Just Breathe – Happy Birthday UK
June 12, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I am one of those people who has a knack for complicating things that need no complication. For example, someone will ask me a question and after about a three minute answer Justin will say, “They asked if we live in Boston” and I was talking about global policy… However, the men in my life simply are complicated.
My main man is a dashing ginger, hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas – less than a mile from where my Dad lives. Who knew that a complicated journey to each other would resolve itself in such a simple way? Having my Dad in Little Rock has been incredible, and his support of me, my marriage, and this incredible stage/journey of my life have been humbling and breathtaking. I am so deeply grateful to him in this moment of my life it literally makes me teary.
However I was as Hillary Clinton encourages, raised by the village, and anyone who knows me knows that before Justin there was one other great love in my life, one other main man, who also holds the role of father, friend, mentor, rule maker, rule keeper, tear dryer, laugh creator, and brunt of joke bearer – UK.
UK rolled into my life when I was a pre-teen. Though I was raised by a village (literally my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends etc), but AM lived in Austin and spent a good portion of her single 20s and 30s being my caregiver, and my mom’s brother, Lester, who passed away while I was living in Uzbekistan. I adored these two especially, and I thought if they could not be married, then they should be mine alone. Their future spouses were my arch nemesi. I hated UK. I had to be told to be nice to him, as in – I got in trouble for being so sour toward him. In my defense my entire family was hard on him, but they were joking… Little did UK know five short years into his marriage he would inherit this snarky, spoiled 16 year old as his own. It is from UK that I learned the ones you love can hurt and herald you more than anyone else in the world. His pride in me would send me soaring, and his disappointment send me reeling. When I left for college AM&UK could not dump me off and take the keys back to their house fast enough, it was many years before they would hand me freely my own set, and dedicate a room there as my own. In those years we shook off the dust of my teenage rebellion and early twenty faux pas, he grew in tenderness and fatherhood, and before we knew it the three of us had forged a deep and lasting bond of family.
I count AM&UK as our best friends, he had a mid-century birthday recently and a birthday party with dear friends, I called to wish him happy birthday, and when I hung up the phone I cried for two hours – Justin asking if we needed to just move home. Justin still says that it was like he murdered me, not married me. But our intimacy was hard fought, and distance will always feel difficult, 90, 900, or 9,000 miles.
Over the years I have learned to hide my most precious words in my heart and only share them in the most safe and treasured places, but here is what I can tell you about my UK. I would not have held out for the incredible man I married if UK hadn’t shown me what love and marriage should look like. He is the gold standard for men to me. He is a stand up man who loves his family relentlessly, lives forgiveness actively, and is literally generous in a way that I have not ever seen in another person – I am not talking about throwing money around, I am talking about conscientious contribution to humanity/society – often giving his life and his time. I love that he can walk into Farrell’s and still know people that he grew up with, or walk through Paris and see people he grew up with. I love that he is quick to laugh, help, enjoy, and jump in when needed. He is also loyal like no one I’ve ever known, and he is principled and moral by conviction. He was raised in a catholic family, heavily influenced by his Aunt Ethel who was a nun, he lives according to his conviction without being judgmental or preachy – and was incredibly patient with me when I was judgmental and preachy (even to him.) This does not mean that he will not lecture me about my civil responsibilities, wifely responsibilities, or simply being wrong – as a matter of fact we are both often so right that AM and Justin have to break up dinner time yelling matches (always trying to get ME to admit that I MIGHT BE WRONG – ugh) and I love this as well – the way he challenges me grows me and doesn’t allow me to get comfortable being less than the best of who I can be. More than anything UK has been relentlessly unconditional in his love and support of the ones that he loves, and as his daughter, this has molded and shaped me in ways that are indescribable.
Happy Birthday UK, I will cry every birthday you celebrate far away from me, because you are a life that I would love to be on hand to celebrate in the manner that’s worthy of you. With a 5 mile run, a slice of pizza and a Shiner for lunch, and Z Tejas for dinner (even if it’s not Thursday) – Justin is my main man, but you had my heart first.
When I got married UK picked Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground for us to dance to. Willie and his son Lukas covered this song on Willie’s latest album, Heroes, and the minute I heard it I thought of him. Watching them sing it together undid me. Especially in this moment of my life, on UK’s birthday, and the week of Father’s Day it feels right to let you guys hear it and know how much it makes me think of him and the way that he loves.