Editor’s note: Ladies and gentlemen of Reader-land, I bring you the first-ever guest post on this blog. My saintly wife, Melanie, has written something for our anniversary. I want to share it with you all, with the caveat that I am a terrible human and I’m making her write this!
I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I’m usually pretty private. On our Lourdes trip, there was time for group sharing and I kept thinking to myself, “I’m not a sharer.” But I feel like I have to say a few things about Joe on our anniversary. Nothing crazy, but just how I feel so blessed to be married to him. We’ve been married for 14 years today and I joked this morning, wow it feels like 100! Of course, I was kidding, but it does feel like we’ve been through some pretty major things together. I remember when we were dating and how I couldn’t wait to get married and spend the rest of our lives together! We were going to have 4 kids, of course, and a nice house, good jobs, a dog and cat. You know, the usual. I never thought in a million years that Joe would be diagnosed with ALS and my perfect life would come crashing down overnight. I never envisioned that when I said “for better or for worse” it meant facing a terminal illness in just a few short years. Still, even if I had known the future at the time, I would do it all over again. I could not have asked for a better life than what I’ve had with Joe. He is the most selfless, kind and loving husband I could have ever asked for. I used to wonder how you knew who you were supposed to marry. When I met Joe, I knew. On our first date I remember studying his bone structure and making sure he didn’t have weird looking hands. This is the stuff I was concerned about at the time. But to me, it was because I could already imagine us being married, having kids, having a life together. That might sound kind of weird and borderline creepy, but I never dated anyone unless I knew it had potential. Remember how I hate small talk? Yeah, I wasn’t going to waste my time unless I knew it was something special.
Anyway, back to Joe. We first met when we were at Seton. I was so shy I barely ever talked to any boys. He went off to Spain and we didn’t reconnect until college. I remember praying at Church one Sunday and asking God to please send me someone. I was telling Him, “look, you know I’m terrible at dating, just send me the right guy”. Next week at Ascension Thursday mass, up walks Joe. He was wearing a horrible yellow plaid button-down shirt and had a goatee and orange Sun-in hair. I remember thinking, “God, you can’t mean him right?” But we talked briefly and I remember I could not stop thinking about him. He had such a kind smile. A few days later he set up coffee and we went on our first of many dates. I had set up an out just in case the date didn’t go well, but luckily I never had to use it. I remember how he walked on the outside closest to the street and when I asked why he changed sides, he matter of factly told me in case a car came up it would hit him and not me. I found Joe strange, yet fascinating and I loved it! He was such a gentleman in every sense of the word.
One of the many things I loved immediately about Joe was how spiritual he was. Not only did he go to school full time, but he also worked long hours. Still, he made it his priority to get to daily Mass. That made him even more attractive in my eyes. I would get up early and meet him for Mass and then we’d get breakfast together before he had to go to work. He was so busy all the time, but he made God a priority. He carried a rosary in his pocket at all times and prayed it daily. He was so joyful and it was contagious. I wanted to be around him all the time. Even if we would hang out past midnight, he would be at 7am mass the next morning. I know we are supposed to marry someone who will help get us to Heaven and I knew Joe was much closer than I was!
Joe is also the kindest person I know. When we were dating, I know he didn’t have a ton of extra money. And yet he never let me pay for a date. Once, when the waitress was having a bad day, he left her a $50 tip and I didn’t know if I should be annoyed or think he was the most generous guy on the planet. He didn’t want me to know he left the tip, but explained he was just trying to brighten her day. That’s the kind of guy Joe is and it really left a lasting impression on me. After we were married, he would trudge down 3 flights of stairs at 530am to clean the snow off my car so I could get to work. He would always get up early to read the paper or comics. Then when he heard me get up, he would bring up coffee or tea while I got ready. He did it for years and years and we still have a couple coffee stains on the stairs from when he tried to bring it up but had trouble holding the cup from the ALS. Every time I see a spot I remember how much Joe loves me. He always took care of me and made sure I was ok before he was.
He is also an excellent listener. Maybe growing up with 5 sisters had something to do with it, but it was so easy to have a conversation with him. He was always so good at making anyone feel at ease and always had a smile and encouraging words. We loved to go and talk for hours at the bookstore or coffee shop. We didn’t have to have a fancy date, just being together was enough and some of my favorite time spent with him. ALS has made it really hard to have those conversations anymore, but we still sit together, even in the quiet.
When it comes down to it, Joe taught me how to love. I always loved Joe of course, but he loved me more. What I mean by that is he loved me in the sacrificial sense. He always took care of my needs before his. Every decision Joe made, he had me and the family in mind. I feel like after so many years of Joe taking care of me, it’s my turn to take care of him. I’m sure sometimes Joe wishes he wasn’t stuck with me all the time, but for better or for worse, he’s stuck! I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we were married on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I am so grateful we can pray the rosary together and ask Mary to watch over us as we travel this road together. So I guess that’s about it. 14 years down and 100 more to go I hope! Thanks for loving me, Joe. I think you’re pretty great!