The Heart is Right, Part 1

By Anne Gagliano

I love to write about the many ways firefighter spouses can provide support and encouragement for their mates. This is a passion for me and one I take pride in exploring and sharing. But there is another side to the story as well. A healthy relationship needs both partners to be actively interested in and supportive of the others’ welfare, desires, and happiness. Firefighters need to commit to seeing that their “better halves” are living their dreams as well. Sometimes this gets lost on those who are living in the high-octane, helter skelter world of firefighting. Here is a great example of putting your spouse first and ensuring they are being valued, treasured, and spotlighted. It involves our friend Rick Lasky.

For those of you readers who do not know who Chief Rick Lasky is, let me just tell you this—he is an impressive firefighter who has made significant contributions to firefighters everywhere. He’s a 34-year veteran of the fire service, a retired chief of the Lewisville (TX) Fire Department, a fire/EMS consultant, a motivational speaker, and an author best known for his book Pride & Ownership. He and Chief John Salka (FDNY, retired, another great fire service instructor) travel all over the country together speaking and teaching. His accomplishments are too numerous to name in this short column, so I’ll just sum it up with these words—he’s a major star in the fire world. But what has impressed me most about Rick isn’t his incredible resume but the way he speaks of his wife. He told me a story at FDIC this past April 2014 (I get to hear lots of amazing stories from amazing people at FDIC) that was both fantastic and heartwarming. Firefighters, because of what you do and who you are, you often get attention and accolade—deservedly so. But we families who stand quietly behind you providing support while fearing for your safety rarely get much notice for our selfless acts. That is why Rick’s story touched my heart so, because not only is it an incredible true life, dream-come-true adventure, but it is more importantly one that placed his devoted wife Jami Lasky in the spotlight of success.

It all began 23 years ago when Rick and Jami got married. Their favorite show was (and is) The Price is Right. They used to videotape it during the day (back before TiVo) and watch it together at night. (Don’t laugh; we all have a thing. I, for example, am rather fanatical about The Walking Dead.)  Jami dreamed of being on the show one day, and Rick longed to make that dream come true. He kept a note on his desk that read, “Get tickets,” but as it often happens in life, the “want to”s got buried by the “have to”s. The note sat on his desk for 23 years, buried—but not forgotten.

Then a week or so before Christmas 2013, as Rick was thinking of gift ideas for his wife, he stumbled across “the note.”  It was an “aha” moment for him; maybe at last he could make this happen. On a whim, he checked for ticket availability online. He couldn’t believe his eyes: A show was taping with tickets still available during an upcoming week that he was free!  (This is no small coincidence, as Rick is a very busy man.)  He grabbed the tickets and arranged the whole outing complete with hotel and first-class plane tickets. Jami was ecstatic!

They arrived in Hollywood, eager to plan their route to the show. They did a dry run the day before, as they weren’t sure where to park or how long it would take to get to the studio from their hotel. After chatting with a friendly security guard, they were all set—they had a plan. Just because you have tickets does not mean you’re guaranteed entrance to the show, so you have to arrive early and stand in line. And just because you get into the show doesn’t mean you will be selected as a contestant. Out of the 325 audience members admitted, only 9 are chosen, and of that 9, only 6 make it past “Contestant’s Row” to actually get to play the game.

But here’s the really cool part” The contestants are not chosen at random—they are hand-picked by the producers, who interview each and every guest. Rick and Jami arrived early to stand in line and eagerly awaited their 23-year dream to be on the show. The producers interviewed them as they stood in line; they were quite impressed with the T-shirts they wore. Jami designed them; after years of being a softball mom, she knew how to get T-shirts made. Rick’s was black with neon pink letters that read “Plinko Man” on the front. On the back was written, “It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s Plinko Man!” in neon green (Plinko is Rick’s favorite game on the show. Don’t smirk; the producers look for such things.)  Jami’s T-shirt was bright pink and said, “All Star Price Is Right Fan” on the front and “#1 Drew Carey Fan” on the back. They had made it through round one.

They were escorted into waiting rooms “outside” the studio where they were allowed to order lunch (Rick got “Plinko Pizza,” of course.)  An intern schooled them on what to do if chosen and what definitely not to do. Then they were interviewed again by the producers. Rick noticed they were particularly intrigued by the fact that he was a firefighter and he began to secretly fear they were going to choose him instead of Jami; he so desperately wanted this to be her moment, not his. They were given name tags and finally made their way “inside” the studio. They had made it through round two.

Drew Carey warmed up the crowd with a stand-up comedy routine; he’s not just a host but a full-blown entertainer. Then the music began, and George Gray started calling out names. The cheers were so loud you couldn’t quite hear, so the crew held up signs with the chosen contestants’ names written for the crowd to read. “Did George say Jami Lasky?” they both wondered. And to their utter delight, Rick and Jami saw her name clearly in print. Jami had so impressed the producers, who look for those most interesting, charming, and enthusiastic, that out of 325 possible candidates she had been chosen to “Come on down!”  Rick told me that his eyes filled with tears as he stood cheering for his girl and thought: “That’s my wife—my buddy—my best friend on that stage. No one deserves a moment in the spotlight more than she does.”  Jami was now on “Contestant’s Row”; she had made it through round three.

The odds of getting this far were enormous. Even greater still was what happened next.

We as firefighters are family, and family rejoices for one another when one of us does well. But we don’t just celebrate each other’s victories; we also look to the leaders of the family to set examples for the rest of us to follow. And that is what I hope to convey as I continue this story in my next column.

 

Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 29 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.

 

 

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