Thirty-seven years ago today I said “I do” to the first girl I fell in love with who was not my mother. She was 17 and I was 22. Things were different back then. That’s an excuse I know, because we were both too young to know what we were doing. But we did it anyway.
I’m sure some people thought that we had to get married. It didn’t help matters that we moved the wedding date from December to August primarily to accommodate friends who were leaving for college. The old aunts started counting the months to see just how premature that baby would be. Well, after a four-year gestation period we said hello to our first born.
We bought our first home together, and then another. And another after that welcoming more children along the journey. I was a migrant newspaper worker. She was a consumate mom. We literally watched each other grow up especially when we moved away from the folks and were truly on our own.
Everywhere we went she was in charge of making friends. I was too busy working. I’ve learned that her job was much more important than mine.
I told her goodbye 23 years later after she gave birth to our fourth child. But even then I knew that the love she kindled in me would continue to burn. I knew I would love again. And I knew that I could celebrate her life without denying our love and still love another.
When I finally worked up the nerve to tell her mother that I had found someone special she told me that she could tell that I truly loved her daughter. I was puzzled. Then she explained that in order to love someone new so deeply that I had to be deeply in love before.
She was right. A love that strong and deep never dies. It lives in wonderful memories that come at a moment’s notice stoked by a color, a smell, a face, an old friend.
The new girl is a lot like me. She too knows loss and celebrates memories. She is grateful to my first love for “breaking me in right.” I’m tenderized. I know how to love and don’t have to learn the ropes. We slipped into this love thing so easily that it’s sometimes hard to remember when we weren’t in love with each other. We both like being in love. It’s where we belong.
Today is my anniversary. It always will be. Separation doesn’t end that. Thank you for the memories, Cathy. I pray they last forever.
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