City Life: Working at a marriage that never feels like work

Sometimes we don't really know whom we've married until there is some challenge that reveals what we wish we'd known during courtship or we experience something that supports our good decision to have married that person.

I learned all I needed to know about my wife, Cay, the day after we were married Feb. 22, 1987.

It rained most of the day. Our outdoor wedding at El Adobe restaurant in San Juan Capistrano was moved inside to the ballroom. We didn't mind the rain because we'd planned a skiing honeymoon in Lake Tahoe and figured that showers here meant snow there.

We left the next day from John Wayne Airport on a flight that required a stopover in San Jose before flying us directly to the Tahoe airport.

Nearing Tahoe, the pilot told us that a snowstorm was preventing us from landing and that we were being diverted to Reno, where we would catch buses to the lake 40 miles away. Instantly, there were groans from the passengers over the inconvenience.

Cay and I, however, were rejoicing. We had timed our trip for the peak snow period and had nailed it.

At the Reno airport, Cay and I were headed to baggage claim, when she turned to me and said, "I'll meet you on the bus. Save me a seat."

Twenty minutes later, she sat down next to me with two sandwiches, two bags of chips and two beers. On the trip to the lake, I heard more than one bus passenger say, "I wish we'd done that."

How she smuggled those beers out of the airport is still a mystery.

That was Cay then, and that is Cay today: always turning adversity into opportunity and meeting every challenge with an attitude. She is the most courageous person I have ever met.

We woke the next morning to perfectly clear blue skies over mountains covered top to bottom with fresh powder. We conquered Squaw Valley, and it is still the best day of skiing we've ever had.

That's how our marriage started. Over the years, Cay and I have created a nice life. We have our own home, two wonderful children and the love of family and friends.

We had a rough patch in 1998 when my career transition from a small-business owner to full-time writer did not go smoothly. It took about nine months before I was making good money again, but Cay never told me to stop following my dream.

Cay has always made time for our children. Over the years they have been in school, I can count on one hand the number of events she has missed. Our kids were, are and always will be, her top priority. Nothing else comes close. It doesn't matter where we are or what we are doing, as long as our family is together.

Over the past year, we have agreed that our marriage today is far stronger than it was in 1987. People often talk about how a lasting marriage takes a lot of work, but it has never felt like work to me — not ever, not even one day — because Cay has made it so easy for me to love her and to love what she has created.

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary. I am a writer and I am supposed to be able to eloquently express how honored I am to be Cay's husband and how she has helped create a life far better than the one I dreamed of as a small boy in Chicago.

But I can't.

All I can think of to write at this moment is that I may not have a lot of money in the bank, but she has made me the richest man in the world.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to smi161@aol.com.

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