Even our closest friends expressed doubts when we stood in a minister’s living room 26 years ago today and exchanged those fateful vows about “until death do us part.”

Neither of us could claim good records when it came to marriage. Both of our first unions ended badly. But love has a dominating way of overcoming reluctance.

So there we were, in that living room in Alton, Illinois, in a private ceremony with just the minister’s wife, two children and dog and cat, as witnesses, tying the knot just two days before my 33rd birthday. Two years later, we would pack up and leave Illinois and head for Washington for a massive change in our personal and professional lives.

In a perfect world, the next 26 years would be an idyllic adventure but this isn’t a perfect world and the quarter-century plus one would bring joy, heartache and many, many challenges to our resolve. In too many cases, my behavior almost brought things to an end before the right combination of her love, AA and much-needed self-realization brought the necessary stability to our lives.

And this month, also the anniversary of yet another move and another lifestyle change, we celebrate 26 years of marriage with a peace that long eluded us during those hectic days in Washington.

A trip to a favorite restaurant for an anniversary dinner will have to wait. An ice storm moved into the area overnight and has all but shut down life around us. But we can celebrate here at home. If the power goes out, we have a backup generator system, plenty of propane in the tank and fires in the fireplace. We can open a bottle of sparkling cider and celebrate in the hot tub with our dog and four cats as witnesses.

Happy anniversary my love. It’s 26 years and counting…and counting…and counting.