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Sunday, July 14, 2024


Joe’s Valentine 2/8/2006

By Rick Racela

I suppose that will prompt letters pointing out I should have made at least 2,500 of them. But I didn’t.
Until she retired a year ago, my wife had a full-time job as a hair stylist, operating her own salon for most of those years.  She was on her feet all day. She bent over sinks to wash hair. She swirled a 3-4-pound hair dryer for hours.
Her feet hurt, her shoulders hurt, her hands hurt.
Then she came home and made dinner.
Many, many, many women are in the same boat, I know. In case nobody ever thanks you, I’ll thank you for them, just as I thank my wife.
This is not intended as a Valentine to my wife so that I won’t have to buy a card.
But the truth is, I am amazingly lucky to have her.
It all started in 1984 when I stopped into a grand opening for a Chinese restaurant adjacent to the movie theater in Stone Harbor. There were two attractive sisters there as interested in free food as I was. One was married, one wasn’t. They were dressed to the hilt.
I was wearing a particularly ugly grey corduroy sport coat, on my way to a county Planning Board meeting.
Looking down at the mysterious buffet, I tried the line that often worked, “Do you know if this is seafood because I don’t eat seafood?” It happened to be true.
One thing led to another, a shared booth, and I got her phone number.
A few days later, I asked her to lunch – we went to the Windrift – and I remember she did a good job of concealing her shock at the rusty ’76 Olds I was driving.
She’s one of those touchy-feely women and, at lunch, she touched my arm and I tingled all over.
One year later, we got married – and honeymooned at the Windrift because it was the  Memorial Day weekend and we both had to work.
At our wedding, the best man’s toast mentioned that we were meant for each other since each of us clipped food coupons. We still do. There are days I go to ShopRite, buy  groceries, and THEY owe ME money. Well, almost.
It’s nice, very nice, that my wife is beautiful, but it’s her inner beauty that wows me.
That’s gotta sound hokey, but it’s true. She is kind and compassionate. She cares about people.
 She also cares about me. She supports me in everything, even when I’m stupid. She defends me from attack, even when I deserve it, and when no one else would. She lifts me when I’m down.
We have a lot of shared interests. We like NCIS and CSI. We can’t stand to listen to our President. We think the customer is always right, we’re for the underdog, and we have a thing about telling the truth.
We also have lots of unshared interests. She likes to dig in the dirt; I don’t know a flower from a weed.  I like to watch sports on the tube; she seldom does. She likes fish; I don’t.
We have gone on a gazillion vacations, little ones and big ones, and we always have fun. Well, the time she fell off a horse and broke her knee in Puerto Vallarta wasn’t much fun, nor was the plane trip home with her sprawled across three seats. But it sure made a  funny column.
She doesn’t mind me making fun of our lives in this column, and that’s pretty special. She has a sense of humor. Do you have any idea how rare that is? And she’s funny besides.
She’s also pretty good at being angry – she is half Italian, you know – which is okay when we’re both angry at the same thing as opposed to at each other.
Fortunately we share a sanity gene that keeps us from doing some things we would really like to do, like flatten the tires on the tourist’s SUV parked in front of our house, or snatch a cell phone from a person in a restaurant.
She is a good person to have with you in the bad times; we’ve been very fortunate to have a lot more good times than bad times.
Among the many neat things she does, she decorates the house for almost every holiday: Christmas, Easter, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, etc.  It’s a carryover from decorating her beauty salon.
She has her idiosyncrasies, most of them occurring when she is behind the wheel of a car. She won’t use high beams because she thinks they will blind the deer into facing off with us. And when she signals a lane change, she has the turn signal blink just once – maybe twice.  Hey I can handle that, in another 10 years maybe.
She is not a saint, but if a certain number of miracles qualifies you for sainthood, she should be.
While she worked, she performed a kitchen miracle several times a week. She would come home from work dead tired and without a clue as to dinner. She would open the freezer, pull out something, and start pounding or defrosting or something. ((I always stay out of the kitchen when she’s in it – we agree that’s a good idea.)
 When I come home from work, I barely have the energy to pull the cork out of a bottle of medicinal red, plunk down on the couch, and watch the news on PBS.
Thirty minutes later, she calls me to dinner. “Already?” I say.
This may have turned into a sort of Valentine.  I guess I still have to buy her a card?

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