Meet Eric & Rose Hausmann, one of the most amazing couples you’ll meet. These engaged activists chair our Grassroots Action Committee (GAC) and have signed up to renew their vows at our One Million Strong kickoff on March 3, 2014 in New York City. Here is their love story and why they’re saying “We Still Do.”
We grew up together. Her brother was my best friend and my sister was her best friend. Our parents became good friends when I was about 4-years-old. We were together a lot, like one big family. And when I say big, I mean really big. She has ten brothers and sisters. We spent a lot of time together and were all pretty close. Who the hell would have thought that I would ask her to marry me one day? I mean, she was a few years older than me and I really was not impressed listening to her singing way out of tune with her headphones on, oblivious to anyone in earshot while she lay on her bed with the door closed. It was bad. On top of that, she was a tomboy. Not my type.
That’s a lie! I was pretty damn good. NOT. Anyways, yeah, we experienced a lot as kids and witnessed a lot of the same things. My Dad had some anger issues. I subsequently ran the streets and experienced some things no child should. We didn’t have a lot of money as it goes with big families and my parents couldn’t monitor us all the time. I hitchhiked to softball practices and happily “figure skated” on one skate my siblings left behind on a nearby pond and wore the hand-me-down clothes that rarely fit donated to my mother, which lent to my nickname at school “THE IT.” Eric’s dad left to California when he was seven and he visited him periodically. His mom did the best she could waitressing. He (to put it nicely) “disliked” her new boyfriends who fell short of the father figure he yearned for. He played a season of youth baseball with a righty’s glove he had to throw on the ground to actually make a play because he was a lefty. He was thrown out of school and yes, even the Boy Scouts, for his unruly behavior.
After graduation I left for the Army as the family purse strings were in a knot; no money for college, so that was not a consideration. My recruiter lured me from my government-funded custodian job for low-income kids with the promise of travel and adventure; especially the opportunity to play on some cool softball teams around the world. That didn’t happen. I winded up meeting a guy who turned out to be abusive, and I thought I’d change him. At 18, I was married. Two kids and several shelters later, I left.
Yeah we were scrappy kids. Most of my school pictures look like I had a bowl on my head before my mother cut my hair, you know why? SHE DID! I kid you not! Yeah, I wasn’t crazy about my teachers or school, which winded me up in vocational school in machine shop with Rose’s brother Danny. Then I joined the Navy and learned firefighting. I was at the same government job as Rose and promised to be stationed on a ship in Philadelphia, close to home. Yeah right – I was sent to Bahrain! I enjoyed traveling the world and meeting some really great people.
I was home on leave one day and asked Rose on a date. She had started looking and dressing like a girl, and she was going to college. Yeah, we definitely kissed on the first date, but we still argue about what all really took place that night. It was a crazy instant attraction. There was no bullshit. We already knew each other. It was real. WE were real. Who the hell would have thought? I took an extended leave, and we spent a lot of time together. I eventually received my discharge and she really reeled me in cooking for me all the time. THAT doesn’t happen anymore.
THAT is bullshit! Yes I do. It may not be good…but look at his belly. We moved in together and he instantly became a father to my kids. My son was two and my daughter nine months. As years passed, our days became full with attending a multitude of sports. When Justin and Jamie were five and seven-years-old, we found out I was pregnant. We decided to tie the knot immediately. Two years after Ashley was born, we had our son Taylor. We became involved in sports. Together coaching softball, Eric became the president of our Pop Warner Football League, which oversees some 800 local kids. At work, he became the president of his Stagehand Union (the youngest in the country.) I earned my Bachelor’s degree, attended a Police Academy, and became a Parole Officer. Eric landed a job as a Career Firefighter in addition to his stagehand job and quickly became a delegate and union president for them. Our lives improved financially. We scrapped the van with the skunked roof and eventually bought a couple of nice cars along with a very nice home.
Yeah, it was time to get my shit together. I guess I did what everyone does. I grew up. It just felt right. I’m a no-nonsense kind of guy and Rose is a no-nonsense kind of chick. We laugh at the same things we laughed at as kids, we understand each other, and we have an indescribable bond. So we just click and we keep it real. I like that. I love all our kids and I love our life we’ve built together.
Life was good and busy. Way too busy for something to stop it dead in its tracks. I can’t say everything was going just as we planned until that point. It wasn’t. It was never really quite as we planned it. From the beginning, we violated the “NORM,” but we never expected this.
After weeks of severe constipation in November 2005, I finally had a colonoscopy and the gastroenterologist told me I had colon cancer. I was in shock. You know that sense of entitlement we all feel. Yeah, we all seem to have it. Other people get sick. NOT ME. I remember later telling the surgeon that I remembered eating a bad sandwich, which could have caused it all. This can’t really be anything serious. I remember him chuckling at me – I didn’t understand. He obviously knew a lot more about colon cancer than I did.
After the surgery and getting somewhat of a grasp on the diagnosis of stage III colon cancer, I had my kids visit me all together. Justin was 22 years old, and diagnosed as schizophrenic since age 16, Jamie was 20 and in college earning her teaching degree, Ashley was 15 and busy pitching for the high school softball team, and Taylor was 12, busy playing football and being a kid. I knew they were all proud of how tough I was and the police car I took home every night. I didn’t know how to break the news, but it went something like this,” I have cancer… and you know how strong I am, so I want you to be strong with me. It will get tough, but we can do this together.” They believed it and still do. They know Eric is our anchor and love him beyond measure.
I didn’t tell them what else I was thinking. “I don’t want to die. I’m scared. Who would take care of my son who was so needy of me?” I calmed down and drew on my faith. I knew God made the rules, NOT ME. I had a blessed life. I reflected on the popular poem called “Footprints” and thought, “God where were you? When you didn’t see me, I was carrying you!” He was carrying me.
I reminded myself, “I must focus on the positive! I’m being lifted.”
I have an amazing life, beautiful children and a grandson… and Eric my hunkalicious hubby. He’s stood by my side through so much, including four recurrences, and the removal of my rectum and bladder. It certainly has changed the dynamic of our love life, and somehow, he still makes me feel hot.
Trials and tribulations that sadly included Justin’s battle with mental illness and tragic death at age 26 in 2009 bond us. We experienced immense pain and anguish, as did our kids.
Our deep love glues us together for eternity. We are driven by that love we share and know we were meant to be together on this journey forever, wherever it may lead.
After all, we came from the same fiber, and learned that when life gives you lemons…MAKE LEMONADE. The benefit of adversity is that you can call upon the strength it offers to get over life’s hurdles. I surely needed more spring in my step than I could muster alone to jump many hurdles including the one in front of me called colon cancer. Thank God, my soul mate and knight in shining armor is here to carry me as I leap over it.
WE are survivors. Now and Forever.