Happy Anniversary Sweetheart

I’m a couple of days early. Karen and I would have celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary this coming Saturday (Aug. 31). Since that’s our “Prayer, Care, Share” Day, I’ll leave the praise for then, but I can’t let the celebration go unnoticed.

If I had been allowed  to look into a crystal future ball way back when, I never would have envisioned the life we led, the adventures we took, the blessings we were given — even amid the trials. Of course, the biggest trial was Karen’s illness that eventually led to her death shortly after our 40th anniversary.

While I celebrate the 40 years we had together, I am saddened by the almost 11 years I’ve had to navigate without Karen at my side. It’s been oh so bittersweet these past few months. I can’t help but reflect on the milestones we missed together — the graduations and weddings, the birth of three grandchildren and three great-granddaughters, the move to Maine, my retirement, and publishing Heaven Shining Through, Wisdom From a Father and My Name Is Sam. I’ve muddled through, but it’s just not the same.

There isn’t anything new I can share about our life together that hasn’t already been told, nothing at all. I can only stare at the bronze urn with you patiently waiting for me. There are some tears in my eyes — happy tears for the memories and sad tears for the separation.

For 40 years we laughed together, cried together, truly enjoyed each other’s company {okay, most days}, shared our accomplishments and disappointments, moved and moved and moved and moved, raised five beautiful children, were blessed with 18 grandchildren and three great-granddaughters. It was quite a ride from naive teenagers {I actually was 21 and Karen 20 when we tied the knot} to learning the intricacies of life and relationships to bonding more strongly day by day to being there for each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. And we sealed it with “from this day forward until death do us part.”

We weren’t thinking about the “death do us part” part on that day. But, death is inevitable … and it was my Karen who was called first shortly after our 40th anniversary in 2008.

Physically, she did depart. Emotionally, however, she is still very much a part of my life. There isn’t a day that goes by without me thinking about her. There isn’t a decision I make without “consulting” her — probably more than I did when she was alive. In a very real way, Karen is still by my side. Poor kid, she just can’t get rid of me.

I think I’ve adjusted from being suddenly single over the past few years. I don’t like it, but I’ve adjusted. My biggest regret over the last 11 years has not been the loneliness {although that is VERY real}, but the fact Karen isn’t here sharing this season of life with me. This was supposed to be our time. WE were going to retire to Maine. WE were going to watch our family grow. WE were going to spoil the grandkids. WE were going to welcome our great-grandchildren. WE were going to travel. WE. WE. WE.

I still manage to do those things, but I really feel the loss when I attend a function alone or eat alone in a fine restaurant or walk alone in downtown Portland or Southport or Eastport or Augusta and not being dragged into an antique or novelty shop.  I miss enjoying the changing seasons with Red. I miss the little things that made up our life.

I miss celebrating our anniversary in person. I’ll settle for in spirit … because I know she is very much here. And I know we will be reunited.

Karen, of course, is/was the best thing that ever happened to me. She completed me.

We had something special. No, we had 40 years of something special. We didn’t agree on everything, but we agreed on the important things. And there was nothing more important to each of us than each other. We always had each other’s back.

We all have some regrets. If I had it all to do over again, I probably would change some of my reactions. I would have listened more, talked more, communicated better. But I don’t think I would have changed anything substantively. I loved Karen just for being her … the way she was. And I know she loved me for just being me … the way I was … faults and all.

It was a great ride.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Love is a verb.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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4 Responses to Happy Anniversary Sweetheart

  1. Bruce says:

    Very nice tribute Joe. Karen might be gone in the physical sense, but she is still with you in spirit. When I say “spirit”, her spirit is literally with you. You can’t see her, or touch her, but she is still there. Hold on to those memories, and celebrate your anniversaries. When it’s time, you will be with Karen again, and you can continue to celebrate your anniversaries. .

  2. Pam Dow says:

    What a beautiful tribute, Joe! Thanks for sharing.

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