Time is a funny thing.
The concept of measuring time was created by man, since we couldn’t be satisfied with looking up, holding a hand parallel to the horizon and figuring if the day was half-finished, three-quarters done or if it was nowhere near time to go home. I oversimplify, but you understand. With the concept of time came the need to coordinate, to schedule, to plan. That appealed to a lot of folks who have a need for control.
So it was that the really nice, intense lady spoke to my buddy Darryl, leading him to come tap on my antique wristwatch.
We were sweating in our tuxedoes, despite the air conditioner working overtime in the little country church. The day was so hot that the corn cried out for mercy, but there was none to be found in the cloudless blue skies over Keener Methodist Church on June 6, 1992.
“It’s time,” he said, and laughed. “If you want to run, we need to go. Otherwise, you’re getting married.”
I found out later that my father-in-law to be told my bride something similar. Neither of us had a second’s hesitation, to my recollection.
The days before and the first day or two after our wedding were monuments to the desperate need to beat the clock. After days of running errands, waiting, then running some more, we broke every speed limit between Clinton and Wilmington to get to the closing of our house on time, then get back for the wedding rehearsal.
We were halfway back, my ancient BMW pushing well past 80 (and that’s miles, not kilometers, per hour) when we realized they couldn’t have a rehearsal, a dinner or a wedding without us. I dropped the speed limit back to something more acceptable to the average State Trooper’s steely gaze and we just talked. We realized that we owned those moments, and letting ourselves get pushed around by others, however well-meaning they might be, was taking away from a special time. Everybody else could wait.
The wedding planner – the same lady who ordered my best man to get me moving – was on the edge of apoplexy, but we weren’t that worried about it. For just a little while, it was our time.
Time is a funny thing.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were crammed together in the control room of a radio station as a tropical storm combined with a storm system to bring flooding to our county. It was basically the first time I had worked on radio, and the second time we had talked.
I called when I was on the way – from a payphone, mind you—and asked if she wanted anything. She said chewing gum, so I bought her at least one of every variety I could find. I may have spent $2. Try to doing that now, and you’ll see how times have changed. Less than a year later, we were married.
It’s jarring when I realize that I have friends who weren’t born when Rhonda Faye Hill added Weaver to her name. A half-dozen of our addresses and jobs have changed; we lost my mom and dad, then her father; we’ve birthed, rescued, buried and adopted animals by the score; vehicles and furniture and books and things have gone by the wayside.
I thought about those events and more Sunday as we were driving back from her mother’s house.
We were on a highway that has featured prominently in both our lives, her as a young woman, me from when I was a babe in arms being carried on my mother’s hip. Then later we both racked up thousands of miles on that same road, moving from Sampson County to Bladen then Columbus. Ironically, it hasn’t been often that we lived too many miles from that same highway.
It was a typical road trip for us, trying to beat the sun home to feed critters, stopping to run an errand here or there, looking for changes in that house or this farm or another town. Sometimes there was music, usually when one or the other of us mentioned something that caused the other to think of a particular song. Usually it was just the hum of the tires and the roar of the rusted exhaust and the squawking of the baby birds in the backseat and our own voices, things we have become accustomed to over the years. I really can’t tell you specifically what we talked about, just that we talked to each other, as we have for most of our lives.
Again, time is a funny thing. Rhonda and I have been married to each other more than half our entire lives. It doesn’t seem possible, but math has never been my strong suit.
Time doesn’t change. It’s always the same.
People change. The paths we’re on change. Like that highway we rolled down Sunday, sometimes there’s slow traffic, sometimes there are speeders, sometimes there are rough patches and even washouts. Sometimes the pavement is smooth as if it had just come out of the asphalt spreader, and you’re the first driver on that section. Other times you have to grit your teeth, slow down, clench the steering wheel in a deathgrip and put it in four wheel drive just to get a mile down the road, then do it all over again a mile later. You have to keep going. You learn to adapt and improvise, navigate and negotiate and when to give up something small for something bigger and more important.
Even though it is an abstract principle put to paper by humankind, time is a real thing – and it’s a valuable commodity. The passage of time helps us recognize exactly what truly matters, and that’s spending every possible moment with someone we love, even when those moments don’t technically belong to us.
It’s been right at 11,322 days since that miserably hot afternoon in that little country church, around 271,746 hours. The minutes are beyond my math skills.
Every hour, every minute, every second has been, is or will be priceless, even if it’s years before we realize why. Good times and bad, happy and sad, hard and easy and frantic and lazy, flood and drought and cold and heat, Rhonda has always been there for me, ever since she turned down her daddy’s suggestion to flee and instead came through the doors of that little country church, looking like a tiny doll in a wedding dress. I can only hope and pray to always be there for her, too.
Happy anniversary, Dolly. I love you. Forever and ever.