Friday, March 4, 2011

The Woman I Love

I'd like you to meet the most important person in my life, even though she would kill me if she knew I were posting her picture on my blog. This is Eileen Janaro, and perhaps I am biased but I think her beauty, and her devoted personality, and her love and attention to so many people are evident in her face.

Tomorrow, March 5, is my wife's birthday.

How did I come to marry this woman? What mystery has brought us together into the common life we have lived for almost 15 years? Well, there are five human beings whom God willed from all eternity to live in this world and forever with Him; five human beings who exist only because God brought us together. You have heard plenty about these five rascals/dear ones already in this blog, but the woman pictured here is the reason why they are such special kids. She is their mother. She is an extraordinarily giving person, and she loves these children like I've never seen love before in all my life. I am in awe of her love. And I tremble at the vocation that has been given to the two of us: to foster the faith and love and humanity of these five persons. Indeed, God brought Eileen and I together for their sakes.

But He brought us together first to love each other. Before there were any children, there was this gift of the bond between us, a bond that God wills to endure throughout our lives, in whatever circumstances. She is a stable and solid woman, emotionally well grounded, gifted with a deep heart that resonates with great hopes while remaining solidly practical, yet also imbued with a poetic sensibility and empathy. I am a man with vast and far ranging intellectual energy, a sense of mission, deep insecurity and emotional fragility, a spectacular lack of practical common sense, unique talents for expressing myself verbally and in writing, and a range of chronic health problems.

We are well matched. There is no doubt about that. That is a special gift that God has given us. I can't take any credit for it. When I was young, I thought I was in love with all kinds of girls who I thought were "the right ones" but the "match" was largely in my imagination. I would like to thank all of those women for having the good sense or the instinct or whatever to reject me and for their persistence in putting me off. Hahaha. (But seriously, ladies, if something tells you that someone is not the right man for you, don't play with his affections; be honest and be cruel--set that man free because he won't do it himself; men are stubborn in love--you've got to break their hearts and be confident that they will get over it and thus be in a position to follow God's plan.) The fact is, I thought I was "unlucky in love." Then Eileen came along.

We met and got to know each other at a time when both of us were immersed in the pursuit of graduate studies, she in English literature and me in Theology. This was 1990. We became "good friends." I remember how she and the other girls in her house had a couple of us guys over for dinner and Eileen baked this loaf of some kind of exotic bread. It was delicious. Men are so STUPID. If I had had the sense I have now, I would have proposed to her after the first bite. But of course God had other plans in any case. Our paths pulled us in different directions: I moved to Rome to continue my studies and she went to the University of Dallas. We knew we would always be friends.

I returned from Rome in 1994, with a little more sense thanks to the friendship and formation in the task of being human imparted to me by some tremendous and truly great people (the greatest of whom, Msgr. Luigi Giussani, I have already honored in these pages). I also returned with a readiness in my heart to do God's will. Finally. There were many young women around, but Eileen was still in Texas. She was teaching in a school where, I assumed from her letters, she was committed to stay. It turned out that she was anxious to find a new situation.

During Easter week of 1995 I prayed the novena to the Divine Mercy for God to send me the woman He wanted me to marry and to send her soon. About a week later, Eileen called me. She said she was thinking of moving back up to Virginia, that things hadn't been going so great in Texas, etc. By now I was no longer so stupid. I helped her get a job teaching in a school in the same town as the college where I was, at that time, a first year professor. The steps from renewed friendship to courtship to love were quick, natural, and simple. We were just such a good match. And we were friends already.

On June 22, 1996 we were married. Then came the children, my health breakdown, my early retirement, the emergence of the Montessori Center and her pursuit of yet another degree in teacher certification and education. No one could have supported and sustained me in this illness except Eileen, and I know that she has suffered with me as well as because of me. I myself have loved and admired her mind, her desire to educate our children and other children, and have given what I have to support and uphold her in her difficult pursuit of the Montessori training (I don't know how she did it) and now in her teaching.

And together we love our children. I am writing, and my recent book is opening up new horizons. At 48, I feel old to have an open field in front of me--a career already behind me and only God know what in front of me. She has great trust in God. After all, isn't it always this way, in reality? We do the best we can, we walk day by day, we plan according to our capacities, yet we do not know what is coming, we trust in God. And I am with my best friend, who will be 44 years old tomorrow. In another 44 years, if we are still around, I will still love her and she will still be my best friend.

Happy Birthday Eileen Janaro, my dear wife.