Today is my wonderful (and dashing) husband’s 60th birthday. He doesn’t have a Facebook page. He’s not one for a lot of fanfare and he’s a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight. He doesn’t expect a celebration (we’re giving him one anyway, of course). Despite all of that, in honor of this special life milestone, a birthday tribute to him seems fitting (and fun).
Thirty-two years ago, we were married. This makes us officially married for more than half of his entire six decades of adult life (and, *cough, cough* over half of my six decades, too, as I’m even older). For all of those years together – and for so much more – I am incredibly thankful. There has not been a day, since the day we first met, that I have not believed in him, been cheered on by him and been incredibly attracted to him. For those who do not know our story of friendship and love, suffice it to say that God stepped into my life, at the right time and in all the right ways, to make sure we found one another. For sure, Gary was an answer to my prayers. He and God somehow carefully choreographed the entire romance and secured our happily-ever-after.
Mr. Beck would be the first one to tell you that he is neither as smart as a rocket scientist nor as cool as a rock star. But, on the plus side, his shoes are always shined, his hair is always perfect, he always has a smile and a kind word for neighbors and strangers alike and he always makes quality time for me, Jordan and Parker, in the middle of whenever – even if “whenever” is in the dark hours of a tearful night or any other time of day when comfort, friendship, advice or help is needed. In short, he’s a really, really good and decent man. He’s fun, caring and exceedingly hard-working. I never wanted the rocket scientist or the rock star anyway, so I’m the lucky recipient of the better, grander prizes in our partnership. (Did I mention that he has also cut my hair for twenty-eight of our thirty-two years? Yep… that, too. Granted, I’m a really good tipper, so it works out well for both of us.)
Gary is as generous with his money as he is with his time. There has not been even one situation, when I have suggested a gift or help for a friend or family member in need, that he has pushed back, in the slightest. Helping other people, buying an airline ticket or a trunkful of groceries for someone down on their luck, has never required a second thought or a second ask. Gary is all about paying it forward, picking up the dinner tab, purchasing new tires to make someone’s car roadworthy, or encouraging me to do likewise. For years, he’s been my partner in supporting autism and literacy advocacy in all kinds of ways. The best part? You’d never know or learn about his generosity from him. Gary’s got a big heart… but a humble countenance to go with it.
Now, no one hits the “60” milestone without gathering some lessons and wisdom on the way. Largely, Gary figured out most of life’s challenges on his own, whether it was college tuition, competitive sports, social graces, fatherhood or the secrets to a happy marriage. He’s had a few good mentors during the journey and several others who taught him who he didn’t want to be. I would like to claim that we have figured out our adult lives as a team but, to say so, I would be doing Gary a disservice; the hill I have had to climb has often been a bit less steep and encumbered than his. Gary has had some boulders in his backpack, under whose weight, many people would have been defeated – right at the starting line. Despite those setbacks, he has never positioned himself as a victim. Instead, Gary is an inspiring victor over some potentially life-altering obstacles – always turning his setbacks into set-ups. Our two children would attest to how he has gently encouraged Jordan and Parker to also never give up on hope, focus, principles, truth, and dreams. I do wish that Gary would have known my father, another fine person of character, because the two of them would have really loved one another. (*added bonus feature inserted in this paragraph: Gary gets extra wisdom points for arriving at 60-years-old as a conservative thinker, who will be voting for Trump again in 2020 :) )
Gary has always been too simple and basic to be… preachy, pompous, pretentious or pontifical (although he tends to like my use of alliteration, so I just sprinkled some in right there, in case you didn’t notice). He’s not imperious or grandiloquent (and will most likely look at me perplexed for even using those last two adjectives). On the contrary (and more seriously), if I had to pick one characteristic about him that I love the most, it is his authenticity. What you see on the surface is what you get, all of the time, every time. Some people don’t care for that… because some people can’t really handle that… but it’s an awesome way to live one’s life. Within days of first knowing Gary, I knew I could be precisely who I was when I was with him – and could say exactly what I thought, without fear of rejection or judgement. As we both have grown together over the decades, we greatly value that part of our marriage and have also become similarly focussed on the authenticity of our friends and acquaintances. We don’t make too much space in our day-to-days for game players and toxic relationships, nor do we even pretend to tolerate it anymore. As we nudge our way into our more senior years, we value simple kindnesses and people who play life straight and real… not because it’s safer, but because it keeps our life meaningful, healthy and whole. It’s taken us six decades to learn that it hurts too much, in the long run, to settle for less.
Of course, authenticity isn’t solely about how true one is, to oneself and others, but also how closely aligned one is to the principles one espouses. In the 35 years since I have known him, I have never seen Gary lie, cheat, steal, renege on a contract or go back on his word. I’ve never seen Gary act differently in the company of highly sophisticated people than he acts in a room full of average Joes. His has a sticky and sometimes-penetrating kind of genuineness that can make certain people uncomfortable – politically, morally and personally – as it may pull back the curtain on duplicity. Gary possesses the kind of authenticity that, by comparison, unintentionally brings into view the dissimulation and charades of lesser men and women. In today’s tiresome environment of fake news, bogus crises, artificial beauty, pseudo intellectuals and Facebook phonies, waking up to a “real deal” every morning is the most refreshing and liberating feeling in the world. I’ll take that at sixty-years-old, or any age at all (and he’s still pretty cute, too, which never hurts – let’s face it…).
We are celebrating Gary and Gary’s 60 years in some big and small ways with, appropriately, some big and small gifts. The kiddos have planned this year’s celebration for quite some time. “Sixty” might go down as the most drawn out, most creatively organized birthday on record in our household! But the gifts, big or small, or anywhere in between, aren’t what we most want to remember about this special day. Gary’s birthday will, most of all, be a day for celebrating love, not just years. Our love for each other has transcended decades of “for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health”. God’s love for us, individually and as a couple, continues to far surpass our comprehension or imagination. The love of our beautiful children is what sustains us and helps to lift us up each day, and the love of our many good friends is what gives us hope about the decency of humanity, into the future. Though cheesy and cliché, LOVE really is what makes life go ’round– at sixty or at any age. Beyond all of the balloons, birthday hats, bags, bows and beautifully wrapped sleeves of golf balls (Gary loses more of them, now that there are alligators in and around Florida’s water) – we will be striving to embrace Mr. Beck with all of the love he deserves today. HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY GARRRRR!!!!!! We are so grateful for YOU – yesterday, today and all of the tomorrows yet to be!!!!!!!