I Bet on Love...and Won!
I’d like to share a real love story.
Not a fairy tale love story because “happily ever after” is little more than a smoky illusion. But a real love story.
It all started with a bet.
I’d seen Cathy several times before. I’d even said a casual “Hi” a few times. She was a pretty girl, sparkling green eyes, short brown hair, a slightly larger nose and warm smile. Oh, and not a bad figure, too. Most of the times when I caught sight of her, she had paint on her hands and sometimes in her hair.
Only sixteen at the time, I went to St. Xavier High School, an all guys school. I was in a play. Well, okay, I was only one of the multitude in the chorus but I was in the play. Cathy attended a girls high school across town but came to participate in the play. (It was a good way to meet guys.) In fact, she was the art director for the play and created the sets for the musical we were doing called Take Me Along.
Now to the bet. I got my nerve to approach her on dress rehearsal night while she was busy painting the final flat, a red dragon for the bar scene in the musical. I said, “I don’t think you’re going to have that ready for opening night.” (I know, great pick up line.)
She flashed that beautiful smile at me and asked, with a twinkle in those green eyes—at least I think it was a twinkle. She also had paint on her face. “What do you want to bet?”
“A coke.” I was a real big spender.
“Done.” She reached out her hand splattered with red and I shook.
Returning two hours later, I found her standing next to the finished flat, hands and face now clean. I bought her the Coke and we found a quiet place to talk. Oh, and we had our first kiss that evening in the bleachers. We still celebrate it as our first date. April 26.
But you see, I wasn’t that easy to catch. Back then, I considered myself somewhat of a ladies' man. What did I know. I once invited three different girls to the same dance, one of them Cathy. (By the way, that didn’t go very well.) Other girls I knew and dated were prettier or had bigger hair or were more seductive, but Cathy had something special. When we were together and she gave me that incredible smile, my heart melted.
By the end of our junior year, we found each other and “went steady” from then on. In fact, we dated for five years, through the end of high school and through three years of college—which is all it took me because I wanted to get married.
We tied the knot in 1972.
And that was only the beginning. Our love produced three beautiful, talented, loving children, a girl and two boys. Each new arrival stretched the bounds of the love story and only made it richer.
But it certainly wasn’t happily ever after. Our love story had to survive some very lean years. For more than a decade, we were a one salary family and a teacher’s salary at that.
“No dear, we have to wait till Friday to go the grocery. I’ll get paid then.”
“Sorry, son, we can’t afford to buy the Nintendo.”
Even broke, we managed to smile and laugh through most of it.
Our love story endured moves to six different towns, all for my work. Thank you, Cathy. Together, we built four new houses—you know, the experience they say makes or breaks a marriage. We survived and even prospered.
Fast forward Fifty years.
Perhaps, best of all, our story breathed love into our three grown children, one now the Aquatic Director for the largest YMCA in the country, another a senior computer engineer for Apple and the third, the Creative Director for CNN International and most important, each with their own love story. And all three are remarkable partners and parents. Then, the piece de resistance of our epic amore, seven incredible grandchildren, who only continue to expand our love story even further.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had easy times and not-so-easy times. We suffered through hard patches and had soft landings.
Certainly not a bed of roses, although maybe that applies as roses come with plenty of thorns. A few years back, I thought I was going to lose Cathy when she contracted a strange infection, candida albicans, which claims 45% of its victims. She has recovered well but talk about obtaining clarity on what’s important.
Like I said, definitely not happily ever after.
The remarkable nature and longevity of our real love story hit me a few years ago. As it happened, we were touring Hawaii in February and were having a celebratory dinner on Valentine’s Day at this beautiful restaurant on the beach.
For the occasion, the maître de was visiting tables and offering a rose to each of the ladies. He stopped, wished us Happy Valentine’s Day and asked how many we had celebrated together. Cathy and I glanced at each other, calculating, and after a beat, both announced this was the 50th Valentines Day we had shared. We hadn’t realized it until that moment.
To our surprise, the gentleman straightened up and announced to the entire dining crowd we were celebrating our 50th Valentine’s Day! Patrons around the room rose and gave us a standing ovation. We were a bit embarrassed, but secretly loved it. Throughout our meal, several woman came by to say congrats and handed Cathy their rose. She left with a bouquet.
Perhaps not happily ever after, but definitely happy.
Like I said, a real love story.
Hope this Valentine’s Day found you adding to your real love story.