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When time is the greatest gift, every day can be Christmas

Alan Herman, who was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, visits his wife, Cathy Herman, at her Laurel salon, Sassy Scissors.
Alan Herman, who was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, visits his wife, Cathy Herman, at her Laurel salon, Sassy Scissors. (Nikki Kahn)

He was thinking of some sturdy wineglasses, remembering a comment Cathy had made to co-workers at a Christmas party a few days earlier about how few unbroken glasses remained in their home. He also had in mind a mattress heating pad and a little light for Cathy to read her books in bed.

Nights were now the sweetest part of their time together.

After Alan had to have a hospital bed installed, Cathy rigged a second hospital bed next to his so they could lie side-by-side. It hasn't been the most comfortable solution, but this way, they can hold hands every night while she reads and Alan watches cop shows on television.

"We don't let anything get in the way of that," Alan said with a chuckle as his finger pushed his wheelchair down Costco's long aisles. "We still manage to get some cuddling action going on."

The sun and the moon

Christmas has always been a big deal for the Hermans.

In fact, it was during the weeks leading up to it that they met more than two decades ago, introduced at a bar by a matchmaking friend. Cathy was about 27, a striking blonde who had just opened a hair salon on Main Street in Laurel.

Alan was 32 and recently separated, and he cut a tall and slim figure. After serving in the Army, he was working for the local water company.

It was an intense six months of dating. Alan hung out almost every day at Cathy's salon between contract jobs. After work, they'd hit the bars for cocktails and dance all night.

Finally, after six months, Alan asked Cathy, "Wouldn't it be easier if you moved in with me?"

The only way she'd move in, she replied, would be if they got married. Unfazed, Alan proposed.

During their first Christmas together as a couple, Cathy gave him a moon-shaped necklace pendant to match a tattoo she had of a sun. The idea was to be together forever, chasing each other just as the sun follows the moon.

After they had children, Christmases became an even bigger production: holiday lights out front, the tree and stockings and Mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a huge Italian-style family dinner afterward.


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