Being married half my life, I've been blessed to receive many expressions of love, big and small.
Most important among them: a commitment to honor and respect.
Um, and that unexpected kiss on the neck.
Oh, and handling all of those "you-need-to-talk-to-your-dad" situations.
Yep, my hubby is the best.
But as loving as my honey is, I don't think even he could outdo Roland Vincent in the generosity department.
I mean, we've heard of husbands staying home to take care of the kids. But when was the last time you heard of a spouse retiring, only to go back to work so the significant other could fulfill a dream?
That's what Roland did.
After retiring from a job he held for about 30 years, Roland unretired to allow his fiancée of 22 years, Carla Johnson, to go to school full time at La Salle University.
And here's the kicker: His new job puts his life in peril every single day. Now, that's love.
From the heart
"What I do," Roland tells me as we talk in the East Germantown home he shares with Carla, "is from my heart. I don't expect repayment for anything.
"Carla had her dreams and aspirations. If I could help her financially, I was going to do it."
Their relationship is simple in its complexity.
Roland, 59, and Carla, 50, met at work in the '80's. She was an electroconvulsive therapy technician at Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute; he was chief technician in anesthesia at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Their paths would cross often when she'd wheel patients over so he could prep them for procedures.
"I thought she was cute," Roland admits.
"I thought he was nice," Carla says, "but I wasn't paying him no mind."
Probably because they were both married.
But their statuses soon changed. Little by little, Carla's no-nonsense nature meshed seamlessly with Roland's easygoing personality. Their friendship soon became something more.
They've spent the last two decades as a couple, though they only moved in together in 2004 after raising their children. (Carla's daughters are now 27 and 24; Roland's son is 31.)
For years Carla, has worn the marquis-cut diamond engagement ring Roland gave her, but they haven't taken the plunge yet. They're both maybe a little gun-shy.
Still, says Roland, "Carla is different from any other woman I've met. She's lovable, she's kind. There are a lot of things . . ."
"Tell her!" Carla urges.
"You know when someone loves you because they put up with you. My wife just walked away. Carla is not the type to walk away. She may bug you to death, but she'll sit down and figure it out with you until it's right."
That why, after Carla's job was eliminated in 2005 and she told her fiancé she wanted to pursue her bachelor's degree in social work at La Salle, Roland didn't flinch even though he was only a year into retirement himself.
Out of retirement
Roland had worked at MCP since he was 20 - long enough to retire when the school closed in 2004.
Carla won scholarships to attend La Salle, but without her income, they knew their finances would be stretched.
Student or no student, "Carla likes to go to Macy's," Roland jokes.
So, knowing her as he did, Roland put out his resumé and got a job with an armored-car company.
Yes, he's the armed guard who services ATMs.
"Every morning, I get up and put my game face on, knowing that this is what I could get killed doing," he says.
Roland and Carla both pray the unspeakable doesn't happen. And now that Carla has graduated - magna cum laude - Roland plans to retire again soon. Carla has plans for graduate school, but Roland doesn't think paying for it will be a problem.
"I've tried to put enough money aside," he says.
Carla says that if Roland hadn't unretired, "I probably wouldn't have been able to go to school full-time. Whatever I've decided to do, he's said, 'Yeah, go ahead.' I have never wanted for anything."
Well, says Roland, maybe Carla can pay him back one day.
"When I get old and gray and can't do anything, she can help me," he says.
Carla gazed at her man and replied after only a split-second's hesitation.