As I write, I’m at the Naval Academy, accompanying Steve on a “work trip” (also known as putting about a hundred Midshipmen who are interested in a career as a SEAL through a grueling night of God-only-knows-what). He has a bag full of gear and extra socks and whistles. I just don’t ask anymore.

The first time I came to the Naval Academy, I was 18 years old. It was August of 1994, and I had just arrived on the East Coast about a month prior. I was weeks into my freshmen volleyball season at Liberty and the Trident Classic was our first tournament of the year.

For three seasons, we returned to the Academy to play in the tournament, and every time I came, the place spoke to me. Maybe it was giving me clues about my future. If someone would have told me then that I would someday marry a Midshipmen, I would have thought that a very romantic notion. Strange how I was playing volleyball just steps away from my future husband who I wouldn’t even meet for eight more years . . . on an entirely different coast.

After brunch this morning, we spent hours walking around the campus. And though I’ve been here before, I’m seeing it through such different eyes, being here with him for the first time. Of course, I badger him with 56,000 questions about who he was as an 18 year old and how he survived his Plebe year and how he felt the day he opened the envelope containing his billet to BUD/S.

The highlight of our little tour was walking through the truly magnificent Memorial Hall where the names of every fallen Academy graduate are listed. Stunning. Steve later told me he took ballroom dancing in that very hall. Gives such poignancy to Ecclesiastes 3:4, “A time to mourn and a time to dance.” Isn’t that life at its fullest spectrum. My husband gliding across the marble floors, probably a bit awkwardly, under the enormous chandeliers and the watchful care of those we’ve lost.

I’m trying to picture him here and who he was then—probably so different than he is now and probably so much the same.

I feel like I’m getting to know a part of him I haven’t really known—the young man Steve. I keep thinking of the young woman Leeana. Connecting with his story helps me reconnect with my own. We are salvaging pieces of our past here, and I love it. It’s so easy to be entirely possessed by the urgency of life back home, the needs of the moment. What a gift to pan out a bit and see a fuller picture of our lives, remembering who we were as 18, 19, 20, and 21 years old. Both of us, in our own separate ways, focused and driven and a little wild.

What a gift to connect to each other through the portal of our pasts.

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