February 14, 1973 – a special Valentine’s Day for me. I had chosen to say the words on that day because I had never said them before to any girl, and I thought I would never say them again to any other girl.
I was right.
Lauren Kay Ubele and I had been dating for 5 months and 17 days, give or take. I had met her on the first day of class our freshman year at Texas Tech University: August 28, 1972, 7:32 a.m. in the old Ag Hall. Dr. Bill Dean was teaching Mass Comm 101. I entered the hall at 7:30, intent on finding a good seat in what I was sure would be an SRO, 200-seat auditorium. I walked through the double doors and surveyed 198 empty seats. Someone was sitting up on the second row on the left side. Long, black hair as I recall, and I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl (it was the 70’s).
Then I saw her. Long, light brown hair falling over her shoulders. I walked down the aisle, studly to the max in my blue corduroy bell bottoms, dingo boots, and tie-dyed (purple and orange) shirt, looking around for an empty seat. I paused thoughtfully beside her row (5th back, second seat in), and asked with a wry smile, “Is anyone sitting here?”
She smiled and I was gone – so flummoxed I almost dropped my books. I’ve seen that smile a gazillion times and it still disarms me. Makes me go wobbly. It says, “Sure, you can sit beside me – oh, and by the way, you’re not fooling me, buster!” 17-years old. Blue gingham dress. Moss-green eyes that lock you up and won’t let you go.
I had a list of girls I was dating, phone numbers, etc., all neatly written down in a spiral notebook. So, clueless Romeo that I was, I pulled out the list and asked Lauren if she would mind putting her name and phone number on the list! If I put that scene in one of my screenplays, the studio would reject it as too unbelievable for public consumption! And do you know the most amazing thing?
She wrote down her name and number!
I had one other date with another girl after that – and only because it was already arranged. It took Lauren a little longer to realize that she was intended by Divine Providence for me and me alone – like 5 months and 17 days. I’m an all-in kind of guy. Once I make up my mind, once I commit, that’s it. No turning back. Lauren’s list of suitors was long, but I was intrepid.
Still, saying those words – even though I was sure she was the one for me – did not come quickly. Because words matter. Especially those words. When a couple exchanges those words it means commitment. It means you are both all in.
So. On Valentine’s Day, 1973 we spoke those words to each other for the first time. And I’ve repeated them – each time with just a little more appreciation and wonder that she says them back to me – every day since. 43 years. 15,705 days + 1 and counting. Multiply that times 4 or 5 since we repeat them several times a day.
I hear them regularly from other family members, and that’s lovely.
But when I hear those words from her – I get wobbly.
Say them to the love of your life today. Every day. Don’t assume he/she knows. Say them.
And start counting.