It feels like yesterday.
It was a Sunday in August when we met, Steve Schram’s birthday. Laurie was already in his life and I was happy to sub for him at WVIC so that they could celebrate.
I was a Spartan, working my way through Michigan State University as the utility guy at the station. That meant I helped John Hanley on engineering projects, did a lot of commercial production and filled in for whomever had the day off, while holding down evening shifts on the weekends.
She was still in high school, although you wouldn’t have known it by the way she was dressed. Her sense of fashion and her maturity fooled me when she came to the back entrance of our Mount Hope Road studios with a public service announcement.
I was instantly smitten.
Because of our five year age difference, we courted the old fashioned way, under her parents supervision. I was nervous about the chronological gulf between us, but the Aldrichs were many, there were other kids my age, Colleen’s dad was a self-made inspiration and her mother was a great cook. That last fact wore me down and I soon found myself eating often at 9335 Warner Road.
We were married on September 23, 1978 at People’s Church in East Lansing. The guest list for the reception was something like 150, but the word got out and over 300 showed up. Every disk jockey in town took turns at the microphone and the Haslett High football team served as bouncers.
Thus began a partnership that’s now in it’s fourth decade.
I got an email the other day from a recently married woman asking what to expect from the institution. These things happen when your hair starts to turn gray and you’ve put a significant number of years on the relationship board. I pondered her question and came up with an incomplete definition of a productive marriage.
- Its a union of two people who love and respect each other and continually build one anothers self esteem.
- Its a partnership of individuals who have something in common, besides a baby.
- Its a team where there may be some strife and disagreement, but the majority of the time is joyful.
- Its an environment where you live your own lives but can’t wait to be together.
- Its two unique and valuable human beings who still work toward their own life goals and continue to retain their individuality.
- Its a relationship where you keep doing the things that attracted you to one another in the first place, because you want to.
- Its a situation where you nearly always feel like you are happier than you were when you were single.
I’m sure I’ve missed some important points, but if you focus on those seven, it’s a pretty good start.
Relationships are hard work. The people in them inevitably grow and change. You’re continually re-negotiating the rules of engagement, so candid communication helps, too.
But it’s worth the effort if you’ve got the right partner.
I can’t begin to describe the depth of my love and respect for Colleen. Her singularity of focus on raising our family produced two wonderful children who be came even more wonderful adults. She’s the best friend a person could have, always the first to call and check in, ever ready to provide moral support, even if the person on the other end might have disappeared from her radar screen for a decade.
Every boss who has met Colleen has told me that she’s my best career asset. She exemplifies the down-to-earth, gregarious first-lady that customers and team members instantly love. “The company can do without you,” my boss Ron Hartman once said, “but I’d never fire Colleen.”
Knowing she and I will be together at the end of the day helps push me through the bad ones, and helps me conclude the good ones on-time. She encourages me to dream big, puts me back on my feet when I fall, and reassures me that we can handle any challenge, as long as we’re together.
All my team members know that Wednesday has been our date night since the day we were married a time to continue to practice those things that helped us fall in love in the first place. We send each other morning, noon and night cards on special occasions. And we look forward to the two most important moments of each day: the smiles we exchange when we wake and the “I love yous” we say right before we drop of to sleep.
I love how she continues to grow and wants to learn from life’s twists and turns. She’s worked in a deli, a shoe store, a boutique, at credit unions, and in a hospital emergency room. When the kids went to college, she focused on her fitness goals. Its a passion that lead her to become a personal trainer who has helped countless others know the joys of health and self esteem.
Through it all, she has been my confidant, my soul mate, my best friend, my accountability buddy. She’s followed me across the country to a dozen different assignments and set up shop with courage and enthusiasm at every stop. Her sense of humor still cracks me up, her temper can still strike down a grizzly bear, and her faith that the next day can be better than the last is unshakable, even when terrifying events stare her straight in the face.
Life is more fun when you have a partner to share it with. My adult life has been infinitely richer with Colleen by my side. Imperfect for sure. Humanity itself is imperfect. But I’ll gladly compare my “smiles-per-hour” ratio with anybody, and it’s all because of Colleen.
I think often about how lucky I was that August day when she first walked into my life.
And ever since… She has been the wind beneath my wings.