Thursday, November 16, 2006

Shonda's Wrinkles

When Shonda first met Greg, she thought he was “a snot.” She was a nurse in the burn unit of Vanderbilt Hospital and was walking with a friend to catch the shuttle bus. When they passed Greg, Shonda said, “Good evening.” He didn’t even look up, much less answer with a courteous hello. He did not leave a good first impression on Shonda, but she said a part of her must have really liked him because his snub bothered her.

Shonda was already in a relationship with a person she was trying to get rid of. She said at that point in her life, she would’ve become a nun had her virginity been intact. She said she must have had a giant L on her back because all she attracted were losers and she was absolutely done with men.

Meanwhile, although Greg had irked her, Shonda still saw him at work now and then. She gradually realized that when he talked to a person, he was focused entirely on that person and is oblivious to everything else around him. Eventually they became best of friends and after two years, they married – a unity that has lasted 12 years. In her quick-fire dialogue, Shonda gave me a dozen reasons why her marriage works.

Shonda grew up in a dysfunctional home. She and her family had rice for breakfast and beans for dinner. She carries a scar on her forehead from the time her Mom missed hitting her Dad with a bed rail and got her instead. Because of events like this, no one would ever know she and Greg are arguing or upset because she doesn’t want to embarrass her children. Her own childhood helped her decide the kind of life she wanted her kids to have. Shonda grew a good life for herself, all the while watching her siblings rooted in the same spot she had left. She learned coping skills and always finds a solution to any problem.

However, resolving problems isn’t always black and white. Greg’s parents were completely against the relationship and implied that Shonda had an ulterior motive for being with their son, who happens to be Caucasian. Shonda earned more money than Greg when she met his parents, she absolutely didn’t want a boyfriend, and she certainly did not need him just to make babies because she "wasn’t a dog and could get a man." Instead, their relationship was based on love. They share many common interests and they respect each other. To this day, they only call each other their given names. Shonda believes when you call your spouse a bad word, it’s a direct reflection on you because that’s who you choose to be with.

The longer Shonda and Greg are together, the more his parents like her because they see genuinely love. Perhaps they doubted her commitment because they were overprotective. Greg has suffered great physical trauma and was told he would never walk again. But he has learned to walk three times in his life. The first time as a toddler. The second was after he survived a devastating car wreck that broke everything but his hair. The third time when a rod shifted in his back. Greg has the bones of an old person, according to Shonda. But she fell in love with Greg, not his body or his physical capabilities.

Greg thinks about what he can do, not about what he can’t do. His outlook helps Shonda maintain a positive attitude and makes her thankful that she can get out of bed, feed herself, earn a living, and raise their two children.

Shonda and Greg have the kind of relationship that everyone wants. Although there are days when she can’t stand Greg, Shonda realizes that in the grand scheme of things, having the toilet seat left up isn’t a problem. She said when people don’t laugh, they aren’t happy. Shonda laughs freely and frequently and her joyful life is a pleasure to share.


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