For Sheila

For Sheila
wedding gifts for him
Image by gwilmore (I HATE THE NEW LAYOUT!)
"Si che, se piacere sara’ di Colui a cui tutte le cose vivono, che la mia vita duri per alquanti anni, io spero di dire di lei quello che mai non fue detto d’alcuna."

— Dante, Vita Nuova 31

As I think anyone who knows me is well aware, I love to write affectionate little notes and tributes to the important women in my life, and because so many women have treated me so well over the years, that adds up to a whole lotta writing. I especially like to do this when I can accompany my prose with a photograph and upload both to Flickr, but I have only been able to do that for the past couple of years. The grand-daddy of all such gestures may be this one, however, which is something I did years ago. Appropriately enough, the recipient was my wife. And there is a story behind it, of course; it seems that anything involving me somehow has to involve a story, but that’s another matter, I suppose.

We were living in Ohio in May of 1994, as our seventh wedding anniversary approached. I decided that my message to Sheila would be in the form of a library book, checked out specifically for this occasion. The book was Robert Kennedy and His Times, by the late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., which I had read about three times previously. I bought a card for her, and left card and book on the front seat of her car as I left for work on the morning of our anniversary, knowing that she would find them there later in the day. The card included a note which told her that what I wanted to say to her could be found in the final paragraph on such-and-such a page of the book, but that she would need to make an appropriate substitution of names. The paragraph in question described the effect his own marriage had had on Kennedy, and it read thus:

"For Robert Kennedy it was the best thing that could have happened. Her enthusiasm and spontaneity delighted him. Her jokes diverted him. Her social gifts offset his abiding shyness. Her inextinguishable gaiety lightened his times of gloom and pessimism. Her passion moved him. Her devotion offered him reassurance and security. Robert, his sister Eunice said, was more dependent emotionally than his brothers, ‘more anxious for affection and approval and love, and therefore when he got a lot of that, which I think he did when he married Ethel, he blossomed.’ She awakened his sympathy and his humor and brought him out emotionally. He never had to prove himself to her. Ethel gave him unquestioning confidence, unquenchable admiration, unstinted love."

When I returned home that evening, Sheila, who is a very sensitive and tender-hearted woman, told me she had sat there in the driver’s seat of her car, with the card and opened book in her hand, and just cried. That didn’t surprise me at all, but this did: years later, long after I had all but forgotten about this little episode, she mentioned it again in a conversation. And she told me it had been the sweetest thing I had ever done for her. Its ranking may have moved downward just a bit since I started secretly taking dance lessons with the intention of providing her with a romantic surprise, but it continues to serve me today as yet another reminder that the little things sometimes are the most important ones in life.

I bought these flowers for her one Saturday morning, along with a card; and being the kind of person I am, I decided to pull out my camera and take some pictures of them. (At one point, I had to reassure her that yes, I had really bought the flowers for her, but as long as they were in our apartment, I wanted to have some fun with them, too.) She liked this one best, and went on and on about how beautiful it was. When I tried to crop and edit it a little more, she insisted that I leave it just the way it was. And so I upload it now to Flickr, dedicated affectionately to Sheila, and hoping that it gets a very good response among my friends here. (BTW, two minutes after I took this picture, I discovered that the sun had already moved just enough so that I could no longer achieve this particular backlighting effect.)

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