Forty-two and still re-counting the ways-
The early years in Virginia were spent pursuing a better life for our family. Mitch started to plan for his career after his training at GWU was over. He was not burdened by student loans. Instead he had a wife and two daughters and the bills associated with that. When he opened his practice in 1981, we had zero savings. Still poor. Still happy? Yes.
We bought a townhouse the previous year. I thought we were taking too many risks, however Mitch was determined and focused. I was nervous. But this was a partnership, so “we” would sink or swim together. In good times, and in bad.
We took one of those signature loans with usurious rates of more than 25%. Those loans required no collateral. Just a promise to repay within a specified time, and your signature. They demanded higher rates and short repay periods though, but we didn’t have a choice. The 1980s were notorious for high interest rates. The prime rate, offered by banks to their best customers, was 18-19 percent. We hardly qualified as “best” in anything. Not then.
We were young and ignorant but burned with ambition and resolve. We accepted an offer to share a large office with two doctors who had offices at other locations. We didn’t even advertise. Our office opened with a whimper. I became my husband’s Girl Friday, ready and willing to juggle wife-ly, mother-ly and secretary duties.
To save on babysitting, I took Tessa to the office and made a bed for her in one of the examining rooms. I bribed her with candy and coloring books to keep her quiet. Anna was in kindergarten.
It took several weeks before the phone rang for our first appointment. That patient took one look at Mitch and left because she thought him young and unqualified. That happened several times more. I cried angry tears but Mitch was unflappable. He took two moonlighting jobs to keep us clothe and fed. He was tireless and didn’t consider failure. He was convinced our hard work will pay off. And it did.
By late 1982, the office started to flourish. The signature loan was paid ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, Mitch kept his other jobs and started Saturday office hours as well. My husband’s energy was boundless. How could I not cheer for a guy like that
His work ethic was impressive and he had excellent diagnosis skills. Patients were impressed with him. (An elderly woman who had walked out, returned and became one of his biggest fans.) Repeat appointments and patient referrals meant we were ready to hire a secretary to help me at the office. I remained as office manager.
We moved to a bigger house in May 1983. I was nervous and hesitant as usual, but Mitch convinced me it was the right plan. In February 1985, I became pregnant with Ramon. As with the two previous ones, I was plagued with hyperemesis gravidarum. Nausea and vomiting were constant and debilitating. I stayed in bed for three months, sustained by IV fluids. Mitch came home in between patients to check on me.
It was a risk to keep me at home instead of confined in a hospital but Providence was on our side. Mitch kept regular office hours, kept the moonlighting jobs, became my devoted caretaker, single parent to our daughters, housekeeper, cook, and driver. And he had energy left to landscape our new home. My husband was Clark Kent in disguise.
Ramon was born in November 1985. His two older sisters became surrogate “mothers,” my trusted helpers who doted on him. As I looked at them one day, happy at play, I was overwhelmed with guilt. During my pregnancy, I came unglued from the unrelenting nausea and had asked my doctor to abort my baby. Ramon was saved because I was too far along. And I was saved from a life without the love of my son.
Our finances improved even better after Ramon’s birth. We moved to an even bigger house in Clifton in 1988. Mitch continued to work long hours, six days a week. We were comfortable. My husband began to buy me jewelry which I promptly returned. I know I hurt him but I was the Lopez CFO and was responsible for the family budget. I didn’t feel I deserved the gems. Not yet. We had three children to put through college.
We spent 25 wonderful years in Clifton. In 2013, we downsized to a two-bedroom condo. It took a lot of adjustment and compromise. There was nowhere to hide in a 1000 square foot space. It was a testament to our commitment that we remained friends and lovers.
Mitch retired in 2015. We finally have time to travel which we do two to three times a year. I found my passion. Writing and traveling. And this time, he goes where I lead.
Before our fortieth anniversary, we celebrated with little fanfare. Our hundred-dollar wedding and our lack of a honeymoon set the tone for decades that followed. But it didn’t mean romance was forgotten. On the contrary. Mitch was and remains a devoted husband who makes me feel cherished.
He once asked me if I knew how much he loved me. Of course, I said, as I love you. He gazed at me for some minutes then replied, “No, you don’t. Only God knows.”