You had coined a phrase that we lived by. “Emotionally Naked”. This was your way of promising that between us we revealed all. We held nothing back. The good, the bad and the ugly, but if it were out there honestly, our commitment to each other would get us through anything. And it did. But after you died, I found out things about you that I never knew. Was I surprised? Not really. What I found out was your nature, your instinct. Was I surprised that you did not tell me? Not really. When you wanted to shift someone’s world, you did so very quietly and certainly with no personal fanfare. That was you.
You were a born leader but honed your skills both in the Army and in business. You were blunt and no nonsense. I often talked with you about how direct your message was and that by adding a little softness, you might avoid hurting a few feelings along the way. You firmly declined. You said that you wanted to be certain that there was no chance of misunderstanding so your message was often cold and hard, but never mean or vengeful.
One of your innate gifts was that you were a consummate accessor of human beings. When you encountered someone, you made an instant judgement of their character and integrity. Seldom did you change your mind and there were many occasions where I challenged you to give the person some time before you adopted an evaluation of their soul. You hung on to your instant judgement and, I must admit, you were seldom wrong. I, however, by giving people opportunities before I listened to my guts, often made mistakes in my level of trust and many times got kicked in the teeth.
After you died, they started coming to me with stories that I never knew. You changed their lives! You changed the entire direction they had chosen. You gave them vision based on the talents that you saw in them that they did not recognize. They trusted you. They leaned on you. They allowed you to lead. They became much more than they ever thought they could be because of your tutorship and encouragement.
There was the one very intelligent and talented young man who came to you and proudly announced that he was graduating #3 in his class. He had been awarded a full scholarship to the local Vo Tech. He was so happy that he could go to school and pursue his trade in mechanics. After hearing his gleeful story about his plans for the Fall Semester, you looked at him and said, “You are not going to Vo Tech.” The wind was out of his sail as he had just accomplished his dream and you were not impressed. “You are going to the University,” you told him. “Pop, no one in my family has ever gone to college and I don’t know anything about it.” You leaned back in your chair and you said, “I do.” Today this young man has a master’s degree and is working quite successfully in the medical field. If not for you, he would have gone a much different path.
Then there was the young man that we fondly referred to as a “foster son” because he was always at our house. After high school graduation, you invited him to lunch. You picked a restaurant in the same strip mall as all of the military recruitment offices just in case. You ate and visited and after lunch was over, you told him that it was grow up time and you saw three options: Junior College, the University or Military Service. He thought he was just there with you for lunch, but it became apparent to him that you expected him to decide his future in that moment. He told you that he was not prepared for any of those, could not make it through college and was not strong enough to be in the service. By the end of that day, he had chosen a career, was enrolled in classes the next semester and was well on his way. I am proud to say that he completed all three of the options you laid out for him, completed the University with honors and was a fearless medic in the Army. You pushed him to dig into his soul for places he did not have the courage to go to alone. More importantly you taught this young man how to be a husband and a father.
I remember our beautiful young friend who always commented that she wanted a marriage like ours. She had a history of picking the wrong men and a series of other disasters. I remember the night she came to our house and with tears in her eyes begged you to tell her what she was doing wrong. She was courageous to ask and knew you well enough to know that you would be brutally honest and not soften the information. You even asked her to confirm that she really wanted to know as it would not be easy to hear. She agreed and you told her. Weeks later as a demonstration of what you were trying to get her to understand, you dressed in your tuxedo and washed your Corvette and put the top down. You went to her office and when she walked out of work you presented her with a dozen red roses, bowed and told her “This is how a gentleman treats his lady.” Today this lady is married with a lovely young son and will tell everyone that you were the one who showed her what her own marriage needed to be like and how she should insist on being treated.
There were so many more stories and the week of your funeral, they came to me one by one to share how you had empowered each one of them and how their lives were changed because you bothered to push them. I knew some of the stories. Others, I had no idea. With each tearful story, I became more proud of the man I was honored to call my husband. You did it naturally. You did it unselfishly. You did it quietly. You did it because you wanted more for these young people than they had a vision for themselves. And again, you were right.
It was my honor, for 35 years, to be your wife. You pushed me also to accomplish more than I thought that I could, and I miss you terribly.