OK it's no secret that I think I married the most wonderful woman, but today I need to especially tell y'all about her. It's her birthday today and she has indeed been the light of my life in so many ways. She loves talking about how we met, so I thought I'd share that story with you, but more importantly, tell you how wonderful this woman has been to my life.
I met my wife because a college friend was honest enough with me to let me know that she didn't approve of the woman that I was dating and that I should meet her friend Marion.
I didn't listen.
Instead, the relationship I was in sapped much of my energy and we ended up breaking up sometime down the road. Not to mention, my friend was persistent. She'd bring Marion to young adult events including one that I particularly remember when she was extremely dressed up. She let me know that she was interested in helping organize an event for young adults to serve the needs of children. So I decided to call her later in the week and take her up on that offer.
The phone call went something like this:
Me: "Hi Marion, It's Mike Hayes. Hey I wanted to see if we could have lunch sometime and talk about organizing that event for kids?"
Marion: "Well...I'm a teacher and I eat with the children."
Me: (To myself) Great! She thinks I'm an idiot for not realizing that. (To Marion) Oh...well OK, well I guess I'll see you around maybe I'll see you at the church.
I turned to my co-worker Heather at that point and said:
"This woman wants nothing to do with me."
Fast forward like 3-4 months later and it's Holy Week. And lo and behold, Marion shows up in my parish for Holy Thursday mass. I was seated far from her but I kept my eye on her. I decided to catch up with her after mass, but I forget that mass ends with a solemn procession around the church and everyone leaves in darkness and in silence.
In essence, I don't know if I lost her in the crowd or in the dark.
So glumly I head to the local diner to grab a burger before the Good Friday fast and there she was with my friend and another friend who grabbed me and plunked me down in the chair next to Marion within seconds.
The rest of the night was simply magical. It was like we were the only two people in the diner, never mind at that table.
As we left I found out she lived in Queens where I was also living (and it's the borough where we still reside). I asked what subway she takes home.
"Oh I take the R"
"ME TOO!" I replied.
I lied. I was on the #7 line. But a trip on the R train would only result in bascially a longer walk to my house and a chance to continue talking.
In the subway...we talked and waited...and waited...and waited for an R train that never came.
We didn't notice.
Finally I asked Marion if she had seen an R train on either platform? We decided that we'd take the N train into Queens and that I could transfer to the #7 train and she could also take the #7 to another local train and get home that way.
How smooth was I? Not very.
A windy night at Queensboro Plaza ensued. On the platform we stood close to each other in the freezing cold.
"Block the wind!" Marion said to me. So I stood close to her shielding her from the bracing cold. I didn't hold her. We didn't kiss. It was just my lanky frame blocking the prevailing winds. Marion still wonders how I didn't kiss her right there. She told me once:
"You played it so cool. I wanted to kiss you so badly."
I was probably scared to death.
I looked at her and said as we entered the arriving train:
"Y'know you could just come to my place and call a cab if you want!"
Marion tells me years later her reaction was "Yeah right, like I'm going to go to your apartment after just meeting you! I don't think so."
She declined my offer (which didn't really have any ulterior motives) so instead I made her promise to call me when she got home. So I'd know she got home safely.
I began to fret about asking her out but just before I exited the train I asked her to dinner and a quick
We spent the rest of that Holy Week together. I preached a reflection on Good Friday and our first "date" followed: A Passover Sedar at a friend's apartment that he held for both his Christian and Jewish friends--sans meat for the Catholics. At one point after dinner, the entire party was on one end of the room and Marion and I were on the other. Talking and talking and talking. I couldn't get enough of her talking about how cute her niece Veronica was (she is!) and how her fiesty Grandmother won a tomato sauce contest in Brooklyn. We got a ride back to Queens but parted ways separately...no kiss, no hugs.
Easter brought us the Vigil on Holy Saturday and I brought the gift of a Chocolate Easter bunny. Marion interpreted the mass in sign language and I served as a lector. I wanted to kiss her at the sign of peace but somehow THAT didn't strike me as appropriate. We again parted ways separately, but made a date for the following Tuesday: a wonderful one act play called Fully Committed which we saw with some friends. We loved it.
That magical first kiss came when I walked her to her apartment building. She tells me now that her knees got weak that night. And if I'm honest I'll admit that mine still do.
We've been married for nearly 7 years but that fateful night happened almost 9 years ago. We've seen each other through a lot. Sickness and health. New life and death. The lack of children but the loyalty of a good dog. Successes at work and challenges in relationships with others and with each other.
It has not been easy. Not by a longshot.
But it indeed has been wonderful. Wonderful enough that I wouldn't want to change a thing, because I know that I have a woman for a wife who is my lifelong love. More importantly, I know I have a wife who understands what it means to love--that loving is hard. It means loving one another when one of us is grumpy (uaually me and usually in the morning!), or when the toliet won't flush and the laundry is piling up. Love doesn't quit when parents need surgery or when people can be unreasonable. When the chips are down, love doesn't cash in and quit but instead doubles down and risks it all.
My wife knows that kind of love. I've seen it each and every day of our marriage and I hope I've at least been able to offer some of that love back to her. She's much better at it than I am, I think, but somehow I'm still amusing enough for her to keep me around--grumpy mornings and all.
It is clearly the kind of love that God has for us as well--a love that doesn't place conditions on it. No matter what happens, I know Marion will always love me and that she always has my back.
And today, I pray that she knows how loved she is by her husband.
Happy Birthday, My Dearest Marion. And many, many more.