Ode to Sian Defren
Please excuse this break from our usual programming as I celebrate a banner day.
Today is a day that has been eagerly anticipated for 8 long years: the last day of Nursing school for my beautiful bride! Hallelujah!
Let me take a moment to tell you about my wife — and why it took 8 years to reach this important goal.
Sian has a pretty crazy life story. On both sides of her family she is the daughter of sea captains — stretching all the way back to the 1600’s, where family lore suggests direct kinship with one of the most fabled admirals of the Netherlands. Her paternal grandfather was a Jew who resisted the Nazis in Holland; miraculously survived; and went on to reap a fortune as a European industrialist. Sian’s earliest memories involve indoor swimming pools in Swiss mansions.
Growing up, Sian was something of a violin prodigy. By the time she was 12, as part of the famed Suzuki School, Sian had played in concerts across the world, including Carnegie Hall and the chamber halls of Munich. She even played for President Carter!
Then the fortunes were lost. Sian’s parents — now in San Francisco — were destitute. At the tender age of 13 she was shipped off to stay with rich friends in upstate New York … who promptly put her to work, mucking the horse stables every day.
She subsequently fell in with a boy who convinced her to ditch it all and live with his family in New York City. But this wasn’t just any dingy apartment in a city of 8M people: this particular pad overlooked Central Park. The boy’s father owned a posh NYC nightclub, where Sian routinely met “regular folks” like Ozzy Osbourne, Keith Richards, etc.
Pretty wild so far, right?
Then Sian went to Bard College and met me, and I’ve screwed things up for her ever since. You’ve read before about how we got pregnant way-too-young, about starting out on welfare, etc. What you haven’t heard about is Sian’s amazing patience and self-sacrifice. She spent the first 7 years of our marriage as a stay-at-home mom. Then, in 1999, when our kids were 7 and 5 years old, she decided to go back to school for nursing.
Sian felt strongly that she didn’t want to go back to school full-time; she wanted to raise our kids, too. So she went back part-time, and for almost 18 months gunned her way through the scientific and medical pre-requisite courses that needed to be completed before applying to Nursing School.
Then, I went nuts. Threw a wrench in the works.
The Internet craze was — well, it was crazy — and I got caught up in it. I convinced my patient bride to raise up stakes and move from Boston to San Francisco. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m sure you can just transfer all your credits to a new college in the Bay Area.”
OMFG, was I wrong. Most of the credits did not transfer. Sian would have to re-take many of the pre-req classes she had just completed in Massachusetts. Worse, the California community college system was overwhelmed by a crush of post-bubble expatriates looking for safe havens in the healthcare field. So Sian would sometimes have to miss-out on an entire semester, simply waiting for an opening to take a class she’d already aced a year earlier!
Meanwhile, business sucked. My dreams of conquest were dashed on the rocks. “It was a stressful time,” would be an understatement.
But Sian prevailed. She’s inherited the good ol’ fashioned grit of her sea captain forebears. When we moved back to Boston in 2005, she reclaimed a spot in her old nursing school; kept her head down; and aced class after class after class. She routinely nabbed the best grade on every test — but convinced her teachers to stop posting the grades publicly, because she didn’t want to upset anyone else in class who hadn’t fared as well.
My bride is beautiful, brilliant, kind, modest, funny — and luckily for me, she is also endlessly patient and loving. Twenty years later, I’m still smitten. “Sian” is Welsh for “gift,” and that’s a perfect way to describe how blessed I feel every time I see her smile.
Congratulations, honey! You’ve definitely earned it!