“Today is one of my anniversaries.”

The woman behind the cash register grabs a bottle of water for a customer. The fishing pier is congested with tourists and fishermen.

“One of your anniversaries?” I ask.

“Been married three times,” she says. “Found out it is not the third time is the charm, more like three strikes and you are out.”

She laughs and turns and walks to an older man sitting on a bench, his fishing rod and walker beside him. He nods, thanking her.

I tear at the clear cellophane on a frozen watermelon Popsicle in hopes of softening the morning heat.

Love is not an easy thing. And like the beachfront, love is delicate and susceptible to disruptive storms.

I turn to my wife, the two of us now on 38 years figuring out our relationship.

With the cellophane removed from our Popsicles, we head back out the open door and down a long wooden pier to the beach. Ahead of us waves find their final destination on the sand, noisily downing beneath their own weight.

Relationships are complicated. If ever there was an understatement, this is it. No two relationships are ever the same. People change and evolve along the way. Predictable is rarely a word used to describe long-term relationships.

My wife jokes I am her second or possibly third husband. And her joke is a polite way of driving the point we have changed a lot since we first met. The truth is, we all change over time. Learning to evolve while holding on to the most essential elements that first brought you together, however, is not easy.

My aunt once shared an innocent nugget of wisdom about marriage. My wife and I newly married, we now believe my aunt intentionally dropped this knowing what lay ahead of two strong-willed people equally filled with a white-hot passion for each other.

She warned us life gets hard — but hang on.

“Never forget that a person who you fell so madly in love all those years ago with is still inside — don’t let go,” she said.

Her words seemed innocent and idealistic at the time. Of course, I thought, life gets hard. And of course I’ll never forget why my wife and I first fell in love. How could I?

And then life proceeded to whack us two newlyweds around with a stiff two-by-four. Starting out life broke, then kids coming along, and then balancing family life, career, and each other. And the whacking continued. Honestly, it got rough requiring some serious growing up on my part.

But we followed my aunt’s advice, at times repeating it aloud to each other. A mantra for tough times, so to say.

I’ll skip the personal details, but we held as tightly to my aunt’s words as storms came and went. But in the end — and fortunately — we’re still those two kids who fell madly in love all those years ago, only now we’re sharing Popsicles while walking the beach.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com

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