As of today, my husband Tim and I have been married 22 years. That’s just weird. That’s like my parents. “Oh,” someone might say, “your parents have been married 22 years?” No, that’s us now. We’re our parents.
Our love story started way back in 1960, the year I was born. I know, that sounds weird, right? But the year I was born, Tim’s family lived just across the field from my parents’ house in Old Mission, and he remembers coming over to look at the new red-headed baby at the Johnson house. Apparently, my brother Dean went over there and said, “come look at my new baby sister.” Or something like that. And it must have been a slow day in Old Mission, because Tim came over and checked out the new baby.
Help Support Old Mission Gazette - Click Here
Lo and behold, who knew that 33 years later in 1993, he would be marrying that red-headed baby in the Old Mission Congregational Church? Keep in mind that I was engaged to someone else at the time Tim and I got together in 1979 (rest in peace, Tom King – love ya, Red Man), and needless to say, things got a bit awkward when I jetted off to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands to hang out with Tim for a couple weeks that winter. (I’m so sorry, my parents. If you had a nervous breakdown during this period, I take full responsibility.)
Tim was a bit of a wild child around Old Mission, although by the time we met, he was doing yoga, eating organic food and running five miles every day. If I’d met him before that, we likely would not be celebrating our 22nd anniversary today (which in reality is our 36th, because of the whole living in sin thing).
A lot happens in 36 years. People might see us living happily in our little log home up here overlooking East Bay, but as with any longtime relationship, there have been lots of ups and downs. For one thing, it took us a while to actually GET to the top of this hill with the scenic view. We started out living in the Wunsch condos (which, let’s be honest, are just glorified picker shacks, and if you don’t know what a picker shack is, you probably didn’t grow up on the Old Mission Peninsula). But we loved it there, and loved walking over to talk with the cows in the barnyard.
Other places we lived on the Old Mission Peninsula include my grandma’s house on “The 40” across from PFE, the beautiful old Layton house on Smokey Hollow, and various stints at the Boursaw farmhouse and my parents’ house in Old Mission. We had two babies during that time, while we were building this house. (Again, mom and dad, we take full responsibility for any nervous conditions you might have developed during this time, especially you, dad.)
We bought this piece of property with our friend, Roger Kaley, and split it down the middle. He has five acres and 100 feet of East Bay frontage, and we have the same. As with so many of our adventures together, Tim and I could never have swung buying this property if it hadn’t been owned by longtime church friends Ed and Jo Brown. Ed was a schoolbus driver at Old Mission Peninsula School. Jo worked as a cook in the kitchen. I’m sure they could have made more money if someone else had bought the property, but they wanted us to have it. So they sold it to us, and we started making plans to build a house.
Until the house was built, though, we lived in a tent on the property, then graduated to a camper on the back of a pickup truck. Oh yeah, with our cat Bill, who came into our lives when we lived in Ann Arbor. During the early 1980s, I studied music at Eastern Michigan University; Tim went to Washtenaw Community College. When Tim started to have health problems, we came home. More on that later.
Back to the log home, which Tim built with help from his dad, Tug, and our longtime Old Mission friend Jon Andrus. Roger’s wife, Vicki, drew up the plans for us. Team effort all around.
When the basement was ready, we moved into the basement. When the first floor was ready, we moved to the first floor and eventually, the second floor. These things take time.
Will was born in September of 1994 (nine months nearly to the day after we got married on Dec. 31, 1993). Marissa was born in June of 1997.
On August 12, 2003, we got a new liver. It’s in Tim’s body, but it belongs to both of us. Earlier that year, Tim was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which was traced back to a series of rabies shots he got as a kid. Read more about that in a story I wrote for Northern Express in December of 2003. His symptoms started way back when we were going to school in Ann Arbor, but he wasn’t diagnosed until about 20 years later.
Since Tim’s transplant took place at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, and since we had two babies by this time, our families – both of which also live on the Old Mission Peninsula – took care of the kids while we were busy making sure their dad would survive to see them graduate from high school (mission accomplished) and college (still working on that).
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we made it through that time, but like so many long relationships, challenging things happen and somehow you find the strength to get through. My beloved Old Mission Peninsula United Methodist Church held a big fundraiser and supported us through prayer during that time (and still do today). Money and prayers poured in from around the country. It’s very humbling to be on the receiving end of such awesomeness, and it really makes you see what life is all about.
Tim’s health struggles didn’t end with his brand new liver. During all of his testing at U of M Hospital, we discovered an aortic aneurysm, and a few years later, he had surgery at Munson Medical Center to repair that. Unfortunately, the repair not only failed, but cut off the arteries to his kidneys, leaving one kidney dead and the other operating at about 25 percent. He had subsequent (unsuccessful) surgeries at U of M Hospital to repair Munson’s botched repair, but to this day, he’s managing to survive with just a partial kidney working. His U of M docs don’t know how or why, but we’re going with it!
He’s on all kinds of meds now for blood pressure, water retention, anti-rejection, etc. But you know, things happen, and you do the best you can. By the way, I did have an actual nervous breakdown somewhere during all this, and yet, here we are in 2016 – happy, healthy as possible under the circumstances, with two kids in college.
We’re not rich – at least not in financial terms. We barely scrape by every month. Tim gets social security and I eke out a living with my writing on Old Mission Gazette and my longtime entertainment site, Reel Life With Jane. We drive old cars and our house is not considered “finished” by any stretch of the imagination.
But none of that matters. In the big picture, we’re as rich as rich can be, with amazing friends and family, a powerful church family, fulfilling work, and a big beautiful life on the Old Mission Peninsula. It’s really all about love. Love has brought us here, and love will take us the rest of the way.