A very long time ago, a 17 year-old girl and an 18 year-old boy fell in love. They married, probably too soon and adolescent by most people's standards, but I have to assume the passion was intoxicating, as it always is in young love. They were joined by a baby girl shortly after.
There was a war that separated the young lovers, but they managed to conceive another baby girl. The young father didn't meet his second daughter until she was two years-old. Not uncommon for war babies.
After the war, the boy, now a man, returned home full of ambition and purpose. Very intelligent, he was accepted to the Thunderbird School of Global Management, which at the time was a prestigious new school. He graduated, began working for a global company, succeeded in climbing the corporate ladder and moved his wife and daughters to Manila, Philippines, where he assumed a significant leadership role for a large corporation.
A son was born in Manila. The family was happy, healthy and wealthy. They wanted for nothing. There was a maid, a driver, a gardener, a houseboy, even people to sew haute couture dresses for the girls as they began attending formal parties. They were able to travel the world and see sites with personal guides. Life was good.
Then again... life was life. Things happen. People make mistakes. There were parties and drinking and more parties. It was glamorous to have a cigarette in one hand and a cocktail in the other. One thing led to another and the man began an affair with his assistant.
The girls had grown into young women and returned to the United States to attend college. The mother and her son eventually followed. There was a divorce. The man married his assistant. The woman remained single, although fielded a proposal or two in subsequent years.
Life continued. Even though he'd married another, the man still loved the woman, and she him. He returned to the United States with his new wife, battled heart disease and other demons. The new wife seemed to understand where she fit into the hierarchy of his love.
Sadly, the still single woman, now a grandmother -- my grandmother -- developed esophageal cancer. She lost her fight in a small Indiana town at the age of 69. In a large California city, the married man, now a grandfather -- my grandfather -- followed her fight and was deeply saddened to hear of her loss.
I grew up hearing about the love affair that was my grandparents'. It was difficult for me to understand why they just didn't run back into each other's arms. My grandmother told me stories dripping with adventure, love, passion and heartbreak. It's complicated, she would say. Even at a young age, I began to appreciate this.
I want to believe that some people have a "love of their life". As I've talked with the women in my family and some mature female friends, it saddens me to know that a few have experienced life's one true love, but it had escaped them, for a variety of reasons and circumstances. But many managed to make a life with someone they loved.
In 1990 I traveled to Indiana for Grandmother's memorial service. I had been married less than a year. When I arrived at my aunt's small apartment, where Grandmother died, there was a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses. It was from Grandad. The card read, Goodnight Sweetheart. I'll see you in my dreams.
True story. Happy Valentine's Day.