Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist/band organizer and manager/event producer/writer

I Met a Man

My husband Jay riding his Harley

Throughout my life, I have been attracted to strong men. At least I considered them strong. They came off as strong-minded, strong-willed and self-confident. Little did I know that it was all a façade.  After too many relationships with “wanna-be strong men,” I happened upon the real thing.

A friend called me up one Friday afternoon asking me to lunch the next day. I was still recovering from the mini music fest I ran at Kvar Shaul Mental Facility and shared my fatigue and inability to fraternize that Shabbat. Minutes later, she called me back offering to introduce me to a man she had been fixed up with recently that was not right for her. She suggested that I send a dating profile. I gawked at the idea. At my age, I am who I am and it takes only a few moments to realize my personality after meeting me so I kindly declined.  Little did I know this man was asked to do the same and declined as well.

She encouraged him to call me before Shabbat and offer to meet me. I was less than thrilled by our initial conversation but agreed to meet him after thinking about what excuse I will use to break away soon thereafter. Ironically, his thoughts were the same.

Lo and Behold the opposite happened. I sat across from him at a local café and kept saying “Why do I like you?”  From there on, besides a preplanned trip to Sinai with a friend for 5 days, we saw each other every day. The relationship blossomed way too soon for the comfort of some friends and family with us deciding to marry shortly thereafter, but we took the plunge and did it anyway adopting a dog along the way.

Why am I sharing this story?  I am little by little discovering parts of this man that I thought could only exist in fairytales. He was a biker for 20 years in the States and a part of a special bike club that protected children from abuse. He has tattoos on both of his forearms with names and dates of friends he had lost over the years choosing to honor their memories in a very personal way. He wears a Jewish star and a pendant of a dove given to him by his mother before he left for his Israeli Army Service decades before and rings on fingers on both of his hands.

I for one never dated, seriously anyway, a man with tattoos and neither with jewelry of any kind. I know nothing of the life of a biker. Why one chooses to join the ranks of bikers and what constitutes the personality of a real biker. I soon learned that being a biker instantly gave you a family of brothers, something he missed after leaving the Israeli army.

Jay on his Harley- photo by Joe Newman

I also learned that there are good bikers and bad bikers but even the “bad” bikers join efforts to support children. My biker joined the international organization to help abused children- “B.A.C.A.” Bikers Against Child Abuse. Not only did he ride with them, and foster his own kids through the program but he was also their spokesman on many occasions.  The kids are given road names like the bikers have. Jay’s was “Rabbi” and this boy in the photo with Jay was named “Punisher”- even the name empowers the kids.

Jay with Dawson, one of the kids he worked to protect through his Biker Club. Dawson sadly passed away years later- Photo by Kate Brookmeyer

As I have gotten to know my personal biker, I learn every day what a special man I was gifted with. His love for children and animals, his love for family and me of course. And astoundingly his desire to make whatever changes necessary to allow me to become accustomed to a life with a biker. I have learned that there is not much difference between a throwback from the ’60s, a flower child, a peacemaker, and a biker, at least not my biker.  Throughout his biker life, he was a peacemaker approached by all ages and genders to find the middle ground and avoid conflict when possible. On the other hand to be the iron fist when necessary. He would never walk away when conflict was inevitable, standing his ground to the very end no matter the consequences. He is a protector and the rock of righteousness.

Me and Jay a world a part- Photo by Warren Burstein

Living with me is not the easiest thing.  I have my ups and downs, my relentless efforts to make changes in my life and the world around me, and my crazy Art that he has learned to accept and even love. They say that our eyes are a window to our soul. Looking into his eyes I see the soul of a holy man constantly looking for justice with a desire to defeat all that is evil no matter the expense.

Jay’s bike- Always the proud Jew – Photo by Joe Newman

There are countless stories shared by my biker about children he fostered through his care and concern defending them until they were capable of defending themselves. I could fill a book with a small percentage of the stories he has shared about his life of protecting those needing protecting, serving as a counselor to assist friends and countrymen with relationship challenges in his very special biker-loving way. Still, I don’t have enough space for them all. Suffice it to say that I found the real thing after years of believing it didn’t exist.  A man of true honor, true compassion, true conviction, and a true heart.  And I get to say that this man is now and forever mine as I am his.

About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Methadone Clinic, Established a program for Ethiopian Teens educating them about their culture and opened the Jerusalem School of Rock program which helps to create teen rock bands and established monthly teen music events at downtown venues where teens perform for their friends in a teen friendly exciting atmosphere. In addtion to her projects Tracey was the English Speaking Volunteer Coordinator for Emunah Jerusalem succeeding in bringing in more funds and volunteers than ever before. Tracey organizes monthly Rock Festivals and manages rock bands young and old. Tracey also writes for Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post.
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