12 February 2023 -- Super Bowl Sunday = Paul Getting A Life Day

On Super Bowl Sunday, 1988, Aileen Murphy and I went out to where our friend Natalie Costanza was living in a farmhouse on the prairie near Laporte, northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado. It was snowing, and the foothills were beautiful, tranquil. It was very quiet, with the snow muffling every sound. There was a black, potbellied stove cranking in the central room, and the warmth was welcoming, comforting, just permeating the house. The game was on a television somewhere, but no one really cared. There was wonderful food in a brightly lit kitchen, and lovely companionship, and a quiet sense of joy and purpose and belonging that I had never felt before. It hit me hard. It was real and undeniable and certain in ways I had never experienced before. It makes me weepy just thinking about it now.

Aileen and I had been a couple for some time, but I was still early in sobriety (I had two relapses yet to go before I would finally get sober for keeps), and it was very clear to everyone but me that I had no idea what was best for me. I had a couple of months to go on my MA, and Aileen had a year and a couple of months to go on her MFA, and my best thinking up until that Super Bowl Sunday was that I would go back to New York after graduation, live with my parents, and try to pay off the debt I had accumulated by drinking my student loan. In a life-changing moment of clarity, I realized that didn’t want to leave, that I wanted to stay — stay with Aileen, stay with these friends, stay with the joy and purpose and sense of belonging I had somehow found there. What also makes me weepy is thinking how things would have gone if I had somehow not made that decision to stay, if I had, in fact, gone back to live in New York. I would very likely be dead, and that is not an exaggeration, not hyperbolic in the least. So, all jokes aside, Super Bowl Sunday is — in a very real sense — our annual celebration of Paul Getting a Life Day.

Aileen and I were living together illegally in her graduate student apartment on campus — OK, *I* was living illegally with Aileen in her graduate student apartment on campus — and at the time she had an unusual way of asking for things. “You could make me some tea,” she would say, or “You could tickle my back.” Two weeks after Super Bowl Sunday, we were sitting on her couch after breakfast, and I said, “You could marry me.” And she did.

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