Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Writer’s Wife

Robin 1980

I knew a writer I met online who was struggling to learn how to write a novel. He was a big fan of George RR Martin and trying to write in that style but did not know how well he was doing as he had no one he trusted to give him a fair review. He sent me chapters and I ripped them apart. This led to his remark, “I know I said I could handle criticism but…”

He went on to explain that he realized now that he clearly could not write and was ready to give up. In an attempt to prevent him from committing literary suicide, I pointed out a number of good things about his writing and tried to explain the principle that just because one person dislikes something another might not and that it is up to the writer to determine who to listen to. It was then I suggested he have his wife read and review his stuff, as wives can usually be counted on to be honest about their husbands limitations when perhaps no one else is.

He replied, “Who, that harpy from the third plane of Hell?”

This was when I realized I was even more fortunate than I thought. I recently gave an interview to Melissa over at My World Through Books and Pages and one of her questions was, “I've heard your wonderful wife has assisted you in this adventurous journey in a great way. How has this worked out for you, married and living together and working together? Sounds like it could be hard at times”

Having been asked this, I realized it was about time I wrote about Robin, the architect of my success. I'm going to start at the beginning, so bear with me.

For those of you who don’t know, Robin is my wife. We met in the late seventies when she was a waitress in a local Big Boy
where I would go for a late night snack with friends after I got off work. We were both in the same high school, but she was a year younger and ran in different circles than I. I did cartoons for the school newspaper and she was valedictorian of her class. I saw her off and on through mutual friends but never really took notice of her until, while in an argument about how pathetic I was, the girl I was dating, Wendy, made the foolish mistake of pointing out that her friend, Robin, was also interested in me.

As mentioned Robin was something of a brainac and not inclined to the sort of fashions that turned teenage boy’s heads. She did however run with a pack of girls that did, and it was not unusual for those dating her girl-friends to stop by Robin’s house to inquire about how well a date went. Often Robin also liked the boys who came by, but all they wanted to talk about was one of her friends and never noticed her.

So she knew exactly why it was I stopped by her house after midnight on a Friday, and seeing the door open and Robin doing her homework at the dining table, I knocked. She greeted me as she had so many others who were dating her friends, with a wonderful smile of surprise tinged with a hint of sadness that sighed a mute, “if only.”

The real reason I stopped in was that we had all been out the day before and Robin had lost her glasses. I found them in my car after my latest date with Wendy. Despite the hour, I felt glasses were things people would rather not be without. She was so inviting however, that I lingered and talked with her.

The perfect hostess, Robin offered me a foil wrapped Ding Dong and a glass of milk and we talked about this new author called Stephen King who she had been reading and how his latest book, The Dead Zone, was very thought provoking. We chatted for hours about books, religion, and philosophy, and I was stunned by her intelligence--at that time I was not yet aware of her valedictorian achievement, because it hadn't happened yet. Then I left. The one thing I hadn’t chose to talk about--the one thing that left her bewildered as I drove away--was that I never once brought up Wendy.

I stopped seeing Wendy and made a habit of visiting Robin. Soon we spent every night together at 24 hour restaurants like Denny’s just talking. Everyone we knew believed we were sleeping together. The reality was that we hadn’t even held hands. We were just great friends. This went on for many months until one day, a year after I had graduated from high school and Robin was about to, I was at work and the radio played She’s Out of My Life. This got me thinking what my days would be like when some guy finally did swoop in and whisk her off. The thought felt like someone hit me in the stomach with a baseball bat. And as I stood there I realized with a curious surprise that I was in love with her.

I walked out of work early that day because I was certain some other bastard was on his way that very minute to steal what I desperately realized I wanted to be mine. Despite everything I could not get her alone and what I had to say was not the kind of thing you wanted to do in a room full of friends and strangers. Still I couldn’t wait and I ended up writing “I love you,” on a torn piece of Denny’s place mat and slipping it to her as we said goodnight.

That’s how it started. That’s how I ended up asking a woman to marry me before I ever kissed her, before I ever dated her--in all honesty we never really dated. That was back in 1980,and from that day forward everything got a little better.

Consider this part one of the docu-drama, romance, flash installment, non-fiction account of the tale of Robin and Michael. If I can figure a way to get a vampire in it, this could be big.


  1. Forget the vampire! All you need is a rose and a sword.

    Congrats on 30+ years!

    My husband and I celebrate 25 on May Day.

  2. Michael, that is one of the most charming love stories I've ever read. And one of the nicest gifts any writer could ever bestow upon his wife.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  3. Woke up this morning and realized something about your blog post's title. Shouldn't it read 'the Valedictorian's Husband'? :)

    I was salutatorian but only missed it by one one-hundredth of a point (to a classmate who took physical education classes and the like most of her high school 'career' while I taught myself calculus because it wasn't offered in the curriculum but I needed it for college).

  4. Absolutely wonderful...and I am glad you beat the bastard that was most assuredly on his way! What ever would have become of you? Well done!

  5. terribly sweet of you - thanks hon. I guess "forgetting" those glasses was very ... fortunate ... yeah that's the word ... cuz I wouldn't have done that on purpose ... no not me.

  6. Valentine's Day was a month ago, Mr. Sullivan!

    Congratulations on 30 years! I hope that you two will be able to enjoy at least that many more together.

    ...and Robin, I was thinking the exact same thing. *wink*


  7. What a great post! It's sure nice to read stories like that without some "but then it all went south on me" ending. Hope it never does.As for Big Boy, it was THE hangout when I was in high school, and that was in the early 1960s. Memory may have made the food better, they pretty much all closed where I live, but it seems to me the burgers were great.

  8. This is great. Such a love story so true. Thank goodness for those glasses there Robin. :)

    Well, I'm glad I could get you thinking. And I have to say you are very fortunate to have Robin there to help you. I wanted to say something along those lines in the interview, but was trying to keep it short and not take up to much of your time to talk. Really a great relationship to have. :) Thank you again for the interview and the link here. :)

  9. When it's right, it's right. You are very lucky to have found the love of your life at such a young age!

    Trust me on that one. I went through a lot of "fishing" and one marriage before I caught the right one. Or she caught me. We still argue about that :).


  10. What a sweet story! :-) Thanks for sharing.