Although I try not to dwell on them too much, its hard not to have some regrets when I think back over my actions, words and priorities during my 35 year of marriage to Libby. One of my big regrets is the fact that I didn’t say “I Love You” nearly enough, or at least, not nearly as much as Libby would have like for me to say it.
Now in my defense, there were some extenuating circumstances because as a child growing up in the 60’s, the term “I love you” was used only sparingly in my home. Now don’t get the wrong idea here, I had a great childhood and a very loving home but that love was demonstrated and not necessarily verbalized.
As my parents were raising me and my 3 brothers, work was valued above words and that same mentality was reinforced by our friends and our extended family, most of whom were fiercely loyal, hard-working, stoic individuals. When a friend needed help tuning up a car or even roofing a house, it was an unspoken love that was demonstrated by volunteering time to help out and a steadfast refusal to be paid for that help. As a child we were reminded by our elders, “Those who know how to do something, do it, those who don’t know how to something, talk about doing it”.
After Libby and I got married and especially after we had children, I eventually became better at telling Libby that I loved her (without being prompted) but I was always fared better expressing my feelings by writing her notes, sappy love poems and cards always ending them with “I love you”. But try as I might, I never really got over that early influence in my life and I was most happy when I could do things for Libby, whether it was building something, planning surprise getaway trips or delivering small gifts on days when she wasn’t expecting anything.
Shortly after Libby found out that she had breast cancer, a good friend of ours from Athens, Tennessee found out that his wife had ovarian cancer and although Jack and Connie had been friends of ours for many years, the four of us were drawn closer by bond we now shared. In an odd twist of events Libby and Connie’s struggles paralleled one another, both began their fight against cancer just three months apart, both lived 5 years with cancer and then both lost their battles, once again, three months apart.
Since our wives’ deaths Jack and I still get together occasionally as charter members of a morbid fraternity which no one wants to join. We usually discuss things that we can’t talk about with “normal people”, such as the silly things that some people say to you to “comfort” you or the envy we both feel when we see an elderly couple walking hand in hand and the strange and awkward (for us at least) conversations we each seem to get into with single ladies. (Note to self: there are several topics for future blogs within that last sentence alone).
Now Jack, appears to me at least, to suffer from adult ADD, bouncing happily between ten topics during a five minute conversation. As Jack and I ate dinner together last weekend we discussed some of the funny conversations we have had with others and some of our regrets. I wasn’t sure Jack was even listening to me as he continued to look around during our discussion but then he suddenly surprised us both, “You know, Barry”, he said, his eyes still darting around the restaurant as he attempted to focus his attention deficit ” There are a lot of men who say, “I love you” to their wives everyday of their married life, some mean it, some don’t; then there are the lucky ones, like you and me, who for five years were able to show our wives everyday just how much we really did love them.”