Before we met, I dated enough good men and enough skudzoids to know what I looked for in a life mate, so on on that fateful January night so many years ago when Eros was in such a jolly good mood and nudged us in the direction of each other with his arrow, I was ready. In the beginning there was the love of freedom that comes from being launched into the world as independent young adults. There as the love of newness that comes with new jobs, new relationship, new domicile. There was the love of each other, undoubtedly based more on pleasing appearances than anything else, given the short time we’d known each other. But through the potholes and detours that are inevitably encountered on any journey, through births and deaths, through prosperity and leanness, through agreement and disagreement, I’ve grown to know and love – deeply love – your soul.

As your handwriting shows, you are a man who takes his time about things, being sure before committing, taking pains to make sure you’re understood. What you lack in patience for other drivers – especially the Floridian drivers who spend their summers here on the curvy mountainous roads (in front of you, more often than not) – you make up for in kindness. Remember those two puppies we rescued from the pound the first year we were out of an apartment in in our own home? I can still see you sitting there in the grass on that ridiculously hilly backyard, a pudgy brown and black puppy wiggling in each arm. When one got sick and had to be euthanized, you asked me to tend to that because it was something you simply weren’t able to do.

I couldn’t help but notice early-on that you are quite literal, a way of being undoubtedly learned both from training and from example, and this black-and-white way of seeing the world, this orderly linearity way of proceeding is at times annoying, at times exasperating, and at times, I must say, actually quite reassuring and useful. For years I took those irritating follow-up questions you ask me I tell you a perfectly fine story, as one-upmanship, behavior I’ve long attributed to you being raised in a family that values math and science more than the sun and stars. Then one day – not too long ago, actually – I vowed for the zillionth time to never waste a perfectly good and well-told story on you ever again, when from out of nowhere comes a resounding thwack, and I realized that you’re not scolding or belittling, you’re not criticizing or poking fun – quite the contrary. You’re listening to me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say you’re hanging onto my every word (far too many times I can see you there, your eyes glazing over as I talk), but you do listen more often than I’ve given you credit for.

You’re a man who notices the little things, my husband. Why if I had a nickel for every four-leaf clover you’ve found, you’d be sipping a drink while patiently waiting for me to post this from a cruise ship in some exotic part of the world. When we go for walks, I look for a safe place to land my foot while you find the most marvelous surprises – leaves turned lacy in their act of decaying, eggshells left behind after the hatching, heart-shaped rocks, and yes, of course: four-leaf clovers.

Over the years, we’ve used that iron skillet to prepare nourishment for ourselves, our family, and our friends, but never as a weapon against each other. You are one of the most understanding, supportive men I’ve ever been lucky enough to know. You’ve taught me what healthy relationships look like, what true-grain love feels like. Sometimes we’ve experienced seasoning simultaneously and sometimes individually, but we’ve never grown away and left the other. I remember thinking it impossible to love you any more than I did back in that fresh, newness of youthful love, but tonight, though I have no standard of measurement that will satisfy your engineer’s brain, I tell you anyway that I now love you more. I now love you for more than just your fetching countenance. I love you for all the little things that are the beauty of your soul.

Happy birthday, Andy.