I walked upstairs to the sounds of my children in agony.  They were sitting on the floor, being drilled in their multiplication tables by their mother, my wife, Jan.  Well, they weren’t really in agony.  They were laughing, and our big, old, confused Labrador retriever was standing in the middle of the group, apparently interested in finally learning his ‘sevens.’  She asked, ‘Do you think I’m crazy to do this?’  ‘No, I think it’s great.’  I answered.  I ran upstairs before she asked me to recite mine.  College and medical school are great, but dang that basic math!  I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

I really do think what she’s doing is great.  But then, I think she’s great.  That’s why I’m looking forward to her birthday.  See, my wife was born on February 29th; Leap Year.  She will turn a staggering 11-years-old this Friday.  And here’s how amazing she is:  by age eleven she has earned an undergraduate degree and master’s degree, been married, established a home and had four children.  Just imagine what she can do in the future?  Although, I have to admit I’m a little nervous about those years of teenage rebellion.  Me, an aging physician, her turning 13, 14, 15, then 16 and wanting to drive!  It will probably be a crazy time all around.  I’ll need vitamins and pectoral implants.

If ever destiny had a hand in a marriage, it was ours.  There aren’t many people named Leap.  It’s probably just as well; we’re all a little eccentric, and most genealogy lists fail to mention our name at all.  Apparently, when we left Europe there was rejoicing, and our name was stricken from the records.  ‘Ja, they’re America’s problem now!’

Furthermore, there weren’t that many women, born on Leap Year, who attended that Marshall University Halloween party where we met.  The cards were stacked in my favor; maybe against her, depending on how you see it.

As wives go, I’m the most blessed man on earth.  She is wise, comforting, affectionate and supportive.  She has strong opinions that she doesn’t hesitate to share.  My wife is lovely, and has been easy on the eyes for the many years of our marriage so far.

She’s also the best editor around.  If my column makes her laugh or cry, I know I’m onto something.  If she looks up at me with a blank stare, I know it’s ‘back to the drawing board.’  And she puts me back on the right path when I’m about to make bad decisions involving things like spending money, or letting the children play with pointy sticks.

For the icing on the cake, I simply watch her with the kids. She’s an incredible mother, whose children adore and respect her.  She cares for them, home-schools them, provides for them and never tires of their constant presence and questions.

See, the bottom line is this:  around here, February 29th is a special celebration of the person whose life is a constant blessing to all of us who know her.

The truth is that every mother and wife needs to be celebrated that way.  Men should devote themselves to caring for the woman with whom they shared vows.  It doesn’t matter when the birthday comes, or whether they’re 11 or 99.

There’s a key to happiness in marriage, and I’ll share it with gentlemen young and old; married and those who one day will be.  Put the lady first.  Love her entirely, and with absolute devotion.  Respect her.  Never talk down about her to others.  Know things about her, from favorite songs, to favorite colors to what makes her laugh and cry.  If you screw up, admit it, apologize and try not to do it again.  Never lie, and never, ever delude yourself that she’s ‘lucky to have you.’  The more likely truth is that you’re the lucky one.  (Look at yourself in the mirror after a shower and realize what she has to deal with!)

The world is a hard place for married couples and families.  Many forces conspire to cause us harm.  But ultimately, the only answer is love and devotion.  The only way for us to survive intact, and happy, is to celebrate the ones God gave us.

On Friday, February 29th, the kids and I will be doing just that; beaming with pride at our 11-year-old wife and mother.

They grow up so fast, don’t they?

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