People who regularly read this column often say they feel like they know me and my children, Ford, Owen and Lindell. They even feel like they know our dog, Sparky, But I’ve never had anyone say they feel like they know my husband, Dustin.
Maybe I don’t write about him enough. I mean, I write about what he does for work and how it affects our lives, but I don’t write about who Dustin is as a person.
So today, with Valentine’s Day on Friday, I’d like you to meet Dustin Smiley, the man I almost — stupidly — wanted to “return.”
See, I have this problem with buyer’s remorse. As soon as I get something, I begin to question whether I really wanted it. I’m the kind of person who leaves tags on her clothes for several days — just in case. I beat myself up over possibly bad purchasing decisions, whether it be for a toothbrush or a car. And 14 years ago, I felt that way about getting married.
Dustin jokes that if he had been a pair of pants, I might have returned him.
I was so conflicted about this major life decision that my jaw locked shut two days after our wedding. I ate through a straw for 24 hours.
But Dustin — well, he never questioned anything. He was as sure about us as he is that the Earth circles the sun. Admittedly, I was quite unlovable back then, but Dustin never gave up.
“When you were at your most unlovable,” Dustin once said, “I just loved you more to get you through it.”
This was the first of what I’ve come to call Dustinisms: stunning and insightful observations about our life and the world in general. They are “stunning” because Dustin has been trained by the military for nearly 20 years and, you know, insight isn’t a course taught at the Naval Academy. Yet, this is perhaps the most important point about Dustin: although he is an excellent military officer, he is an even better person. His gift is with people.
“No one is all good or all bad. No situation is as good or as bad as it seems. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle.”
“Being extreme in either direction usually comes full circle so that a person is eventually arguing for a side they thought they were against.”
“People just want to be heard.”
“You make the dress beautiful, not the other way around.”
That last one is an all-time favorite.
Today, if I had to liken Dustin to something, it would not be a pair of pants that I want to return. It would be a loyal golden retriever. I mean this in the most loving way possible. You know that saying, “Someday I hope to be the person my dog thinks I am”? Well, I feel the same way about my husband: Someday I hope to be the person Dustin thinks I am.
In a word, Dustin is “steady.” While I bounce up and down like the peaks on an EKG printout, Dustin remains a solid, even line. And he loves me like no one else ever has. (Well, except for my 7-year-old, but he’ll grow out of it.)
It has been this way since we were kids. We have known each other since the day I was born, and because my dad was deployed at the time and Dustin and his family lived down the street, I’ve actually known Dustin longer than I’ve known my dad. In elementary school, Dustin was a hall patrol. He — in his orange vest and sensible tennis shoes — told me to “walk, don’t run” through the hallways. Back then, Dustin wasn’t the handsome man that he is now, and I rarely made eye contact.
If I had a daughter today, I would tell her that the unassuming, quiet boy with a good job — such as “hall patrol” — and kind smile is the one she should keep her eye on. Someday, after years of braces and growth spurts, he will show up on her doorstep and take her breath away.
But I have three boys and no daughters, so I tell them this instead: Be patient and be a good person. Your day will come.
In January, Dustin — again — helped me through a difficult time. One night I asked him, “Why are you so good to me?”
“Because I promised God a long time ago that I will always take care of you,” he said.
Aw, another Dustinism. But here comes another great thing about Dustin: he’s wicked funny, too. Even when he’s not trying to be.
“How will I ever repay you?” I said.
“Well, you could start by [long list of things].”
I smiled through my tears and thought, I’m glad I took the tags off this one. He’s a keeper.
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at Facebook.com/Sarah.is.Smiley.