By Patrick F. Cannon
When considering marriage, it is wise to find a potential partner who is somewhat higher on the scale than yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the richer scale, although there’s nothing necessarily wrong with marrying someone who has big bucks. Although it’s fashionable to denigrate the rich, envy is unbecoming.
What I really mean is that you should strive to find a spouse who is kinder, more generous, more forgiving and more empathetic than you. People will then assume that if this person loves you, you can’t be all bad. I find myself in this happy situation. Many of you who are reading this know my wife Jeanette. If you are a relative or friend, you’ll know that your birthday will be remembered. If you’re sick, you will be visited and, if required, fed. Let me give you an example.
We moved into our condo last August. There are 60 units in the building, and when I meet a neighbor in the lobby or the elevator, I give them a cordial “hello” and might even comment upon the weather or the state of our eccentric elevators. In a very few cases, I might even remember their names. Now, I don’t believe Jeanette has met everyone in the building, but if she has, she knows at least their name, and much more in some cases.
One of our neighbors had shoulder surgery and couldn’t drive. Jeanette barely knew her, but immediately offered to drive her to her therapy appointments. Not only that, but she cooked several meals for her as well. Now, if a friend asked me to do the same, I would likely agree. But you don’t have to ask Jeanette – she will beat you to the punch and offer.
Once you’re her friend, you’re her friend for life. Although it’s been more than 30 years since she taught there, she still has her fellow teachers from St. Francis Borgia School over for lunch every year. Ditto with her stint at the Art Institute. She has dinner several times a year with two of her former co-workers, and belongs to a book group composed of former employees of Lions Clubs International (where, by the way, we met).
Relatives get their due. On her father’s side of the family, she has something like a thousand relatives, including elderly aunts and uncles who have survived into their 90s. Most of them are in Wisconsin, and most years we dutifully drive north with her sisters and brothers-in-laws to Two Rivers to see them. (We also come home with many pounds of wieners, a local specialty.)
Although not as numerous, my family is not forgotten. I have two nieces in the Chicago area, and on Sunday last they were here for Easter dinner, along with husband, man friend, great nephew (with wife and baby), and my daughter, son-in law and his niece, down from Madison for the occasion. Most of my surviving cousins are in the Pittsburgh area or Ohio, and every other year Jeanette dutifully treks to western Pennsylvania for a family reunion. We are particularly close with my brother Pete and his wife Mary Beth, and throw in a visit with them every year in Florida.
Jeanette tends to go overboard in the family dinner line. I always tell her that she’s making too many hors de oeuvres, and ask “do we really need a salad and two vegetables?” She looks at me like I’ve taken leave of my senses (I was brought up on overcooked roasts, mashed potatoes and canned green beans.) Then she goes right ahead and overdoes things. Later, while cleaning up the mess that 12 people and several courses can produce, she might mutter “never again.” But I don’t believe her. By the time Thanksgiving draws nigh, all the struggles of the past will be forgotten as she begins to wonder why we can’t have three vegetables!
As it happens, I will often say to myself “you should call so and so,” which I mostly fail to do, perhaps thinking that the intention alone does me credit. Jeanette will, however, remind me to actually do it, just as she herself checks in regularly with friends and relatives. Like I say, she makes me look good.
Today happens to be her birthday. She will get quite a few birthday cards, but not nearly as many as she sends. Her sisters and other relatives and friends will call. On Saturday, we’ll celebrate her birthday by going out to dinner with daughter Beth and son-in-law Boyd. Knowing Beth, there will be silly gifts, a comic card and a lot of laughter.
From me, there’s this: Happy Birthday, Jeanette. Glad I married up!
Copyright 2017, Patrick F. Cannon