Oliver: A not quite ‘how we met’ story with a happy ending

Joan Oliver Northwest Herald assistant news editor
Joan Oliver Northwest Herald assistant news editor

The young woman approached the lectern and took a deep breath. This was the largest crowd she’d ever addressed.

Still, as a member of the debate team, she was familiar with public speaking. And she had worked on what she would say for weeks. Her manuscript lay before her; all she had to do was deliver the speech, much as she had done hundreds of times on Saturday mornings during debate season.

Once she began, the words just flowed, urging her fellow McHenry West graduates to slay their dragons, conquer their fears and embrace life. Typical graduation sentiments.

Somewhere in that sea of people was a young man, a reporter for the Northwest Herald. He had about a decade’s more experience and no doubt wasn’t exactly thrilled to be covering another high school graduation. Maybe that’s why in quoting the young woman, he didn’t get her words exactly right.

She would carry this “error” with her for years as she made her way to Northwestern University and earned her own journalism degree.

The graduation story would be tucked away in a scrapbook back home in McHenry. That is, until her mother would insist that she get her stuff out of the garage.

By then, the young woman had been hired to work on the copy desk of her hometown paper.

Imagine the woman’s surprise when she was leafing through that scrapbook and discovered the name of the reporter who years earlier had “misquoted” her.

He was now her copy desk chief, her boss. When confronted with this long-ago article, he insisted that the young woman must have said it the way he wrote it.

No, no, she insisted. Here’s the transcript right here. And the words are not the same.

Au contraire, he replied. You must have misspoken then.

It’s an “argument” that continues to this day.

You see, I am the young woman and the reporter that day was none other than my beloved husband, Tony.

We never met on that fateful June day in 1986, when I gave that valedictory speech to my classmates. I had no idea he had been there until I saw that scrapbook clipping.

So I guess this is a “how we met” story without a meeting.

Needless to say, we’ve come a long way since then. On Monday, we celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary.

They say the path to true love doesn’t always run smoothly, and that was true in our case. It’s not the best idea to marry one’s boss, but in the end I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

I often tease that I knew he was the one when he passed important litmus tests. He likes “The Princess Bride,” Dr. Seuss and Monty Python. That, and he’s not averse to sitting through a Jane Austen film.

My Tony has been a devoted, loving and amazing partner. The perfect calm to my storm. A steadying force when my fiery nature would get the best of me.

That was what drew me to him, his ability to remain unflustered no matter what chaos the newsroom would bring. That, and he never was intimidated by my supposed intelligence.

We’ve weathered many a crisis together, both professional and personal.

Still, nothing quite prepared us for what we now face. To see my husband face Alzheimer’s disease is a test like no other. To see him battling hard inspires me.

Whatever the road ahead brings, I know that we will face it together, that our love, faith and devotion to each other will get us through.

He is the love of my life. For as long as we have.

And you can quote me on that.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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