Bitter Greens (see Part 1 here)
One of our party had fallen a little ill and had been moved into the bedroom. So, when it came time to read my tribute, the entire party moved into the bedroom. The warmth and intimacy had a huge impact on the party goers; we were now sharing the couple's inner sanctum - their own bedroom - and to use Hellen's words, the event became a love fest.
I was decidedly preaching to the choir. Regardless of Harvey's eccentricities or habits, this unusual man was surrounded by friends - people who understood him, accepted him, and loved him for who he was. Hellen, of course, was a no-brainer, as she could easily win the Miss Congeniality award. So here is what I wrote and read aloud to our group of friends on the 4th wedding anniversary of Hellen and Harvey on 11/11/11:
This party is not only a celebration of Hellen and Harvey's 4-year anniversary. It is also a celebration of friendships and the value they are in our lives. What is a life if not shared?
When I first met Hellen after knowing Harvey for some time, I was perplexed how a woman so kind and gentle could tolerate what appeared to me to be the wild man of Borneo. In a very short time, I nicknamed her Saint Helen, which appeared to flatter her and please her greatly. Harvey even adopted the phrase and did on occasion use it among friends.
I explained to her my reason for the title - that any woman that could tolerate Harvey was certainly a saint. In fact, her ability to be with him clearly qualified as a step towards canonization. In the years I have known Hellen, I have never heard her curse, raise her voice, or see her angry. Remarkable and a model for those who aspire to sainthood.
Hellen is one of the most giving people I have met. Many times in the last 4 years, I have called their home distraught. She always asked if I wanted to come over and always added, "We're here for you." Hellen is loved by all who meet her.
Harvey, on the other hand, is an acquired taste. Years ago, I had an employee who was a recluse and very difficult, yet we shared many views and interests. We often engaged in deep conversations, sometimes leading to debates. On one instance, I used the phrase "acquired taste." She was militant in her opinion that such a thing did not exist, telling me that acquired taste to her was synonymous with shoving something down one's throat. She averred that she knew all her likes and dislikes from an early age. I found that absurd and extremely narrow. We argued, and I cited bitter greens as an example of what is an acquired taste for most people. I argued that something can be truly disliked and, in time, come to be appreciated and even loved. That tastes can EVOLVE AND CHANGE. Some of the best things in life come to be appreciated over time. She was not persuaded, and I finally let it drop.
But I hold steadfast to my belief and my life experience has given me ample evidence. Proof sits here beside me: Harvey Osgood. It is no secret that Harvey is not well liked by some, even shunned. Particularly by individuals who are like those who purport to dislike bitter greens but have not tasted them. But here is what I have learned.
Along with Hellen, Harvey is one of the greatest supporters and champions of friends and friends' interests and work that I have ever met. Harvey is very generous in spirit - anyone who would loan Avi Colon $1000 is either certifiably insane or the most generous person alive. And Harvey is brilliant. Beyond his academic achievements in the sciences and engineering, he has the most extraordinary facility to see, understand, interpret, and articulate the nuances of human psychology and interpersonal relationships that I have ever known. He invariably offers unique and provocative insights. I have often told him that he should have become a psychiatrist.
When I was first a vegetarian, I virtually lived on salads. I became bored with a diet of ordinary greens, so I experimented with every ingredient I could find, even bitter greens like chicory, radicchio, and endive. I grew to love them. To those bored with the ordinary and mediocre, I suggest they acquaint themselves with Harvey Osgood and sample a more exotic diet. Soon, you will learn to love him as I have, much as one learns to love bitter greens.
I have admired Hellen and Harvey's mantra regarding transparency and openness. Only they would be comfortable with the brutally honest words I have written. I would never write or read such a thing to anyone else on an anniversary, much less title this Bitter Greens. However, I know they understand such words come from a place of deeply rooted love and understanding.
But I preach to the choir - the close friends of Harvey and Hellen gathered here all know that what I speak of is true. Congratulations, Hellen and Harvey, on your 4th anniversary. Know that you are an extraordinary example to us all of what a couple joined together can be. You have shown us that an atheist and a Christian can love and lie peaceably together with mutual respect.
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