Secrets of a Long Time Love
It all started at a fondue party. That should be your first clue as to how long we've been together. I didn't particularly want to go to a party that night, having just had a break up. But my brother, Greg, was visiting and he wanted to meet girls. It was February and I was expecting a dreary, lonely Valentine's Day so I went.
Shelley Shlicker, yes that was her real name, worked with me at The Encyclopedia Britannica. For you youngsters out there, that was the Google of our generation. It was a bitter cold Chicago night, the kind that freezes tears on your cheeks. I stepped into her apartment, grateful for the warmth, and looked around the room. There were several writers and corporate type men in jackets, good looking, circling the fondue pots. I remember setting my coat down and slowly looking across the room. There, standing against the wall, was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. He was slender with shoulder length black hair, strong cheek bones and smoldering dark eyes. Think Johnny Depp's twin in "Don Juan de Marco." Down to the velvet pants. I smile now, but this was the hippie era and in contrast to all the suits, this guy was cool. Our gazes locked and it was like I'd read about in books-- a thunderbolt. I remember thinking, "Oh no. I'm not ready for this." Did I tell you I was barely 20 years old?
I avoided him all evening. Chatted with everyone else. But when I was standing in line for the bathroom I heard a deep voice in my ear, "Hello." I closed my eyes. I was done for.
We began to talk and we've been together ever since. His name was Markus (not Mark, he told me). We were both so young. We married soon after. We both went back to school-- me to get graduate degrees in Japanese/Asian Culture, he to Medical School. Throughout the years we went through different eras. The struggling school era, Markus' medical training era that went on for ages as his career bloomed, my book writing era, and of course, the glorious years of raising our 3 children. So many years have passed and I look back at them and wonder who those kids were? How did we endure?
One secret is that we communicated our dreams and goals. We talked. A lot. Brief updates over dinner. Long chats on pillows. When we had trouble, we learned to recognize the "trigger words" that set us off on a fight and avoided them. We united in front of the children, disagreeing in private. We supported each other, working together for our future, There wasn't a "me" and "you" but only an "us." We did not see our future without the other in it.
There were tough times. Anyone married as long as we would be lying if they didn't admit that. A second secret we had is "date night." Whenever times got so we were more roommates, we went out and we had to dress up like a real date. A spritz of perfume. A fresh shave. Sometimes we'd go for dinner and a movie. More often we tried some restaurant we'd never been to before. How fancy the restaurant didn't matter. It was that we were alone, without friends or children.
Now the children are grown and gone and Markus just retired. We are alone a lot and entering another "era." Gifts are not needed as much as time together. And trips... For the first time we are free to travel together without him having to arrange coverage. We just returned from a Disney cruise with our grandchildren. Those little darlings are taking center stage in this phase of our lives. But still, we are each other's Valentine. Last night we went on "date night." I dressed up, did my hair, wore sexy heels. For him. Markus put on a jacket and brought me flowers.
Our secrets to a long love really come down to communication, kindness and commitment. And romance! Remember to kiss!