Monday, November 5, 2007

A Tribute to My Angel Wife

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise...
...I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

—Elizabeth Barret Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese, no. 43

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then my heart is about to explode with effulgent, tender and affectionate love for my incredible, wonderful and supernal wife. I’ve been apart from her for far too long.

Being in the military, working in law enforcement and having done a tour as a private security contractor, I’ve missed birthdays, Christmases, and plenty of Thanksgiving Day celebrations. We’re approaching our ten year anniversary. I will miss it. But I made a promise to her years ago that I would take her on a cruise for our ten year anniversary. The planning stages have begun!

We never went on a honeymoon. I was a poor Army private when we met. I had a 1972 Oldsmobile. It was an eye sore and it barely ran. When I went alone to buy an engagement ring for her, the run-down car wouldn’t start back up. I left it in the mall parking lot and, totally fed up with it, I chose not to ever see it again. Fortunately, it was quickly towed away.

She must have seen something good in me because she certainly didn’t marry me for my money.

I still remember the day I saw her at a barn dance for young singles. She walked up to me after we had only met once before. “Hi,” she said with that incredible smile and bubbly personality of hers, “do you remember my name?” Without hesitation her attractive French-given name escaped my lips. How could I ever forget?

It was only after our marriage that she found out I wasn’t as good with people’s names as she imagined. I confessed, “I only remembered yours because I wrote your name and number in my book and put five-stars next to it.”

We were married in Denver, Colorado and I chose economic prudence instead of an elaborate or even a simple honeymoon. We stayed two nights in a hotel there and drove to our first townhouse outside an Army base a few miles south. We were penny-pinching, and now, four kids later, I still haven’t ever treated her to a real honeymoon.

We were poor back then. In fact, she worked two jobs. Like her dad told me, she was—and is—a hard worker. I helped her fold newspapers at 3 a.m. for her second job. I handed her the newspapers as she drove her route and tossed the papers out the window. I can still recall the terrible smell from the bundled up newspapers. The stop-and-go car pace coupled with the horrific smell made me car sick nearly every day.

One could think that such a job would be reserved for the lowly in station, but my wife is classy, confident and knock-dead gorgeous. We went to get donuts after throwing papers one morning and a couple young boys who had been out partying until the early morning hours as it appeared, drove up and made some kind of comment about how ‘hot’ my ‘girlfriend’ was. I made the mistake of a young groom and said something to the effect that since my wife had her hair pulled up, was wearing a sweat shirt and had no make-up that they must have been drinking. I’m sorry again for that. (Oh, did I mention she’s forgiving?) Truth be told, my wife is naturally beautiful and when she gets dressed up, she’s perfectly stunning.

I love that my wife is so humble. She is beautiful on the inside and on the outside. She makes friends easily and people like her. She’s attractive to men and women alike. She’s faithful and devoted. She’s smart. She’s an incredible mother and wife.

I had to leave her for several weeks here and there during our first years together to attend military training. In fact, we had to adjust our wedding date around a military school held in another state. I’ll never forget how crushed she was when I called and told her I would be home a day late.

After I got out of the military we moved, and moved again. One night working as a cop, I didn’t come home on time. We had gone to emergency work hours and a 45 minute car chase right at the end of a literally long shift kept me late. To make matters worse, that particular case was a paperwork nightmare. When I failed to call her, she called the substation. “No, he’s not here. He left hours ago.” Fortunately, she called the phone in the patrol car. I was nearly asleep at the wheel. I can’t imagine the panic that must have given her not knowing where I was, especially with all the tragedy, deaths and shootings in south Dallas.

Still feeling patriotic, and not totally satisfied with being a beat cop, I joined the Reserve military. I was off again for several months, alone. Later, I brought her with me to Officer Basic Course. For four months she had to suffer in a disgusting spider-filled, two-bedroom apartment on a military installation. I literally had to chase a flying bat out of the living room once. My darling watched as the maid (this is revolting) dipped her mop into the toilet, wrung it out with her bare hands, and proceeded to mop the bathroom and the kitchen floors. Shocked, my wife didn’t say a word. But after the maid changed our sheets with her filthy hands, we asked that the maid service stop. My wife was pregnant and we had two little ones then. That was hardly a vacation or a honeymoon.

Ring! Ring! I called to wake her up years ago around 2 a.m. I was in the Middle East. “Just in case you see something in the news, it wasn’t me,” I said.

“What? What?” she said, barely awake.

“Some of my co-workers were killed and I just wanted to call you and tell you I’m okay.”

She went back to sleep and after several hours I thought I had better call my in-laws. They’re news junkies. My mother-in-law was in tears when I called. They all knew about it, but they wouldn’t dare call my wife, for obvious reasons.

I briefly came home for the birth of our third child, and then off again. Thankfully my in-laws were with my wife when they came home from dropping me off at the airport. Our house had been burglarized. My wife wouldn’t hurt a soul. But she was frightened and alone—a helpless, pretty woman all alone with three tiny kids. Her fear made her think again about her dislike for guns. While I was armed to the teeth protecting others, my own VIP had to protect herself.

In total, I was gone from home for a year and a half. All the moves and the government orders were the best options at the time, though. I wouldn’t have done it if I had had better options. My wife and I have prayed together often. I can attest that a family that prays together stays together; although the definition of ‘together’ might be relative. Of course, there’s too much of the story to tell all here.

Believe me, I have often wished to know something else besides gun-sling and counterterrorism. If I had been a dentist, not only would I be home for every holiday and home every night, but I would look at the world differently. I’d look for nice smiles, not bombs and bad guys whenever I go. My mind has changed and my world is different. Unfortunately, my wife has had to listen to stories about terrorists and criminals more than she has wanted to. But she’s been a good sport. For the most part she listens and the fan isn’t dirty (inside joke).

Thanks again to my wife, she cleaned and sold our house, packed up the U-haul alone again, and we moved. But not before I had to attend yet another school for the federal government. It was months gone again. Such is the bane of the modern-day warrior.

As an air marshal, I was continually gone several days and nights each week. One of our neighbors threw a fit when she learned that her husband had to go out of state for five whole days of vocational training. “What will I do?” she said nearly in tears, “I have been with my husband every night since we were married over 15 years ago.”

“Yes,” my wife comforted the bereaving lady, “it’s difficult isn’t it.” My sweet spouse could have ignored the plight or commented upon how often I’ve been gone, but she didn’t. She comforted her. It’s that charming sweetness that I love.

Today, while walking through the fine, cloudy dust in Iraq, I told a co-worker how much I’m in love. “Boy, you should see her when she gets all dressed up for church. I miss that!” I couldn’t help but to smile even thinking about her.

While I was literarily telling lies as an undercover police officer on commercial airliners nearly every Sunday for over three years, she got the kids dressed and sat alone with them as they squirmed in the pews. Once she overheard someone say, “Oh, it must be hard for [so-and-so] who has to sit alone with her kids while her husband sits up on the stand each week.” I guess some of the church-goers just viewed my wife as a single mother who had everything under control, although inside it was torture for her to be alone. It wasn’t until I got orders to come to Iraq that people really realized she’ll be all alone, even though I was hardly ever there before.

The break finally came. After prayerful consideration, I found just the right job: self-employment. During the interview for a sole-source contract it came up that I was a Mormon. The interviewer, who would oversee the contract, threw his hands up high in the air, leaned his head back and slammed his hands over his head, simultaneously saying, “Oh, I hate Mormons!” The interview took an interesting turn. His wife was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the home teachers were going over to his house that night!

I took the job as a self-employed contractor. I would have weekends off to be able to attend church with my wife and kids…finally. Further, I would be able to concentrate all my efforts on marketing my security consulting company. I was finally in business for myself, a full-fledged entrepreneur. Life was just what I thought it should be.

But the Lord had other plans.

Only after a few short weeks, a call to serve my country came. I lost the contract; all future plans had changed. Like my buddy here says, “I’m a plan-B kind of guy, because plan-A has never seemed to work out for me.”

So here I am all alone again. It’s not just me who’s alone, it’s my darling companion. We’ve gone through hell together. We’ve suffered catastrophes, but we’ve enjoyed triumphs. We’ve lost money in scandalous real estate deals; we’ve worried about jobs and money. With four kids there never seems to be enough. But we have a big, beautiful house and the kids have the best play-set in the county.

We’ve made what seems like hundreds of trips to the Emergency Room with kids’ injuries and illnesses, but we have good health overall. We’ve had sleepless nights and fun dates. She’s been with me through the thick and the thin, in health and sickness, in tears and trails, and in smiles and laughter. We’ve gone through dogs and cats and even three sets of couches (long story).

I’m simply amazed at how beautiful she is. She’s so skinny and attractive it’s almost impossible to believe she’s had four of the cutest kids in the world. (They look like their mother.)

Someone once said you don’t fall in love you fall in a hole. Well, I was attracted to my bride years ago, and in retrospect, the longer I’ve been with her the more I love her. The more I want to spend my time with her and only her. The kids will grow up and leave and I still want her by my side. I don’t want to be with anyone else but her. She is my life-line, my confidant, my sweetheart, my help-meet and companion.

I don’t want to travel anymore. I’ll hang up the sword, the buckler and the shield if I must. I feel too old for this stuff anyway. I’m tired of it. I want to leave this war and fighting stuff to the young, robust, testosterone-driven youth. I just want to be a family man. I want to take my wife dancing, take her to a concert; treat her with all the fun things I never treated her to because I was too busy with work or school or a hundred other projects I had. I want to take her and the kids to the park. I want to sit down and play toys with my kids. I don’t know how many times I didn’t have ‘time’ for the kids when they said, “Daddy, come and play.”

It takes leaving to realize what you’ve lost. In all the hustle and bustle of life, each of us occasionally fails to take those moments that are worth everything. Nothing is more important than family. I want to treat my wife and kids better. I want to spend more time with them. No amount of outside pressure, obligation or interest would stop me from spending time with them now.

If Iraq has done one thing for me, it’s helped me prioritize myself. It’s helped me realize that being sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, particularly and especially with family members, matters most.

If I could give one piece of advice it would be leave the office early; do the thing you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t. Life is too short; too short for cruelty; too short for anger; too short of bitterness or melancholy. When it’s all said and done, the best thing we can have is an excess of wonderful memories with the people we love most.

It will soon be bon voyage, my dear, and the honeymoon will be for the rest of our lives...for time and throughout all eternity.


fighting75th said...

Jeff, what a beautiful love story about your wife. I've had the pleasure of meeting her two times, and she's such a wonderful person. Your children are all so gorgeous and we hope to meet Josslyn one day! You are in our thoughts and prayers every day and we are here if you ever need anything. Your writing is amazing...your wife is a lucky woman! God Bless...Erin Gomez

Anonymous said...

Jeff, this was a beautiful post. II hope and pray you will not forget these promises when you go home to your family. It's their turn.