A Very Public Love Letter

00001060Let’s be honest, when it comes to marriage I am a major overachiever. Just take a look at this photo for all the proof you need. How the hell did Farmer Ted from Sixteen Candles score the hottest girl in town? I must have had a great personality.

Today is my bride’s 45th birthday. But when I look at her now I still see this gorgeous young object of my desires. Sure, she has remained remarkably youthful in appearance, something she adorably credits to Dove moisturizing bars. But I think it’s more than that. I think she lives her life with a youthful exuberance, something I find very difficult to do but it seems to be embedded in her DNA.  Sometimes we’ll be sitting on the sofa surfing the web on our devices and she’ll just start giggling and I realize she’s still a little girl at heart. I’m jealous of that attribute.

It’s no secret I’ve had a rough couple of years health wise. I’ve been very public about my heart attack but in truth there have been a few other issues I’ve kept more private. The good news is I’m doing great, but health issues will certainly put a strain on a relationship. I’d like to publicly thank Leslie for being there for me and for being so strong, not only dealing with my mood swings but taking such good care of me. The marriage vows may feel a bit cliché, but I really understand the meaning of “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” They also say married men live longer, and I am a true believer in that cliché as well. Throughout this ordeal she has been by my side, taking notes at doctors appointments, cooking healthy food for me, nudging me (sometime shoving me) when I attempt to make a bad food choice, and generally advocating for my health. I am lucky as hell and if you ever have a health issue I hope you have your own Leslie by your side to help you along.

But back to her 21658_4928203685754_1864494528_nyouthful appearance. Check out this photo taken recently. This is Leslie as she hits her mid-40s. Compare it to the one above, taken when she was around 23. Can you say fountain of youth? The girl still gets carded on occasion for crying out loud! Yep, she’s still fucking gorgeous.

But more important than her external beauty is her internal beauty. She’s a loving, caring, generous and warm person. She goes out of her way to help people, even people she barely knows. I think that’s one reason she has been so successful at her job for going on 21 years. She doesn’t just think of customer service as a job, it’s also in her DNA. She would literally give you the shirt off her back if you needed it.

Leslie is also the most amazing mother you’ve ever seen. We have some friends who had kids with very serious health issues and the doctors were useless. The mom took it upon herself to learn everything she could about her kids conditions and even when doctors gave up she kept pushing and pushing until she helped identify a treatment. It’s basically a Lorenzo’s Oil situation. Well, Leslie likes to give lots of credit to those particular parents but when I think about what she’s done for our son I think she’s the superhero. Luckily Connor’s health issues have never been life threatening, but they have been a  constant pain in the rear and Leslie has been relentless in her pursuit of better health for him. At 16 he is now in the best health of his life and you can see how his quality of life has improved. I know she’ll say that’s just her job as a mom, but trust me when I say she is a hero.

We are coming up on our 21st wedding anniversary. For those of you who are married, you understand what a feat that is. It’s remarkable that one of us hasn’t killed the other yet. And while we’ve had our share of downs, the ups have far outweighed them. We’ve made some stupid decisions (like moving to Atlanta, and moving to San Diego) but we’ve made some great decisions (having a kid, moving to Phoenix, moving back to Phoenix, moving back to Phoenix again) and through it all we’ve stayed by each other’s side. No matter what we do, Leslie always creates a path to making things better. She has counseled me through multiple job changes and a career change, she cheered me as I went back to school to get a master’s that I don’t use, she stood by me when my dad got sick, and kept her family strong when her mother died. She plans every vacation, every major purchase, every detail of our lives. She’s even getting better at letting go of planning things when Connor and I want to go with the flow even though it’s hard for her.

I like to say Leslie is high maintenance but worth it. I think she’s finally comfortable with that description. In fact, she’s embraced it. And I should also mention (stop reading right now if you’re under 18) that she still knows how to rev up my engines. Sure things have slowed down in the intimacy department, but for crying out loud we’re middle-aged! We work hard and we’re tired all the time! But we still got it baby! Almost 21 years and she still knows how to surprise me.

45 is a monumental birthday. You’re closer to 50 than 40, and that milestone has got to be epic. But if you know Leslie I bet you find it difficult to believe she’s 45 today. I sure do. Because when I think of her in my mind’s eye I always think of that photo above with her sitting on my lap and how amazing I felt that a girl like that would go out with a guy like me. That’s my favorite picture of Leslie in case it isn’t obvious. And twentysomething years later sometimes I walk into the house after work and look at her and I still see that young woman and that big smile and I think,no, I know, I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

Happy Birthday Leslie Gutman!

 

The Heart of the Matter

Valentine’s Day is a silly made up Hallmark holiday designed to con men into buying flowers and candy, not to mention a corny greeting card inscribed with someone else’s sentiment. When you’ve been married for nearly 18 years, it’s hard to take Valentine’s Day too seriously. I can never figure out what to do for my wife on Valentine’s Day. She doesn’t eat candy and flowers seem so cliché. Jewelry is out of the question because she isn’t a big jewelry person and what she does wear belonged to her dead mother so how can I compete with that? This year I can’t even really take her out to dinner because I can’t eat much of anything on my post heart attack diet. I’ve been thinking about it for a few days now, and what I’ve decided to do this year is give her a gift from my heart — hell, it is my heart.

Dear Leslie,

Tomorrow is the four-month anniversary of my heart attack and I have made so much progress it is remarkable. But what is even more remarkable is how much you have been there for me. I always thought wedding vows were just a formality, but I have a new appreciation for “in sickness and in health.” It’s one thing to stand by your partner in tough times, but there are degrees of being there — not everyone is capable of giving as much as you have given to me over these past few months. From the moment Dr. Kerr called you from her office and told you I was headed to the emergency room you changed your entire life for me. Hell, you beat the ambulance to the ER and was waiting for me when I arrived! At that moment I put my faith in you to make decisions about my health because I knew after 17 years of marriage I could trust you more than anyone with life and death decisions. I never once felt scared because I knew you were there for me, which is why I seemed to be so cavalier about the whole experience. I was scared inside, but I also had a tremendous peace about things because I knew you were going to take care of me.

In the days and weeks that followed you took the bull by the horns and made my care your top priority. You didn’t just sit by my side, you owned this crisis and became an overnight expert on heart health. You researched all of my medicines and asked a million questions of my healthcare team, all so you’d know how best to take care of me. And then there was the food! I don’t think people understand how critical food is in the first six months post heart attack, but you do. Reading labels is only the start…but you went so far above and beyond the call of duty its astounding. I don’t think I had to cook a single meal in the first few weeks, and even today you make my eating life so much more amazing than it would have been had I been in charge. I don’t think there’s any doubt had I been alone on this journey I would be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal. In the past few months you have made — from scratch — a variety of meals fit for a heart-healthy king. Pizza. Lasagna. Sweet and Sour Chicken. Chili. Soups. Fish. Casseroles. Grilled cheese. Even hamburgers this week! All low fat and low sodium. This is no small task and I want you to know how much I appreciate it. And have I mentioned the bread. I had no idea that when you bought a bread machine I’d be eating every kind of low sodium bread under the sun. Rye. Pumpernickel. Wheat. Sourdough. Homemade bagels and buns! You are not normal and I am so damn lucky.

Not every wife would have come with me to all my doctors appointments, or reminded me to take my pills (and there are so many of them!). When I started cardiac rehab you came three days a week with me until I settled in and got comfortable. You are one of the only spouses who regularly attends the learning sessions so you can have even more knowledge to take care of me. But it’s so much more than my physical health that you’ve taken care of these past four months. You’ve managed to do all of this while still making me laugh, and going on walks with me, and taking me out to restaurants and parties and friends houses. You planned my first post heart attack “vacation” with an incredible weekend for all of us in Coronado over New Years and while it could have been so stressful it was instead a new beginning and it shed the light on our future together. We can travel and eat out and enjoy the life we were meant to share together. You even encouraged me to buy the expensive impractical car and you haven’t complained yet about my new (is it permanent?) facial hair!

It hasn’t always been easy. But I really haven’t had too many down periods since all of this shit hit the fan. On the rare occasions when I’ve felt overwhelmed, you’ve simply been there for me to talk to or to hug. You have been so strong through all of this, and though I know you’ve had your moments as well, they have been few and far between. You are such a strong person…I could only hope to be as strong as you someday.

Through sickness and in health. We have been together for 20 years and it hasn’t always been easy. Relationships are hard work, and there is a reason why most marriages don’t make it. But through it all, you have been there for me. This may have been the biggest crisis we’ve had as a couple, but there were plenty of smaller ones. The common theme though is that you always rise to the occasion. Whether it was Connor’s health issues or our ill-fated move to Georgia or my career fiascos, it never mattered to you — you simply did what comes natural to you and took charge. I think you are the most remarkable woman on the planet and I don’t know what I did to deserve you. You are the most beautiful, intelligent, funny, caring, sexy, amazing woman in the world and you’re my Valentine. And I’m your Valentine. I wouldn’t want to be with any other woman in the world…ever.

I love you and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Lenny