Writing about Aaron seems so very fitting for this week. Plus, it’s a great exercise for the newlyweds. I ask him prying questions, and he answers. Perfect. I thought that I knew almost everything there was to know about this guy, but, alas, he shared with me several little gems of information that I had never heard. He shared with me some insight into his soul. He shared with me stories that only deepened my love for him… my understanding.
I knew that Aaron was a dang hard working man. I knew he’d do whatever it took to provide for us. I knew he would darn near bend over backwards to make me happy. I knew he was the kindest, gentlest, most tender man I’ve met. I knew he struggled with self esteem. I knew these things. And, I knew what spurred some of these things but not all. And, now I know a little more about my sweet husband.
As many of you know, Aaron grew up in a really prominent family in a very small Texas town. Gores was at the height of it’s success in the mid 90’s. And, in the mid 90’s, Aaron and I were young high school kids with a couple of years of dating in the books. I say all that to preface the following: I had the good fortune to get to know the Gores on a more personal level than a lot of folks. Granted, I was a teenager oblivious to much, but it was all an interesting dynamic to me.
So, as I was getting ready to interview Aaron, I wanted to pry into this part of his life. I’ve never much pushed him to talk about it because, when we were kids, I didn’t have the maturity to talk with my partner on such a deep level. And, now, as adults, I’ve avoided it because age has taken it’s toll on Joe Gore (his grandfather), and I didn’t want to… I don’t know… upset Aaron?? I guess.
But, for my Bio of a Cowboy series, I pry. Aaron will be no different. I dive in. “How did it feel growing up in a prominent family in Comanche?” I hold my breath and look at him hopefully. He sighs. He pauses a moment to collect his thoughts.
“You’d be surprised because people looked at you like you were a token. I always had to prove myself, and I did. People thought everything was given to me, but it wasn’t. Grandpa was a huge believer in work ethic. You had to earn your spot. Grandpa showed me how to work and make it on my own which I’m very thankful for.”
He sits silently for a minute as I’m feverishly trying to write down everything he just said. Then he adds very quietly, “It wasn’t all that glamorous.”
And, you know… I would have guessed that. I mean, I did not come from a prominent family in a small town. But, I know there is an entirely different set of struggles for kids growing up in a family with money and a name. By no means am I implying the struggles were imposed by the family. At all. I think there are just struggles that are inherent to certain lots in life. Period. Now that I’ve made that clear, I ask him, “What was the biggest struggle that came from that?” I can tell this is a sensitive subject for him. I can see that tears are beginning to form in his sweet hazel eyes.
“The biggest struggle was feeling pressure to be successful. I didn’t want to let any family members down or anyone in the community down. I’m very self conscious. I felt like I had to keep some sort of status quo.”
This breaks my heart. And, I know the answer to my next question before I even ask it, but I ask it anyway. “Do you feel successful now?”
“I feel like I could be better.” At this point, a tear rolls over his high cheekbone. “I can always improve somewhere.”
I know the short answer to that question is “no.” But, I’m quite sure he knows I’d have none of that, so he sugar coats it for me. In an effort to encourage him and lighten the mood, the following dialogue ensues.
Me: (Dripping with sarcasm… sort of… Ha!) Babe, lemme just remind you that I am a treasure. I am a gem of a woman. Right?
Him: Of course, sweetie. (And, he’s sooooo damn sweet that there’s not an ounce of sarcasm in his response. For real.)
Me: If I am such a treasure, why would I marry someone that was not a beautiful, successful person?
Him: I know. (That statement is accompanied by a half smile and maybe a little hint of an eye roll.)
Success! My method of encouragement and distraction works momentarily. But, who am I kidding? I’m getting ready to ask him some more tough questions.
“Tell me about your grandpa. Joe.”
He takes time to collect his thoughts. He always does.
“There’s one instance that has… geez… never left my mind. I was maybe 8 years old. We went on a vacation, and we were staying at this motel. I was in the pool waiting for grandpa. All the sudden, he comes barreling out of the room and ran towards the pool and did a cannonball. It was funny, too, because he almost slipped and lost his balance but he managed to pull off that cannonball. His little white hair flew up. He was wearing a tan bathing suit. I’ll never forget that. I think about it nearly every day.” He laughs a little as he tells me. But, I can see a little glimmer of ache in his eyes, as well.
He continues, “He’d always take us hunting, too. He’d wake us up about four hours too early. He’d cook breakfast. After that, we’d take everyone out to the different stands. Then he and I would sit in the Bravada with the heater running and go to sleep.” He laughs again.
Man oh man, I can tell how much this man adores his grandpa. And, I can also tell that he and Joe had a really special, different relationship. I think that Joe was a source of respite and comfort and camaraderie for this sensitive boy. I am sensing that Joe just got Aaron. You know what I mean? And, writing this, I’m suddenly very overwhelmed with gratitude towards Joe as he had a heavy hand in the formation of my husband.
“What do you love most about your grandpa?”
Without hesitation he says, “His work ethic. One time in maybe 5th or 6th grade, I asked him for $20. He said, ‘sure, come up to the dairy.’ So, I came up to the dairy to get $20. I guess this was my first life lesson to knowing where a dollar came from. He put me to work mowing lawns on the dairy. For two days. With a push mower. And, I got paid $20.”
I laugh. Loudly. Oh, Joe, Joe, Joe. I just love Joe. I am again overwhelmed with gratitude towards him as he is singlehandedly responsible for Aaron’s work ethic.
Dare I press further in this interview? Ummm… yep! I will press my luck. I must preface this question, though. Joe now suffers from Alzheimer’s. His once tack sharp mind has fled him. He speaks little. He remembers even less. But, he is a jolly soul. He is contented. I’m quite sure he doesn’t know who I or my daughters are, but he is always so very happy to see us. So, I ask Aaron, “how do you feel about your grandpa’s condition now?”
Slowly and deliberately he responds, “I love him. I feel sorry for…” and he trails off. He does not finish that sentence. He wipes away a tear. “I hate to see him grow old.”
The fact that he didn’t finish that sentence spurs my next question. Again, I know the answer to this before I even ask. “Do you think it’s harder for you or him?”
“It’s harder for us. He’s happy, and I’m happy for that. He’s content. Happy. He smiles constantly.”
That last statement… the “he smiles constantly” part? Yeah, that could not be a truer observation. Always a part of his attire these days is a huge, childlike grin. I LOVE that about Joe and can only hope to be as happy as he seems to be some day.
And, I know that Aaron finds peace in knowing that Joe is happy. I know he’s always been a people pleaser. Obnoxiously so sometimes. And, he illustrates this perfectly when I asked him what he would do for a living if he could do anything.
“I would love to work at a golf course. Actually, I’d be lying if I said that. I enjoy making people happy. When I did work at a golf course, the work I did made people happy. I could do anything if I knew it made someone happy. I’d be satisfied.”
Y’all, he means it, too. I’m a little more selfish than that. I can admit it. This guy, though? He could be compensated with other people’s happiness. While I respect this tremendously, his happiness is important to me. Boy needs to simmer down with working so hard to make others happy. Case in point:
Me: If you could change anything in the past, would you?
Him: No, I wouldn’t. They were all good life lessons. It’s all responsible for who I am now.
Him again: Do you like that?
Him: That answer.
Me: It doesn’t matter what I like. (I try to stifle the irritation in my voice at the thought he could be giving me an answer based on what he thinks I would like.)
With that, he smiles, grabs my foot & rubs it a bit. Sigh. He’s adorable… too good to me.
At this point, I’m thinking we could call this interview over. He’s been so very honest and vulnerable with me. I know there’s more to talk about, but I want it to be his suggestion to go there. I know that Aaron felt an extra level of pressure with an even larger mountain of success to climb. Why? Because, as a child, he was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia. This is a subject I’d like to talk to him about because I know it is so much a part of who he is. I know that his struggles are responsible for shaping him and his self esteem. But, I don’t know if he wants to talk about it. So, I say, “is there anything else you want to tell me about?”
“My ADHD… I had that as a kid,” and, then he enunciates very slowly and sarcastically, “BECAUSE I WAS A KID.” He raises his eyebrow and laughs. “ADD I still have. You’re living proof of that because we can go to a restaurant and I can hear everyone else’s conversation but ours.”
Yep. That’s true. I often find him so tuned out to what I’m saying and seemingly extremely interested in something behind me that I have to turn to see if someone’s choking or having a heart attack or if there’s the cutest baby in the world sitting behind me. But, no. Usually it’s just some average, everyday conversation that is pulling his attention away from me.
As for the dyslexia, I know it’s taken him his lifetime to get comfortable with it. “Dyslexia is hard for me to deal with because it takes me a little longer to do things than everyone else. I’m gifted in a way,” he says. I internally agree with this, but I’ve never heard him say that about himself. So, I wait to see where this is gonna go.
“I see things other people don’t see. I see a ‘b’ as a ‘d’ and a ‘q’ as a ‘p’. Every once in a while, I get 11 backwards.” Then he laughs like he’s told the funniest joke ever. (Which, it is pretty funny if I’m being honest. Sigh.) He gets serious and adds, “Einstein had Dyslexia.” And, that, folks, is the truth. He absolutely did. And, by the way, so did da Vinci and Thomas Edison and a whole slew of other crazy intelligent, successful folks.
I like that he’s finally comfortable enough to talk about this publicly. It tortured him as a teenager, so I am extremely grateful for this kind of growth. We are one step closer to restoring his self esteem.
Wow, this bio is getting lengthy. Sorry y’all. I just love him so much and have such a strong desire to share this side of him. Granted, this is only one side of him… this is the sensitive, tender, gentle, selfless side. There’s so much more. So, SOOOO much more. He is, without a doubt, the nicest guy I have ever known. Hands down.
I ask one final question. “Do nice guys finish last?”
“No. They get run over a lot, but they don’t finish last. They get knocked down a lot, but they’re fighters because they have to keep picking themselves up.”
“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolutions.” -Khalil Gibran