My Wife, My Life


My wife (then girlfriend) sleeping, Pittsburgh, February 8, 1996. (Donald Earl Collins).

I don’t spend a lot of time talking about my wife and son on this blog. Not because I don’t want to. It’s mostly to protect them from my thoughts, my feelings, which can change from moment to moment and from context to context. But it’s also because our marriage and our family is a work in progress. Most of what I write about here has already occurred, and I’ve emotionally already moved on from those happenings. Or my posts are about educational policy, politics, race and racism, inequality and unfairness, places where I can tap into my past and present emotions and relate to events of my past.

My wife, April 2010. (Angelia N. Levy).

Today, if only for one post, I’ll talk about my wife. Today she officially passes into that grey area of life known as middle age. She doesn’t look it at all. Heck, about seventy percent of the time, she looks a good five or ten years younger than me. God knows, though, that our life over the last sixteen years (including nearly twelve years of marriage) has been anything but an opportunity to stay young.

The last four years have been especially stressful. Between my work on Boy @ The Window and piecing together teaching and consulting gigs, with feast and famine moments throughout. Between Noah growing up and reaching the full-blown kid stage (and a year or two away from being a preteen), her two years as a masters student in interactive journalism at American University, and living in the DC area. It hasn’t been easy for either of us.

There have been moments, days, even a couple of weeks like in October, where we haven’t been in sync emotionally and psychologically. I have habits that drive my wife to drink, literally. She has an attitude about her life that sometimes makes me feel like picking up a jagged rock and pounding myself in my right temple until I hit grey matter. And, for the past year, we’ve spent as much time sleeping alone as we do collapsing together after another day of school, Noah, teaching, writing, working, consulting and cringing at our finances.

But we do have a few things that remain in our favor. We do love each other, and we do talk to each other about the things we care about the most. In the latter case, about eighty percent of the time. It would be nice if it was 100 percent. But after a decade and a half, we both need our space. We also have an eight-and-a-half year-old who is a joy to be around and nurture, even if he’s way too nosy, knowledgeable and smart-mouthed for his own good.

Today, though, while the Giants celebrate in New York City and at City Hall their fourth Super Bowl win, I

Camera-shy/mean look from Angelia at The Balcony, Pittsburgh, February 7, 1996. (Donald Earl Collins).

must celebrate the fact that I’ve been together with my wife as boyfriend and husband since she was in her late-twenties. I think back to sixteen years ago today, when I threw a surprise birthday get-together for my new girlfriend at my cramped studio in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty section. I made her a lemon cake with vanilla icing, took her to The Balcony jazz club in Shadyside for dinner, and afterwards, she came to my place and fell asleep.

She looked so peaceful after such a simple evening that I took a picture of her in my bed. Sometimes I think that this is the most peaceful I’ve ever seen her, that night, that birthday, seven weeks into a decades-long relationship.

There are so many things that I want to see happen, for me, for Noah, for my wife. But one thing near the top of the list is for her to see herself the way I see her. A person who persists, who fails and is disappointed time and time again, until they achieve and exceed their goals. A person who, somewhere in that process, is at peace with themselves. Happy Birthday, my sweet duck of a love!

2 Responses to My Wife, My Life

  1. Donald EC,

    I read this almost to the day it was posted, and my PLAN (the best laid plans…) was to post a comment immediately. In my life, today still counts as immediately.

    I cannot tell you when I met your wife. I can say it was long ago in a Homewood which no longer exists in that form. I can say that the nerdy Angelia was alive then; the crankiness I attributed to having to deal with a me that was brilliantly foolish and philosophically found himself smart enough to fool most but not wise enough to benefit from it.

    According to your wife I once made her laugh in high school. The comment is wholly irrelevant now but

    Upon further review I’m sure I secretly hated your wife. She knew how to study; she got “A”‘s in English with everyone from John Tarka (now the President of the Teachers’ Union) to Dr. Spencer. I, the brilliant one with regards to math and sciences, never understood A is to B as C is to “pick one” and struggled to be a “C” student in the literary world. I guess that’s why the no-writing-required MBA appealed to me.

    Now that I’m older…wiser…well older anyhow I am happy that you guys are yoked and raising a child who I suspect will always wear a belt (to hold pants where they should be) and will contribute value-added and thoughtful conversation to future dialogue. One less child willing to quote verbatim the words of others will be your legacy, and I for one am thankful…

    • Hindsight is always 20/20, or 20/15 in my case (or sometimes 20/10, by the way, but I digress) when it comes to what could’ve been but wasn’t. About a third of my posts contain some kernel of “what-ifs.” I’ve probably written two dozen posts about whom I call Crush #1 from my middle school days and more than a few about Crush #2 from my last two years of high school. Fact is, life is hard for everyone, and without means, motivation and/or opportunity, there’s little we can do to guarantee that those things that we should do (but don’t) or things that we shouldn’t do (but do anyway) won’t bite us in the ass at some point.

      The main point of this post was to say how complicate marriage is, even in the circumstance in which both spouses are working to maintain it, and to understand how the good and the bad and even the ugly can stretch us to the limit in the process. That, and to wish my wife a happy birthday.

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