There are a lot of you that routinely read this blog (for reasons I don’t fully understand, but really appreciate nonetheless), so it won’t come as a big shock that being with Sheila has completely changed my life in every good way possible. Those who know us personally (family, close friends) are likely familiar with how we came to be an “us”, but we’ve never really talked about how we met. (And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with me stalking Sheila) (Well, maybe a little bit)
Here’s a quick summary, my apologies to those who already know this story …
You lose someone … your spouse, who was your life partner, love, best friend, strongest supporter, biggest critic, your world … and you figure “Okay, that’s that. Guess my life is done, too”. Both Sheila and I were right there. I figured I would become an old grouch slowly sipping scotch while working until I couldn’t stand upright any longer. Sheila figured she would become the 6th member of her daughter’s family, taking Audrey (her granddaughter) on little vacations. We both were prepared for kind of giving up on starting again.
Our spouses (Bunny & Frank) passed away in 2016 within weeks of each other. After their passing, we got acquainted through a website called WidowedVillage.org, a wonderful group dedicated to people grieving after the loss of a spouse/life partner. WV is an excellent resource, should you know anyone looking to find a group to commiserate with … they are cautious about acceptance, taking some time to research your history (non-invasively) before allowing you into the organization. Both Sheila and I felt protected and respected with this group.
BTW, WV is NOT a dating site, quite the opposite, actually. While they don’t have rules about members seeing each other in real life, they don’t encourage it, either. They are a grieving site for people who want to hear from others with the same issues. Sheila and I are likely only the 2ndcouple to meet at WV, although we’ve never announced our situation to them.
We had many commonalities in both our losses and our daily lives … a great deal in common, it turned out. We began to chat long distance, with each conversation getting longer and much more frequent. In a short time, we were speaking every day for at least 2-3 hours. We were, in effect, “phone dating”.
By Labor Day, it was obvious to both of us that our mutual attraction was very serious and we decided, since we both knew 1sthand how very quickly life can change on you, that it wasn’t worth waiting for some undetermined time to begin a new relationship, and by Thanksgiving I was an official resident or the State of Georgia and an official resident in Sheila’s beautiful home.
Our time together has been extraordinary … Sheila is far better than me in so very many ways and I’m blessed to be with her. After losses like we have had you never think the probability of finding a new love/life partner/soul mate is possible, yet here she is, an incredible love in my life. Sheila has saved me from becoming a grumpy old guy (yes, I know I’m already a grumpy old guy, but I could be even worse) and has made me enjoy life again in ways I never thought possible. It’s not feasible that I could love anyone as much as I love her … she is amazing in all ways!
With Sheila came a whole new family, too! Her whole extended family has been beyond wonderful in accepting me, particularly after the passing of her husband, Frank, who was such a big part of the clan. With no expectations of anything, they have been welcoming and kind. I just hope they can see that my only goal is to make their sister/mother/grandmother happy.
And it is a family, in all ways! Most everyone lives within a short distance of each other. Sheila’s daughter and her family are literally directly across the street, one sister is a 5-minute drive, I think the longest distance between any of the family members is maybe 45 minutes. Holidays, birthdays, events, everything is family centered.
As anyone who knows me is aware, I also come from a big family … a very big family when you add in all the in-laws, nieces, nephews, great nieces/nephews … so I’m used to the idea of family. But in this circumstance, I also got things I never expected.
I never expected to become a grandfather. Of course, I’m not really a grandfather in the actual sense, there is no common gene pool I can lay claim to or a blood line to follow. No one calls me Grandpa or Papa or Pop-Pop, I’m just Ed. I do have the requisite white hair, however, and I do enough embarrassing stuff to take on some of the role.
But that is not any type of complaint, at all. What I have found is that I quickly became very fond of these kids, and it quickly turned into loving them. And not just the kids, but the whole family! In being so blessed to have Sheila, the true love of a lifetime, I received this additional blessing of family.
I had asked Sheila, very early on, if she realized how very lucky she was to have such a great family, so close in proximity and so close to heart, and she said she thought she did. And now, knowing the circumstances and seeing the family “up close and personal” on a daily basis, I can clearly see Sheila absolutely understands and appreciates the gifts she’s been given. And because she gives all of herself to me, I am an undeserving but very grateful recipient of all this family love.
Sheila and I have been quite reflective these past few weeks as we approached the anniversary of the passing of Bunny & Frank. To think of the relationships we had over all those years, and the crushing losses of not just spouses, but of children, too (an unfortunately cruel thing we have in common), it seemed happiness had run its course for us. To realize, now, that another amazing gift has been given to us, a chance at a new love, a different love … there are no words of gratitude for either of us. We know how lucky and blessed we are, and we know many others never get this “extra” opportunity. It’s a gift we will cherish and protect and honor, and we have been so appreciative of the support from everyone.
We also realize that not everyone views our situation in the best light. Some people may think we are being disrespectful, or inconsiderate, or cold … or possibly worse thoughts than that. We understand why people may feel that way and we respect those feelings.
But we will not retreat or hide or minimize our feelings, or stop expressing our love and gratitude for each other, just to placate those who may not be able to accept our incredible good fortune. We genuinely want others, in similar sad situations, to know that the possibility of love again is real.
Love is not a competition, to see who is better or smarter or prettier or richer or poorer. We openly talk about our deceased spouses and they share mantle and wall space in our picture galleries, a kind of hodge-podge of families joined together by love.
Without forgetting where we came from, remembering all of the joy and love we had in our lives in the past, Sheila and I are moving forward now, anxious and excited for everything in our new future, together as a team and in love. It’s a new start!
I think I am the luckiest New Jersey guy, ever ….
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