This week is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, El Hajj Malik El Shabbaz. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was 21 and it changed my life. Changed it enough that I named my second born after him. Malcolm X was Godly and brilliant and brave. But the thing I’ve always been most inspired by in him was how much he changed and grew in his life. Why am I writing about this on Valentine’s Day? Because I wanted to write a Valentine for my husband.
He was born in the summer of ’69, a couple weeks after man walked on the moon and a couple weeks before Woodstock. He made his first film at age ten. He was an entrepeneur from the start doing everything from delivering papers, mowing lawns, to selling Grit magazine. He grew up and went away to a small town three hours away in Western Pennsylvania for college. My hometown. I was in elementary school then (I was born in 1979, the year of the collapse of the industrial economy in America. Not quite as cool). He went into computers and had a good job but he left behind the security of it to go to film school, to pursue his calling. He came home and made two independent films and got married and had a son. He found God and set about following Him. When God called him to open a cafe, he did. Crazy as people told him it was. And then he got this email from this girl who’d seen his picture on the interwebs and he decided to write her back. It turned out she’d been raped by a madman in med school and she had two kids who were dealing with mental health challenges of their own. On the day they got married she was $400,000 in debt and had failed to match into a residency and might never be able to make a decent living. He married her anyway. He’s not afraid to take risks. He follows God into the fray.
In the years since then, he has found himself facing the sacrifices of residency and the hell of PTSD. He has driven roughly 35,000 miles going back and forth between residency and our son back home. He has devoted himself to our hooligans. He has been a major factor in the amazing transformation of our son Malcolm. He has washed and scrubbed and shoveled and fixed and cooked and shopped and juiced. Wiped butts and cleaned up vomit and blood. Endured temper tantrums, meltdowns, wiped tears, kissed boo boos. He has listened to my frustrations and guarded the bedroom door from invading children when I needed to sleep.
More than that, he has gotten down in the mud, crawled on his belly, down in the trenches. He has done the real work of marriage, the emotional work. He has faced down his demons and mine. And that is the bravest, hardest, most loving thing there is. He has come with me as I travelled into the heart of my PTSD and faced my spiritual crisis. Been there through the anger and the bitterness and neediness and depression and the one-step-forward-two-steps-back-is-this-ever-going-to-end. He has come to be as outraged as I am about rape. Sometimes I think he’s moreso. When the petition we signed to stop the Bill Cosby performance at Heinz Hall worked, he was more excited than I was.
Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, said, “I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.” You can keep your long stemmed roses and diamonds. I have real love.
I love you, Poobah. I’m so proud to be your best friend. Forever.