On Kirsten Bresnan’s 50th birthday, she received a lovely card from her husband, Bill.
But it wasn’t her first card that birthday from her husband. It was the fiftieth.
Those 50 cards for her fiftieth birthday are only a fraction of the cards, notes, and love letters Kirsten—or Krissy, as Bresnan sometimes calls her—has received throughout the couple’s 38 years of marriage. The actual total hovers just over 10,000.
And it grows every day.
The couple, from Toms River, New Jersey, first met in 1974. Bill was teaching a night class for professionals wanting to become licensed in the securities industry when “in walks this beautiful, blond, obviously Northern European woman, and it was kind of like the bolt of lightning when Michael Corleone visits Sicily and meets Apollonia,” recalls Bresnan.
Not long after, he and Kirsten began commuting to and from Long Island together on the Long Island Railroad. They exchanged notes, drawings, and “little scribblings” on beverage napkins while having coffee on the train.
Eventually, they married, and the napkins were replaced with postcards from business trips, funny cards, and greeting cards for special occasions. It might even have been a simple note complimenting Kirsten on something special she had cooked that night for dinner. Without conscious thought, Bresnan began writing to his wife every day.
Every note, every card ends the same: “I love you madly++, my Darling,” followed by the infinity sign.
In a pinch, Bresnan, who spent 20 years on Wall Street before hosting a radio financial call-in show for the past 33 years, will make cards. The self-described “hopeless romantic” carefully cuts out small pictures that have special meaning for the two of them, and glues the pictures onto pieces of paper.
And Kirsten has saved them all, including those first napkins from the train.
The collection started in a series of scrapbooks, but as the books became too unwieldy, the Bresnans created a hanging Pendaflex file system that is organized chronologically by month and year. “It’s not just an expression of love and emotion; it’s also like a love diary,” says Bresnan. Their love diary is neatly arranged in 25 hanging file storage boxes in their attic.
Not every couple is likely to have such a collection, but Bresnan encourages us all to take time and enjoy our loved ones, rather than getting caught up in the glare of household and handheld electronics that throw out information most of us don’t even need.
“I get crazy if I go to a restaurant with Kris and see a young couple sitting there and all they’re doing is staring at their electronic devices. Their thumbs are going like crazy, instead of talking to each other, instead of looking at each other,” says Bresnan. He prompts us to stop focusing on the minutiae and to concentrate on what’s real.
To him, love is a commitment, and the key is to keep working at it. “There can’t be any secrets, there can’t be any unresolved issues, and you have to just stay in love every day. It is a choice, and you do make it every day,” says Bresnan.
The Bresnans raised three daughters and a son, and they are now enjoying time with their four grandchildren. Both have battled—and beat—cancer (yes, he did write notes while he was in the hospital), but as Bresnan approaches 75 years of age, his greatest fear is that one day he’ll forget to give his wife a card.
“I don’t want that day to come too quickly. I intend to continue it as long as I can. I have no intention of stopping,” he says.