Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing set of features of student-athlete Kyle Reid, which are the result of nearly one year of reporting on a unique student and his experience at St. Thomas. With so many elements to Reid’s story – as well as the complex and sensitive nature of many of them – we knew capturing everything in a single story would be a difficult task. Our profile of Reid for St. Thomas magazine is the product of those efforts, but due to spatial constraints we couldn’t dig as deeply as we would have liked for certain aspects of Reid’s story. With the goal in mind of providing more detail in some of those key areas, we are publishing these supplemental features in the Newsroom. To read our original story, click here. Other supplemental features are available here.
Andee Reid sat on a row of bleachers on the pool deck inside the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex, a place she has spent countless hours since her husband, Kyle, enrolled at St. Thomas in 2015.
Across the pool in the diving well, Reid and his teammates had begun practice. It was late September, early in the diving season, and Andee pulled out her cellphone to show me how she spent a large chunk of those many hours in this same building last season: She scrolled through images of her favorite drawings, characters from Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast" rendered in striking detail. A passionate artist who often draws, paints and crafts, Andee admitted she’s not an easy judge of her own work.
“These are the only ones I really like,” Andee said. “I’m a perfectionist, so if something doesn’t go my way I get stressed about it. But these are a nice stress reliever.”
Like Reid, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and conversion disorder, Andee has had plenty of stress in her life. As Reid's full-time caretaker, Andee takes on the dual roles of wife and professional help every day. She attends every practice and all of Reid's classes with him, although she is not a student at St. Thomas. Their marriage has seen more ups and downs than many others experience in a lifetime, and throughout it all their love for one another has helped shape an inspiring partnership.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Andee said. “We’ve had a hard life, but it’s the life we’ve chosen together and it’s the life we’re going to live.”
“I do not know where I would be without her,” Reid said.
Montana natives, online daters
Although Andee and Reid grew up only a few hours apart in Whitefish and Chinook, Montana, respectively, the two met online and talked for about a year before they met in person. The moment Reid got off the train and they saw each other for the first time was life-changing for both of them.
“Have you ever had that moment where there’s a crowd of people but there’s only one person you see and everyone else isn’t even there? Kyle was the only person I saw,” Andee said. “I knew from that point that we were going to stay together.”
That was at the beginning of 2010, and their relationship was forced to continue as a long-distance one as Reid trained for, and then served, an overseas tour in Afghanistan throughout most of 2011.
“It was very, very difficult. It was not for the faint of heart. It would go from being really high [when we were together] and as soon as he would leave it was like, ‘What now? What do I do?'’’ Andee said. “I stayed with him because of who he is. The way he acts, the way he makes me laugh. I actually was not a big talker when we first started getting to know each other. Those phone calls [included a lot of], ‘Are you still there?’ ‘Yeah, I’m still here.’ He had to work hard to get me out of my comfort zone and talking. He brought out the person that I am now.”
After he returned from Afghanistan at the end of 2011, Reid was stationed at a base in San Diego, California, which meant – while Andee could live nearby – they couldn’t live together without being married. For both of them, the solution was pretty obvious. On Valentine’s Day 2012 they arrived at the courthouse, marriage certificate already in hand, allowing them to skip past the long line of couples getting married on the national day of love.
“In that two-year span [from when we first met until we got married] we were only together in the same place 31 total days,” Reid said.
Together or apart, dating or married, their relationship has been tested by considerable hardship: long bouts of separation, two miscarriages, Reid’s battle with undiagnosed and, later diagnosed, PTSD and seizures, the death of Reid’s younger brother.
“We’ve been through two miscarriages, almost a divorce [after the second one]. We’ve been through deaths,” Andee said. “It has been a roller coaster.”
Andee and Reid have emerged from all that together and, now at St. Thomas, have formed a life that has both feeling positive moving forward.
“We’ve gotten to a good place in our marriage. The past is the past. I forgive him for what happened and have accepted that part,” Andee said. “We say that the miscarriage [that led to a fallout and Kyle seeking professional help], even though it was very painful, it was a blessing. Not only did it bring me to the light of what was going on with him, but I wouldn’t have been able to take care of a baby and him, and everything he’s going through. We’ve accepted that part of it.”
A daily dual life
As a full-time caretaker for Reid, Andee is constantly sensitive to his condition and how he’s doing at any given time. While his seizures are hard to predict, Reid and Andee have a better understanding of how stress management can mitigate them. When they do arrive, Andee is now an expert on how to handle the situation.
Other instances have reinforced how important it is for the pair to be together. Reid once developed a facial twitch akin to Tourette's syndrome symptoms when Andee was away in Montana for a week, Andee said. That level of dependence has required Andee to find out the hard way she needed training and therapy to make sure she can maintain her own well-being too.
“As a couple we’re in a great spot,” Andee said. “This is the best either of us has been in the last two years and for years before.”
A busy schedule throughout the school year helps: It’s full of positives such as the swim team, classes and friends, but also requires careful management.
“We spend 24/7 together. In the summer there were stretches where I wanted to be away, have a different schedule and a little time where we can miss each other. Now [during the school year], even though our days are full of each other, I feel like I don't talk to him or see him a lot because we’re constantly going. I can’t have a conversation with him in the middle of class,” Andee said. “When Sunday comes that’s my day. That’s my time with him not doing anything.”
Recognizing what they both need has been crucial as they’ve continued developing a new normal in Minnesota and at St. Thomas. Although only Reid is a student, both have become a part of the Tommie community.
“She’s always there and has been so supportive to Kyle and us. She’s so welcoming to us into her own life. It’s just amazing to have not one but two people like that on our team,” said sophomore diver Andrew Grabowski. “Andee’s part of our family and knows that; she’s everywhere with us. It’s so fun to see that, another member who’s so open and welcoming to us.”
Open and welcoming is an apt description for both Reid and Andee, who, together, are living examples of love overcoming hardship.
“When life is getting me down I wake up the next day and say, ‘Whatever. What else do you have for me?’ That’s the way we feel defines us,” Reid said. “If something bad happens, we don’t go, ‘Pity me.’ We have to work harder this time. That has come naturally to me, and Andee has come to adapt to in the last seven years. You can make a choice and hope it sticks for awhile, but you have to wake up every day and make the same decisions again.”