Richard’s birthday falls on Valentine’s day. We met on Christmas day at a Christmas party. I didn’t know many of the people at the party, but parlor games were being played (always a good ice breaker) and Richard, no matter who he was teamed up with, was winning. I remember seeing him seated on a couch near the window that looked out on to the snow drifts on 8th Avenue. I remember how intense he was and focused. He was funny, in a dry, smart kind of way. He was one of those people who doesn’t seem to really care about what others think, a bit of a rebel, certainly someone who doesn’t take orders from others. (Have I mentioned that people say I can be a little “bossy”? Not that there’s any truth to that mind you. I just have really good ideas about how things should be done.) I remember the way he looked at me. I remember saying to him in front of everyone there, “Are you flirting with me? I thought you were flirting…” He grinned at me, with those dimples of his and answered, “Well I was flirting, but I was also asking you a question.”
I can’t remember the question any more.
Right from the beginning ours was not a traditional nor particularly conventional courtship, if you can even call it that. We went out with groups of friends a few times, always making sure we sat together, always pretty much ignoring everyone else. We had planned on going to a New Year’s Eve party together, but Richard got the flu, so I went alone. The next day I received a call from my mother that my father wasn’t well. I grabbed my wallet, a toothbrush and a pair of underwear, (I’m serious and yes it was a bizarre choice, particularly as I brought nothing else) hailed a cab and caught the first airplane I could get, out west. Those were the days when you could show up at the airport, without a driver’s license and take a plane where ever you felt like going. By that night I was at my parent’s house. Two days later my father died. Richard and I spent at least an hour every night on the phone. He held my virtual hand. He said all the right things, he listened, he talked, I listened. We talked about death and life and our childhoods and everything in between. There were lots of tears and emotions.
A week later I returned to New York in love with a man I had spent almost no time with alone. But I knew the essentials. I knew he was kind. I knew he was smart and funny and wise and ambitious and curious and utterly unconventional. I knew he was a tad quirky. I knew he had strong opinions, was a bit esoteric, had some weird ideas about aliens and wanted more than anything to see a UFO in his lifetime. I knew he had a tough childhood and a past that was complicated and I knew we were both in for the ride of a lifetime. I knew it wasn’t going to necessarily be an easy relationship, we are both far too feisty, opinionated and sensitive for that, but I knew this was a man who would challenge me and I wanted and needed to be challenged. That hasn’t changed.
Over the years we have learned to give each other slack, to not pick apart every perceived slight, we have learned to weather our differences, we’ve learned to respect our marriage even when we’re angry with each other and don’t agree. We’ve learned the art of letting go, not needing to control so much, it’s definitely a work in progress. We’ve learned a great many things from each other and we keep learning. We have two beautiful, quirky kids whom we love and adore. We do not own them. We do not mistaken our children as extensions of ourselves. We do not mistaken each other as extensions or expressions of ourselves. We are a family, a beautifully diverse, vibrant family who respect one another and give each other the space each needs to (hopefully) grow and flourish. Richard reminds me to “take it down a notch” when I become too fixated on something that is not within my power to change, he encourages me to fight and change the things I can, he is always there for me, supporting me and cheering me on. He believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself. He believes in our children with the same dedication and passion.
I can honestly say I love him even more today than when I first fell in love with him on that snowy, wintry Christmas day so long ago now.
Happy Birthday dear Richard!
Richard – then
Richard – Now