I first met Tiffany in our 10th Grade French Class. She was a shy bespectacled teeny bopper in love with Duran Duran's John Taylor while I was a ridiculously permed long haired weirdo with a Robert Plant fixation. We would also take French together in 11th and 12th grade as well as English in 11th. Our Junior year was where we really began to interact. It was a smaller class, and I, along with 3 of my friends, christened the "Quatre Stupidos" by the world's most awesome French teacher... skip that, most awesome teacher EVER, Monsieur Jones, liked to entertain Tiffany who sat by me but at an angle. She was a great audience. She had the prettiest smile, her eyes squinting when she was really happy, and laughed at the dumbest things. Also, when she smiled, you could see the slightest bit of pink from her tongue between the back of her teeth. She remained our captive audience for 2 straight years... and though I had a "girlfriend", I liked Tiffany... maybe not outwardly, but I really liked Tiffany. My buddy and I would get to school early our senior year, and take laps around the third floor where I would see her sitting outside her Physics class.
Eventually we graduated, and I went on to George Mason University, and she moved to Texas with her family. As the years went by, she was always the girl in my "If I had to do over again, I would..." scenarios. Sigh. Our paths might have crossed in 2000 had I gone to our 10 year High School Reunion, but by then I was dating Wendi. We would eventually get married and have a son, Evan in 2005. Sadly, in 2006, Wendi was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, by 2007 she could no longer drive, and by early 2008, she was on permanent long-term disability.
In the fall of 2008, I received an email via Classmates.com from one of the Quatre Stupidos, Jason, asking why I wasn't on Facebook. Facebook? What was that? I contacted the only person I trusted when it came to all things internet and computer... and life in general, Jeff Hider. (See Friends of Amp). He told me what it was, and said he saw Jason and Tiffany asking about me? "Tiffany Kellerman?" I said. "Yup!" I signed up immediately, and I'm not sure who contacted who first, but within a moment, Tiffany and I were reconnected. For a year, we went back and forth via email, text, occassional phone calls... catching up, sharing life stories, telling her all about Evan or as I called him "The Boy!" Mostly we became each other's support system, me supporting her with all the challenges in her life, and her in helping me deal with Wendi's worsening condition. My sister-in-law supported us because she and her mom had taken care of her father as he struggled with and eventually died from Huntington's in 2004. It's easy to become isolated when you're the caregiver of a terminally ill family member.
In 2009, I took the leap and went to visit Tiffany in Texas. By this time, it was obvious to everyone, especially Wendi's family, that Wendi and I were no longer a husband and wife, but caregiver and patient. Tiffany came out in 2010 and met Wendi and Evan and the in-laws. She immediately bonded with Evan and set about helping Wendi with some nifty vegetarian meals. We visited each other regularly over the next few years. Wendi continued to get worse but as a mother she was happy that someone like Tiffany was there for her baby. We divorced in 2012, but Wendi remained in the house and I remained her caregiver. Tiffany moved out here that summer with our daughter and together, along with Wendi's mom, we took care of her until she went into a nursing home a year later.
We were well on our way into audiobooks, when Tiffany auditioned for Carol Cottrill's "The French Twist." She loved the cover as well as the message it conveyed about eating real food, locally grown if possible, as a healthier way to manage weight as opposed to Fad Diets. I honestly did not think we would get this book, but whether it was fate or an act of serendipity, Carol loved Tiffany's voice and her pronunciation of the scattering of French words. It felt like we had come full circle: From two dorks in French Class too scared to admit we liked each other, to a husband and wife team recording a book primarily about the French diet. If Mr. Jones could see us now!!! Carol even went so far as to send us a signed copy of her book with a lovely note for Tiffany.
I don't play the "If I had to do over again..." scenarios anymore. Had things not happened the way they did, I would not have Evan, I wouldn't have taken audio engineering classes at Omega Studios with Wendi's encouragement, and Tiffany and I wouldn't have our daughter Alex.
Wendi passed away in March of this year, the night before our son's 9th birthday. Even in her poor condition, it felt sudden and unexpected. But, on one of our last visits to see her, Alex wanted to give Ms. Wendi a kiss goodbye. We lifted her up, and Wendi, by this time totally bed ridden, leaned forward and gave her a kiss in return. It was a sweet moment for us all to witness.