“An Unforgettable Thirty-nine Years”

 

Thirty-ninth Anniversary 1

 

 

 

“Oh, Christine, you always make me feel so special.”

 

It was our waitress speaking, one of several we’ve come to know over the twenty plus years we’ve frequented a local restaurant. We were there for breakfast as we so often are, and Christine had returned her greeting, saying, “Well, good morning, Lupita, and how are you today?”

 

Who speaks to a waitress like that? Christine’s the only one I know who does, although I have very much followed her lead over the years. We say please with every request, even the routine ordering of the meal itself, and we thank them for everything they do for us. Needless to say, we’re big tippers, but the most welcome part is just Christine, the way she treats people. It’s why she’s been a Human Resources Manager for so many years.

 

Thirty-ninth Anniversary 2When we moved to San Diego in 1982, she went in search of a job as a secretary, all she was really trained to do at that time. At one place the Human Resources person interviewing her made note of her personality and said that she really ought to pursue a career in Human Resources. Well, that was one of our recession years, and unemployment was high. She didn’t get that particular position, but within the week she saw an opening for a department secretary for a HR department, applied for it, and got the job. In less than a year she had three salary increases, two promotions, and ended up with a private office and the equivalent title (banks have weird titles) of Assistant Manager.

 

She’s more than just a nice person, though. She is considerably more intelligent than she gives herself credit for, but the main thing, the best thing, is her unerring touch for human relations. She’s been in that business for over thirty years now, and except for that first year as a secretary, she has been in management. She left her first job after some six years and immediately started a new HR department for a subsidiary of another bank, this time as a first-time, full-on, department manager. While there she hired her own staff, set the interior department policies, wrote many of the procedures and pretty much knocked ‘em dead. She’s been at it ever since.

 

One of her best features comes out whenever there is a conflict between employees or between employees and management. The latter is the more common and the more difficult, I suppose, because it so often ends in another termination of employment. But regardless of what is said among the lower ranks, the goal of Human Resources in general and Christine in particular, is to resolve the situation in such a way that the employee stops the objectionable behavior and keeps the job. But how? She’s told me stories about entering a room with the employee sitting there, arms crossed in defiance, all but daring Christine to say anything at all in defense of management. And yet on a surprising number of occasions she has been able to turn thing around to such an extent that the employee ends up in tears, gives Christine a hug, and vows never again to repeat the bad behavior. And then keeps that promise!

 

Thirty-ninth Anniversary 3Who the hell can do such things? Christine can because she genuinely likes people, but more than that, she knows exactly what to say and how to listen. When you’re with her, you’re the only person in the world, it seems. She has such a wonderful air about her, a feeling of warmth and welcoming. Over the years she has made it a point to not just sit in her office. She goes thorough whatever building she happens to be in on a very regular basis. She talks to people, gets their names, learns how to pronounce the difficult ones, and remembers them! That most of all, remembers them. Hell, I barely remember my own at times, but she is one who can greet by name a person she’s seeing some six months after the only other contact—and then make reference to something that person may have said or done at the earlier meeting.

 

But I cannot talk about Christine without talking about her laugh, a laugh like champagne, really. Today, this day of days, marks our thirty-ninth wedding anniversary, and I’ve heard that laugh for all but two or three of those 14,235 days. We’ve had the same ups and downs as everyone else, had good times and bad, buried half my family, and four years ago, her mother, but through it all, we have laughed. She often says, “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane,” and she’s right, which is to say we two must be very sane indeed because we laugh constantly.

 

I have several times told the story of our first date on April 3, 1976. She’d invited me over to her apartment for a home-cooked Mexican dinner to thank me for having given her a writing lesson a few weeks earlier. We’d worked in the same department for two years, but had never been anything more than friends. But the moment I entered her little one-bedroom apartment it just felt right to her. Within half an hour she was asking if we could do such-and-such later in the summer. From my prospective, it was as if someone had flipped on a bright light. Four months and eleven days later we got married, and all these years later that light still blazes. She flat lights up a room, both with her laugh and her constant caring for others. I don’t think anyone who’s ever met her can forget her.

 

Well, I guess you know how I feel about her, but the best for me, is how she feels about me! We’re romantic enough to mark not only our anniversary and Valentine’s Day, but the memory of that long ago April 3rd. We rarely let it go by without making some sort of comment. This year, she sent me an email from her office that was titled, “You still make me feel special.”

 

And I guess that’s the way to end this, by stealing from one of our better singers, because I really do think it’s incredible that someone so unforgettable thinks that I am unforgettable too.*

 

Joseph

 

*If you don’t know Nat King Cole, you just don’t know!