He is a joker 99% of the time, making all kinds of weird faces but I think I have a handsome dude. I mean that’s what starts it, right? You like the way a person looks according to your taste and then you keep looking at them, taking them in – their gestures, their smile and then you get to know them and if you are lucky, really know them before you decide you want to spend your life with them. I think love has a lot to do with using your head as you follow your heart. It is a combination of so many things including luck and intuition with a little dash of abandon. In addition to the way he looks, what I fell crazy in love with was his mind. We have had, and continue to have, the most fascinating conversations and at times wonderfully solid, prove-our-point intense arguments, usually in bed on a Sunday morning, through the time we walk the dog to the last bite of breakfast. When Adam and Logan got old enough to grab a bowl of cereal and head to the TV and eventually morph into late sleeping teenagers, our Sunday morning conversations became more frequent.
We talk about the strangest things sometimes – random things that usually start with me blurting out questions about stuff that just flies into my mind. There have been conversations about the Hadron Collider, politics; audio; every genre of music, architecture; athletes; history; Einstein, Dalton and Darwin; why plaid was ever a concept, modern medicine; parenting and finances. We’ve talked about people, clothing and cars; art in all its forms; movies; growing up in Trinidad and why our avocados are also called zabocas and why they are so much bigger than the ones in California and Mexico. We’ve talked about growing up in Canada, the TV shows that were unique to where we grew up and the ones we watched along with the rest of the world. Of course we talk about our children, our parents and siblings and what we hope the future will bring. We talk about sports and food and the places we hope we are fortunate to see together and what the other should do, if the day we are to become a single unit, comes sooner than we would like it to. I would like to think every couple talks and have healthy arguments like we do – that every couple finds their spouse interesting after the first 5, 10, 15 years and beyond. Do we get fed up with the stuff of family life? Of course, we do. That’s to be expected because it can really wear you down but you can’t let it grind you down. If I had to pick two things to tell people getting married it would be these –
If you have a fight, and I mean a good old all out, drag down, spit-out-hurtful-crap kinda fight…stop and take a moment to remember why you fell in love in the first place. You should be able to find the answer and realize that it is greater and more powerful than what caused you to fight in the first place. (if it isn’t, then of course, you have a decision to make)
Never let tension drag on. Talk about how you feel no matter how long it takes even into the wee hours of the morning…talk it out and apologize if you are wrong. Umm … I have to throw in one more …must be the Trini in me …
Definitely have make up sex. Have lots of sex … you are married after all. Keep it spicy. Keep it fun. Keep it alive. Make your partner feel special because they are because they have chosen to put up with you and most likely one, two or more children! Marriage is hard work man … may as well have all kinds of fun.
But as usual, I digress. Back to Tom and his mind. As creative as he is, and as avid a reader, Tom enjoys everything numeric. He speaks the language of numbers fluently and loves that with numbers there is always a conclusion, a definitive answer and to him, that makes sense. Numbers don’t scare or confuse him and after a neurofeedback test we all did, it seems that numbers keep him quite calm and happy. This ability is what makes the difference in the way we run our business and when you sit with him, you see how his plans to save, grow and protect your income make sense. Sometimes, if you find numbers as fascinating as he does, the meeting becomes more of an interesting conversation between two similar people and next thing you know, you realize you are fond of the same music, games – the list can go on. However, if you really, really, really are not numerically inclined, but you know you need help and you are open minded and you find yourself meeting with him, you also have the opportunity to sit with me, the translator. I help intimidating jargon that tends to pop up seem more friendly and together Tom and I will make the numbers relatable and user friendly to you so you can leave our office with a sound personalized plan that makes sense. It’s a win/win situation …plus we have a giant jar of Skittles in the office.
This past June, Tom was asked to speak at our company’s Congress. It is a 2 day forum where business ideas and strategies are discussed and we come together as a region to share our thoughts and learn from each other. Tom’s topic was about getting your Financial business up and running. He titled it ” Breaking Ground – Tips and Strategies for your First Five Years of Business”. Adam was busy finishing up the last week of his Grade 10 year but Logan was able to join us as he was on a field trip in Toronto (close to where Congress was being held) to wind up his Grade 8 graduation year at Elementary School. I think it is important for children to understand what their parents do and and how their work impacts people’s lives. I think it is important for them to know just how it is parents manage to keep a roof above everyone’s heads, clothes on their backs and food on the table and I think it is an important part of their education and I want my children to also understand the importance of giving a family member support by their mere presence.
Tom and I knew by 2003, it was time for us to get out of Radio and Television. The industry is not what it used to be and with the internet being as powerful as it is, the industry will continue to have a hard time engaging the current younger generation and future generations. Salaries shrank, many jobs became redundant and the job (whatever was left of it) owned you and each month the hours you put in were not reflected in your pay slip. The lack of creativity and shift to reality television that literally airs everyone’s dirty laundry on international TV is another example of the drastic change in the business and we knew in order be a part of something we were proud of and in order to continue to provide for our children the way we want to, address Adam’s needs and to retire the way we hope to, we had to make the shift to a different career. With my banking background and his flare for numbers and interest in economics, Finance made sense and though we still dabble in creative writing and voice work as paid hobbies, we have never looked back.
One of the beautiful things about training for a career in Broadcasting, is the ability to speak in front of a crowd. We each are capable of doing that without boring people to tears (let’s face it, even if you love it, numbers is a pretty dry topic). To Broadcasting, we attribute our ability to make our presentations interactive and entertaining and our effective use humor – a skill we are developing in both Logan and yes, Adam as we have helped him come out of his shell and deliver speeches to his elementary class back in the day, about topics he loves. Tom’s workshop at Congress was divided into two sessions and each time the room was filled. Blessed with one of those unique, richly textured broadcasting voices that makes you want to listen to him, he was engaging right away and as such, no one was distracted by their phones or whispering to their colleague beside them. He spoke about his first year in the business and how important it is to develop a strong foundation in the early months of advising. He spoke about how to look beyond what you read in a person’s portfolio and looking for ways to help clients, save them money, what were the right questions to ask in a review and how to really listen to your client and how to find out about their changing needs and goals. He spoke about why he attributed the success of his first two years to the methods he used and segued into his difficult third year, which to be honest, was mostly because he had to put parenting ahead of work more than usual that year because our Adam not only had to deal with autism but puberty as well. He then moved on to the following years and what he did to right the business ship while helping me keep the family vessel and Adam on track and he said something I will never forget. He said,
” If anyone should have failed in this business, it should have been me. The odds were always against me because I don’t have the easiest of families because of Adam’s autism. We had very little respite in place for Adam at the time and we have always had to keep life as normal as possible for Logan with all that we have to do for his brother. When we decided to start on this new career path, to help me get started, we took the plunge and had Daniella leave her part time job to come work with me. There was no steady spousal salary the family could rely on and we had very little savings we could tap into. In our family, we tend to jump in and swim because sinking is not an option. There are no great excuses for not trying or not performing. As humans, there are many traps that we create for ourselves that we can fall into and use as excuses for failure if we allow ourselves to do so. I knew all I had to do was work, serve my clients in the best way that I could and just keep going. If I had a bad day, I gave myself some time to take a break and have that bad day but the next day I would re-group and get right back at it again because three people at home were relying on me. If you do right by your clients, if you do everything in their best interest, if you are honest and fair and if you have a good support system, you can be successful at this job and anything you put your mind to,”
The last part of his presentation was centred around financial planning for an overlooked group – families with children with special needs. He explained how to use the tools we have as advisors in the most effective ways for these families and how to use them so that families can be tax smart. He spoke about wills, probate, special needs assistance grants and by the way everyone was taking photos of his power point and writing notes, I realized they were learning something new…something that had been right under their noses the whole time but they just did not see it. He was showing managers and “big wigs” how to do it right and looking at this realization on Logan’s face, I could not be more proud. Tom was also teaching his son, how to teach other people. He was showing him how to share his knowledge and showing him how to deliver his ideas in a strong, dynamic and effective way … humph… it was quite the effective “take your kid to work day” session and Logan was honored and proud to be a part of it.
I am quite an internally emotional person. I am not a crier, in fact I come off sometimes as cold and sometimes a little unfeeling as I don’t always show outward emotion and when I speak, I can sometimes be quite blunt and honest but Tom is the only person who can make me tear up by the videos he creates. He ended the session with a couple videos one of which featured Adam to bring home his point. Now throughout the presentation, he had video clips from movies, he had images and clips of various people and situations, that allowed him to prove his point in a light visual way in between his statistics, tables and charts. The videos, which I had seen many times while he was preparing for the presentation came on the screen and they simply showed the value of the life of a person with special needs and why helping their families continue to give them the enriched lives they deserve was so important, and why in our business compassion has to be the first ingredient.
My tears were ones of pride and joy and out of much admiration for him in BOTH of his sessions because Tom does things for the right reasons ALWAYS. He was put on this earth to help people and even though in our situation, we need help ourselves, he always gives and gives and gives – of himself, his money and his time. What was even better was that Logan (who is so much like him) got to see this and got to see that nice guys do finish first … it may take some time but it DOES happen.
Tom got a standing ovation after both sessions. There were lines of advisors wanting to express their gratitude and shake his hand. There were advisors wanting to know more, asking for his business card, wanting a copy of the presentation etc., so Logan and I had to go to work dealing with that. As I think about each moment in those two presentations, my heart gets so full. I was never looking for a husband. I never pictured the white dress or walking down the aisle. I had dated a couple nice guys before Tom and a couple bozos and I had gotten to a self comfort where I was happy to just be. I was capable of taking care of myself and was interested to see how my life would play out. I would say sometimes I am not an easy person to figure out or be with. I have my ideas and opinions and I am proud of who I am and I don’t bend easily so I never thought I would find anyone who would be a great partner, soul mate or husband … but here he is and there he was in a damn fine black suit, “awesoming” all over the place delivering what he knew, quite eloquently in an entertaining and informative way with passion, humor and his great laugh. He was talking about work but he made it human and he made the clients human and he made his peers care and while doing all that, his math was impeccable and the numbers made sense and I could have had him right then and there he was so smart and so damn sexy!
Now, as I drift into the coolness of fall, sip my chai and reflect on the summer and its special moments, I smile at the thought of my math geek and the complete package that he is to me.
He tries to make us happy every day. If there is a problem, we can count on him to fix it and if we need a dose of fun, he will provide it.
He honors the vows we recited in front of twenty-two people nineteen years ago on one beach and the vows we renewed nine years ago, on another.
Tom’s 10 year vows to me
He can give me a potato chip and make me feel like a queen and the only way I know how to honor him is to put my thoughts into words especially for his sons to read. No one is perfect (my God, I am hopelessly flawed) but we can learn how to treat each other like we are the perfect beings we were created to be.
Every so often, we get an opportunity to take in the essence of someone we love, or someone we call friend. I like to think of those moments as golden moments because it is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and lose sight of what is special about a person. And this past summer, the last one in my forties, Logan and I were given one of those golden moments. It was wonderful to “see” Tom again and know how very important, and kind and good and loving he is. In marriage you get to see the struggles and the little annoyances often. They add up and piggy back on the responsibilities of adult life and they spill over in a big sloppy mess onto the relationship and if you are not careful, they cover up the golden moments, those precious lifelines that keep couples in contact with each other at a deeper and more significant level. Watching my widowed mother over the past 8 years, I am more aware of the importance and power of the golden moments because in a month, a day, an hour or a second a person can be out of your life forever and wouldn’t it be tragic if we never took the time to see them for who they were, to see what made you love them or to not take the time to tell them what they meant to you and that you just simply loved them no matter what. My mother and father appreciated and loved each other and as my sister and I got older and moved on, it was apparent that their love and friendship knitted them even closer together. On the 17th of this month (October) they would have been married 52 years and I know there is not a day she doesn’t wish he was here. I know one day Tom or I will find ourselves alone and like my mother, we will survive because like her there will be no regret about not doing what we should have done for each other or not saying the right things to each other.
Who knew this lone wolf would ever have gone down this path of partnership and love with someone who makes the hard times bearable and the good times, spectacular? Marriage is hard, grueling work. Two people from completely different families and backgrounds come together and are supposed to find a way to co-exist for years sometimes even bringing children into the mix. At first glance it is a scale that tilts heavily on the side of failure but we are more sophisticated animals than those in the wild (at least we are supposed to be) and we are responsible for communicating and compromising and being honest and fair and nurturing and most of all loving, so … we persist and some of us fail and maybe some of us try again and sometimes it takes some of us to hit the third or fourth time before it becomes a charm. I remember when I first took Adam to Trinidad, my uncle Kit looked at me, smiled and shook his head and said,
“My goodness, look who’s married with a child. What a thing!”
My family knows me well but I am glad I turned out to be somewhat of a surprise. Surprised myself too but I am ever so grateful things unfolded the way they did, for richer or poorer, sickness and health, till death do us part, Tom James, right?
I am yours; you are mine. It is as it should be.