I met him the day after Christmas. He was a college student visiting a close friend of his, my roommate’s fiancé. From our first meeting we were drawn together. Soul mates. We wrote letters. We telephoned. In those pre-Internet days, over an 80 mile distance, we courted.
And we fell in love.
The day he graduated from college, he proposed. Foolish me, I thought he was joking. I mean, I always just knew we’d eventually marry. Why did he need to ask? Somehow, I was wise enough not to say so. After a stunned minute, I simply said yes. A planner, he later said proposing to me was the most impulsive thing he’d ever done.
Before we wed he had to answer Uncle Sam’s call to duty. He did a tour overseas. Daily letters helped bridge the distance and gave us time to deepen our friendship. A month after his discharge, we married.
We saved for and bought a small home. Later we became parents of a beautiful son. In three years another fine son followed and I relished motherhood. He worked hard and also earned his CPA. He took a job transfer, 400 miles south. When he went to grad school nights for his Masters, I typed his papers. I gave birth to our third, another wonderful son.
Another job transfer, this one to the east coast. A few years later we moved a final time, this time building a house, instead of buying an older one. We were determined not to move again, to keep our sons in the same schools. The time sped. I returned to work. Our sons entered high school then began to graduate and go on to college.
He continued to work, with a commute that grew ever longer as traffic increased. During this time he also ran for School Board. He served as Treasurer and won election after election over a period of 12 years. He earned the title of fiscal watchdog, working toward financial responsibility, unafraid to cast a dissenting vote when one was called for.
We spoke the same language, liked the same movies, and music. Though born of different backgrounds, we shared the same values, the same beliefs. And we talked together, not just the necessary chatter of two people who live in the same house, but deeper conversation. He was my best friend, and my one true love. And yet, he could still surprise me.
Always we saved and found time for trips together, to the East (when we lived in the Midwest), to Florida, the Grand Canyon, Quebec, England, and other shorter trips. It was important for us and our sons. We loved the adventure. We loved seeing new places, immersing ourselves in culture and history.
With our sons grown, in late 2010 we flew to Paris and spent a magical week wandering museums, dining out, attending a French mass at St. Eustache, visiting Versailles, cruising the River Seine. Months later he spoke of returning in our retirement to play an i-Pad accordion on the banks of the Seine. Other trips also lay before us – Rome, a train trip across western Canada, and a Baltic cruise to Norway and St. Petersburg.
In the pre-dawn hours of November 30th, I woke to a still silence in the house. I found him laying on the bathroom tiles. The coroner called it a massive cerebral hemorrhage. I could not speak. “There are no words,” said some, writers all. No words for the shock, and grief. No words for the unfairness. His whole life he worked hard, giving of himself for the good of others. No words, except it shouldn’t have happened. He should have had more time.
Wrapped though I am in the comfort of family and friends, I feel I’m only moving through life, doing only what is needed. At times I think I’ll walk into the next room and find him there, reading his newspaper, talking to our sons, laughing. The tears come and go but I’m learning to anticipate them, to sometimes even welcome their healing power.
He is ever in my thoughts. On Thursday he woke me with a simple word, as he did so often on days he left early for work. “Debbi,” he said. And I woke, knowing he’d been there.
On Saturday, for the first time this season, I ventured into the stores with their Christmas mania. As I roamed the aisles only pretending to browse, I listened and watched. A mother tugged hard on her daughter’s arm. A father sternly directed his son to follow his list. A woman’s harsh voice spoke to her cell. Part of me ached to tell them, life is fragile and so fleeting. Nurture and love it.
Love one another. ♥