Monday, August 27, 2012

To Have, To Hold, To Hear

I met my husband in October 1999.  I was a freshman at Syracuse University, and Jeff was the cousin of my roommate, Kathryn.  Jeff plus three of his hometown friends came to visit for the weekend, and as the four boys entered my dorm room, I quickly assessed that I needed to get the hell away from them… and FAST.  They were NUTS.   Fifteen minutes into their arrival, I knew these boys had some serious partying experience, and terrified for my personal safety, I made plans with a girl down the hall to hang with her for the weekend.

It was Halloween, and on Saturday, my friend and I ventured to the upperclassmen apartments and competed with all the “sexy” cats, nurses, devils, and playboy bunnies to be first in line for the keg.  I had teased my then-curly hair as big as possible, wore an obnoxious amount of make-up, and called myself an 80’s girl.  And that 80’s girl… well, she got pretty drunk.

I don’t remember much from that night, but I vaguely recall arriving back to my dorm, screaming down the hallway and pounding on each and every door because I couldn’t remember what room was mine.  Eventually, Kathryn came out of our dorm, and led me back to our room. 

“You need to go to sleep,” I remember her saying.  “My cousin Jeff is already in your bed, but just get in with him… he won’t care.”  I didn’t even hesitate.  Into my bed with the cute stranger I went. 

The next morning, and I DO remember this… Jeff and I awoke at the same time.  We’re in a college-size twin bed together.  He didn’t have a shirt on, and I was still wearing my hideous makeup from the previous evening. 

“Um, hi.” I remember saying, trying to remember how this boy and I ended up in my bed together.  We were both utterly confused, searching our hungover brains for reason as to why the situation was happening.

And that was the beginning of Jeff and Pam’s romance.

Ten years ago: Two fools with no clue what life had in store for them.
 Fast forward to three years later, and Jeff and his friends no longer intimidated me; in fact, through visits to Kathryn’s hometown of Fort Edward, and their visits to Syracuse, we had become good friends, and I often joked about my plans to move to their little upstate NY town following my college graduation.  I had also proved I could party with the best of them.  Of course, there were displeasing side effects from this, the major one being that since high school, I had gained about 20 pounds from drinking 12-packs of Coor’s Light on a nightly basis.   When Jeff and I started to really like each other in a serious way (as opposed to the  “I’ll be your friend after 2 AM way”),  I was a senior.   I was also bloated, often intoxicated, and lacking confidence and certainty about my future.  And I was hearing impaired, but besides Kathryn who lived with me and really understood my day to day struggles, I talked to NO ONE about it.  Sadly, I preferred to be known as the “drunk girl” if it meant taking the focus off my disability.

In May 2003, I graduated from Syracuse with a degree in psychology.  I had already secured a job in Albany, and Kathryn and I had plans to move in with her family until we had saved enough money to move away together and continue our fun lives as twenty-somethings.  Jeff had graduated from Siena College with a degree in computer science, and he would also be returning to his hometown while looking for a job.  And how’s this for drama-rama?  I found out I was… wait for it… PREGNANT.

THAT certainly was not in my plans.  Sure, Jeff and I were together, but we were very newly together.  At this point, I had met his parents twice, I think, and he had met mine once.  It was VERY soon.   Still, even after seeing the positive sign on the first pee stick… and the second…and the third… I didn’t panic.  Despite my lack of preparation, I trusted that being a mother was exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and I never doubted that Jeff was the best person to parent alongside of me.  Still, we didn’t know each other all that well, and I hoped he admired me as much as I admired him.  I prayed he had faith in me as the person who would mother his child.

Interestingly enough, Jeff’s reaction to the news was much like mine—very calm.  He further encouraged me that we could DO this and do it well together.  Remember that joke about moving to Fort Edward post-graduation?  Well, it proved to be not so funny after all, and Jeff and I settled in his small hometown, ready to raise our young family, and to ultimately, grow up together.

Obviously, my plans with Kathryn could not continue, and she wisely opted to live with other friends from college and pursue career opportunities in New Jersey.  As I hugged her goodbye, I knew it was the end of an era.  I was heading into my second trimester, and my very grown up life was only months away.

It was around this time I approached Jeff about an impending concern.  He was reading in bed when I asked if I could talk to him.

“Well, I don’t know if you know, because we haven’t really talked about it… but well, I’m hearing impaired.  And I don’t know if it will affect the baby or not, but I guess there’s a chance our child could be hearing impaired too,” I said, trying my very hardest to keep from breaking down in guilty sobs.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I must have been worried this would be a “dealbreaker” for Jeff, or that he would think less of me.  Looking back, it seems pretty strange that he and I didn’t talk AT ALL about my hearing prior to this moment, but it’s also indicative of how self-conscious I truly was about living with a hearing loss.  Even with the father of my child, the man I loved, I was so scared to talk about it.

Jeff looked at me, his big, brown eyes revealing no worry whatsoever, and in response to my big confession, he replied, “Oh yeah.  I know.  I think it would be kind of cool to be hearing impaired… then you wouldn’t have to talk to everybody all the time.” 

Huh—certainly a different reaction than what I was expecting, and knowing Jeff as I do now, this reply was SO HIM. (And today, this story makes me laugh.)  In our years together, he has proven time and again that he doesn’t waste time worrying (which is very handy considering I rant, rave, and cry about every unknown consequence). From the beginning, regardless of how much I could or couldn’t hear, Jeff has accepted and loved me as I was.

Our baby boy, Colin
In January 2004, our son Colin was born—a beautiful baby who much to my relief, passed his infant hearing test with flying colors.  Jeff, Colin and I settled into a very different life than we had ever pictured for ourselves—an existence fueled with a greater purpose, and day by day, our parenting confidence grew as did our love and respect for one another. 

I can remember going home to New Jersey during the winter of my senior year and confiding to my mother I believed Jeff was the man I would one day marry.  Did I predict having a baby and buying our home BEFORE our wedding?  Certainly not—our adult milestones presented themselves out of order.   Still, Jeff and I have always been “in order,” and even amidst challenges, we remain steady and calm, providing strength to one another during difficult times.

Today, Jeff and I have been married for seven years.  It’s been eventful complete with the good times and bad, and sickness and health we vowed to experience together. And at times, it’s been frustrating with my disability, but if it wasn’t for Jeff and his consistent love and support, I don’t know if I would have so readily took control of my declining hearing.  Jeff was also the person who assured me it was okay to share my story via the blog, an experience that has brought me more self-assurance than I could ever imagine.

To Jeff: my calm, wise, and beautiful husband, with your crazy-ass past, and your big, bright future.  You are my everything.  Seven years after our wedding, I know more than ever you are mine to have, to hold, and to HEAR for a lifetime.  Happy anniversary.


  1. Your story made me cry... It's so nice! I wish you all the best, happiness and love....

  2. Thank you! I just re-read this the other day and it made me smile. One of my favorite posts. :)