Eighteen years ago I took a leap up faith and married a gentle, soft spoken, and bashful fella I like to call The Nice Catholic Boy. It was the second trip down the aisle for both us. He had previously been married for 27 years, had raised 3 children, and at the age of 51 had 3 grandkids. I’d been married for 7 years, divorced for 5, and was raising 2 little girls – one of them mine and the other my brother’s. I was 34.
People often ask me how we met. The truth is we were set up. Gene’s brother is married to my best friend and she decided we needed each other.
She was right.
I hadn’t planned on getting re-married. I dated. A lot. But I didn’t have much faith in my ability to pick a good man, and I wasn’t willing to take the risk again.
When I met Gene, I thought to myself “What a nice man … too bad I’m not in the market for one.” Newly divorced, he was still recovering from a broken heart and a battered and bruised self esteem. “Poor fella,” I thought. “I’ll go out with him a few times and boost his ego.” (I was young. And kinda hot. And he drove a Corvette …)
Over time, Gene and I became the very best of friends. Still, I didn’t see a future for us. He lived in another town and had no intention of moving. He was 17 years older than me and had kids my age. He was Catholic and I was not. Oh, I could list the reasons …
Plus, I was a lousy Man Picker. Just look at my track record.
A year went by and I began to recognize that the man I was dating was the Real Deal. He was gentle and kind. Humble and unpretentious. Patient. Consistent and steady. Faithful and true. A man to be counted. And a man I could count on.
Whew … this was a switch for me.
Another year went by and Gene and I began to test the waters. Would he be willing to move to my town? No, he would not. Would I consider becoming Catholic? Not a chance. Could a sophisticated city-loving gal like me be happy in a little town like Florence? Probably not. Was he open to having more kids? Nope, but he was more than willing to raise the two I had.
That last one was a stumbling block for me. The only reason I could see to re-marry was so that I could have more children. I loved being a mother and wanted to do it again, this time with someone who loved me. Gene understood – he was a loving and devoted father – but it wasn’t open for discussion. If another child was a deal breaker, he’d let me go.
So I had a talk with my dad. I explained to him my misgivings and my self doubts. I shared with him my fears, and there were many.
“Piggo,” he said. “That man is the Real Thing, and he loves you. He’s a Real Father, and he loves Tori. You’re a smart woman. Don’t let fear rob you of the opportunity to know Real Love. Kids? Kids are a crap shoot. Right now you’re battin’ a thousand. Why don’t you just do one kid really, really well?”
Another year went by. I knew I was pretty high maintenance and it seemed only fair that he understand just what that could mean. I decided to make a “full disclosure” and showed him my monthly dry cleaning bill … and I reminded him that my idea of roughing it was the Holiday Inn.
There were just some things I wasn’t going to compromise on.
There were doubters and nay-sayers about. Words like “Sugar Daddy” and “Trophy Wife” were thrown around. His kids weren’t all that happy. Neither were some of my friends and family. To others, our differences were monumental. But to us, not so much.
Somewhere between year two and three of our courtship, Gene told me this … “True love takes time, trust, and the sharing of many trials and triumphs.” Real, tried and true and tested, grown-up, in-sickness-and-in health ’til death-due-us-part LOVE. The kind of love the stands and stays through the challenges of blending a family, caring for aging parents, building a business, a recession, wrinkles, graying hair, and sagging boobs.
I married The Nice Catholic Boy because I wanted Real Love. He married me for the same reason. (And ’cause I was young and kinda hot.)
He may think he got himself a Trophy wife (okay, I’ll give him that). But me? I won the lottery.