I have two sons, the eldest of which had to take a social sciences "filler" course in college where he was studying architecture over 20 years ago. He chose a course in criminology, during which he had to do a "ride along" with the local police department. The next thing we all knew was that he abandoned his original interest in architecture and decided to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice. And when that was accomplished, he then entered the police academy for another year of study.
Fast forward about 25 years, and lo and behold! he has worked his conscientious way through the ranks to Deputy Chief! Our family has attended his promotions with pride, but this one was especially prestigious, and proud just didn't quite describe the exquisite exhilaration of seeing him achieve this remarkable goal. This man has put his life on the line time and time again for others and yet has remained the kind of guy who continues to be in love with his wife, Sheri, and who adores his family and cuddles his dogs and patiently paints the bathroom yet again when she changes the theme. He has taken time off to go to school concerts and football games and dance recitals and family reunions because she keeps him in touch with the things that really matter.
Here is a picture of him with Sheri, without whom he could not have had the peace of mind to work such long hours to make it happen. She was the glue that held the family together, got the kids to their extracurricular activities, took pictures so Dad didn't miss too much, fostered respect and pride in their father's service to the community, ran them to the doctor's appointments, taught them to take care of their rooms and to participate in small ways in the maintenance of their home, opened the house to dozens of classmates who gathered there after school and before proms, made it possible for two exchange students from Germany to live there and go to school with the kids for six months or so, and even took on several dogs who may as well have been more kids. My son, Chris, benefitted from this fine woman's unceasing energy and direction. When he finally was able to have duty during daylight hours, after about 20 years, he still had a home, a family, a life and friends outside the police department. And she, like me, lived every day not knowing if he would come home from his work or would be lost in his service to others.
My deepest gratitude goes out to Sheri for giving Chris that gift all these years.
My youngest son, Jon, started out as a teacher in Maryland, inspiring his students a la Robin Williams in Dead Poet Society. He taught them high school English, how to prepare a resume and survive an interview, and how to think for themselves. He chose high schools whose students were challenged -- by economics, by environment, by the English language, by lassitude, by poor study habits and years of substandard performance, and he poured himself into showing them how to learn, to think, to participate. They began to realize that their opinions and knowledge were also valuable. They started recognizing that education was the key to possibilities. They learned that their contributions counted because they mattered to him first. And now he's in administration in his county's education system, teaching struggling teachers how to be effective, diminishing the attrition rate of new teachers and helping to develop methods that generate involvement of the students in the learning process beyond the regurgitation of what's in their books.
Here are the two most enduring loves of my life. They have given me purpose, taught me patience, brought me joy and terror, and inspired more love than I ever knew was possible. They have truly been a gift to me, and I am grateful for them every day.