The love didn’t come first either…at least not from me. It was more like teenage testosterone focused on a vulnerable young woman. Linda, standing at four-foot ten, was ninety pounds of captivating feminine proportion with a high-spirited personality. I was a loner—cool and quiet as a box of unlit matches.
In retrospect, I probably had all the right stuff to be a loving person, but growing-up in a dysfunctional family had destroyed almost all of my feelings except one—anger. Besides, I didn’t really believe love existed; even though I often heard the words just before my grandmother hung up the phone, or as we were leaving a relative’s house after a family gathering.
I certainly didn’t feel loved by anyone—that is until I met Linda. Even then I had doubts about love. Early in our relationship, she told me she fell in love with me on the very first day we met. I was blinded by that, and at that time, I didn’t know how to feel love, give love, or be a loving person. And I certainly couldn’t understand how or why she loved me. She told me she saw a loving soul buried under my cocky demeanor—the greaser attitude of the 60’s. It was my defense system, and it worked well at keeping others away. Nevertheless, she pushed into my softer side. How lucky for me that Linda possessed the gift to see beyond outward appearances, and could recognize the beauty and goodness in almost everyone.
For the longest time I never told Linda that I loved her. In reflection, I loved her very early in our relationship, within days, certainly within a month. I just couldn’t say the words. The best I could do was say, “love ya back,” or “me too.” I would say the words with a lack of conviction or avoid the topic all together. I even learned to depersonalize my feelings by saying it in the third person. “He loves her.” It became our personal expression of love. At the time, it was all I had. In my to be published memoir I write about how that evolved into a long-standing ritual.
It wasn’t until the first few days after we were married that I actually said the words, “I love you.” We had moved into our first apartment and we were standing over our son, John’s, crib. It was early evening and this was the first night we were alone as a family. She had just rocked him to sleep singing a lullaby her mother taught her in French, “Les Petites Marionettes.” When singing, she would hold her palm flat with fingers pointing upward. She then rotated her wrist while moving her fingers to imitate dancing puppets. I was standing next to her with my arm around her shoulders while she tucked him in.
“I love you Linda.” I said softly. I remember looking into her eyes when she turned toward me. A tear trickled down her cheek. After a few moments she said, “I want us to have another baby…a little girl.” We embraced for the longest time and my head was spinning. I hadn’t thought about having more kids, but I wanted to make her happy and to show her my love. I would do anything for her.
In September of 2013, Linda wrote on our bathroom mirror with lipstick. “She loves you.” When I saw it, I wiped off the “S” changing it to read, “He loves you.” Linda lost her 10-month battle with cancer later that month, the 27th of September. Those lipstick written words are still on the mirror today and I carefully clean around them.
I think of my love every day and the gift of love Linda gave me. I hold the greatest of treasures—He loves you