined a light through it all, chasing away any darkness sent our way.

After my first story, it was she who said, “Continue to write until you run out of things to say.” And every week for the last twenty-two years, that’s what I’ve done, but not all by myself. The Wife is either in or behind every story.

With her, it truly has been a fairytale romance, one that started at the base of a magical waterfall. And I want to be with her every moment of every day. But sadly, I can’t. I must wait a few more years until she retires. That day will be a very good day indeed.

As much as we love each other, we’ve never exchanged gifts — to some this may seem a little odd. But there is a simple explanation as to why. We believe our love for each other on our wedding day — and every day since — has been and is the greatest gift we can give one another.

This week we celebrate our 23rd anniversary, and every time I wake up in the middle of the night, I look over at her thinking how lucky a man I am — awestruck in how she has changed my life so much for the better and how magical it is she said yes, so many years ago.

Now, for the first time, I will break with our long-held tradition of not giving gifts. In response to those words, you spoke surrounded by the mist of a cascading waterfall, I now write these words for you. I love you a lifetime ago that yesterday, today and all the forever tomorrows we have together. The gift I have for you has been this story. Happy anniversary, my love.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]