Well, if this isn’t the darnedest thing. Who would have thought that I, a 56 year old recently D/S/W/F would have left my husband of 31 years in the midst of building a beautiful retirement home, to be with my high school sweetheart; who by the way is married and may be dying while on the donors list, waiting for a liver transplant at UCLA. How did I end up here? And where will I be in 5 years? Will he live?
People come into and out of our lives for a reason. This particular tender, tough guy is “the one”. The draw is strong, always has been. How many people remember the first time they laid eyes on another person for the first time at age 12? Well, this one, I do remember. It was 1960 when I transferred from my Catholic school to a public junior high. Talk about being a fish out of water. Fish, well that word will mean more to you later in this story. So one day, I’m sitting at my desk after lunch and I see him. He struts in, such a big shot. He seems to be a big deal to the other kids. He ran the room, if you know what I mean. Stocky, clean cut, black hair, rolled up sleeves, great smile, cute, you know, just your typical mini-Mafioso seventh-grader. Fifty years later I can still remember my first laying eyes on him as if it were yesterday.
Tony was “just a friend” for a long time. And then we were 16 and shared our fist kiss on a warm summer night. We were head over heels. The guys would tell Tony he was sucked under by me, and he was a fish. The name stuck. Well, The Fish was a great kisser. What I do know for sure is we were truly in love. Oh, we didn’t give our love enough credit back then. Who knew our feelings would endure all of our lives?
We went on for about a year and a half, and then came heartbreak. Neither of us can remember why we broke up exactly. I can still remember that extreme ache and hurt. Don’t let them tell you love, at 17, it is only puppy love. There are lots more fish (Fish) in the sea, blah, blah, blah. Those words don’t help a bit when your heart is broken in two.
He married. I married. I divorced. He divorced. He stayed single 10 years. I remarried. He remarried. We had really lousy timing. Over the next 38 years I still thought of him. He still thought of me. We had no contact except for a few class reunions.
Flash forward 38 years. My marriage was going south and he, I heard, was very ill. He may die. I had deliberately stayed away from him all these years. I knew he was dangerous territory for me. If I wanted to talk to him, it may be now or never. I got his number and called to give him my best and offer prayers. He was so happy to hear from me and wondered why I had waited so long.
Our phone conversations became constant and obsessive. For months we talked, laughed, hoped, while he laid in that hospital room waiting for an organ donor. We were 500 miles apart. We fell in love again, deeply in love, over the phone. He received a transplant. It was successful. Within months we both asked for divorces and knew we had to be together. And we were, for five wonderful years. No regrets, not a one.
Eventually more health problems began, heart, kidney, you name it. He would say the only specialist he didn’t have was a gynecologist. My Tony struggled, really struggled to live, for me and for his family. He bounced back a hundred times until he could no more. The last night, we were entwined amidst our tears, speaking our words of love, commitment and no regrets. His last words to me were “We will be together soon. Time goes by fast.” Not fast enough. It was the most amazing thing.