For well more than three decades I have been in love with a woman of Irish descent who goes by the name Maureen O’Malley. She is Irish through and through; her mother’s maiden name was McLaughlin. Not long before Maureen and I started dated I had sworn off Irish women. A long series of relationships with women whose family came from the Emerald Isle had each ended in failure. To this day I have no idea why all of them were Irish; it is as if fate were trying to tell me something.
I met Maureen at work. In fact, I hired her to work with disadvantaged kids in a modest human services agency. From the beginning I liked her quick smile, her sincerity, and her gentle approach, whether it was with clients or her boss. She proved to be immensely talented with those she worked with. There are few naturals in the human service field, but she was one. Over the next year I watched her from a distance. She was exceptionally graceful with people. She had a devilish side too, which I found attractive.
What I didn’t know was that the whole time she had her eye on me. I never noticed. Perhaps I still had my guard up from a series of failed relationships, mostly to Irish women. It was a tumultuous period in my life. I was living in a tipi, going to a regular job every day, and working 50 hours a week.
At the end of each day I would return home to my “wild” life style and two dogs at night. On weekends I cleared land, cut wood, and prepared to build a homestead. At some point I decided to dig a well by hand which included a 300 foot four foot deep trench to carry the water line.
Digging the well was a bit of a task. With a pickaxe and shovel I worked alone for the better part of five weekends. I dug a hole in the ground over a spring, put in a thirty-six inch round well tile which kept the sides from collapsing, and dug out earth from beneath the tile. The tile slipped down with each round of digging and I added tiles to the top as I dug deeper to line the hole and keep it from caving in. All the while I pumped water out of the well with an old gas powered pump. It was a tough job. The one advantage was that it was a hot summer and the job was in the shade, as in almost underground, and the cool spring water that kept my boots filled with water was a whopping 42 degrees. The dogs would sit at the top of the well, hang their heads over the edge of the well tile, and bark just to make sure I was still there in the dark cavern of a hole.
I had second thoughts about the three hundred foot well line. After two days of digging I was just about to give up. A friend showed up and suggested a throw a well digging party; invite all my friends, supply beer and food, and try to get a large part of it done in one day. I let all my friends know, including those people I worked with, and Maureen was amongst those invited.
Maureen rode her bicycle all the way from the Connecticut River Valley; about twenty miles straight up hill. She was a little late on her arrival but she pitched right in. I have a distinct memory of her standing in the freshly dug ditch. Her thick auburn hair blew in the wind. The sun showed her freckles. She smiled and chatted while she work. She was strikingly beautiful. I was as busy as ever coordinating the different crews, making sure the sections of line would meet, and digging like a badger gone mad in my spare moments. Yes, we finished the entire well line that day. Celebrated around my tipi at night. And Maureen disappeared before I even had a chance to thank her.
About three weeks later another work friend, Linda, told me that Maureen was a little disappointed that I hadn’t paid much attention to her at the well digging party. I was immensely surprised that she even wanted my attention and very embarrassed that I had neglected the one person who put in the most effort to get there. But Linda told me something else. She told me that Maureen wanted to go out with me. I remember looking at Linda. I must have had a blank face. She put her hand to her ear like she was holding a telephone and said “You might want to ask her out soon!”
The next day I asked her out in person. Asking her our on the telephone seemed too indirect. Of course, she said yes We had a date that lasted three days, and we have been together ever since. What I learned was that I was supposed to be with an Irish woman. I just had to find the right one.
Although Maureen would not live in the tipi we built a small cabin together and moved into that. We cut trees on our land, had the trees milled up into lumber, and built our house from the fruits of our labor. Maureen was no carpenter (and truth be known neither was I) but she worked along side of me every single step of the way for two years. On a few occasions I became discouraged and she was the one to grab a hammer or start moving lumber. It was her strength that kept our plans moving forward. And even though I may had been the primary builder, in many ways it was me that was following her.
At the time I didn’t really tie the never ending energy of my wife to any particular motivation. Years later Maureen let me in on a secret. Maureen wanted to have children. She didn’t want them to be born in a cabin. We had our first child, Brendan, only two months after we moved into our liveable, but hardly finished, house. We did have indoor plumbing, complete with a toilet and bath, and that seemed like heaven.
Our anniversary is coming up in a few weeks. We will be celebrating thirty three years of a wonderful life together. I love Maureen O’Malley. I love the way she guides me without me knowing it. I love how she lets me be me. I love how she is always my biggest supporter. I love that she is a terrific Mom. And I love that she gave us two wonderful children, now grown men. I love that she gives me strength. Maureen keeps me going. I’m hoping she has a few tricks up her sleeve to keep my upright and moving forward for the next thirty three years.
I’m going to need them.
This is the first of a series of “I Love…” stories that I will post. I’m hoping to write about five or six altogether about a month or so apart.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in May of 2012.