The months of October through February are very busy for us. Aside from the standard holidays and football season, many of our family's birth dates fall in place. It seems like we start to party in October and can't stop until after Super Bowl weekend.
In the midst of all that -- our anniversary. This year was our sixteenth.
To honor that, we had a quaint dinner at our favorite Italian joint with the girls. The four of us enjoyed Italia's finest fare, in a small, quiet place with true Italian people.
The girls love to hear the story of how we met and came to be husband and wife. As we were telling them the story, again, I sort of drifted off to thoughts in a book I'm reading, Outlier's. In that book, a case is made for highly successful or highly catastrophic events, which have more to do with family, generation, culture and class (amongst other things) than specific skills. Anyway, if you've read anything by Malcolm Gladwell, you kind of get the drift of what that book offers. If you haven't read any Gladwell, do so IMMEDIATELY. Star with Blink, then Tipping Point, and finally, Outliers.
I told the girls, "You know, the only reason we're sitting here enjoying this great Italian food as a family seventeen years, one month and few days later was the persistence of your aunt Tu (her real name is Lizbeth, but my oldest named her that early in her toddler life). She forced Mami to continue to call my house, in spite of my parents (more specifically mother) not paying for call-waiting."
"Huh?" They both reacted.
I'm a firm believer that many significant acts in life -- in this case we can used adultery -- are not a random, single action brought on by magic powers, which leave one with the question, "How did I get into this mess?"
The idea or theory, which ever the case may be, was justified by the book, Outliers. In it he talks about everything from Bill Gates' success to plane crashes and how small, single decisions or situations contributed to the overall act. The problem is, especially in the Western World, nobody is willing to recognize them as measurable standards by which to guide ourselves.
Back to our anniversary...
We had just finished Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house. This was a unique Thanksgiving. First things first: the Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-10. My mother's relatives actually came over, which was record-breaking in itself, as the party gene is from dad's side. In honor of that, I didn't follow tradition, which was to go to the movies with my cousins after dinner and the Cowboys game. Lastly, and though I did not know it, this would be my last Thanksgiving in El Paso for many years.
So, I was lounging around, enjoying my greatest metabolic years, when the phone rang. It was a girl name Monica, who was trying to invite me dancing. I slowly declined, but the conversation with her jumped around for a while, tying up the vintage land line, with out vintage red rotary phone. During that time, the crucial call was trying to get through.
My wife had ended a long relationship with a guy many thought would be her groom after HS. She had already moved out of El Paso, and was back in town for Thanksgiving. Her sister and other friends had agreed on dancing -- also -- that evening, and wanted to bring along a seasoned party man for a good time. After names were remembered, I made the top 3 list of party goers, eventually chosen for the night's debauchery. When asked about this occasion today, Tu, my lovely sister-in-law says, "All I wanted was for my sister to have a good time. Instead, I got two nieces."
They kept calling. I kept talking.
Most people who know my wife know that, 1.) She was not one to call any boys out of her own will and on a whim, 2.) When she was finally convinced to call me "for a good time," she certainly was about to do it more than once. Shame on me for not having call-waiting.
But, her sister persisted. And, it paid off on what was probably the last try. She says (now) that when she dialed the last time, and it was finally ringing, "I got all nervous and screamed for Idaly (my now-wife) to come to the phone."
I remember two things about that moment. The first was that I regretted not going to the movies. For some reason it made me melancholic to miss out that year with my cousins, but I didn't know why. The second was that when the phone rang, again, mom, who usually ran to catch every call, delegated me to get it, which upset me. I had just adjusted myself perfectly on the sofa, and was enjoying some pie.
That phone call would be one of the most important events in my life.
I answered the phone, and for some reason immediately recognized her. I mean, I've known my wife since the 5th grade, but we were never friends or even social acquaintances through school. She, in fact, will admit hating my guts due to my reputation as a jock and probable below-average-IQ student.
The phone conversation was faulty. She was still weary of inviting an unreputtable party jock. I was unsure of her status with Mr. Right -- her former boyfriend. Moreover, she was inviting me dancing with her party, which consisted of Persistent Sister, Louisiana Cousin, and College Friend-Girl from Mexico D.F., who was a chain smoker. Remember, I just declined such an invitation moments earlier.
Nervously I agreed to go and she picked me up in her dad's Lincoln.
The rest, as I proudly say, is history. The evening was very memorable and we truly enjoyed a connection, which as lasted more than seventeen years, sixteen in matrimony.
At first glance, most people discard all this as just one of those things that happen. A phone call. No call waiting. Missing the movies after it being tradition for years and years. My mother's family coming over, thereby her uninterested in phone calls and delegating me to said phone calls in her lieu (she had the pesky habit of telling many girls I was not home). My wife freshly ending a relationship and looking for a night on the town. Her sister persisting I was just the medicine for post-long-term-boyfriend blues. I could go on, but you get the picture.
To me, that phone call is not "just" one of those things. Though -- seemingly -- these wild ideas are tied to destiny, it's not quite that -- to me. Destiny implies a future you cannot deviate from, regardless of what opportunities or signals you may have access to. My ideas involve picking up on those opportunities or signals at the right time, thereby altering your life (possibly) forever.
The reason I felt melancholic about missing movies with my cousins was simple: I would -- in fact -- never do it again. After meeting with and starting a formal relationship with Idaly, I would be living in Arlington for Thanksgiving, 1992.
My mom's family NEVER came over for any holidays, certainly not for Thanksgiving. We always paid visits to them on other holidays. Their presence made me feel I should fight the urge to go with my other cousins, and I stayed home. Why this year?
I could have accepted the first invitation to go dancing. Mom's family is very low key and festivities -- by then, the time of the call -- were winding down. I didn't. It just didn't feel like that was the thing to do.
My sister-in-law could have quit calling one phone call before she did. She would have gotten a busy signal and the call would have never happened. I would have eaten an additional slice of pecan pie, undisturbed, and my life and my wife's would have been completely and utterly different.
You could say this is all a bunch of hogwash, senseless, petty theories that don't hold any water. I am known to be a thinker of sorts, and many of my theories are regarded as "interesting," but of no practical use.
Say what you want.
When I look at my girls everyday, many memory flashes come to mind. One is always getting up to get that phone call.
One phone call. Two nieces, or daughters in my case.
Don't miss the opportunities. Recognize and acknowledge signals.
Carpe Diem, friends. Carpe Diem.
You may be utterly shocked.