In just a few days, my husband Paul turns the big 5-0.
This is hard to believe since it seems like only yesterday he took me out on our first date. We ate dinner at an authentic Japanese restaurant in Atlanta, where he continued to impress me by speaking to our waitress in Japanese (a good thing she was Japanese), and ordering numerous authentic dishes I had never heard of. He even ordered a baby octopus, which I politely declined to try.
As we talked for hours, I felt myself wondering if anybody could possibly be this perfect. I loved hearing about his adventures in Japan, where he had served in the Air Force. He was smart, handsome, funny and thoughtful, to name a few things that struck me right away.
In addition, I had butterflies in my stomach all night and didn’t want the date to end. When it came time for me to drive home, he asked if he could kiss me goodnight and I didn’t turn him down.
He also asked for my telephone number and if we could go out again. I wonder if men still do that? I am guessing no.
When I got home from our date, I listened to my messages on my answering machine (remember those?) and the last message was Paul’s voice telling me how much he enjoyed the evening and for me to have “sweet dreams.”
That pretty much sealed the deal. I smiled all night and hardly slept a wink.
It was apparent almost immediately that we were going to be together long term … and after only two weeks we were both madly in love.
Imagine my fear when he said he had to tell me something “big.”
My first thought was, “Well, I thought this was too good to be true.”
His “secret” turned out to be that his childhood had been a rough one and he wasn’t sure if I would want to date him after knowing a few things. Of course I told him I wasn’t interested in dating his family, just him.
When I was cleaning out my office recently and I found a column I wrote about Paul a few years ago. I told all about Paul’s difficult childhood and his life with his mother, who worked, and his abusive stepfather who did not.
Paul began working when he was 9 years old; by the time he was 13, he worked three jobs. He worked so much so he could buy necessities such as clothes and shoes.
He remembered how terrible he felt when his friend said he couldn’t play at Paul’s house because Paul was poor.
When he told me these things, which happened over time and not all at once, I used to feel sick to my stomach. Similar to how mothers feel when their children are hurting, knowing your loved one suffered so much is almost unbearable.
A modest guy, Paul says he is not a hero. But he is to me and to our four children.
To know how much he overcame and how much he has accomplished is certainly inspirational. One year I bought him a Superman shirt and coffee mug, both of which still make me smile.
I retell these things here partly because after that column was published, I heard from many readers about their own struggles and how much they could relate to what Paul experienced. Some of them told me it helped them to hear they were not alone in feeling ashamed, even though like Paul, they were certainly not responsible for their childhood situations.
Chances are you know someone who had a difficult childhood or has overcome obstacles in their life. Why not offer them a few words of admiration and encouragement?
Remind them how special they are to have come through and persevered. God obviously had a plan for Paul, and I am so thankful I was in it.
Happy birthday to my best friend and best husband of 22 years.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.