The Best Column I Have Written

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Today, Feb. 17, is my wife’s birthday, aka the Beautiful Mystery Companion. She acquired that title from my mangling of a Jackson Browne song that contains the line, “My stunning mystery companion.” I think “beautiful” works better, though Mr. Browne likely would disagree.

I am likely fonder of her birthday than she is. Here is why. Nine years ago, she reached a certain age on this date. I decline to say exactly what age, out of a strong sense of survival. Never guess a woman’s age or ask when the baby is due, unless you know for certain she is pregnant. I have made both mistakes.

Anyway, I had moved to Longview to publish the newspaper about six weeks earlier and wrote a column about “Unpacking a Treasure Trove of Books.” That is always the next-to-last chore of moving. Hanging pictures and art comes last.

The News-Journal published my column on Sundays. It had been running in the paper for several years while I worked in Nacogdoches and Lufkin. I’m a hometown boy, after all. The column on books appeared on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008 — my BMC’s birthday. A couple days later, I received an email from her asking if I would like to meet her for coffee, because she enjoyed my columns and thought we could be friends. I readily agreed and immediately Googled to figure out who she was. I could not find a photo. I learned she was an education professor, and had a daughter, and that was about it.

We met a few days later at a now-closed coffee shop near the paper in the Weaver Building. I walked up the alley and got to its end just as this striking woman in a maroon raincoat walked across.

“Gary!” she said. “Julie,” I asked. She had an advantage since my photo was in the paper every Sunday. That is yet another baffling reason she contacted me, since she knew what I looked like.

That was nine years ago. We have been a couple since and married for nearly six years. I always say that was the best column I ever wrote, and it is true. Here are a few of the reasons I am blessed to have been picked by this smart, funny and fascinating woman.

• My BMC is quick to point out when I am being a doofus, which might qualify as a full-time job, though the pay would be inadequate. But if anyone else gets on my case, she transforms into the Mama Tigress. I always know she has my back.

• This tiny woman has a huge heart for critters of all types, from the little birds feeding from the bird-bell suspended from her second-story study window — which I risk my aged neck replenishing every few weeks. Our new kitties provide great joy, as do our scoundrel dogs. Eventually, there will be chickens, a couple goats or lambs, donkeys and who knows what else? I draw the line at emus.

• She has a great sense of humor and laughs like the late Molly Ivins, even though she is a wisp of a woman. She has battled through physical challenges that would lay most folks — including me — low. Teddy Roosevelt is her role model when it comes to fighting back. Our family has endured considerable tragedy as well in the years I have known her, and still she perseveres.

• My absent-minded professor loves her family, that mess of humanity on both sides, with all our warts, worries and woes. Abbie, first her daughter and now mine as well, is the light of her life. I am also mighty fond of that kid. My BMC remembers everyone’s birthday, and while she is Scottish-frugal (she wrings out and dries paper towels!), she is incredibly generous with others.

• Finally, I love her mind and her spirit, even when we disagree. She loves to learn new things, especially in her chosen field of education. I have watched her teach a number of times. It is clear she is passionate, demanding and beloved.

Simply put, I think she hung the moon. Happy Birthday, Julie, from your doofus husband. I love you to pieces.

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1 Comment

  • Eva


    Gary, i love your wife, too! I have the fondest memories of her as a professor and friend. Please do tell her how much I still think of her. I'm so profoundly happy to hear that you are well and happy! Eva

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