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Chris Gay: Marriage still special at 15th anniversary

Posted: April 26, 2017 - 1:07am

It's been a while, but I still remember my first date with my wife.

It was Dec. 27, 1999. That happened to be the wedding anniversary of my deceased grandparents. Risa and I went to the movie theater and saw The Talented Mr. Ripley starring Matt Damon. We both hated the film. That movie is in my cinematic cellar, along with The Mosquito Coast, which featured one of my favorite actors (Harrison Ford).

Later, we ate at Fazoli's and talked and talked. Rule of thumb: On your first date, you don't want to go too fancy. Then you have nowhere to go from there.

Anyway, the date went well. It went so well, we're still together after all these years.

In one day, April 27 will roll around once again. The number 27 has always been my favorite. My birthday is Feb. 27. My wife's birthday is exactly nine months later - Nov. 27. And our dating anniversary is one month afterward.

After dating for a year and a half, Risa knew I was getting ready to propose to her. We went out for supper at a decent restaurant July 27. I slow-played her. I wasn't ready to get engaged just yet. The main reason? I hadn't talked with her mother. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but that seemed like the right thing to do. So I took her mother, Bonnie, to lunch, showed her the ring and got permission. It was an alley-oop, slam dunk.

On that Friday night, it was a disaster. Risa was thinking it was proposal time; I wasn't ready. It would have been too obvious to have gotten engaged July 27. Besides, I had to keep her guessing.

On a Monday in August, I pulled off the surprise. I left work early and headed to her apartment. I laid one rose on the doormat. Then, I made a path to the bedroom, where the ring rested on a plush frog I bought her when she got sick when we first started dating. When she arrived from work, she got out of the car and told her best friend she'd call her back.

She said yes, called her friend back and we went to eat at Michael's, a piano bar that used to exist near the corner of Boy Scout and Washington roads. That was a bit of an upgrade over Fazoli's. (We're still waiting for Fazoli's to return to the Augusta area.)

I've often wondered how many people get engaged on a Monday in August. Valentine's Day? Christmas? New Year's Eve? How cliché.

Our life together certainly hasn't been stale. Thursday (April 27) marks our 15th anniversary together. It's been a fast, wonderful ride. We've been true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. And we've lived through some poor times and some not-as-poor ones, too. (We're still waiting on the "for richer" part.)

We bought our first house a year after our wedding - we've been in it ever since. It's not our dream home, but we love the west Augusta location. It's much easier getting around town where we live than in many places in Columbia County. Sorry, guys.

A year and a half after Risa and I got married, in the wee hours of Sept. 12, 2003, her mother unexpectedly died at age 53. She was so young, so full of life. We miss her greatly.

One month later, we got a call that my father-in-law, who was living in south Florida, needed heart surgery. It was the proverbial "When it rains, it pours" scenario. Fortunately, Abe made it through, despite all his other ailments. He died last year, but I'm happy he was able to live another 13 years and see his grandchildren.

A few years into our marriage, Risa and I learned we were having difficulty getting pregnant. Could anything else go wrong? We eventually went to a reproductive specialist, Edouard Servy. His daughter played basketball for Augusta State in the late 1990s.

Dr. Servy started us on an artificial insemination program. The first two times? Failure. Frustrated, Risa said if the third time didn't work we'd have to look into the next step - the much more expensive in vitro fertilization. If that didn't work, we'd thought about adoption. We were going to have children, one way or the other.

The proverbial third time worked. We learned she was pregnant in March 2005. We were so excited, we went to the store and bought another pregnancy test just to be sure. Risa went to her next doctor's appointment Thursday of Masters Week. (I'm still in disbelief that people work regular, non-golf-related jobs that week.)

I couldn't make the appointment because I had to be at Augusta National Golf Club, covering the tournament. I pulled into the parking lot, the car tires crashing into the gravel when she called me. Risa yelled: "We're having triplets!" I responded: "Do what?" The rest of the day was a blur.

Since then, we've done our best to be loving parents to our two daughters and son. And in the past decade, we've tried to take some time for ourselves. On one occasion, Risa and I went ziplining in 2012 in the North Carolina mountains. It was a fun few hours.

Not every day is a ziplining day. Life can't be exciting 100 percent of the time. But if you find the right person, life can be enjoyable almost 100 percent of the time, even if there are daily, mundane items, like dishes to wash, clothes to clean.

A coach's wife has to be a special person, because coaches spend a lot of time at school, a lot of time with other people's children. A sports writer's wife has to be a special person, too, because many nights there's something going on that has to be covered, especially in spring.

Risa is a special, loving person. She's a great friend to others, a fantastic mother to our children. Most of all, she's a wonderful wife. Happy anniversary, sweetheart! Here's to another 15 years and beyond.

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