Writing this post has been very difficult. I’ve rewritten it several times, which is something I don’t normally do. Normally I’d just write it and then let Michael edit it for me. But because of the emotional investment that this post requires, I have had a hard time putting my thoughts and feelings into words that make sense to anyone other than me. After all, isn’t that the goal of any writer worth his salt? Making his words make sense to his readers.
As some of you may know, I am now 69 years old. That is a lot longer than I thought I’d ever lived. I probably have spent more than 50 years of my life pretending to be someone I am not. Actually, I think a lot of this do that. No matter how much we pretend, there always is a core that is the genuine you or me. Sometimes that core gets so buried that you lose track of who you really are. That’s what happened to me. I spent so many years being one different me or another, that by the time I got to a point in my life where I could actually be myself, I really wasn’t sure who that was. It took me probably almost 20 years to really figure out who I was and to get rid of all of the sides I had accumulated over the first 40 years or so of my life. It is and has been the love of my wife Elizabeth that has made it possible for me to undergo a rather torturous and lengthy reconstruction of myself.
As an anthropologist, I am aware that we all have different social roles which change throughout our lives. For instance, I have been a husband to one wife or another since I was 20. Each wife required me to be something different. My first three wives required me to be someone I am not. I did try to meet their expectations, figuring they would try to meet mine. Unfortunately, that did not work the way I expected. That’s why I have three divorces on my resume. It was only when I met Elizabeth in the fall of 1990 that I realized I finally found the one woman who would let me be me. In return, I would and have let her be herself. It has worked out rather well. Very soon, we will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary. That is almost 3 times as long as the longest of my three previous marriages. So, we must be doing something right!
Something I want to bring up here is that what makes me genuine probably is not the same thing that makes you genuine. We all are different yet the same. We do have a common bond of humanity (that unfortunately, we can ignore too often). But each of us has something inside that is unique, that makes us special. It took me more than 50 years of my life to figure out what it was that made me special. I am not arrogant enough to sit here and flaunt my personal brand of special. I will let you figure out what I think makes me special. Nor do I want any of you to tell me what you think makes you special. Let me figure that out for myself. 🙂
How did I know that Elizabeth (my Lizzie) was the one woman who would allow me to be myself? Let me tell you about the day we met.
It was October 1990. I had recently separated from my third wife. Our divorce was still in the works because she was trying to see what else she could squeeze out of me. I was working as an insurance agent for a big company, pretending to be a successful middle-class businessman, which I am not nor ever have been nor ever will be nor do I want to be. Anyway, I was working out of the district office in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and had an apartment about 2 miles from the office. There were six agents on my sales team, along with our terrific sales manager. One of those agents was on disability leave. One day, and without digging out a whole bunch of old records I can’t give you an exact date, our sales manager got a phone call from this young woman in her late 20s named Elizabeth. It seems she had some whole life policies that her dad had bought for her when she was a child. For those of you who don’t know much about insurance, whole life policies accrue cash value over time. That cash value can be borrowed against or you can close the policy and collect the cash value, which can sometimes exceed the face value of the policy. Elizabeth wanted to talk to her agent about cashing those policies in and replacing them with something more appropriate. Her agent happened to be the one who was on disability leave. Because I was in the office at that time and because I was the newest of the agents on our sales team, the sales manager asked me if I wanted to call, figuring there was a good chance I would be able to write a new policy for her.
I took the call and made an appointment for later that evening. Elizabeth lived in the south west suburbs, which is a long way from my office and I did not want to fight rush-hour traffic in Chicago. On the best of days, that can be a nightmare. I made her my last stop of the evening. I got to her apartment around 8 o’clock and rang the bell. Lizzie answered the door in person instead of buzzing me in because her buzzer did not always work. I took one look at her and she took one look at me and we both saw sparks flying between us. I have never experienced anything like that before in my whole life nor have I experienced it since then. If sparks flying doesn’t give you a rather pointed message, then nothing will! 🙂
We talk business for a while. Once Lizzie was satisfied with what we did figure it would be best for her, she first offered me a glass of wine. Since this was my last stop of the evening prior to going home, I figured one glass of wine wouldn’t hurt. We chatted about personal stuff. Then Lizzie asked me if I had had dinner. When I said no, she went into the kitchen and cooked me a steak along with potatoes I think and some green beans. She did most of the talking while I was eating. I sat and listened to her with rapt attention. She and I had so much in common, yet she was 15 years younger than I was. We even liked the same music: rock ‘n roll from the 50s and classic rock from the 60s and 70s.
We talked and talked and talked. That led to… other things! 🙂 I finally left there about 1 AM with the understanding that she would come to my apartment after work and I would cook her dinner. Lizzie stayed the night and we have been together ever since. For the first month or so, we alternated between her apartment and mine. On 1 December 1990, Lizzie and I moved into an apartment in her building. Lizzie’s apartment was a basement apartment and our new apartment was on the second floor Lizzie’s things were easy to move. We just carried them up the stairs. That included her Christmas tree which she had already decorated. We actually managed to do it without breaking an ornament. My things required a bit more effort, so we got some friends of mine to help us. We lived in that apartment for one year and one month.
One more story about that first year with Lizzie. It was a Saturday in February around Valentine’s Day. Since neither one of us had to be at work, we did not rush getting out of bed. I’ll let you use your imagination to figure out what we were doing! 🙂 Anyway, Lizzie excused herself to go to the bathroom. She returned after a few minutes carrying something in her hand. She had this big grin on her face. She showed me what she had her hand. It was an early pregnancy test she had taken while in the bathroom and it showed she was pregnant! Here I am at age 43 going to be a father again, although the first time doesn’t really count for very much since I did nothing to raise that child. Lizzie was concerned how I would react. To say I was elated would be an understatement. The fact that she was willing to have my child/children convinced me that day that this was the woman for me. It took a few more months for my divorce to go through and some other legal issues to be cleared up. We finally got married on 3 August 1991.
Our daughter Heidi was born on November 8, the first of three children. In all, after Heidi was born Liz was pregnant for 4 times over the next five years. Two of those pregnancies resulted in miscarriages in the first trimester. The older of my two sons, Ian, September 14, 1995. Michael was born on December 30, 1996. Both boys were born here in Mountain home because we moved from that apartment to Mountain home in late December 1991.
Lizzie and I had come to Arkansas Labor Day weekend 1991 for me to meet her parents, who had retired down here a few years earlier. Lizzie is the youngest of five children. The oldest is about my age. My father-in-law and I seemed to hit it off pretty well. So well in fact, that he wanted us to move to Arkansas so that someone would be here to take care of Lizzie’s mother when her dad died. (As it later turned out, her mom died first) We agreed that we would move after the baby was born and we had a chance to get things together. When we got back to Chicago (actually Berwyn), her dad called us a couple weeks later to tell us that he had bought a house for us just up the road from them and that it would be ready and waiting for us when we got there. That accelerated our timeline. We originally planned to move in the spring, but now we decided to move at the end of the year, which we did.
In more than 27 years together, I have never had any doubts that Lizzie was meant for me and I for her. From 1967 to 1990, I had no qualms about, for the lack of a better word, playing around. Starting the summer of 1967 with my first sexual encounter, sex has been a very important part of my life. If that offends anyone, well too bad. As I have said earlier, I am a hippie and I long ago espoused the belief that love required sex, but love is not a requirement for sex. As the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song says, “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” I put one restriction on that: marriage. Deep in my core self, I wanted a relationship with a woman that was monogamous for both parties. Unfortunately, my first and second wives were not willing to be monogamous. I tried to go along with that. Guess how that worked out? That was one of my other great pretensions. With my third wife, I really tried to be monogamous but did have one or two affairs, mainly because I was not happy being married to her but was unwilling to admit failure. It was not until I met Elizabeth that being monogamous came easy. We have gone over 27 years now, almost 28, and I have never fallen off the wagon! That’s how much I love my wife.
For those of you who are you much younger than I am and may not catch the reference of the title, the title of this post is the title of one of the great songs of 1950s rock ‘n roll by a group renowned for their vocal, the Platters. Lizzie and I both love The Platters. In fact, one song of theirs best describes how I feel about my wife. If you want to hear The Great Pretender you can check it out here, and click here if you want to hear Only You. Enjoy. Peace and love.