For those who haven’t been with us from the beginning, a little background might be helpful before tomorrow’s festivities. Brian and I met in high school, in a medium-sized suburb of Austin called Georgetown. We shared one class for six weeks my freshman year, and my sophomore year my then-boyfriend introduced me to Brian at a history club meeting, but it wasn’t until semester exams that year that we started dating. Usually, Brian and I were in separate lunch periods, but for semester exams we were all together, and Brian and I spent every lunch period that week sitting on the picnic table over at Soco, talking and talking and talking. Finally, Rachel Shoemacher came up and asked, “So are you guys going out or what?” We looked at each other, shrugged, and said yes.
And so it began.
The next year, I went to college and his family moved to Wichita Falls. Every couple of months, one of my friends would drive me up from Denton to fetch Brian down for the weekend. Other than that, we talked on the phone constantly. The following year, Brian enrolled in the same college I attended, and although I was still living in McConnell Hall with all the other TAMSters, I practically moved in to Brian’s apartment. When I finished with TAMS, we did move in together briefly until he left for job training in Little Rock. We got engaged when I was 17 and planned all along to get married as soon as I turned 18. Rocky family relations caused us to change those plans at the last minute, even changing cities, and so we had a small wedding in Little Rock 20 years ago. I think there were only 10 or 15 people there, and my dad didn’t even come!
Even though we married young, we didn’t try to rush into having a family young. We planned from the start to wait at least five years, to settle down a bit before having kids. My grandmother would always tease me, though. She married even younger than I did and had my mother right away, and every time I saw her in those first five years she would ask me, “So when are you going to give me some great-grandbabies?” No rush, Grandma. We lived in DC for a bit while Brian worked for the IRS, and then we moved back to Austin when he faced getting laid off, back to our hometown area.
That five-year mark rolled around (although we jumped the gun a bit, knowing it would take a while), and we ended up going straight from a pair to a full house when the triplets were born! Brian was working for IBM at the time, and ours were the second pair of micropreemie triplets born at Seton in 1999 with a father working for IBM using Humana health insurance. Oddly enough, Humana dropped IBM as a client at the end of that year. I can’t imagine why. By the way, did you know that 90% of parents of triplets end up getting divorced? Talk about long odds!
In 2002, right after we got pregnant with Liam, the dot-com crash hit. Austin, known as the Silicone Hills, was full of tech companies, and all of them hit the floor. IBM, Dell, AMD, Texas Instruments, all of them were located right in Austin, and all of them laid of thousands of employees (each!) by the time summer rolled around. When the first news of impending layoffs came out, we thought, “Surely they won’t lay off the blind guy with the triplets and the pregnant wife!” But they did, landing us in one of the toughest times of our marriage. Brian can’t just go pick up work anywhere, working at the corner store or waiting tables or anything like that, and a pregnant woman has a hard time getting hired anywhere as well. We skated along on unemployment, WIC, eventually even food stamps. We got a round of donations shortly before Liam was born when our story got on the radio one morning. By the end of the year, though, Brian had been out of work for over six months, we hadn’t made our mortgage payments in almost that long, and we were facing foreclosure.
Suddenly, Brian got a possible job offer from a company in Michigan. It seemed impossibly far away, but we were approaching desperate. The company flew him up for an interview the first week of January, 2003. Lansing always has a thaw right around New Year’s, so the temperatures were in the 40’s and 50’s. Brian came back to me with the job offer and said it wasn’t that bad up there, so we took the offer. The company paid to move us, and we arrived in Michigan the last week of January…right in the middle of what is now the second-coldest winter in the last 15 years. I felt a bit snookered!
Despite the winter weather and my chronic frozen toes, we settled in to Michigan and made so many friends. We started homeschooling for real as the triplets hit kindergarten age. We had two more kids, one born in the very house we still live in today. We found out about Brian’s blindness being misdiagnosed and genetic and four of our kids having the same condition. Brian learned how to brew beer. I worked at all sorts of things, and finally found a religious community. Both of us have more friends now than we ever have in our lives before.
We’ve grown an amazing life here together. We look forward to celebrating it with everybody who comes tomorrow.