11/21/2017

Feb. 13, 2010: A Valentine Story of Love and Marriage and Endurance

This is a Valentine story.

We had our first date on Valentine’s Day a few eons ago. She and I were juniors in high school and just good friends. Nothing more. We agreed to go together to the Sweetheart Ball sponsored by the school newspaper.

Stringent privacy laws prevent me from revealing the name of the editor of the school paper. I can tell you that he still doesn’t have the foggiest idea where commas go.

We went from being good friends to sweethearts to breaking up and around the circle again and again. In truth, we had little in common. She was quiet and studious. I was a wiseacre whose study habits left much to be desired. She was a member of the National Honor Society. To me, a “D” in Mr. Tingle’s biology class was scholastic achievement enough.

Somehow, I managed to get into college – a feat I could never duplicate today – while she went to work as a secretary because that is what young women were expected to do in those days. She would one day rectify that injustice.

A few years later on Valentine’s Day we got engaged.

I would like to tell you that we got married and lived happily ever after but that wouldn’t be accurate. Yes, we got married but the happily-ever-after part took time and effort, love, patience and compromise (not one of my strong points.)

She became a stay-at-home mom and an unapologetic nester. I focused my sights on the rungs of the corporate ladder. Over the years, she prepared a lot of dinners that went cold because I would call to tell her I was on the way home, only to have her call an hour later and find me still at the office. Work can be a jealous mistress.

She endured more than her share of banquets and business dinners in which she had no interest because it was important to me. Yet, she wasn’t the typical smarmy corporate wife who tried to further her husband’s career by politicking with those she thought could help me. That’s not her style. She figured I could make it on my own. She figured correctly.

Once the children were away at college, we decided it was time for her to get a long-postponed and well-deserved college education and she headed off to Kennesaw State seeking a nursing degree. Not only did she get her degree, she found among her classmates the perfect wife for our son and her own persona as an occupational nurse at Delta Air Lines. It was money well-spent.

I finished my corporate career as vice president of BellSouth and was invited to join the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. When the Games were over, I swore to her I would really and truly retire. I lied. She knew I was lying.

I began writing an occasional newspaper column that morphed into a weekly syndicated column, now in its 12th year.

In the meantime, our two children got married (and still are after 25 years) and gave us four grandsons. We reveled in our time with them. The grandsons enjoyed spending their summers at Grandma’s Beach House and clearly preferred her macaroni to my corny jokes. Go figure.

Before we knew it, we were celebrating our 50th anniversary with family and friends and seemed to be on top of the world. Our golden years would be a cake walk, we figured. A few months later, our world shattered when our oldest grandson died suddenly. We survived from the strength and comfort we gave each other. In a weird way, the tragedy has drawn us even closer.

Not surprisingly, our years together have changed us markedly. The quiet and studious girl has become an outgoing, charming and confident woman. I have cut back the intensity level several notches and in doing so, have discovered how little I control in this world. God has to be pleased that I now recognize who is in charge – and it is not me.

A lot of Valentines have passed since that casual date to the Sweetheart Ball as well as a lot of laughter, tears, apologies and forgiveness. I can truly say I love her more today than ever. I think she would say the same.

Thus ends my Valentine story.