Twenty nine years: One year short of three decades.

Twenty nine years: At least ten times longer than anyone expected it to last.

True, the odds favored the skeptics: An actress from a failed marriage and a divorced, alcoholic, womanizing journalist whose idea of a long relationship was a three-day weekend.

We ignored the odds and the skeptics on that cold December night twenty-nine years ago when we stood in the living room of the home of Rev. Lawrence Jackman and his family as he performed a marriage ceremony.

But Larry Jackman forgot a key part of his role of the ceremony and when he and his wife joined us for dinner in nearby St. Louis I asked if he wasn’t supposed to actually pronounce us “man and wife.”

“Oh my God,” he said. “Did I forget that?”  We nodded, so he reached across the table, grabbed both our hands and said “by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

The waiter picked that time to arrive with our food, looked at the improbable scene in his restaurant and asked: “Is this something like getting married by the captain of a ship?”

For too much of the next 29 years, I would challenge the commitment we made in both the living room and the restaurant dinner table.  Yet, for reasons that some found astounding, you stuck with me through a prolonged battle with the bottle and my many other personal demons.

With many of those demons left behind, we settled here in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia for a life that I promised would be quieter and free of controversy. But quiet is not my way and controversy is never far behind. A habit of speaking out means you must still deal with those upset by what I write and say.

Yet you continue to understand and accept my failings and broken promises. I may not have deserved such love, loyalty and understanding but I would not be here today without it.

Happy anniversary my love. We’ve made it 29 years. May we continue to make it, one year at a time.