This morning, he held me close and whispered, “I think I love you more now than ever,” and I remembered the first time I saw him, leaning against a cabana wall at the beach club. His hair was blue-black then and his skin bronzed by the sun. He wore maroon swim trunks and carried “The Marquis de Sade,” hardly my choice of summer reading, under one arm. He raised his left eyebrow and his eyes sparkled behind dark lenses and, from the vantage point of 17 summers, I deplored his male superiority. He was an “older man” and I couldn’t see how unsure he was, how frightened I wouldn’t like him. I had no glimmer back then, no hint, that the rest of my life had just begun.
I remembered the next time we met, at the snack bar. I peered at him over my sunglasses and asked if I knew him. He seemed to think that was an affectation, but it wasn’t. I really didn’t remember who he was. Later, we sat on the beach and drew maps in the sand and planned our first date. I remember when I fell in love with him. He had come back from his Canadian vacation and found I had gone to the “End of Summer” celebration with his brother. He was hurt and angry and asked to speak with me alone. We walked out behind the lockers and he kissed me and I knew then that I would love him forever.
We met in July, and became engaged on New Year’s Eve. I was one of those whiz kids who had entered college at a very early age and, at just 18, was in my senior year. I couldn’t wait to get back to school and show off my amazing, very ’50s, three-carat diamond ring (10 years later it was sold to pay medical expenses for a very sick child, but that’s another story). In 1954, I took the train every morning from Riverdale to my school on East 87th Street in Manhattan. We joked that there was an invisible cord tied to my ring that would whisk it away at the first sign of infidelity (also very ’50s)!
We married on Aug. 15, 1954, 13 months from the first time he saw me, standing self consciously at the pool, and was hit as he later told me, by “The Thunderbolt.” He was 24 and I, 18. I don’t remember how it came up, but on the day before our wedding, we promised each other that no matter how many biological children we might have, we would one day adopt a child to complete our family.
Our first daughter appeared nine months and two weeks after our wedding. On our ninth-month anniversary, my dad, a very proper old school gentleman, rang our bell, bowed from the waist, and said, “Now you may have the baby!” (in those days people counted on their fingers). Our second daughter arrived 16 months later when we were accused, by the older generation, of acting like rabbits.
Our first son was born in 1963 and died in January 1967, just two months after his third birthday. We shared a three-year odyssey, searching first for a diagnosis and then for a cure. Those difficult years, rather than separating us, strengthened our bonds and drew us closer together. Nine months to the day, we applied to the Adoption Service of Westchester, our second son was placed in our arms, and we fulfilled our prenuptial promise to each other.
In the ensuing years, as we watched our children grow to adulthood, we’d sometimes forget to walk the same path, but always found our way back before it was too late. In our family, I would tell our children, we don’t believe in divorce; murder, maybe, but not divorce.
For 60 years, we have loved, fought, laughed and cried; sometimes together, sometimes alone. We have weathered far more than most and less than some, but we’ve shared a togetherness known to very few. That phantom string, once attached to just the symbol of love, has fastened itself securely around my heart and reaches whereever he is, from now throughout all eternity.
Adrienne can be reached at AKL.email@example.com.
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