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For Jackie: 14 Years

I still remember the day you broke down in a mess of tears because your flat iron wasn’t working.

After a short nine months of marriage I remember thinking to myself “What is happening? Did I already break my wife? Am I being punked?” (Ashton Kutcher’s show was popular at the time)

And then I realized what was going on and had this vivid impression that rather than allowing the words “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?” to fall from my mouth that I needed to have compassion. That I needed to be present. That I needed to show you how much I cared about you and reassure you that yes, we can replace that flat iron and that I’d head to the store right now to take care of it.

And I did. 

I drove as fast as that little light blue Mitsubishi would take me because I knew exactly what was going on and was feeling so many different emotions.

I found the best flat iron I could at Wal-Mart (which I’m sure was awful by the standards of my professionally-trained Cosmetologist wife) and then I beelined it to the Pharmacy and picked up two different pregnancy tests from the shelf. We needed to be extra sure.

And during the 20 minute round trip I contemplated how I’d present the tests in a way that 1) didn’t get me murdered and 2) showed that even if the result was a very unexpected positive one, I’d be thrilled.

You see, we weren’t planning on bringing another human into the world. I had steady employment and we were comfortable enough in our new little condo. But we certainly weren’t prepared for the financial or personal responsibilities attached to adding a third person to our lives. We were really just getting to know what married life could be like.

We had been given assurances too! I sat with you in the office when your very own lady health doctor told us that “having children would be a real challenge and to anticipate at least 2-3 years of treatments before pregnancy would even possible.

And so my mind was so incredibly full of how I’d even broach the topic.

Hey babe, I guess I’ve got really good swimmers cause you’re knocked up!” wasn’t a Hallmark card that I could find.

And they were also out of “Hey, you seem crazy. Maybe you’re gonna be a mom?

I was at a complete loss so I did what every self-preserving human would do. I walked in, unboxed the flat iron, and then I quietly set the pregnancy tests on the counter and just looked at you without saying a word.

I had no idea how you’d react and I’ll never forget how big your eyes widened. Like you had seen a ghost. Or we’re growing a ghost. It was a mix of fear and excitement and probably a lot of the same things I had been feeling in that little Wal-Mart excursion.

But honestly? I already knew. It was all so clear to me. There were way too many signs. We were going to be parents. 

And sure enough, the test(s) came back positive.

I certainly felt overwhelmed and started asking all of the questions about how we’d make ends meet and what kind of dad I’d be. I was unsure about a lot of things.

There was one thing that I never ever questioned, even for a second. I knew you’d be an amazing mom. And fourteen years later I know that at a deeper level than I know anything.

The way I’ve been able to watch you turn three tiny people into three incredible young men is nothing short of remarkable to me. The way you’ve handled the challenges of two autistic sons with such grace and confidence puts me in awe every single day. The way you forgive my shortcomings while still keeping me accountable is truly art.

We’ve shared lots of mornings and nights like that morning with the flat iron, wondering how we’d get through the next big challenge together. 

The logistics of overcoming challenges, ironically, has been the easy part. Because I never had to wonder if you’d be there with me, or if I’d have to tackle hard problems alone.

We still have a lot to learn. And more future challenges to overcome. And I couldn’t be more grateful to have you with me every step of the way.  I love you.