The first thing I noticed was his name. I mean Cram? Who has the last name "Cram"? What if he wanted to name his kid Pam or Sam or Graham? I amused myself with such thoughts.
I also noticed that he was athletic and handsome, not to mention that rich baritone voice. When he sang at music rehearsals, I felt like I was at the opera.
Unfortunately, he didn’t know I existed. I was an unremarkable alto in a large college chorale, and he could date any girl he wanted. Let me put it this way: a guy once told me, "You’re not pretty, Reg, but you’ll age well." Yes, someone really said that.
And yet, Peter Cram did notice me. During a music rehearsal my sophomore year in college, Peter noticed my back side and decided to ask it out.
It’s not exactly a story you can tell your grandmother.
At the end of that particular rehearsal, Peter invited me to the local bar. "I can’t," I replied honestly. "I’m leading a Bible study tonight. Would you like to join me?"
He choked back a snicker, then declined.
Eventually, we did go on a date, then another. That summer, I visited him in Connecticut and he came to Boston to see me.
The problem was that I was a born-again Christian and Peter was not. The differences in faith created a wedge between us that we were unable to navigate. After a summer of fun, I broke it off. I was 19, he was 21.
Months passed and I picked up the pieces of my life. So much for Peter Cram, I thought to myself. It wasn’t as if he was going to have some big conversion or anything.
But he did. Peter Cram had a big conversion. It occurred late in college when he was at the lowest point in his life. In a heartfelt prayer, Peter relinquished the reins of his life to God. The changes in him began immediately, and they were stunning.
We resumed dating, and it wasn’t long before Peter broached the subject of marriage. My concern was that, while Peter’s conversion was sincere, his faith was very new. I told him that I couldn’t marry him until he was prepared to take spiritual leadership in the marriage.
I meant no disrespect to him, nor did I plan to park my brains at the door to the church. I just wanted to avoid a lopsided marriage in which one spouse does all the religious stuff while the other sits home on Sunday mornings sipping coffee and reading the sports section.
Peter took my words as a challenge. In fact, you never saw a guy mature in his faith so rapidly. By the time I graduated from college and landed my first job, we were headed for the altar.
We’ve been married for 34 years and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. "For better and for worse" is not easy, of course. We’ve faced family alcoholism and drug abuse, miscarriage, mental illness, AIDS and obsessions that threatened to tear us apart. There are times when we don’t like each other. Fortunately, we understand that love is not just a feeling; it’s a commitment.
Marriage has brought great joys through our children, grandbabies, parents, jobs and friends. Most of all, we share a life in Christ.
How do we keep the marriage vibrant? We say "I love you" often. We hide juicy notes in the other’s pockets. We fight fair. We don’t dredge up past offenses or hurl insults. We try to overlook the other’s failings. We don’t always succeed, but we try.
One of our favorite traditions is Saturday Date Night each week. This was especially important when the children were small and we needed to reconnect as lovers, not just as Mom and Dad.
Along the way, we’ve learned that marriage is all about the other person. "It’s not about me" has become my mantra. Marriage is a life of service.
We’ve learned to invest in our marriage. Years back, during a rough patch, I recommended a romantic getaway. "Do you want to be married and happy, or married and miserable?" I asked Peter. "Investing in our marriage can make the difference." We did, and it helped.
Finally, we’ve learned that the most important words in marriage are not, "I love you." They are, "I was wrong. I’m sorry." These simple words are a balm to injured souls. When paired with frequent confession, they’re a powerful tool for strengthening marriage.
Peter jokes that he’d swim through an ocean of beer with his mouth closed for me. I wear a T-shirt that reads, "Trophy Wife." It’s little wonder that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.