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Love is even better than I thought it'd be

Do you want to know how we met? Kerry was well on her way to a good education, following the right path. She was a good student, a good daughter, and she had good plans. Then I kind of blindsided her. It wasn't at all what she had planned or what was expected of her.

We were both transfer students as sophomores, and met the first week at our new college. I was completely taken. I'd never met anyone like her.

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Three months later, at Christmas break 21 years ago, was the last time we've been apart for any length. I wrote her a letter. A good friend I had grown up with in Alaska and I were skiing to a remote cabin just south of Denali National park. We had used up the daytime and were traveling by moonlight when we began on the subject of the potential permanency of the person we were currently dating back in "America."

I hadn't really given the subject that much thought, but it was suddenly obvious to me that I was getting married. When we got to the cabin, I thawed out a pen and sat right down and spilled my guts.

There being no proper provisions for a traveling letter-writer, Kerry received her marriage proposal written on brown paper towels, those continuous-roll ones used in elementary schools.

Then there's kind of a tough spot in the story, but it shows the mettle of this new family. We were too young. Even I have to admit that ... now.

After the dust settled and everyone sadly conceded the new marriage, we set to work. Putting two of us through school meant a lot of car-fixing. That's probably the only reason I finished school.

The gravity of the whole thing sank in only when we were on the first of our many wilderness trips. We were headed back to school after a summer of work. We had planned to fly south to Juneau instead of Seattle and take the Alaska state ferry the rest of the way. The weather in Juneau was too sloppy to land, so they overheaded us to Seattle, and gave us tickets back up to Juneau. We were determined to get in our inside-passage trip before school.

We hung out at Mendenhall Glacier for a few days, and Kerry wasn't feeling well. Wow, I had never in my life taken care of someone else. And I loved it.

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We went for a few short hikes, but spent a lot of time at camp. Walking back toward the ferry terminal to continue south, we missed the bus.

It was 11 p.m., raining, and we would have to endure a three-hour walk wearing rubber boots and carrying backpacks.

But Kerry had mended and couldn't stop talking the whole way. She told me story after story of her childhood. All the good things she had done, all the love her family had given her. That night it really sank in, the great thing I had signed up for. I walked that night and listened to my someday-babies' mom talk and talk of good, happy things.

When we got to the ferry terminal, we found a quiet spot to crash under some chairs. Kerry went right to sleep, but I couldn't. I lay there for hours in awe of what was happening to me. To us. I sure liked her, and I'd pushed real hard, real early to make the marriage happen. But I guess I didn't really have a clear idea of who we were and what great things might be in store for us until that night, lying awake in the ferry terminal at Auke Bay.

I am signed up to race in a performance rally this week: 60 street-legal cars racing through the woods of Missouri on dirt roads. The guy co-driving had to back out at the last minute. Kerry is not a speed freak, but she loves me. She figures the first few miles will be terrifying, but after she gets used to it she expects it to be merely annoying. We're not really sure how it's all going to work out. But isn't that what we've been doing all along?


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