Today is my wife’s 39th birthday. Without her, I would be nowhere. My recovery from mental illness and addiction was only possible because of her. So in honor of this day, I’ve dug up THE POST on the two of us:
Mood music for this post: “An Easterly View” by Bear McCreary, because nothing says love like a sweeping piece of music from Battlestar Gallactica:
The Freak and the Redhead: A Love Story
I wasn’t looking for a soul mate when I met her. It was the summer of 1993 and I was doing just fine on my own. I was in a band and we were busy pretending we were really something. This was long before I woke up one day, realized I really don’t know how to sing, and decided to spare the masses the agony of me trying to play vocalist.
I was driving around in a beat-up Chevy Monte Carlo. I had recently crashed it into the side of a van and the door was held shut with a bungee chord. I had recently tired of my long black hair and shaved my head for the first time. For some reason, that attracted her.
I was still a few months away from finding my calling as a journalist, and I was busy hiding from any real work. I pretended to work in my father’s warehouse but was really hiding behind boxes most of the time chain-smoking cigarettes.
I was starting to write for the college newspaper at Salem State College. She was editing the college literary journal, “Soundings East.” I joined the staff to get closer to her so I could make my move.
My first memory of her was on the drive home from classes one afternoon. Stuck in the vile traffic that often snarls the road from Salem to Route 114, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a red-headed (strawberry blond, to be more accurate) bobbing her head back and forth to music. I later learned she was listening to The Ramones, and I’m pretty sure she was bobbing her head way off key and off beat from the music. That’s one of the things that attracted me.
On our first date, I took her to meet my mother. The first time she took me home to meet her family, I had forgotten my glasses and was wearing prescription sunglasses and a Henry Rollins T-shirt. It was my first trip to Haverhill and getting home that night in the dark with sunglasses was an experience in mild insanity. But it was worth it. Her dad, by the way, was worried because he’d heard I was Jewish and pork chops were on the menu. I also met her whacky 12-year-old baby sister, who would eventually grow into the woman I would brand for life with the nickname “Blondie.” I taught Blondie the important things in life, like how to carefully put a string of tape on the back of a cat, to show how it would trick the cat into thinking it was under a piece of furniture and would, as a result, crawl as low to the ground as possible.
That wasn’t even enough to scare away my future wife.
In the years since, she has stayed with me through my bouts of depression following the deaths of many friends and relatives, obsessive-compulsive behavior, fear and anxiety and the binge-eating disorder that at one time pushed my weight to the upper 280s.
She was well within her rights to run for her life. But she stayed, gave me two precious children and helped me to overcome my demons and become the man I am today. She also gave me an extended family that I cherish, even the father-in-law who is to the right of Attila The Hun. I make the latter comment with complete affection, by the way.
My demons weren’t easy for her to understand, to be sure. My path was not the same she had been on. Yet she stayed.
She listens to folk music and puts up with my Heavy Metal. She puts up with the off-color language I picked up during my Revere, Mass. upbringing, which still surfaces in times of anger or intoxication.
She’s dedicated to her Church, sings in the choir and is a Eucharistic minister. Her parenting is the reason my sons are smart and caring beyond their years. She had the courage to leave a relatively safe full-time job to try and build her own business, something that’s not for the faint of heart.
I would never have gotten on top of my OCD without her. My birthday gift to her is the relative sanity I carry around today. I hope she likes it.