Four years ago, several significant events occured in my life at once. I got a divorce. My children grew up and moved out of the house. I left my career in ministry. And I fell in love with Sylvia.
Recently, I observed the anniversary of the day when I preached my last sermon, sang my last song, and had my last potluck lunch with my sweet church in Oklahoma. Then I got in my car and drove fifteen hundred miles to Florida where Sylvia was waiting for me and we began again together.
We had known each other for a few years from an online support group. When I became separated, she reached out to me and we talked every day over the phone. It only took one visit to her home for us to decide to be with each other.
Yes, it was fast. It’s the kind of thing I often advised people not to do after a divorce. And it’s the kind of thing people like to talk and speculate about. Sylvia and I decided to do it anyway and be secretive about it.
I told three people what we were planning.
The first was a longtime friend who expressed concern that so many major transitions would take an emotional toll on me. But she also suggested that at our age, the conventional rules of relationships didn’t necessarily apply anymore.
The second was my older brother, who cautiously rooted for me, and acknowledged: “There are times when you just have to go for it.”
Then there was my counselor. When I told her that I was going to visit Sylvia for the first time, she told me to buy some new clothes and let her inspect them before I left. Later, I sent her an email, saying that I knew people would think I was making a mistake, but Sylvia was an amazing person and I was going to do this. She wrote back:
“Do. What. Makes. Your. Heart. Happy.”
Sylvia had been alone and grieving for a long time when I came to know her. She had reached a point where she was ready for a new relationship. In addition to being a tall beauty, she was a photographer, a portrait artist, a singer, and a single-engine airplane pilot–a fascinating mix, and she was definitely the one for me.
I was exhausted when I arrived and I needed a lot of rest. But after years of insomnia, I began to sleep through the nights. In the first several weeks, I often sat alone during the day while Sylvia worked, and I cried a lot as I processed a reservoir of grief from years past .
However, in the evenings and on weekends we did things we both enjoyed: walks on the beach, small jazz concerts, and plays at the Shakespeare theatre. One of my favorite pictures is of us a week after I arrived. We were walking by the ocean at Cocoa Beach with our arms around each other.
This is the fourth anniversary of my arrival in Florida to be with Sylvia. I lead a quieter life as a grocery store cashier and a substitute teacher. I write my thoughts for four different blogs. I thought I would miss the public life, but most of the time I don’t.
We both have vulnerabilities that stem from the past but its okay because we have each other.
Tonight, when we’re done with our work, we’ll make dinner, sit on the sofa, watch TV, and talk about politics. Perhaps we’ll listen to a some music before we go to our bed and sleep together through the night.