20. Sam

This scenario and others subtitled with a generic man’s name are fictitious. However, they are based on accumulated understandings about husbands either depicted in literature or real life.

My name is Sam. My wife’s name is Julie.  I learned there is no such thing as taking someone for granted. Sometimes that is not understood until it’s too late.

I cannot remember a time when I did not know Julie. We were born close to the same time, in the same hospital. We grew up together in the same neighborhood. We attended the same elementary, middle level and high schools. Our families attended the same church.

Some people even thought we were siblings. Blond hair, slender build, same accent, and common interests. Julie was kind of a tomboy. Loved daredevil activities and always competitive. Until our teens she could run faster and jump higher than any of us guys.

When we were twelve Julie was a good two inches taller than I. Smarter too. Her report cards were always a notch above mine, in almost every subject.

Most of the guys did not like Julie. Because of their attitude, I tried to dislike her too.

Didn’t work.

As children we were always able to talk about everything. She seemed to respect me and listened. And I wanted to listen to her. About how dumb our parents were. About teachers neither of us liked. 

Eventually the awkward years arrived, as juniors and seniors in high school. I shot up two inches taller than Julie. My athletic prowess was greater than hers. We noticed we were becoming different people, with varied interests, odd impulses, and more sensitivity to the opinions of others.

Everything was more complicated.

After high school graduation we decided to different colleges. I went to a state university in the southern part of the state and majored in engineering. Julie attended a small private college in the state west of ours and majored in nursing.

It was the early 1970s. I was fortunate enough to receive a college deferment from the military draft for much of my time at the university. By July 1, 1973, it didn’t matter. Compulsory selective service was over. So was the war in Vietnam.

Julie and I saw each other on school breaks. Occasionally during the summer. Nothing much. A lunch or two. Maybe a walk in one of the parks.

Although we were young adults, the carryover from our earlier years persisted. We discussed our studies, dates we had, interesting things we were involved with. Clubs. Sports. Trips.

Each of us had been serious about other people, learned difficult lessons, and eventually broken up.

It was hard to explain why our personal relationships with others regularly failed. Neither of us were willing to admit that the nature of our long-held friendship might have something to do with it.

Surely not!

After graduation we both found good jobs. I became an engineer in a heavy equipment corporation, and Julie was an emergency room nurse. We worked in cities about 70 miles apart, but in the same state.

No internet then. Just the phone and post office.

So, we wrote letters to each other and occasionally talked. Sometimes we were able to have a lunch or dinner together in one of our cities.

The pattern of our lives in college persisted into our daily routines as workers. On again, off again relationships. Nothing serious seemed to stick. A few friends. Lonely time spent in our apartments.

One day I was in a battle with my new CATIA computer, a device that used software designed to make every engineer more productive than ever. Toward the end of the day I threw up my hands and yelled, “That’s it!”

The guy in the neighboring cubicle asked, “What’s it?”

I mumbled something about my frustration of having to learn an entirely new computer program.

But that is not what I was thinking.

That night I called Julie and asked her to marry me. I told her whatever it was we were doing wasn’t working, at least not for me.

After she got over the shock, she said she’d think about it. Might be better if we didn’t talk about something like that over the phone.

So, we made a date for dinner the following weekend. In her city.

Our discussion was more like planning a merger. She thought it would be advantageous for both of us, but much to consider: Which job would be given up, where would we live, how we would explain it to our families, and what date would be best?

We said we “cared for each other” but the “L” word didn’t escape our lips. All the details of the merger were mapped out and executed efficiently.

The two of us were finally together on a permanent basis. And our lives were better for it. A few years later we had a child together. And we enjoyed a happy family life.

Our son Clay was a cheerful little guy. We enjoyed taking trips and doing all the things happy families do. Over the years Clay grew up, spoiled as only children often are, attended college, and entered a secure profession.

Both Julie and I stayed with our professions until we were in our late 60s. We traveled to places in the world we always wanted to visit. Took cruises. Hiked and camped out a little.

Occasionally we were challenged by a little medical scare, but we both stayed in pretty good shape.

Our daily routine was familiar and comfortable. Nothing spectacular. A nice arrangement.

Then came the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Julie’s occasional forgetfulness was getting chronic and even frightening.

The doctor said she was not certain how rapidly the syndrome would advance, as every case was different. With some people, it took years to develop. In others…..

In Julie’s case it was quite rapid. Too quick.

I watched her asleep on the bed, sensing she would be a different woman when she woke up. Subtle maybe, but still different. Every day. Almost every hour.

Could I be very much in love with this woman? I must be — because this was agony.

Why didn’t I detect my real emotions years ago and tell her how I felt? Would she have been able to reciprocate, given the way our relationship formed?

I guess I’ll never know.

Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself.

©2020 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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