Summer Memories: Love’s Journey
This week marked a sad anniversary for me, but also reminds me of precious memories. Allow me to share a tale of three summers celebrating love’s journey . . .
The Beginning of Summer Love
I pretended to straighten the Frisbee display as I peered around the stack of pool floats. Customers crowded the toy department that summer Saturday, but my attention had shifted. Russ was back. I nonchalantly worked my way toward the aisle closest to the office, pretending to be a dutiful clerk straightening board games and Tonka trucks. Yes, there he was, talking to the manager who also happened to be one of his closest friends.
I stalled at the end of the aisle, keeping busy and hoping. My lunch break was almost due, but I didn’t want to leave just yet. Patience paid off as, once again, he stopped to chat on his way out. But this time we did more than make small talk. He asked if I would go to lunch with him. I did. We did. And what began as a summer love with lunch at Burger King inaugurated two years of dating.
The Second Summer
Flowers adorned the altar ahead of me. My trembling legs barely held me up as I walked down the aisle, gaze riveted on the man standing next to the minister. It’s not that I was afraid of the handsome groom waiting for me at the altar. I loved him as much as I could ever imagine loving anyone.
Still, as our wedding day approached, I did wonder . . .
After all, I was twenty years old during the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college. I had never lived away from my parents’ home and now I was about to commit to live the rest of my life with someone I had known for a mere tenth of my existence.
My bridal shower the month before was a time of connecting with many of the women in my life, some my generation, but many older women, too. Women whose marriages had lasted decades, reflecting both winter sorrows and summer joys. Divorce had broken some marriages. Illness and death had separated others. Yet they were all here to start me on my own journey. What did they know that I had yet to learn?
No matter. Russ and I were in love. Together we would handle whatever life threw at us. So on that sweltering summer day in New York, I walked down the aisle of my unairconditioned family church and vowed to become one flesh with the man I loved, “till death do us part.”
The Final Summer
Life wasn’t all butterflies and flowers. Nor did I expect it to be. But it was good—better than I could have imagined. Forty years later, on another summer day, I was ever so reluctantly released from that vow. Four decades of doing life with my partner, my lover, and my friend, ended with a single diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer. I watched the disease drain his life slowly but inexorably as summer—and our 40th wedding anniversary—approached. Our quiet commemoration with intimate friends was shadowed by the knowledge that this would be the last anniversary. The last celebration. And four weeks later, the final goodbye.
Three summers, separated by forty-two years and a lifetime of memories. The first summer, I was a giddy girl, in love with love. The second summer, a naïve young woman observing the world through rose-colored glasses, thinking love would conquer every obstacle. The final summer, a woman who understood love doesn’t always conquer obstacles, but it does carry us through them.
Now, my prayer for every newlywed couple is for life’s trials to refine their bond into something far beyond their initial attraction. Something real. Enduring. A love that will last from summer to summer and beyond.
A tale of three summers . . . linked by eternal love.
What memories does summer bring back for you?