He was an hour and a half late to our first date and showed up wearing an earring. He called; he was polite, but we didn't go out again for six weeks. He called many times, even found my parents' names and called me in Colorado over Spring Break. A week later he called again interested second date, but I was stalling - so we went for ice cream on a Sunday afternoon and took a walk around Boomer Lake.
I think the kids call it "the friend zone" these days, and that's exactly where I intended to leave this rebellious boy from Midwest City, but he wouldn't go away with my simple, "We can hang out. You're a lot of fun. We should go run tomorrow." He didn't buy, "I don't trust you. I don't trust any boy." He interrupted me here with, "Lisa, I am nothing like the boys you know." Joel Keith is masterful at many things - and striking at the heart of the truth when you plan to duck it - is one of them. "Let's go to dinner next Saturday night - but it's a date."
We went out again March 24th, a great dinner at a favorite restaurant in OKC. Then he delivered his OSU letter jacket to his mom. She opened the coat closet door in their Midwest City home and I saw his Monroney Jr. High jacket and his Midwest City High School letter jacket. You should have seen her face light up as she showed me her treasures. Of course, her pride for those jackets was nothing like the light she held for her youngest son.
It's 26 years later from the spring when Joey stole, and I do mean stole, our first kiss. We have explored the ignorant bliss of youthful marriage, the weight of irresponsible debt, the worry of job loss, the reverent joy of creating life, the happiness of success, and the blessing of both friendship and love . We have created life and memory together and navigated this sometimes euphoric, sometimes turbulent, but always organic, always spiritual union called marriage.
He has made every dream we ever hatched come true. That trait was always a part of my fairy tale, and I have often wondered why he chose me. But, I never dreamed we would bury our child or imagined how we would survive without one of the two best gifts we had ever hoped to be given. It was a thought that couldn't be entertained. Nevertheless, the strong soul who would not be cast aside by a simple, small town girl afraid of, yet mesmerized by his forward vigor, continues to be rebellious and relentless. I would like to think I've offered some kind of soft solace these last 29 weeks - but I think more often than not he has just waited to be there when I needed his hand, his shoulder, the strength God gave him.
"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:12b
It's a cord that began tying us together during the spring of 1989, made a knot in our hearts on July 27, 1991 and withstood the nightmare of July 27th, 2014. I am so thankful for Joey's hands and the hands that gave me Joey.
We miss Taylor; with the same intimate sincerity with which she was created, we miss her. It is a sad blessing - sad, to be tossed about by unfathomable grief - a blessing, to be tied together through the storm.
"But Ruth said 'Do to urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." Ruth 1:16