Chilean Chronicles, Part 67: Happy Birthday, Dunreith! (Just a little early)

Dunreith and Don Pablo near his home at Isla Negra.

Dunreith and Don Pablo near his home at Isla Negra.

Our time in Chile has been drenched in special experiences.

Many of them have come from the tremendous generosity we have experienced from our colleagues and friends.

But others have stemmed from celebrating deeply personal moments in a different country.

Our anniversary is in the latter category.

So was fasting on Yom Kippur.

Dunreith’s birthday tomorrow is a third.

We were together for the first time on her birthday in 1998.

We hadn’t been dating long, and drove from Boston to Westwood on a rainy Saturday night.

Susan Kaplan, a friend whom Dunreith met in kindergarden, and her husband Evan hosted an intrepid group of people who gathered to honor Dunreith.

We all sat around the kitchen table.

A lot of talk about children ensued.

Cathy McKenzie, a dear friend whom Dunreith met while teaching at Wilbraham Monson Academy, sat on a couch in the living room. She rubbed her pregnant stomach and commented on how people’s braving the weather showed how much they cared about Dunreith.

Anne Murphy, a former roommate from Springfield with blonde hair the color of straw, read a poem that mentioned Dunreith and her occasional man.

Fortunately for me, I was that man that night.

Even more fortunately, the occasion has lasted until today.

In the 15 years since that evening, Dunreith and I have been through many major life events together.

We’ve raised Aidan and cared for her parents as their strength faded.

We’ve moved from our shared home state of Massachusetts to the most American of cities, and swapped being the major breadwinner and the parent at home.

We’ve bought and sold a home, and woven a community composed of our blood family and our family of the heart.

Throughout this decade-and-a-half Dunreith has given me many gifts and taught me many lessons.

How to be a better husband, father and man.

How to back your partner with every fiber of your being.

How to build a life out of bedrock values and long-held dreams.

How to give your parents the same love and care at the end of their lives that they showed you when you were young and vulnerable.

How to win by losing in parenting, work and life.

How to reach out and come together after moments of conflict and tension.

What a remarkable gift it is to be with someone who is bone-deep authentic and expects nothing less of you.

Dunreith has given all of that to me.

We started our celebrations last night with some Fulbright friends and continued tonight with our English language students at the American Corner.

Dessert was a prominent feature both nights.

Tomorrow, too.

We got a reservation for a massage and a plan to savor the delectable cappuccino dessert they serve at Cafe Cinnamon.

From there we’ll go to seaside town Algarrobo for the weekend.

The time to walk on the beach, decompress and appreciate being around each other will be a welcome break from Santiago, a city with precious little green space.

Celebrating Dunreith’s birthday here will indeed be a special experience.

But what is even more special is understanding that it is indeed a privilege in life to share not just joy, but grief, not just triumph, but failure, not just moments of lightness, but of struggling for purpose, with the person to whom you’ve pledged yourself.

Dunreith’s that woman for me.

Now and for as long as we’re both alive.

Happy Birthday, Dunreith.

And thank you.

For everything.

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4 responses to “Chilean Chronicles, Part 67: Happy Birthday, Dunreith! (Just a little early)

  1. As I posted, there are no words to convey how special your words and deeds and Dunreith are.

    Love you.

  2. Beautifully written Jeff! Miss you both.

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