01.20.09 | 1 Comment

January 19th is probably the most important date in my life. It is not my birthday, nor my wedding date, nor when my children were born. Rather it is the birth date, 34 years apart, of the two women who have most affected by life: my mother and my wife.

I have written about my mother before here, before and after her death last year. I don't have anything I particularly need to add at this point. Obviously, I still miss her and this is especially true on landmark dates. Such is the nature of grief.

I have not written much about my wife. She would probably be fine with that; she has that sort of humility. That being said, I feel it is worthwhile to stop and notice all that she does and has done for me in our 21 years together. I don't always (read: rarely) make as much of a fuss about her birthday as I should. At least part of this is that her birthday is simply too damn close to the holidays for me to have my act together again. Nestled as it is right between Christmas and Valentine's Day, it gets lost in the shuffle that is my disorganized mind. I am sorry for that.

My wife is the organized one in our couple. She makes sure that birthdays and anniversaries get marked. She makes sure that bills get paid and appointments kept. I am a disaster on that front and she has saved me countless times and continues to do so.

She has a fierce love of nature. Ask her the name of any plant and she rattles it off along with random details like when whether they like sun or shade, what family they belong to, and what bizarre medicinal uses it might have. Pineapples are actually an overgrown herb? Of course. Vanilla comes from an orchid? Naturally. My children take this for granted, much as I did with my mother as a child, but I am always amazed by how many little things she knows about our world.

She has a great eye of beauty. She a talented calligrapher, and no, not the bible quoty italic crap you see at flea markets, but seriously beautiful writing that makes each letter unique to fit into its word and makes each word fit into its space, swoops and flourishes added without so much as a second thought and managing to fit just so by the words above and below. It is a skill that is utterly alien to my own. My printing approximates that of a jittery nine year old and my cursive is, well, never used.

That same eye for beauty and love of nature have come together to make our house into a warm and nurturing home, with antiques randomly collected over the years and the odd botanical print and, yes, taxidermy coming together magically to form a cohesive whole. On rainy days we can send the kids off through the house to see how many sheep or insects or plants they can count. Our home is a snuggly haven against the outside world. Again, this is something I could never hope to accomplish on my own.

Her patience and wisdom with our children is years beyond mine. Her gentle touch and forgiving words just cut through their nonsense much more swiftly than any yelling I might do. I love my children, but man there are days they drive me insane. I almost never see them get to her that way.

While she doesn't get to really cook as often as she'd like, she has a true knack there as well, with a firm belief that baking is a science and cooking is an art. She manages to excel at both. All too many meals in our house end up in the same rut due to my younger son's pickiness, but when my wife is let loose, look out and save room. Every holiday is greeted by a feast that would make the ghost of Christmas past salivate.

She has introduced me to countless bits of art and film and music that I never would have explored without her. Bruce Springsteen, Tori Amos, Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse, and a jillion others. The Commitments, Cinderella Man, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Hell, Wallace and Gromit!

For the last decade, and especially the last year, I have been struggling with depression. My wife has been both an incredibly forgiving and helpful supporter, and the person most likely to smack me and tell me to get my head out my ass. She encourages my good habits and forgives my bullshit while trying to also get me to cut it out.

When my mother was dying, my wife helped to take care of her, not just with ice chips, but with helping her to the bathroom and other tasks that I and other couldn't deal with, either because they were too intimate or because we were basket cases at the time. And I remember watching her do all this without almost no sleep and without complaint because she loved my mother and it was the right thing to do. And I remember wondering how the hell my dad was going to cope without his wife of over fifty years, as I don't know how I could manage without mine of less than twenty.

She is a generous and adventurous partner in life, a cherished lover, and my best friend. I would be lost without her and can never hope to be her equal in character or kindness.

I love you, Andrea. I don't show it enough and I could never hope to thank you enough.

I hope your birthday was okay.


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