Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Greatest Love by Lise Milligan

The following is the story of how I met my husband of
26 years. It is a tale of fate that intervened in what could have been a terrible mistake and turned into the luckiest break of my life. 

James and Lise, Truro, 1990

 I met my husband through my fiance at the time. They were in the militia together. My then-fiance went into the regular forces and was away, and during this time I slowly started to see how much he had cut me off from most of my friends. What really got me thinking was the friendship that developed between James
and myself. He was very considerate, and showed me more respect in an evening than I'd seen from my fiance in ages. Although it was all platonic at that time, I did find him attractive. We just always had a lot of laughs any time we got together with mutual friends, and shared the same wavelength. Neither of us expected that this was going to be life-altering; after all, I was attached and he'd just come out of a bad relationship. Not exactly the time you expect to meet your soul mate.

As time went on some of my friends pointed out that he seemed to have a crush on me. I dismissed this idea, as he'd always been a perfect gentleman and well aware that I was "off-limits". One evening, I broached the subject with him and laughed at how eager my friends were to see something there that wasn't. He suddenly went very quiet. Still oblivious, I figured he was upset that people were spreading rumors. We went on with our evening, but I could tell he was not his usual self. Finally, he
took me aside and confessed that it was true, he did care about me as more than a just a friend. He knew that I was engaged but it didn't change the way he felt. He went on to say that he was moving to Ontario in a few weeks and that maybe we should spend less time together, as it was becoming more difficult for him to be "just a friend". I chalked my sadness up to the fact that he was leaving and that our friendship would be altered.
The night before he moved, he invited me out with friends for a going-away bash. I met them at the armories and went to
take my usual seat next to him, but it was occupied by a girl from his regiment. After a couple of minutes, it was plainly obvious (even to clueless me) that they were "together". This made me feel jealous, which surprised me. We carried on with our evening, and I could tell this girl was really smitten with James. When we went to the washroom, she was babbling on about how they'd come visit me and my fiance in Ontario
(he was stationed in Petawawa) and vice-versa, like they'd be living together.

Why did I want to stab her with my eyelinerpencil? This made no sense to me. Later, James got me up for a dance and asked how he was going to disentangle this girl that was just a last fling for him. I made a catty reply about him thinking with the wrong head and that it wasn't my problem. After we left the club, we all went for a drive as we weren't ready for the night to end. We laughed and told stories, but I had a lump in my throat. I knew I was sad over him leaving, but still thought that's all it was. At the end of the night, he walked me into my porch, where he leaned in for a goodbye hug. Still nettled at the presence of this girl who he didn't even want, I gave him a handshake and wished him well. I then went up to my room and cried so hard that I couldn't go to work the next day. Just remembering it all makes my heart hurt even now.
Over the days that followed, I was despondent. And knowing that my fiance was coming home for Xmas in a couple of weeks
didn't cheer me; if anything, it made me more sad. This made me think that maybe the wedding should at least be postponed. When I got a call or a letter from James (no Internet yet, kids), I was ridiculously happy but boy was I confused. And I was still clueless.

When my fiance got home, the first thing we discussed was postponing the wedding. Both of us were relieved to be in agreement, and after all, we were babies (I was 18). Otherwise, he expected things to go on as they always had: he'd call the shots and I'd dance to the tune. WRONG! In his absence I'd
discovered free will and reconnected with friends I'd been apart from for years. Turns out that in my absence, he'd also found himself a girlfriend in Ontario, which I discovered when I was in the washroom at his parents' place. He was talking to her on the phone in their room, unaware that I was across the hall: " I love you too. yeah, this visit is a drag. can't wait to be back to you baby". 

Needless to say, by new year's we were no longer a couple. James and I had been talking regularly on the phone, and he commented on how Toronto didn't feel like home. It was a lonely place and the next thing I knew I was booking a flight there. While the tone between us got increasingly warmer, I was unsure of where it was heading or if I wanted it to head that way.

I had many questions unanswered in my mind. How did I know this wasn't just a rebound? What if this screwed up our friendship altogether? Should we go beyond friends
or not? I kept my questions to myself even as I boarded the plane.

 I was at war with myself- to make a move or not? After all, he was living in another province. but once I got to the gate and saw him there, I pretty much launched myself at him. All my doubts vanished. We had a wonderful week together. I didn't want to get back on the plane and go home. We'd been listening to the "Brothers in Arms" album by Dire Straits  almost nonstop during my stay, and he sent it home with me. While it was hard to leave and I wasn't sure what was going to happen next, I went home feeling like I'd done the right thing. We just fit too well. 

After a month of marathon phone calls and letters, James moved back home. We continued our relationship. The course of true love never did run smooth, as Shakespeare wisely said, but we've always stood by each other. He saved me from what would have been a disastrous marriage; he's always been my best friend and soul mate and always encouraged me to be my own person. If not for him, I may never have learned to drive or gotten my degree. Together we've weathered tough times: economic strife,
illness, and the loss of loved ones, especially my parents. This
September will be our 20th wedding anniversary and he surprised me a few months ago by telling me he wants us to renew our vows. I'll gladly do so, and can say without hesitation or doubt that he is indeed my greatest love. 

On our wedding day, September 5, 1992.

Love that weathers storms.

26 years and counting.

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