When did I know Zach was husband material? It dawned on me during a trip to New York City visiting Zach’s great aunt Thelma. Thelma lives in the Bronx on her own, and at 94 years old, that’s quite a feat! We visit at least twice a year. We talk with her, show her photos from recent trips or family Facebook posts, and go out for lunch.
During the first visit, I was unprepared for Thelma’s slower speed. Zach’s patience with her impressed me immediately. He took the care and time to do what she wanted, and at her speed. I am always willing to spend time with family doing things I enjoy, but Zach seemed happy to be with Thelma, regardless of what the activity was.
Most young couples would visit New York City for the weekend to see a show or try new restaurants. We make sure to do some of that as well with our friends in the city. But we also want to spend time with Thelma, and that means doing the things that are familiar to her, rather than trying something new. So we spend a good amount of time at the Macy’s in Yonkers, or the kosher deli on Johnson Ave., rather than a trendy bar in Williamsburg.
Thelma doesn’t drive anymore, so our visits are always an excuse for her to get out and go shopping at the mall. We spent afternoons hunting through the Macy’s shoe department, looking for a replacement pair of flats or slippers. Thelma couldn’t find what she was looking for. We went through this routine a couple of times before I suggested trying a store that specialized in comfortable shoes. That trip ended in disaster. Thelma found shoes that fit the description of what she was looking for, but she couldn’t bring herself to try them on. She practically ran out of the store! I remember being frustrated that we had found the exact shoes that she wanted, but she didn’t want to try them on because she was in unfamiliar territory. But Zach knew his great aunt. He reminded me that we were really here for Thelma, not for the shoes. If she wanted to buy shoes at her store on her terms, then we would respect that. I’ve remembered this lesson on many a family visit.
For us, this commitment to family stems from the commandment to “Honor thy father and mother.” This commandment speaks to both of us, because it’s a part of our Jewish (Zach) and Catholic (me) backgrounds. Zach’s love of family is one way he honors his mother, who passed away five years ago. Thelma is one of our last connections to that side of the family. She tells stories about her brother, Zach’s grandfather, who passed away before Zach was born, and who Zach is named after. Thelma continues to honor her family, past and present, and we honor Zach’s mother by continuing and nurturing our relationship with Thelma.
Our commitment to family plays out on my side of the family, as well. One of the things that confirmed for me that I wanted to marry Zach was how he handled my grandfather’s death in 2016. He came up late after work to attend the funeral with the rest of my family the next day. Everyone appreciated his being there for me, but his presence also comforted the rest of the family. After my grandfather’s death, we made a commitment together to visit family more frequently, aside from the usual holidays. Zach recognizes the importance of things like that, and in that way, it’s been easy to build a life together around a common respect for that commandment.
After all these years, age is finally starting to catch up with Thelma. She still lives on her own, but her dementia and impaired mobility are making it harder to do so. As her only family on the East Coast, Zach and I are prepared to help the rest of the family care for her. Both our faiths place tremendous importance on caring for the sick and elderly, especially those in our family. Inspired by this example, we are committed to making sure she has the best quality of life–out of duty and out of love.