We’re lucky to know unconditional love. As a young divorced father, furious with the world, I felt doomed to a life alone. Not ready to fully give of myself again after an excruciatingly painful split, I chose to devote every ounce of my injured love to my daughter Anna. Eight years later, the love of my life knocked and my door opened to the most amazing girl I’ve ever known. A quarter-century has passed, and I still marvel at this beautiful soul who remains at my side.
Stacey is not only my beloved, she is my soul’s compass. Nobody else has truly understood my dreams, soothed my pain, or helped me find peace when all seemed torn beyond repair. Friends are vital to a healthy soul, and Stacey is my closest. She doesn’t judge, even when my actions plead correction. As a writer, she honestly critiques my work. I’ve been lucky to have a supportive family and lifelong friends, but Stacey is my only confidant.
A quiet but fiercely-determined butterfly in a chaotic world of wasps, the mere sight of her face evokes peace within me. She grows more beautiful and serene each day. Any time we’re apart, the sound of her voice on the phone eases the agony of separation. She’s the voice of reason and calm in our home. When my fiery temper and self-doubt threatens our serenity, her strength restores confidence.
We are separated by 13 years in age. When we met, I was 32 and she was a very mature 19. I had decided not to search for love after several failed attempts. She came to me. My parents thought Stacey was too young for their wounded son, but she was exactly the fresh breath I needed. She exhilarated me, brought back my playful self after I became surly and withdrawn. We quickly fell for each other, and she refused to allow the pain of my divorce cloud the bright love we rapidly discovered. Although I remained skittish, she was patient. Tearing the pain inside me to pieces, she gently coaxed the love imprisoned deep within me into her gentle soul. Within days of meeting her, I knew Stacey was my beloved.
My eight-year-old Anna quickly bonded with my new love, enthusiastically approving this union. A child of two homes, she suffered through bouncing weekly from Dad to Mom. Stacey provided a calming presence in Anna’s life, becoming confidante and friend long before marrying her father. Like she did for me, Stacey provided Anna a safe haven to love. She never had a harsh word for Anna’s mother, choosing instead to simply offer herself as a sanctuary to the turmoil my daughter lived. As Anna grew into an adult, she spent many hours confiding in, as she coined the loving nickname, her “evil stepmother.” She could tell Stacey something in confidence and rest assured it would never reach another’s ears… not even mine.
Stacey gave Anna two lively brothers. The only lady-child in my family, Anna was ecstatic to not only retain this status, but to also have siblings. She adores these boys to this day, having helped raise them with a fiercely-devoted sisterly love. Anna provides her hard-earned strength as these boys enter into our world as men.
My sons were treated to an idyllic childhood. Instead of working a job to pay someone else to raise them, Stacey decided my job provided enough income for her to be a full-time parent. As a result, the boys had a stable home many of t
heir friends envied. While it was considered old-fashioned to be a stay-at-home mom,
Stacey relished this role. She volunteered at their school, welcomed their friends into our home, found time for each boy’s individual interests. I did my best to give my beloved time for herself, because we have always been partners in parenting. There was
never a chore either of us eschewed, and our teamwork helped the boys enjoy their childhood.
One of the most painful decisions we made together was to move from Arizona to Oregon in 2002. I had finally secured a well-paying, stable job as an IT support technician, but the company was eliminating jobs. My only chance of keeping this lucrative position was to transfer out of state. It was an agonizing decision, but we decided to leave. Tucson remained a wild town, with murders every week and widespread challenges for young families. The day after Anna’s 18th birthday, we said goodbye to my daughter, Stacey’s parents and mine, heading north for Portland, Oregon. Thanks to our parents’ strength, we felt confident that wherever we landed, our foundation of stable love would guide us.
An only child, Stacey had never lived apart from her parents. I felt guilty for leaving everyone we loved behind, but their support helped ease the pain. After 35 years in Arizona, it was the only home I’d ever known. We made the decision to leave in hopes for a healthier future. I mourned leaving my precious Anna. We hadn’t been apart more than a few weeks at a time, and now it felt like I was deserting her. A native Tucsonan, Anna refused to leave her beloved desert birthplace. Stacey’s parents didn’t want to live in the rainy Northwest. So, we said goodbye amid gallons of tears, and pointed our lives toward a new home.
While she was nervous and sad, Stacey’s inner resolve to succeed was coupled with a hearty distaste for the desert. My parents had moved from Illinois to Arizona in 1966 with four boys, solely to save my asthmatic brother. Their bravery gave me the confidence to make such a dramatic move. Stacey believed our union would propel us toward whatever awaited us in Oregon. While I had grown to love the desert, I loved her more. A brighter future beckoned from the north country.
Sixteen years later, we have become firmly entrenched in the rich culture of Portland. Our sons have grown into strong, accomplished young men with bright futures. My beloved, having been born in New England, and I a lover of mountains, we’re delighted to be an hour from the Pacific Coast or the Cascade Mountains. There is always something to do or see here, and we survived my major career transformation to bus operator. We’ve been lucky to have Stacey’s parents visit every Christmas, as well as both boys’ graduation from high school. Anna visits every few years, as have my father and brothers. Our family remains intact, across the miles physically separating us.
My beloved is the direct product of two loving, doting parents who I adore. Stacey’s mother JoAnne has been a friend since we met. She’s the product of two wonderful parents who survived the Great Depression and World War II, and I love her so much she’s someone I cannot bear to lose. She’d better live well past her 100th birthday or I’ll be devastated. My father-in-law is a crusty and trusty great buddy. He doesn’t like to hug or get too close, but I value him as much as anyone I’ve ever known. They’re both tough, sweet, generous and supportive beyond anything I’ve ever deserved.
Just a few months ago, I lost my only hero: Daddy Coomer. He was nearly 92, and still full of life. He would have lasted until his 100th if not for his commitment to physical fitness. We see, but he could not. The directions to his new exercise machine would have told him how to set the resistance lower than it came from the factory, but his vision failed to allow it. As he did every morning he was able, Dad awoke to a regimen of 25 pushups and situps, jumping jacks and coordination exercises. My 11-year-old childhood memories of him singing scales and prodding me to awaken as he exercised, fill me with loving calm in the still-raw pain of his absence.
When he died this October 8th, my beloved Stacey (whom Dad adored) flew to be with me as I faced the agony of his loss. She brought her constant love and lifted me up from my lowest depth. Because of her, I was able to deliver Dad’s eulogy with the calm strength he taught me by example. As the days have become months, she has been the shoulder I’ve needed as grief suddenly grabs me, allowing me to feel it as I weep into her love. My tears fall into the grace that defines my best friend.
Each time our lives together have been forced to accept change, Stacey and I have managed to land solidly on our feet. Every day we are together, I find a new delight in our union. In September of 2019, we’ll spend our 25th anniversary in Scotland. We’ve beat our own paths as one, and as we enter the golden chapter of our time together it’s time to explore new trails.
We’re aging gracefully together. Life continues to throw adversity our way, but we beat it back every time. With Stacey’s encouragement and support, I have published my writing. Maybe it will succeed as I keep at it, but if it doesn’t, Stacey and I will persevere. Together, as always.
I love you most, my sweet and always fun belovedest friend. Thank you for being fascinating and unique, and for choosing to share yourself with me. It’s truly a wonderful life, and I’m eternally thankful to share it with you. Since you’ve become my best pal, Christmas has become awesome again. We have so many traditions I look forward to this sacred time rather than dread the horrible loneliness I once felt as December came. Today, the only stress I feel is in finding you that one gift that emphasizes my unconditional adoration for you.
Merry Christmas, to one and all I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to know and love. And to you Stacey, thank you for sharing yet another Christmas with me. Before you came along, this holiday was painful and desolate. Now, it’s once again my favorite.
You’re my rock, and we roll pretty damn well together. I will always totally, honestly and forever love you… most.