Valentine’s Day finds me feeling very grateful because I have had the same Valentine for 27 years. Back in the summer of 1988 I was working as a disc jockey for i-103. One evening a couple came to the radio station to pick up concert tickets they had won in a promotion. I was smitten with this artsy brunette named Tara Rain. At the end of my shift I told a coworker, “She is the prettiest girl I have ever seen in my life. If she were my girlfriend I’d treat her right.” In the autumn I ran into her at another concert. We chatted a bit and then she impulsively snatched the beret off my head and wore it for the rest of the show.
The radio station had been seeking volunteers to assist with the telephones during call-in contests and to take requests. We had 4 volunteers sign up and one of them turned out to be Tara. I suddenly found reasons to linger around after my shift on Friday nights. I held no illusions of an actual romance between us ever developing, but I hung around anyway because she was intoxicating to be around. Anyone who ever saw the interior of WGSI-FM can attest to its dingy and depressing atmosphere, but Tara would smile and it would light up the whole room.
One day a mutual friend called me at work and immediately blurted out, “Tara Rain likes you!” I was surprised and ecstatic, but also confused about what my next steps should be. I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and afraid of putting our friendship at risk. Friday rolled around and it transpired that the other volunteers were gone that night. Perfect—Tara and I would have three hours to ourselves and I would finally be able to tell her how I felt about her. A breaker tripped and the lights in the office went out. For some reason it wouldn’t reset. So we just sat there in the darkness and talked about everything (except our feelings) between phone calls. My ex-girlfriend randomly showed up and hung around for what seemed like ages. Finally she left and we were alone again. Time was running short and I had no idea where to start. Then Tara moved in close to me and gazed at me with her kind eyes. I haltingly started to tell her how much I enjoyed spending time with her. She smiled and nodded her head emphatically to encourage me to go on. I finally managed to invite her to dinner and she said yes. We never looked back.
I have never met another person like Tara. I want to tell you a few stories to let you know what kind of person she is:
- One day we were shopping at Chautauqua Mall and a woman with special needs was losing her patience with a toddler she was watching. She started to yell things like “I’m the boss! I’m the boss!” People at the store were a) staring daggers at the woman or b) trying to completely ignore the situation. Then I heard this kind voice say, “Can I help you?” Of course, it was Tara. She calmed the woman down and got the toddler under control. She helped them find their family who were in an entirely different store. When everyone else chose to judge or ignore the woman Tara took action, treated everyone with respect, and made sure they were secure.
- Another time she was the target of some serious relational aggression from another woman… I want to keep this somewhat anonymous, but let’s just say it was some real “mean girls” type junk that had some serious repercussions on my wife’s life. Tara dealt with the drama very gracefully. While not excusing the person’s behavior, she showed some insight into the background of the person and why they may have acted the way they did. She graciously set boundaries when the person later tried to reengage. Through the whole process I never heard Tara say anything mean about or belittle the person. Tara isn’t going to let someone else’s attitude change hers.
- Tara met a single teen mom. As they talked Tara got the sense that this girl had very little support in her life. Later we talked about giving her some of the baby clothes and stuff we had stored away but made no specific plans. On a Sunday evening Tara came to me and said in all seriousness, “I feel like God is telling me to take this stuff to [her] right now.” We loaded up the car and she left. She got to the house where the girl was staying at a few days preciously, but she didn’t live there anymore and the residents didn’t know where she had gone. As Tara was driving back across town she saw the girl walking down the street and was able to connect with her. “How did you know where to find me?” she asked. How indeed…
Paintings, drawings, songs, crafts, murals, pottery, photographs… Tara loves taking the items at hand and fashioning them into beautiful things. She does this with her whole life, too, grasping whatever is thrown her way and arranging it into something beautiful. I am immensely grateful for her love.