Whenever I tell my wife, Julie, that I’ve sent a another Letter to the Editor, posted a blog article, or published a new novel, a slight, involuntary gasp escapes from between her lips. It is a nearly imperceptible gasp, yet it teems with meaning. “Oh, God, who do I need to warn or avoid this time?” it asks. Yet, not once, has she ever asked me not to share whatever it was I felt compelled to write and share.
Despite the innumerable hours I spend holed up alone in my writing space and inside of my own head, which often leaves me distant in both space and in attentiveness to her needs and to my domestic responsibilities, Julie has never done anything but encourage me to write. Perhaps, she has intuited correctly that my teaching and writing have saved us thousands of what otherwise would have been spent on counseling and anti-depressants in order to keep me out of my dark place.
Why Julie ever chose to spend her life with me will forever be a mystery. When we met, I was a first-year teacher and coach in a private high school with an income not too far north of the federally-defined poverty line nor were my prospects for future affluence especially impressive. In fact, at the time, I was so low on funds, my roommate and I couldn’t afford a phone line in our apartment. In order to ask her out, I had to leave a handwritten note jammed between the wiper blade and windshield of her car. These should have been her first signs that a life with me would never be featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. To potentially make matters worse, I loved my job and had no intention of ever leaving education for greener pastures. She occasionally still reminds me that all I brought to our marriage was college loan debt and an alarm clock with an 8-track player.
Trust me that none of this speaks to my charm or irresistibility. Rather, it illustrates Julie’s fundamental goodness as a person. I love that she is never impressed or intimidated by anyone’s popularity or personal wealth. Instead, I have always found her to be healthily suspicious of such surface-level attributes and searching for characteristics of more substance before letting those people inside of her walls. Fittingly, I have never known anyone who could so accurately size up someone’s character on a first meeting, and I have learned to trust her judgement implicitly in nearly all matters.
A longtime teacher herself, there is no one’s opinion of my own classroom efforts and performance that matters more to me. I teach my students that there can be no love where there is not respect, and I can say unequivocally that there is no one for whom I have greater respect than Julie. She modelled diligence in the pursuit of excellence in the classroom to a degree I have rarely seen matched in any profession and that I still strive to equal myself.
If anyone who didn’t know Julie were to be shown two photographs of her – one from when we first met and one from today – and they were asked in which one is she more beautiful, I have no doubt that the majority would quickly point to the twenty-three year old version. I, however, would choose the latter without hesitation. If there is magic in the world, I believe its clearest manifestation is in this phenomenon. As a young man, I remember wondering how any two long-married people could stay in love and attracted to one another for so many years and through the ravages of aging, but this magic that renders my wife more beautiful to me every day and will continue to do so for as long as we’re on this Earth has answered my shallow musings of youth.
It would require volumes for me to express my appreciation and love for Julie. As brief as it is, I’m pretty sure that she is going to hate this post; she is the most attention-averse person I have ever known. However, she is not just “one of the people in my life,” she is the most important person in my life. There is nothing in this world within my capabilities that I wouldn’t do for her, and there is nothing I wouldn’t stop doing should she ask.
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