My one and only and I became pen pals in the fall of 1982 and sophomores in High School. He went to the neighboring district, although we lived just 20 minutes apart. We wrote back and forth for a year before getting up the courage to talk on the phone and to meet. The first time I talked to him was to wish him Happy Birthday on February 19, 1983.
That summer, I got my driver’s license and we were finally able to meet. He was a skinny little guy who weighed about 125 pounds soaking wet. He had feathered hair that parted in the middle. I was drawn to his cute chin dimple that seemed to get deeper when he smiled from his heart or laughed from his soul. His brown eyes twinkled when he was teasing and telling huge tales. He wore Levi jeans with a plaid shirt that was completed with a matching belt and brown corduroy jacket. He was well dressed, sensitive, kind, and thoughtful. Smelling of freshly baled hay, cedar sawdust, and Avon’s Wild Country cologne, I became weak in the knees. He was everything I ever dreamed of.
That was the beginning of our love story that continues today. 35 years later, he still makes my heart sing.
Is he perfect? No. Have I always agreed with him? Absolutely not. Has our marriage been perfect? Without a doubt, no way. Bad decisions have been made and there have been regrets. But through it all, my sweet man never stopped trying, striving to be a better husband, father, and provider.
I am proud of him. He graduated in the top 10 of his class in High School. He joined the Navy and was 2nd in his class of 600 at Bootcamp, and enjoyed the life of a corpsman. After returning to the civilian world, he worked as a Parts Manager for a variety of businesses before settling down at a local tractor dealership. He was well-known for his speed, accuracy, kindness to customers, knowing the part numbers and locations by heart. He thrived on working overtime and made a good living that supported our growing family.
My husband has always been meticulous, although the man enjoys a good junk drawer. He loves to rearrange the house, and jokes that if it were up to me, nothing would ever be hung on the walls. He has been known to take as many as three showers in a day in order to remain clean, and he has always attacked the workplace, home, and yard with the same vigor.
He’s the best father. Attentive, humorous, and a kid at heart, he played with our children by jumping on the trampoline, chasing them around the house, and shooting elastics, balled up socks, candy, and Nerf ammunition at them. He would hide in nooks and cranny’s in order to scare the wits out of everyone and then laugh so hard that he had to lean against the door jam for support. He cheered loudly and proudly at every sport’s event, dance recital, and competition. His babies were his priority and he still would give everything he has to help any of them if they were in need.
My husband is my best friend, my confidant, my heartbeat and the air I breathe. I cannot imagine what my life would have looked like without him in it. He makes me smile, supports me no matter what, and encourages me to be a better part of myself. He lifts me up and challenges me to reach heights that I could never imagine on my own. He is the president of our fan club, and the children and I have always felt his faithfulness to its fullness.
More than anything, it gives me great comfort to know that he has made a commitment to follow the Lord. In 1987 he was baptized and we became members of our local Baptist church. He enjoyed teaching Sunday School with the teens, leading AWANA, running the children’s game time, and helping with the Youth Group. That spiritual foundation was how we made it through the rebellious teen years, and a mid-life crisis that spiraled into the loss of two jobs, and the eventual diagnosis of dementia. That faith carried us through accidents, falls, multiple medical complications, and a stroke in 2016.
There is no doubt that the last five years have been like walking through the “valley of the shadow of death” as he has been presented with a death sentence at a very young age. God knew that we needed to meet young, have our family early, and provided him with his dream home to enjoy during his “retirement”. God knew that his time home would be a time of healing, giving him the opportunity to reconnect with his Maker, while working on our property. In a lot of ways, I have God to thank for bringing him back to us after a time when he had come unravelled.
The disease is progressing. There is no way to slow the process or stop it. We are told that it is moving at a fast rate, which is both a blessing and a curse. We try not to dwell on that. Instead, we focus on the relationship he has with our youngest grandchild, who calms him and brings him out of a fog faster than anyone. We celebrate each day that he is still with us, can respond to conversation, add insight and opinions, and can express what he needs. He loves to Facetime the children and our grandchildren and continues to look forward to a Dunkin Donut’s coffee and sweet treats.
So as we inch toward Valentine’s Day and the universal day of LOVE, I will remind myself that it isn’t about the cards, flowers, candy, or serenades from the local barbershop quartet that I no longer receive. It is about the man in the comfy chair, with the earphones, who is rocking and smiling while he watches the election coverage for the 50th time. I refuse to concentrate on what I’ve lost, what I’m losing, or the lonely days ahead. I will remind myself that God gave me a gift, meant to appreciate and enjoy in the present.
I will love and appreciate him forever, always, and into eternity. May God grant us a lot more belly laughs, walks by the ocean, ice cream trips, and coffee.