The woman, with her hands lightly resting on the man’s shoulders, is me. I am telling a story about two very seemingly un-momentous and un-connected decisions that nevertheless had lasting consequences.
The man is Gary. He and I started dating in 1966 when I was a sophomore transfer student at the University of Florida and he was a junior. When he picked me up at the AEPhi house, all my sorority sisters begged to know where he’d been hiding all those years. It didn’t surprise me. Gary was shy, reserved and laid back. I was always attracted to the quieter ones and the fact that he drove a brand new navy blue and white GTO convertible gave me the inkling that a looser, more fun loving side might be lurking within that conservative exterior.
We were married two years later and in rapid succession had two sons and bought a brand new house in the suburbs. Just as the evils of Watergate began emerging, so did cracks and fissures in our marriage. The very day Richard Nixon left the White House in a blaze of infamy, Gary left our gray and white two-story for a one bedroom apartment in a singles complex.
It wasn’t the decision to divorce that proved so monumental. It was the decision Gary made when seeking counsel. Instead of hiring a divorce attorney that was out for vengeance and mayhem, Gary choose a former frat brother – a fair minded guy who knew both of us personally. By the end of our negotiations, though our marriage was severed, the bonds of friendship were tentatively taking root – bookended by a fair and equitable settlement.
I left the state of Florida and moved back to Ohio. At my 10th high school reunion, I spotted a gorgeous hunk of a guy in a white linen suit and married him just a year later. My sons and I were joyously welcomed into Steven’s loving family. And Steven and I went on to have three more sons together.
The second momentous decision: Steven was receptive to establishing a cordial relationship with my ex-husband. And over the ensuing years, the three of us came together for joyous occasions and not-so joyous milestone events. The operative word was together. And the pleasure we derived from our bond intensified.
Back to the picture: my hands are on the shoulders of my first husband, Gary, and our second son is to his right. I am toasting Gary at his 70th birthday, celebrated in Las Vegas. As I tell the above story, I am surrounded by Gary’s family, the two sons we had together and Steven, the man I’ve been happily married to for forty years.
Small decisions yield big results.