So today marks the 14th anniversary of my marriage to Thomas N. Howard. It’s a point of celebration in the midst of such tragedy. I want to take this time to tell you about my black man, whose life matters.
We met in 1998 when we were both in high school. He was the co-president of the concert choir and I was a member of the soprano section. His stature was small, but his confidence made him appear larger than life in my eyes. We’ve been together ever since then, despite my effort to break up with him when he went away to college. Thomas is loyal like that. He kept going to a barber while we lived in Chicago even though he hated how she cut his hair. He’d leave the shop every time and say, ‘Man, Felicia jacked up my hair line.” Or, “She didn’t really fade my hair right.” I responded each time with, “Well, why don’t you just get another barber?” To this day, Thomas doesn’t have a good answer to that question but I know what it is. He’s loyal, even to his own detriment.
(Thomas and me at a Choir ball at Sumter High School sometime between 1998-2002)
While my husband is an emotional and passionate person, he never cries. I found this out when his brother, Jason died. Jason was a marine and died in a tragic accident four months before our wedding. He was in-between his second and third tour in Iraq. At the funeral, Thomas stood on behalf of the family and spoke warm words about his baby brother without breaking down. I thought to myself, “I could never do that.”
Thomas has his father’s wrinkly hands. Those hands have been used to fix countless things in our living spaces for many years. Those hands cut grass and trim hedges. Those hands change light bulbs and diapers. Those hands held mine during the births of our three daughters. Once, he used those hands to re-upholster a white chair and ottoman with striped pink velvet fabric for the nursery. He had to learn to use a sewing machine, cut patterns, and line up those pesky stripes to make the chair look good. It took him countless hours to complete. But that’s my husband. Undeterred by a challenge.
(A picture of the chair and ottoman that Thomas upholstered for our girls)
Thomas is an elementary school teacher. A black male in education is rare – they only comprise 2% of the educator workforce. As many teachers do, he spends countless hours grading papers, calling parents and lesson planning. He was awarded the top student in his Master’s of Education program because of this kind of worth ethic. Thomas credits his father for teaching him how to work. I have to nudge Thomas to teach our girls the same kind of work ethic his father taught him, because his natural inclination is to spoil his girls rotten.
(Thomas and Nayla at his graduation from UAB after obtaining his 3rd Master’s degree)
Thomas is a slow, but excellent cook. His signature dish is okra and tomato soup. Each bite of this soup tastes like love, and when I eat it, I want to marry him all over again. Thomas uses mixed metaphors all the time. It drives me crazy and is endearing, but mostly drives me crazy.
On the most basic level, my black husband is human and his life matters.
(Thomas and our youngest daughter, Natalie)