A C-note for Michael Wagner
The only trouble with making Michael the recipient of my $100 today will be getting him to take it. Ask any body who knows him. They’ll tell you that he is an extraordinary dad and extraordinarily hard-working husband –made all the more exceptional because everything he does is suffused with goodwill and love for the people around him.
I know this isn’t just a face he presents to the world. Since my husband and I moved to Atlanta, we basically live with Michael & Ginger every time we return to Swarthmore. So, unfortunately for them, we are behind their closed doors. Every morning, Michael gets up early, while the house is still quiet and reads about four daily books of meditation and prayer, before his four girls (now just two at home) descend and all sweet hell breaks loose. He makes his girls their lunches, drives them to school, then usually drives back a couple of times a week to deliver the forgotten lunch, the missing instrument, the mislaid term paper. He makes his wife Ginger her lunch, then drives her to the train. Then he takes his loyal dog Lacey on a walk before he gets to work in his apartment above the garage as a high tech recruiter. Business hasn’t been good lately, which means he only has to work harder and longer for less compensation. But has this stopped Michael from endlessly volunteering to work even longer hours helping neighbors who are unemployed to search for a job? Don’t make me laugh.
I love Michael Wagner for his ridiculously kind heart, which anybody can take advantage of – and I guiltily admit, I have and I do. I love that he adores gardening and is a practitioner of the same insane extremes of it that I am—planting 8000 bulbs in an afternoon, sweating himself silly laying down a truckload of mulch, and putting in 15 trees in an afternoon. I am mystified and in awe of his ability to believe the best about everybody, even people who have reliably proven to be jerks. In short, Michael is that guy who can’t wait for it to snow so he can walk around the cold, crunchy, silent neighborhood, looking for old people’s sidewalks to shovel.
If you want the penultimate test of his character, try this: every teenager I know adores him – not because he’s so cool (he’s a self-described nerd at heart) but because even the most self-absorbed, hormone-addled narcissist recognizes a perpetual good egg when he/she sees one. Michael is the dad who works 50 hours to decorate the gym for the dance, chaperones it, drives you home if your date ditches you, and brings donuts to your house to cheer you up the next morning. Best of all, Michael can always laugh at himself – which is one of the most ardently attractive qualities of all.
For all these reasons – and for the most hilarious fact that he doesn’t even know how much he’s loved or how clearly people see everything he gives and does …. this C-Note is for Michael Wagner. Don’t you dare spend it on anybody but yourself! (fat chance)