Chicken Soup for the Soul: The true gift of love
I never imagined that I would find love again, especially with three children in tow and dating virtually out of the question. But while visiting my uncle on his farm, I was invited to join him along with about a dozen of his neighbors for an afternoon of horseback riding, and there I met the love of my life.
Ours was an unlikely union. He had never been married and had never been around children. I was divorced with three. Everyone thought he was crazy, including me, when after just a few short months of seeing each other he asked me to marry him.
I remember asking: "Why would you want to do that? I have little or nothing to offer besides three small children and a lot of baggage."
Once upon a time I had had hopes of that storybook marriage to my knight in shining armor, but now I felt totally disillusioned by marriage and had issues with trust and abandonment, to say the least. But his simple answer bowled me over and sealed the deal. "You need me," he said quietly. I certainly couldn't argue with that.
I knew he had no idea what he was getting himself into, but for whatever reason, he took it on, and through good and bad, we just kept plugging away at it as the years ticked by. Certainly it was not easy. But I'd venture to say our first years were harder than most. I am a firm believer that "there are no perfect marriages — just stubborn people."
He was raised on a South Georgia farm with a basic and simple way of life. He hunted and fished and learned to drive a tractor by the time he was 10. He was not one for making a big deal out of birthdays, anniversaries or even Christmas, for that matter. To him it was all a superficial waste of money.
And I admit the first few years of that were hard to take. I went to bed many a night and cried myself to sleep because he had yet again not forgotten, but "ignored" my birthday or another anniversary.
As time went by he saw that it bothered me and he tried, but his gifts, usually purchased in a panic at the last minute, left much to be desired. And after a while it just wasn't worth the fight, and so I chalked it up to "that's just who he is" and learned to pick my battles.
As the years went by I began to realize that he gave me "gifts" all year long in his daily acts of kindness, like the hours he struggled with my son to build a pinewood derby racer for Cub Scouts, and how fervently he cheered him on, and beamed with pride as my son took the first place trophy at his karate tournament.
I still laugh as I recall him trying to teach my 16-year-old daughter how to drive a car for the first time. He came bolting back through the door after one particularly nerve-wracking lesson yelling at the top of his lungs, "She thinks speed limit signs are merely suggestions!"
He walked my daughter down the aisle when she married the love of her life, and then paced the hospital halls by my side for 18 long hours the night she gave birth to our first grandson. Years later he and my now-grown sons worked tirelessly for months to build an apartment over our garage when my mother could no longer live alone. And I will never forget how he made countless heart-wrenching phone calls to relatives for me the night my mother passed away.
He has been by my side through job losses, surgeries, cancer scares, funerals and births. And not a day goes by that he doesn't tell me he loves me, kiss me goodnight or brag endlessly about a meal that I've just prepared.
We have laughed and cried and loved and fought our way through 34 years together, through the good times and the bad times, but mostly through the everyday times. Love, I have learned, is not in diamonds and gold or a dozen long-stem roses sent once a year on a special occasion. Love is waking me up with a hot cup of coffee every day before work, warming my car up on a cold morning or rubbing my feet after a long hard day. These are the things that marriage is made of. These are the true gifts of love.
Chicken Soup for the Soul appears Saturdays. It is edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.