Saturday, May 20, 2023

When every day was Thanksgiving

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Adapted from something I wrote in November 2015. 

Those who know me in the real world, as opposed to in newspapers or social media, know that I am an extremely private man. I typically do not talk about my personal life.

An example from long, long ago in my college years: one day, while in the campus newspaper office, a nice young woman innocently trying to make conversation asked me if I had any brothers or sisters.

My response: "Why do you want to know?"

That's me. Mr. Personality.

But today, I'm going to open up just a bit.

And to do that, I'll say a few words about that nice young woman I was so cold to on that day back in 1982.

Her name was Joan Heelan, and despite my best attempts to stay in my shell, I found I could not resist the sparkle of her eyes, the beauty of her smile and the warmth of her heart.
Joan Heelan in 1982.

I found myself liking her and then falling in love with her, although--me being me, idiot that I was--I fought it. But when I finally did admit it and mustered the courage to ask her on a date in 1983, I fell hard, fell fast and fell with absolute joy. Very early in our dating, I told her I loved her--so early in our relationship that I know it startled her and perhaps frightened her. (A lot of people would agree that I'm a bit frightening. Sorry about that, folks.)

Anyway, to my great fortune, Joan fell in love with me, over time. Why, I don't know. I just know how grateful I am that she did.

Things got better with each passing day, and then on a beautiful Labor Day weekend in 1984, we went to the town of Lake Geneva and stayed in this cool little motel cabin from the 1940s. (We are both fans of things that have a bit of history, a bit of character.)

I took Joan to a local supper club that had not changed much since its founding in the late 1940s, and which had the best food around.

Later, to cap off the evening, we took a brief stroll at the lakeshore; and next to a stately oak tree, I once again professed my love, this time adding a marriage proposal.

To my great fortune, she said yes.

We were married in 1985, in the church where she grew up--a beautiful old church. And in the years that followed, we built a life and were blessed with two spectacular daughters.
Joan on her birthday, September 2022.

Together, we built a love so broad, so deep and so solid, it got us through the bumps, bruises and rough patches common to any marriage. And today, our love is deeper and stronger than ever.

In many ways, she is what I only wish I were. She is a gentle soul with a warm and forgiving heart, yet strong and steady when she needs to be, including and perhaps especially in my hours of weakness and self-doubt.

Joan is a wonderful wife, mother, friend and so much more. And now we can add grandmother to that.

She is the blessing of a lifetime for me.

So before I sit down with her for our 33rd Thanksgiving dinner later today, I just want to say thank you, Joan, for everything. You are the love of my life, now and forever. I give thanks for you--on Thanksgiving and every day.

Post-script, 2023: Sorry about those last four paragraphs, folks. I’m still having difficulty changing the verbs to past tense. You see, earlier this year—the day before Valentine’s Day, to be specific--Joan was diagnosed with cancer. She died less than 90 days later.

Rest easy, dear. We’ll meet again. I’m certain.

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