I know the name of this column is “Women’s Voices” but the “woman’s voice” that should be heard would never consider her story compelling or worthy of outside notice. So I am writing for a voice that deserves to be heard.
My wife, Joan, is a remarkable woman who feels she is completely unremarkable.
I first became aware of her character and charm when we started working together and I realized that everyone in the building was her friend. Her personality naturally brings people close the her and her sincerity keeps them close.
The greatest example of her strength and courage was when our son Robbie was born. She went through a long and difficult labor during which the doctor tried to turn our son while she pushed. Over the next few days, we recognized something was wrong; Robbie lacked muscle tone and had a difficult time feeding. We were assured he would be fine but my wife knew differently and was able to get Robbie diagnosed as having cerebral palsy so she could start getting appropriate therapy and educational support for him.
At this time, I was in the Navy and Joan was left to handle everything on her own, including relocating three times and selling our home in New Hampshire and relocating to Tonawanda while she was pregnant. Each of these moves was accompanied by locating proper services for Robbie and being sure his needs were being met.
My admiration for her grew when our second son was born and she took on the responsibilities of raising the boys while I spent the majority of the rest of my enlistment at sea and away from home. When my time in the service was up, Joan went to work full-time so I could go to college to get my teaching degree. This was difficult for her; I’m sure she would have rather spent more time with the boys while they were young, but she thought it would be best for our future. Her unselfish, common-sense pragmatism has always been the guiding light of our lives.
Since then, and over a period of about 10 years, my wife lost her father, her brother, her mother, and our son, Robbie. Through all of this, she remained a source of strength and support for her family and friends and a person we can all count on to listen with genuine interest. She endures her share of good-natured teasing from my family and laughs easily at her own expense while also reminding me to laugh at my own foolishness and not take everything too seriously.
I know there are others who have had similar, or more difficult, periods in their lives and nobody ever promised life would be simple and fun, but what I think separates Joan from others is her ability to still smile and still be optimistic about the future. She has a smile that would make the Cheshire cat jealous; it remains long after she is gone. I could swear her smile generates its own light. It gleams too much to be natural.
Her smile often is accompanied by a laugh that comes from deep inside. It is this ability to still smile and enjoy the good times that reminds me how lucky I am to have her in my life.
It would have been selfish to keep her story to myself.