Sunday, May 1, 2011

Remembering Teresa...

… remarks delivered at her Memorial Service, 27 April 2011

“So, how did you meet Teresa?”

Teresa was my student…
Math 4110 – pre-calculus – University of Texas at El Paso, spring semester, 1980.
On the last day of class I invited the class to join me for pizza & beer at local pizza joint.
Teresa and her girlfriend were the only ones who showed up.
I asked her if she was available.
She said, “Yes”. (“… and, oh, by the way, I’ve got 2 kids…”)

On New Year’s Eve, 1980, I asked her to marry me.
She said, “Yes”. (… again)
She had the kindness to call me on New Year’s Day, 1981, to ask,
“Do you remember what you asked me last night?”

“Well, yes. Do you remember what you answered?”
We were married on August 22, 1981.

… and, oh yeah, … she got an “A” in the class.

Based on my one experience, I’m a big fan of marriage.
Teresa is the best thing that ever happened to me… my best friend, the love of my life.
The term ‘better half’ doesn’t come close to capturing her role in our marriage and her place in my life.

My theatrical biographies always include,
“Thanks to my charming wife, Teresa, for her continuing encouragement and support.”
Someone once challenged me: “Why charming?”
My reply was immediate:
“Well after all these years, I’m still enchanted.”

We had little in common.
She could – and did – spend endless hours on detailed cross-stitch.
Me? – no patience for detail.
(In retrospect – yes, big pictures are born of details… maybe I learned this from her.)

We both enjoyed reading… but, except for pulp detective fiction, our tastes did not coincide.
She liked sci-fi and fantasy. I’m a history buff.

Movies? Little in common…
… but we tolerated each other’s choices… most of the time.
… usually she had to call our son, Peter, to go the movies with her.

I got to complain about work to her… and to explain the detailed technical/statistical issues confronting me.
(I’m certain these detailed explanations simply fascinated her!)
Working on nuclear warhead reliability, she had little opportunity to discuss her work with me.
She did however once refer to the “IDT protocol” – the “Inadvertent Drop Test”.

… But, our marriage lasted 29.5 years… delightfully, lovingly.
I had hoped to celebrate our 30th anniversary together. Didn’t happen.

But that’s not what I want to talk about…

Though neither of us is particularly social, we nevertheless enjoyed hosting large social activities. For many years we hosted the annual Thanksgiving get-together for the extended family – almost all of whom are in town.
“Extended family” frequently included friends, and friends of friends.
One year we hosted more than 30 people…
… and Teresa insisted on seating everyone at one contiguous table.
Using every portable horizontal surface in the house, we managed it.

On the bright side, from that point forward, whenever she had reason to criticize me, I could remind her of ‘one contiguous table’.

But that’s not what I want to talk about…

What I want to talk about is one of our shared passions: travel.

… from family vacations when Peter & Faith were kids to business trips.
When the kids were kids, we trekked to Disney Land, Disney World, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Toronto, and Indiana Dunes State Park.

When traveling, we shared a ‘come what may’ attitude.
On a camping trip to Indiana Dunes State Park, a 1.5 mile nature walk somehow turned into a 10 mile hike…
… the last 7 miles of which was in torrential rain.
Somehow we survived.
Peter and Faith quickly resigned themselves to misery and took the experience in stride.
(I’m not sure that Teresa & I were quite so … accepting!)

When we finally reached our camp site, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to town – to the Laundromat to dry clothes, and to McDonald’s for hot food.

After Peter & Faith left home, most of our ‘vacations’ were business trips on which one of us just tagged along.
Wherever we went we tried the ‘Mexican’ food.
Chile rellenos in Anchorage are square.
The Mexican food in Cannes on the French Riviera is almost inedible.
Enchiladas in Dublin are… interesting.
Tel Aviv has surprisingly tasty Tex-Mex.

‘Twas on a trip to Nice that I first realized just how weird it was to be married to a female nuclear engineer.
Teresa was attending a nuclear energy conference, representing Sandia Nat’l Labs.
I went along for the ride.
[aside: Teresa’s passport and wallet were stolen on this trip. The only thing that disconcerted her was the fact that the American Consulate folks could tell her when she arrived in Europe and when in Nice, and the name of the hotel we were staying at. This was the only time I saw her weirded-out while on travel: “How did they know all that stuff???”]
… anyway… back to just how weird it was to be married to a female nuclear engineer: the conference had organized ‘spouse tours’, visiting local attractions & restaurants, shopping.
I was the only male on the spouse tours. (… I’m not complaining)

While in Nice we spent long hours just wandering around, exploring neighborhoods.
I don’t know how many McDonald’s Nice has, but we found 5 of ‘em on our little treks.
… Teresa suggested we write a travel book: “All roads lead to McDonald’s”.
(never happened)

We’ve eaten at McDonald’s in Anchorage, AL; Nice, France; Tel Aviv, Israel; Dublin, Ireland; Rothenburg, Germany… and Sioux City, Iowa.

We sometimes rented a car.
Our protocol was simple: I drive, Teresa navigates.
This gave us each the opportunity to blame the other when we got lost.
We always got lost.
… then again, we seldom had a pre-determined itinerary, so it wasn’t always clear when we were lost
– “Well, here we are!”

[Sadly the advent of GPS technology in rental cars pretty much made it impossible for me to blame Teresa.]

For my first sabbatical with Intel, I took the two of us on an archeological dig at Caesarea, Israel – where St. Peter converted the centurion Cornelius, and St. Paul was imprisoned by the Roman governor, Felix. You may recall the scenes in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where the laborers are hauling sand and dirt in wheel-barrows. That is the job of unskilled volunteers on an archeological dig.
The work day started at 5 a.m., and ended at 2 p.m. to avoid the blazing heat of summer in Israel.
We were right on the Mediterranean, but were usually too exhausted to enjoy it.

On the flight home, Teresa suggested that SHE get to plan the next sabbatical.
Sadly, when that arrived Teresa was undergoing a rigorous chemotherapy regimen, and we got no further than Bandelier Nat’l Monument.


The choir sang a beautiful setting of Psalm 100:
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving…
I commissioned this work about a year ago, in memory of Teresa. Today was the first time I heard it. It was beautiful. It expresses perfectly my feelings today…
… I will forever give thanks to the Lord for giving me Teresa, and our too-short time together…

… she’s my summer love in the spring, fall, and winter.

Teresa, I love you.