Thursday, December 29, 2016
12:34 December 29 - Happy 40th, Matt!
Today, you turn 40 years old. We met when we were both 18 years old, so today marks your 22nd birthday we’ve celebrated together. I have spent more than half your life (our lives) loving you. We are also nearing the end of a calendar year during which we have written about our daily gratitudes. Today, and every day, I am thankful for you.
I’m grateful for your help. Most recently, we hosted my family for Christmas, and you were up early every day to make breakfast. You washed and folded countless loads of laundry, making sure everyone had clean linens and our kids' new Christmas clothes were ready to wear on our next road trip. While I have come to expect and rely on you to be right beside me, helping with whatever we’ve got going on, I never take it for granted; I appreciate it tremendously.
I’m thankful for your authenticity. Our first decade together felt like smooth sailing. We finished college, got married, found jobs we enjoyed, moved to Durham, got me through law school, and welcomed our precious first child. All along the way, we made a multitude of life-long friends together. Our second, most recent decade has felt much more difficult. While we added two more beautiful, healthy kiddos and managed for me to stay home with them full time, these years have also been punctuated by the loss of your father, my cancer diagnosis, and the financial stress that accompanies being a one-income family while also enduring a major medical crisis. Through it all, you’ve been steady and reassuring. But you’ve also been very honest about your own sadness, anger, and fear. I suppose that’s something we’ll spend the rest of our lives figuring out: how to navigate life’s sorrows--which we can’t help but experience individually and differently--together.
I appreciate your kindness. I often joke that you are just naturally a nicer person than me, but I never want to make light of how truly gracious you are with people--how you put them at ease. How you see and bring out the best in them. I’ve seen this most poignantly in your care and concern for struggling students over your nearly 17 years teaching. No matter how life or society has marginalized these kids, you have done your best to consistently reach out and connect.
Closer to home, I’m grateful for how you honor each of our kids individually: talking books and sports with Tobin, singing and dancing with Evan, and swapping endless knock-knock jokes with Lauren. My favorite view is from the kitchen sink, where I watch you play in the backyard with the kids. Lately, that’s been football with the boys. You come in laughing, giving me a detailed rundown of each boy’s highlights: how Tobin threw a pass with perfect touch and how Evan managed a spectacular catch while being well-defended by his big brother.
Sports has been part of our lives from the beginning. In the fall of our freshman year in college, we watched every game of the World Series together, when my Atlanta Braves won. A few months later, you would initiate me into the fandom of Kentucky basketball, as we followed their championship run together. These days, we still watch SportsCenter most mornings, with our coffee, in the quiet before the kids awaken and make their mad dash out the door for school. I’m thankful that we’ve passed on our love of sports to our kids--that we’re cheering them on from the stands and sidelines at their own games now.
I am thankful for your love. More than anyone in my life--family or friend--you have made me feel most at ease in my own skin. You have made me feel adored, even when I have felt least lovable. That has been especially true in recent years when I’ve felt quite broken in body and spirit. You’ve always had tremendous faith in me--whether starting a new job, navigating motherhood, or facing illness. Your confidence in me has been my lifeline.
In a very blessed life, I count as my greatest gift that we met each other when we did and that we’ve spent so much time together already. I’m grateful for the decades behind us and hopeful for the ones to come. Thank you for being you. Happy birthday!