Love can survive anything as long as both people are willing to make sacrifices.
Love can, indeed, survive anything as long as both people are willing to make sacrifices. The relationship my late wife Linda and I had is proof positive of that.
When we met, Linda was 16, I was 17. It was my senior year in high school, her junior year. We met after a pit orchestra rehearsal for the school musical. It was 11:00 P.M., Tuesday, March 8, 1966. We’d both gone to the conductor’s office to call our parents to pick us up (there were no cell phones in 1966). I reached my parents with no problem, but Linda was unable to reach hers. I offered her a ride home. That simple beginning led to a wonderful lifetime together, but not without those mutual sacrifices.
After knowing each other just four weeks, we confessed our love for each other.
At nine weeks into our relationship, she found the courage to confide to me that she was an epileptic, and, though she didn't say it at the time, fully expected me to walk away and leave her behind like so many of her other friends and classmates had over the years. She was totally surprised, amazed and wonderfully relieved when I told her it made “absolutely no difference in the way I feel about [her]; that I love [her] too much to let it make a difference.”
I wanted to make sure that she fully understood that I was serious, both about my love for her, and that her epilepsy would never take away even the smallest bit of that love. So, one week later, on the afternoon of my senior prom, I asked Linda to marry me. Caught completely by surprise, she gleefully accepted, shouting "YES at the top of her lungs before I could say another word. But we couldn’t tell anyone. My parents had made it very clear that they didn’t want me sticking with the first girl I fell for, and that they didn’t want me in a committed relationship, period, until after college. And the legal age in Ohio then was 21, not 18. That left me in a bind.
Their refusal to allow me to see Linda while attending college the following year soon backfired on them, and became the first of the sacrifices Linda and I had to make to keep our love alive. In February of the following year, during my second quarter at college, I contacted an attorney while I was between classes. He said that even though I was underage, I did have one option: become self supporting. As long as I had a job, was no longer living at home, and my parents were not providing 50% or more of my income, they couldn't touch me, let alone tell me what I could and couldn't do. I dropped out of college (I went back later on my own), got a $50-a-week job and a $50-a-month place of my own, and most willingly left my family behind so that she and I could be together.
Most of her adolescent life, Linda had only dreamed of finding someone who would care enough to love her in spite of her seizures, and of the big, fancy, pull-out-all-the-stops wedding she wanted if and when she found that special someone. She never really thought she’d be that lucky. Now that she’d found someone, dreams of that wedding becoming a reality filled her nights.
By July of 1968, we’d reached the point where I couldn’t stand to leave her behind and go home alone to my apartment every night. She wanted to be married, and together at night as bad as I did, but she was able to handle the waiting much better than I could. The desire for that big wedding made it much easier for her. Thing was, we had another whole year to wait if she was going to have that big wedding. I was only 20 at the time. And needless to say, since I’d rebelled against their plan for my life, my parents were NOT about to sign for me to marry her.
By the time Linda’s parents returned from their one-week vacation at the end of July, I “couldn’t take it anymore”. Linda noticed my state of mind over it, and decided that she couldn’t hold me off any longer, especially since she'd been wanting it, too. She gave up her dream of that big, fancy, pull-out-all-the-stops wedding, and three weeks later, in August, 1968, we eloped to Kentucky, where the legal age was already 18.
Things were never what they should have been between us and my family. Basically, her family became mine, though things did improve slightly in later years.
Our life as a couple was almost the fairy tale she'd wanted it to be all her life. It took some major convincing, but she did eventually fully realize that her seizures were never going to scare me away. I say our life was almost the fairy tale she wanted because there were some disappointments. Like the way a seizure in the middle of taking the ACT test in 1970 kept her from getting into college. We'd known for a long time by then that her biggest trigger for seizures was emotional tension and stress. And that fact was more than proven when she had that seizure in the middle of the test.
In early March, 1980, Linda had a seizure in our bathroom and struck her head on the tile wall. She died instantly. I came home an hour and forty-five minutes later and found her.
We’d barely had 11 ½ years as man and wife. But those short years were the most wonderful, meaningful and rewarding years of my life. Our love had flourished, as we’d known from the beginning that it would. Neither of us ever had any regrets about our relationship, or the sacrifices each of us made to keep our love, and that relationship, alive. I think a quote from the book I’ve since written about those years, and our love, says it best:
“Not all relationships that begin as high school sweethearts end in marriage to each other. Of those that do, not all can claim it was a marriage that really worked, and lasted. Linda and I are one of the few couples who could legitimately say that ours did. Such a feat in itself is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the rock solid foundation of our relationship, and our life together was our faith, and my Angel’s – Linda’s – Unending, Unconditional Love."
-- Quote taken from Her Unending, Unconditional Love: An Autobiography of Two High School Sweethearts, copyright 2000, as yet unpublished, by the same author.