April and Dave

September 20th, 2010

She was the perfect girl for him. The one by which all other girls would be measured.

He didn’t know this at the time. Not consciously, at least. Though he was always drawn to her for being the cutest, nicest, most generous girl he’d ever met, he didn’t know, at 16, that he was already beginning to uncover the basic principles of love.

He didn’t know that all the cartoon characters he would draw of her (including one of her as an angel) meant he was thinking of her enough to memorize her smile. He also didn’t know that when he drew those pictures to cheer her up when she was sad, it meant he’d want to spend the rest of his life keeping her happy.

That’s just not the sort of thing you know when you’re a kid.

You know it later, though, when after years of staying in touch you still can’t shake the memory of her smile. You know it when you all you do is compare her to every girl you meet.

Eleven years and a lot of life experiences between you, and, still, April is on your mind.

That’s how Dave knew.

He was preparing to move from New York to San Francisco when he finally put the pieces together. April, who lived in D.C., had come to visit him for a few days, and the two had a surprisingly wonderful time together. Though they had remained casual friends since high school, and even attended the same college, they never dated or took any steps beyond friendship. They’d see each other during summer vacation or holiday visits back home. Sometimes they’d share hot chocolate. Other times, they would share stories about their lives. They never expected to fall in love.

But something happened on this particular weekend that would change the course of their lives.

April was totally bummed that Dave was moving to the other side of the country. She, too, had felt an undeniable pull toward him, and was hoping Dave would say out loud what she was thinking.

But Dave isn’t that kind of guy. He’s shy and contemplative. When he wants to express his feelings, he writes a song or draws a picture. This time, though, he wrote a letter. A LONG letter. Longer than he expected. Eleven years’ worth of thoughts about the evolution of his feelings for April long. That’s a lot of words.

April thought it was about time! She told Dave she felt the same, and the two officially started their lives together as a couple.

The cool part about their relationship is that they had a long time to cultivate a friendship and really get to know each other. Everyone says couples should be friends first, but that rarely happens. Though it wasn’t exactly intentional, I wanted to know whether or not Dave and April would have started out with a slow friendship, had they known all those years ago they would take the romantic route together.

“I don’t think I’ve ever dated anyone I wasn’t friends with first,” April admits. “You know so much about the person’s core, what their morals are and you get all the major questions answered. I had crushes on people I wasn’t friends with, but I wouldn’t let it turn into more because there wasn’t a base. Having a friendship under your belt gives you a great level of trust. Whether the sparks fly, you have to wait and see.”

Dave agrees. “I got to see April from all different angles, in every stage of life, and that was really helpful,” he adds. “Having already had a relationship for 13 years, it’s not hard to think about the next 13 years and the 13 after that.”

Future tripping is so easy for Dave, in fact, that he wanted to start those next 13 years right away. So he and April got married July 4, 2010.

How do two people decide they want to stay together forever? How, in this day of drive-through divorces and relationships that start and end in the time it takes you to say cheeseburger, do people form their thoughts about commitment?

Having healthy relationships modeled to you is one way – an option most of us aren’t fortunate enough to have had, but something from which Dave and April both benefited.

Shared goals is another. Dave and April both want children, and it was something they discussed up front, so they could be sure they were on the same page. Teamwork is also another big one.

“Having someone you can rely on and always trust as a part of your team is key,” April says. “You need to be able to open up to them about anything and if you get really bogged down with work or have a bad day, they will support you.”

Beyond the basics, though, April thinks a good partner should also inspire you and work to keep things fresh.

That’s why they play piano together. And go on secret trips. Whenever it’s someone’s turn to plan the trip, they send photos and clues to the other person throughout the week. They cook dinner while listening to music, and April has gotten Dave addicted to “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“Dave and I have core commonalities like our beliefs and morals, but on the outside – the way we look at things, our reactions and problem solving skills – we’re different,” April admits. “We wouldn’t pick the same movie on any given night, but I never feel like he’s dragging me to something I don’t want. The part that doesn’t overlap helps us grow and be exposed to something new. A lot of people think your perfect match will be like you in every way and agree with you, but I wouldn’t want it that way. Dave is so exciting, inventive and imaginative.

“If I said one weekend, ‘Let’s go to a park and just draw for the day,’ he’d be up for it. I’m so glad I get to have him for the rest of my life.”


Susie and Capice

September 13th, 2010

They’re inside a brandy snifter. That’s the first thing you probably notice. It was the 80s. Everyone has one of those photos, tucked away in some drawer – probably right next to their parachute pants.

Let’s move on to the real issue at hand: the people in that glass. How many of those love-tipsy couples in aperitif glasses do you think are actually together today? Probably not many.

But Susie and Capice are.

They just celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that they’ve been together 31 years in total. That’s a lot of photos – and a lot of memories.

A lot of ups and downs, too. A lot of youthful indecision and differing viewpoints. But that just leaves room for the part after that – the part where they get to coast on the tail feathers of the very sturdy life they spent all those years quietly building.

But let’s get back to the glass. Those romantically intoxicated people in the picture. That was taken three years after they first met.

They both worked at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. She worked in the kitchen and he worked in radiology. When his sister introduced them one day, she developed a crush immediately. So she and her friend would spend their breaks trolling every floor to see if they might spot him. And when they did, they’d duck behind the wall so he wouldn’t notice.

But he noticed.

Soon, he would come down to the kitchen on his lunch breaks to visit Susie. Eventually, he got her number and, as she puts it, they started dating and never stopped.

They dated a year in high school, then broke up for a few months. They got back together, went to prom, and stuck it out through graduation. They moved in together when Susie was 19 (Capice was 8 months older), and at first it was fun to play house. Then reality set in, and they started having problems.

After about a year, they each moved back to their family homes. That’s when Susie found out she was pregnant.

“We broke up, and I was heartbroken,” Susie recalls. “I wanted to get back together, but he didn’t. When I gave up, he changed his mind.”

They moved back in together, and had their first daughter, Brittani. When she was three, they got married. They had their second daughter five-and-a-half years later. They’ve been together ever since, save for a two-week split just eight years ago.

“I didn’t want my kids growing up without their father,” says Susie. “We went to counseling and I tried to do everything I could to make our marriage work. So did he. We spent a lot of time with the kids. We’d go to movies and for bowling. We learned to appreciate one another. Right now, our relationship is better than it’s ever been. We’ve gone through trials and tribulations, and managed to conquer every downfall that came our way. It was really just a matter of how we chose to handle it.”


That’s what they chose.

It’s a choice to stay together and weather the storm. It’s also a choice to kiss the same person every day of your life, even when you’re too upset to want to. Susie says she prefers kisses above anger.

“We’ve always done this – for 31 years of our lives,” she giggles. “If a person is leaving, we kiss one another goodbye. When we wake up in the morning. When we go to the store, whenever. Even when he visits me at work, he gives me a kiss.”

It’s also about making sure you don’t give up on things, even when everything is going great. Relationships need lots of watering.

Capice knows about watering. Susie says he’s always surprising her. He buys her gifts. If she’s tired and doesn’t feel like cooking or cleaning, he’ll do it. He even makes her breakfast.

“That’s what love is,” he tells me. “If you care about someone, you do things for them. Not just buying gifts, but doing what you need to do to help them enjoy life.”

Even when things are rough? When you don’t really want to kiss them goodbye?

“Love is developed through trials and tribulations,” he adds. “If everything was rosy, you’d never grow. You have to grow with the love. You have to cultivate it and make it work – take some things sometimes you may not want to take. The reality is, nobody knows how to be in love. That’s something everyone has to work on in their own way. Real love is not about being selfish. It’s about not looking at yourself, but looking at the other person. And if the other person is doing the same thing, that’s when things grow.

“I didn’t know that when I was 16. No way in the world. It’s something I came to understand over the years. I made a lot of mistakes and I had to learn from them. I came to understand that if I do for her, it can come back to me, and that’s what has happened.”

Capice says Susie is very caring. He also thinks she’s thoughtful and funny.

“The longer we’ve been together, the more humorous she’s become,” he says. “She can keep you laughing all the time.”

Would he have ever imagined that the shy 16-year-old peeking from behind a wall would one day be his wife?

Of course not.

But that’s just what happened. Susie certainly didn’t know she was peeking into her future the day she met Capice, but she’s very glad she did.

And she’s glad neither one of them chose to give up when the view got a little obscured from time to time.

“I caught her a few times, peeking at me,” he laughs. “At the time, being young, it made me feel cool. After that, we started talking. That’s when everything started.”