January 17

He Loves You

To this day, I still can hear our childhood friends taunting us—“Steve and Linda sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”

Nice concept. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in that order for Linda and me. By the time we made it to the altar our son was more than one year old and I had turned 18 three days earlier. Two months later, we celebrated Linda’s 19th birthday. The year was 1967.

Our three sons, John, Steven, and David
Our three sons, John, Steven, and David

The love didn’t come first either…at least not from me. It was more like teenage testosterone focused on a vulnerable young woman. Linda, standing at four-foot ten, was ninety pounds of captivating feminine proportion with a high-spirited personality. I was a loner—cool and quiet as a box of unlit matches.

In retrospect, I probably had all the right stuff to be a loving person, but growing-up in a dysfunctional family had destroyed almost all of my feelings except one—anger. Besides, I didn’t really believe love existed; even though I often heard the words just before my grandmother hung up the phone, or as we were leaving a relative’s house after a family gathering.

I certainly didn’t feel loved by anyone—that is until I met Linda. Even then I had doubts about love.  Early in our relationship, she told me she fell in love with me on the very first day we met. I was blinded by that, and at that time, I didn’t know how to feel love, give love, or be a loving person. And I certainly couldn’t understand how or why she loved me. She told me she saw a loving soul buried under my cocky demeanor—the greaser attitude of the 60’s. It was my defense system, and it worked well at keeping others away. Nevertheless, she pushed into my softer side. How lucky for me that Linda possessed the gift to see beyond outward appearances, and could recognize the beauty and goodness in almost everyone. Continue reading

September 27

A Family at Last

When I began writing my memoir during the summer of 2012, I asked Linda 6 questions about our first few years together, the good and the bad. At that time, we did not know cancer was spreading throughout her body. (I’ll share her response to one of my questions at the end of this writing.)

Our first dance as man and wife

Reflecting back over the 50 years we shared together—and more specifically the first 4 years—we agreed that we lived a fairy tale life, and we both wanted our family to know our love story, how it grew, and how we overcame the challenges we faced. It was the right time to reflect on our beautiful relationship and share those experiences with others. Unknowingly, we had chosen the perfect time to rekindle the flames that we experienced in our childhood. We laughed, we cried, and after 50 years of being together, we were still in love. I thought it would never end. After all—we were soul mates living the fairy tale life.

When we talked about those days, it seemed we both remembered the bigger picture, but the minor details were sometimes different. For me, one of the most important questions was her memory of the day we met after not seeing each other for more than a year. We both had moved on…or so it seemed. During that time, Linda found someone new and she was engaged to be married. I was in a chaotic relationship with a girl a couple of years older than I was and I knew it wouldn’t last—it was disaster-prone and doomed from the beginning. Our son, John, was born that summer. My mother gave birth to a baby boy (Jeffrey Allen) on Valentine’s Day the same year—she was 37. It was odd having a brother, and a son, born only months apart.

Linda printed her response to my question on line-less paper. I have not edited her words, but I have added punctuation and corrected minor spelling for easier reading…I mostly cried while typing out her memories. (I will post a segment of my written chapter in a later blog.)

My question: What do you remember about the first time we met after our son was born?—

Linda’s words

Our son was born on June 15th, 1965. In the late spring of 1966, I was working as head waitress at a Big Boy restaurant. You had called me after not seeing each other since a year. You wanted to see me to talk.
I told you to come to my work. I put my hair in a French twist and sprayed it blonde that day. You hated my hair up and didn’t want me to wear makeup.
I was working my shift and one of my managers told me a really cute guy in a black Chevy wanted to talk to me. I went out to car-hop outside and there you were waiting. My stomach was flipping. (I loved you so much and thought it was over between us.) You asked me to go for a ride so we could talk. I was engaged to another guy. So I had very mixed feelings. I agreed to go if my manager would let me off for an hour. She said ok. We went to Stoney Creek park in Utica, parked the car. You started talking, telling me how much you loved me and missed me and wanted to marry me. I said I am engaged. You said, “Marry him, then when I am 18 in January you can divorce him.” Oh my God I loved you so much. Then you kissed me and I knew what I had to do.
I went back to work. You left, promised to call. I broke off my engagement. My heart was with my son’s father and I knew it was right. You didn’t see our son until his first birthday, it was a wonderful day for me. A family at last.

In loving memory—Tevie

August 17

They Went Home

Oh how difficult to have a face-to-face discussion with someone when both are trying to make their point and neither are listening to the other—the focus shifts to key words, and we tend to pick and choose what we hear. It’s like instant editing, with a bias. And while the words are lost, or maligned, the tension rises and the volume goes up (as if that helps). Then, while it continues to deteriorate, it becomes the blame game—“…if only… if it wasn’t for…because of you…”
Most of us have been taught to “defend our position” and the easiest way is to ignore, block out, or demean the other person. It’s a football game without rules, without a ball and without boundaries. Yeah, it gets ugly, but we’ve all been there, we’ve all done that. And of course, there is always an underlying reason for the conflict that nobody seems to recognize or maybe it is too painful to verbalize. I’m trying to not be angry any more—it is very difficult.

It’s been eleven months since I lost my love and it feels like an eternity. She is still a part of my daily living and always in my thoughts. Forty-six years of companionship does not fade away quickly. What does change, is the dynamics of your inner circle—your friends and family. There is an undeclared transformation within those relationships, and everyone connected to you has to relearn to interact in a new way, with a new vision and hopefully with empathy—unfortunately, this does not always happen and you may be cast in a negative light, or worse, be thrown to the curb. Yes, you may lose your closest friends and family. Be understanding toward them, and know—they too are going through change. Above all, don’t try to figure them out, and don’t blame them, even if it appears they are intentionally hurting you. As they say, “they know not what they do,” because they too are suffering, and we all have different ways of dealing with our pain. There will be tension, there will be arguments, and there will be anger. And if it feels like others are ganging up on you, they probably are, and don’t realize it. When that rejection hits, know that it comes from emotion, rather than logic or reason. It helps to realize that you will not be able to fix any of this.

And remember, your perspective is just that, your perspective. Trust me on this; you cannot fathom someone else’s loss or their level of suffering. It is not comparable, since we each believe our pain is the greatest pain, and the deepest pain.

If I tried to explain my feelings in contrast to others on that fateful day when we lost a mother, a friend, my wife and lover, it would be this: “They went home, I went back to a house.”

No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had. ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

June 9

Perfect Imperfections

I purged a lot of frustration while writing “Shots to the Heart”—it was somewhat of a bare-the-soul approach.  The pain I was stuffing created an angry

Adore You by Miley Cyrus

edge to my words. When my sister (Cathy), read the first writing, she told me not to share it with anyone—she said, “Burn it.” Of course, she was right, and it’s in the trash. After a major rewrite, the final version ended up with many of the same elements, but more carefully worded and much is buried between the lines.  For instance, I talk about how Linda and I struggled to be together while “others” fought to tear us apart. They would say, “It’s for our own good.” What they didn’t realize is that their actions served to bond us more closely.

Today, history is repeating itself. I’m told, “She’s not right for you!” “We will not accept…”

This has created an arm’s length relationship with some of my friends.  Others are being even less polite. It feels like they want to punish me for being the one that survived. If there were a do-over button, I would push it. I would trade places.

Looking back, Linda and I had a poor chance for a lasting marriage. We were children and foolish lovers without a plan or direction. Today, I’m in a similar position, and the odds are about the same. The only difference is, I know what love feels like—and I’m still in love—although, I do not understand love or the nature of attraction. It makes me question whether love is intrinsic, or merely happenstance. Do some hold the key and will “always and forever” find love, while others search hopelessly?

We’ve all heard; “Love is blind.” I’m not sure that’s true. There is a difference between being oblivious to flaws, and unconditionally loving someone in spite of their imperfections. John legend makes a strong point in his song “All of Me.” He appreciates the flaws, through a loving heart:

“Love all your curves and all your edges—all your perfect imperfections—you’re my end and my beginning—even when I lose I’m winning.”

I’m trying to understand why those that say they love me want to reject me.  I know there is a “reason behind the reason” for their actions, and I realize its’ not malicious. They love me, but with contingencies. I asked a friend why the rejection. She/he said, “I’m not rejecting you, I’m rejecting the woman.” Sorry, it doesn’t feel that way, and I’m struggling to understand that rational. Does that mean some people are not worthy of love? Or, am I simply a footnote in their memories of Linda?

I continue to question my actions (and others). I search for answers to questions that I don’t know to ask. Because of this, I’ve become caught up in analyzes, and it consumes me. Even though it is a “fool’s errand,” my mind will not be still while I try to find peace and happiness after suffering a battered heart.

One of my favorite quotes sums up my quest for answers. It was written by George Santayana. For me it has deep meaning, and is so thought-provoking that I’ve printed it on my business card.  
“By nature’s kindly disposition, most questions, which it is beyond a man’s power to answer, do not occur to him at all.”