We celebrated Stephanie’s birthday last August in quaint, humble style. I bought her a cake, but instead of the usual “Happy Birthday” greeting, the top of the cake was decorated with “Wishing you enough.”
We’ll be married for 16 years this coming October, but we’ve been together for over seventeen years. We became acquaintances working on a legislative project [felon voting rights] back in 2004.
In November of 2003, Stephanie had called me to ask if I would be the speaker for the Annual December Luncheon of the Metro Des Moines League of Women Voters. I wasn’t in the office that day, and a note was left for me to call her back. My office has never been a neatly organized area of work. Below is a link to a photo of Einstein’s desk on the day after he died. He was much neater than me.
By the time I found the note and got back to Stephanie, she had already found someone else to speak – Brian Gentry, Governor Vilsack’s legal counsel. She thought it was cute that I returned the call (too late). I informed her: “well, I am going to attend because I would like to hear what Mr. Gentry has to say about this issue.”
I showed up with my colleague and “good trouble-in-arms-comrade” Rev. Carlos Jayne. Both of us joined the League of Women Voters that afternoon in the Tea Room at Younkers in downtown Des Moines. It was the first time I had seen Stephanie, and my impression was that she was some banker, lawyer, or doctor’s wife with nothing else to do in life. But she was pretty and intellectually charming. She thought I was gay. I worked for the ACLU, had an earring, long hair and wasn’t married. Fair enough. We were both a ‘little’ wrong. She was still pretty and intellectually charming, and I was unmarried with long hair and an earring.
It was a few months later, after we kept showing up at the same meetings that we began to know a little more about each other. The late Judie Hoffman, former lobbyist for the Iowa League of Women Voters, invited me to speak at the ILWV annual Issues Briefing on the subject of legislation that would allow ex-felons to vote. Stephanie and I talked for a while after the meeting on the same issue. She was passionate about this matter. I began to get passionate about her.
It wasn’t long after that Issues Briefing meeting that I took a chance and emailed her, asking her to dinner. Yes, brave, was I not? She responded by telling me that she could offer only a sporadic friendship. I accepted that offer. We became friends.
We had a few dates that Stephanie said were not really dates, they were outings, or something like that. I considered them to be, well, dates. We enjoyed road trips, visits to the Des Moines Art Center, and food. We are both foodies. Our favorite road trip was traveling to Elk Horn for the greatest buffet. Unfortunately, that restaurant closed.
After a few months, I shared the following email with her:
My sister sent this to me. I think it’s beautiful. Stephanie, “I wish you enough!”
At an airport I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her plane’s departure and standing near the door, he said to his daughter, “I love you; I wish you enough”. She said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.” They kissed good-bye and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?” “Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me. So, I knew what this man was experiencing. “Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?” I asked. “I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, her next trip back will be for my funeral,” he said. “When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?” He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more. “When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory. “I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Good-bye.” He then began to sob and walked away. My friends and loved ones, I wish you ENOUGH!!! They say, “It takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.” Send this phrase to the people you’ll never forget and also remember to send it to the person who sent it to you. It’s a short message to let them know that you’ll never forget them. If you don’t send it to anyone, it means you’re in a hurry and that you’ve forgotten your friends. Take the time to live! Take care.
It wasn’t long after we kept wishing each other enough that we began declaring our love for each other.
Although I love Stephanie to pieces, and tell her so every day, I will always wish her enough!