I have many good things going on. By far the best is my wife, the world’s finest human being — the most patient, most tolerant, most forgiving, most generous. She is a saint. Beyond a saint.
How did she come into my life? It is a story of God’s kindness to me:
Thanks to a wonderful college fraternity experience at the Alpha Delta Phi, I met a lovely girl at the beginning of my senior year at Columbia in 1965. She was a super girl named Mary.
But she was controlling. Great person but controlling.
The summer after that senior year, I worked at the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency within the State Department. My father got me the job.
On July 4, 1966, the State Department hosted the Junior Foreign Service Officers’ Ball. Black tie. Rooftop of the State Department. Unsurpassed view of the fireworks over the Washington Monument. I was thin and cool. I was self-confident.
Then, from across the room, I saw a beautiful girl, a stunner, an auburn-haired goddess in a blue dress. By an amazing stroke of luck, she was with a fellow named Gary, who was a friend of my former roommate at Columbia, the poet David Paglin.
I used that tiny connection to introduce myself to the burnt auburn-haired deity. I asked her where she went to college. She looked extremely Southern, and I thought she would say, “University of Mississippi.”
Instead, she said, “Vassar.” This was a total shock. She did not look mean and aloof enough to be a Vassar girl. I asked her where she was from and she said, “Oklahoma.” I started to ask her where in Oklahoma and a voice in my head said the town would have some Mayberry, RFD name like, “Idabel.”
When the girl spoke, she said, “It is a little tiny town called Idabel.”
She was working in the Foreign Service Officers’ Lounge, arranging immunizations for diplomats and their families. I was just a few floors away studying TOP SECRET briefing books about Soviet aircraft — none of which books was as up to date as Aviation Weekly.
I started hanging out with her. Took her out on many dates. Talked about the War in Vietnam. Drank with her. Hugged and kissed her.
By the time summer was over, she was my girlfriend.
We have been through highs and lows. We were divorced from 1974 to 1977. We were living apart for a time in the early’90s but still saw each other every day or almost. I have been a disastrously bad husband in some ways — I eat too much, spend too much, show off too much. I am far quicker to judgment than my wife is. I could not put up with a wife who was as much of a showoff as I am.
She has a few faults, too, but very few. In my whole life, I never even dreamed that there could be a human being as kind as my wife. When my dog died many years ago, she had two German short-hairs and she gave me one of them — Ginger. That is a saint.
I would not have ever met Alex except that my Pop knew the head of the U.S. ACDA. My Pop got me that job. So in a way, my Pop got me in touch with God’s gift to me, my wife. He also got me my job with Nixon, another of God’s gifts. He did everything for me.
I am now an old man. Seventy. My wife is hardly any younger. My goal at this point is to spend as much time as possible lying in bed with my wife and my German short-haired pointer, Julie, or whoever might come after Julie. There is no better use of my time.
This woman is so far beyond anyone else I have ever met in kindness and forbearance it is as if she were a different race. Her appearance, especially when asleep, is perfection. I am not worthy to kiss her Idabel, Oklahoma feet.
Please, dear God, make her quit smoking.
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