Life comes at you in waves, ebbing and flowing as time goes by. Some times are better than others, but you never really know the net impact of life’s changes at the moment that they take place.
2001 was a big year for me. It’s hard to believe that it has been around 13 years since I moved back home to Texas from a three year sojourn in Colorado. I hadn’t moved back willingly, quite the contrary. My plans had never included a return trip to the town where I grew up, but sometimes these kind of decisions have a way of being taken out of your hands, especially when you are in your early 20’s and don’t have a dime to your name.
Prior to moving back to Texas, I had managed to make my escape from one of those soul-rending relationships that only rock music can effectively capture. I had never really had much experience with long-term relationships. Up to that point in time, my romantic life had been a series of attachments that had generally struggled to reach a third month. Inexplicably, this last relationship had survived for over a year, despite the fact that I had spent most of that year in varying degrees of unhappiness. It was, unequivocally, the worst year of my life.
Relationships like the one that I had extricated myself from have a way of souring you on the whole concept of human companionship for a while. That being the case, the last thing on my mind when I returned home was entering into another relationship. Remember that thing that I said about decisions being taken out of your hands? Yeah, that.
I won’t bore you with all of the details, but the short version of the story is that when my friend Stephen (he likes to make sure that he receives the credit for the inception of our relationship) introduced me to Beth, I knew almost right away that my resolve for clinging to the single life would crumble in short order. That introduction lead to conversations, which lead to hanging out, which lead to the true height of romantic gestures, the making of mix tapes (okay, mix CDs.)
As an aside, one of the true tragedies of the millennial generation is the death of the mix tape (or its offspring, the mix CD.) To this day it is hard for me to watch the movie High Fidelity without weeping for the younger generation, few of whom will ever experience the romantic ecstasy that is creating the perfect mix for the object of your affections. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I digress.
Of all of the songs that I have ever included on a mix, there is one that stands above all others in expressing my feelings, and that is The Luckiest by Ben Folds.
There is no other song writer who has had the ability to draw tears from my eyes like Ben Folds. Whether he is singing about a middle aged man who the business world has cast aside, or about the lifelong love that is shared between two people, his songs have a simplicity and beauty that seem to cut right to the emotional core of his subject. The Luckiest perfectly expressed the way that I felt about Beth.
When Beth and I were planning our wedding, we both knew that this song would have to be the first that we danced to as husband and wife. Every once in a while I will go back and listen to that song, and I will still tear up at the part where Folds sings of the elderly couple who can’t live without each other. I recently gave it another listen and got inspired to do a hand lettering project based on the song.
Even as my relationship with Beth is working its way through a second decade, these words still describe the way that I feel about her –
In a white sea of eyes, I see one pair that I recognize, and I know that I am the luckiest.