Of all the people I’ve cherished, my beloved Stacey reigns unequaled. Just over 20 years ago, she came into my world at a time when I had nearly given up on love. Today, a world without her is unimaginable.
My Beloved Stacey, my most trusted friend, confidante, life coach, mother to my incredible sons, stepmother to my wonderful daughter. I could fill this post with many flowery descriptions, but none could ever do justice to the wonders she brings to me.
While she is not my first wife, Stacey is my prize. My first marriage happened early, when we were both 19. I was fiercely in love with this girl. Five years and one child later, we ended a destroyed relationship. I was devastated. The ensuing custody fight and blasted emotions nearly killed me. It was a dirty, drag-down battle that consumed every ounce of my energy.
Afterward, the fallout flung me down into a pit of devastation and despair. In the eight years post-divorce, I dated maybe five women. As soon as any got too close, I chased them away.
Giving of myself was not possible, because I did not love myself. It was not healthy for my bruised soul, for I have always desired to love and to feel it returned. Inner strength, depth of caring, and compassion had fled my soul.
Every ounce of what love I could muster flowed into my beautiful daughter. Perhaps this devotion overwhelmed my wondrous child, who bounced between parents like a rubber ball. Yet I wanted her to be able to look back and remember Pops did every thing he could to make her childhood easy and carefree.
Despite my efforts, it wasn’t easy for her. Parents make mistakes, no matter how lofty their motives. Maybe I could have fought in courts a bit harder and won sole custody. It would have been a hollow victory, as she would have been deprived a mother. No matter my feelings for my first wife, or what I believed her problems to be, I could not deny my little girl her mother’s love. Plus, I was aware my own deficiencies made me less than perfect. So I settled for “joint” custody, paying child support even though I had equal parental rights.
It was a squalid, lonely existence. Eight long years of mixed emotions: elated then alone, angry then sad, always worried I wasn’t doing the right thing.
Six months before meeting Stacey, I embarked on a two-week fishing trip with a close buddy. We traversed over 1,000 miles together. We’d camp a couple of nights, then move on and find a motel to clean up. We fished five different locations within three states in the Four Corners area. Bob and I are both artists, and we spent long hours enjoying beer and discussing life’s delicate pitfalls and how we might both improve our lives. My daughter was jealous I spent so much time without her, but it was partly for her benefit I decided to go solo. Being in the mountains of the majestic Southwest does wonders for a bruised soul.
Staring at those magnificent vistas: northern New Mexico, the high peaks of Colorado’s Continental Divide, the rough and tumble rivers of northern Arizona. These lofty scenes helped me remember how much I’ve loved the outdoors from an early age. The breezes and crisp air brought me up from the depths into which I had allowed myself to descend.
Back home in the Tucson desert, I felt refreshed and ready to move forward. Only the best would suffice for her. She was (and remains) so beautiful, happy and fun, despite the split-personality households she lived in. Such a smart kid, too, making high grades and never afraid of an intellectual challenge. My respect and admiration for A-Bear has never faltered, and I remain as proud a father as ever there was.
The following spring, I was asked to read over some poetry written by the daughter of a family friend. I was editing a friend’s poetry book at the time. Upon receiving the notebook of Stacey’s work, I read all of it in one sitting. Then I read it again. Her flowing phrases entranced me and I was enthralled with her use of language. It was heartfelt, well-written, heady stuff. The product of a lovely person. It is probable I loved her from the moment I opened this window to her soul. I had to meet her.
On April 15, 1993 she came to my door. When I answered, standing before me was an exquisite creature, a work of art in glowing flesh. Physical beauty aside, when I looked into her eyes, the locks of blonde hair framing her serene face, I simply melted. Lost for words, I somehow managed to invite her inside my somewhat messy, ragtag apartment without her tripping over my size 11 feet. Before she left, I asked her for a date, and to my delight, she accepted.
From that point on, we have rarely been apart.
My parents, although I was 32, were not supportive of our relationship. A year later I asked Stacey to marry me. Our age difference of 13 years was my parents’ main argument. Yet the depth of my love for her was much more realistic than my youthful blunder a decade earlier. Despite the age difference, Stacey was wise beyond her years, much more so than I was. Her parents accepted me and extended their blessing. It was excruciating to have my parents disapprove of my finding happiness when they knew how much pain I’d suffered for years. I knew Stacey was right for me. With 75 friends and family in attendance, we were married September 24, 1994.
Fast forward nearly two decades, and life remains blissfully romantic. We’ve moved past the daily arguments and hassles with my first wife, seen my daughter move to a stable adult life in which she excels, and raised two of our own sons. It seems impossible so much time has passed! We’ve met many obstacles head-on, together in a united front, and emerged stronger each time. There are no power struggles, no desire to be right and no problems being wrong. We argue, on average, about once a year, usually over something stupid I’ve done.
We had the wonderful opportunity, through a great job I held for 11 years, for Stacey to remain home and be a full-time parent to our sons, now 16 and 19. They are kind, trustworthy and respectful individuals who excel and achieve at a level I never dreamed of as a kid.
Whenever I’m upset, I can look into Stacey’s eyes and feel instant serenity. If I’ve done something which upsets her, it causes me great pain. We spend a lot of time together, not needing to explore many individual friendships. She is indeed my closest friend. We have endured so many hard times together, we yearn for more peaceful and prosperous days. Yet together, we are rich. Whenever we’re apart for more than a day, our strong bond reassures us during the absence. Couples with millions of dollars could never match the prosperity we share.
Within me lies a constant desire to describe how vital Stacey is to me. Our love is so strong and secure today, I never imagined this miracle possible. This post feels clumsy, because I want to aptly describe the depth of my appreciation for her. Maybe some things are so close they are virtually impossible to accurately express.
One thing is certain: I see us in our old age, holding hands, hopefully surrounded by boisterous grandchildren. Looking into her eyes, I see truth and compassion. We’ve reached our 50th anniversary together, and I’m still strong at 83 because she remains beside me. Despite my many imperfections, great faults and countless stumbles, she’s always been beside me.
Thank you Stacers, for loving me, for being the brilliant aurora in what once was a very dark world, for putting up with your goofy husband.
I love you most. So there. I win.