It sounds like a cliche: I met my husband after last call in the Brown Derby Luv Pub in Independence, OH, where people danced on a lighted disco floor to a live “house band.” There might have even been a mirror ball. I was just twenty years old, drinking with a fake ID, and working as a waitress in the upscale Chinese restaurant Pan Asia, while going to art school. He was pounding nails at the Cleveland Clinic as a carpenter.
I thought he was cute with his mop of blonde Beach Boy hair and embroidered western shirts. When he learned I was an artist, he commissioned me to replicate a landscape from a photo he’d taken in Aspen. Our first date was on an Easter evening when he came to pick up the painting.
He brought me a corsage. That impressed my parents.
I was nervous about showing him the painting. Ever the perfectionist, I’d tinkered with it earlier in the day. The oils weren’t quite dry and, wouldn’t you know it, I brushed my dress against the canvas and hurriedly had to change. We went to an art theater in downtown Cleveland to see Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein in 3-D (hard to image anyone wearing a corsage to such a movie), and then stopped for drinks after. I recall we talked about music. I said I was a fan of the harmonica-honking, gravel-voiced John Mayall, and was impressed Don knew who he was. Now that I think about it, he didn’t say he liked him, however (turns out he didn’t).
Friday the 13th
We married on a Friday the 13th (just because) in August, 1976. It blows my mind to think I’ve been with this one man more years than not. He’s shaped me, and I know I’ve shaped him. We’ve matured together. He’s my love and my mentor, and the logical left brain that compliments my emotional right brain.
Yet we’ve had some rough times. We came close to splitting once, but when I considered life without him, I couldn’t do it. I remember a time when everything he did or said infuriated me. I made a chart listing things I liked and things I loathed. Reasons to leave, reasons to stay. I didn’t know what to do. We briefly saw a counselor, but, frankly, it (she) was a bust that almost drove us to divorce. At some point, on my own, I realized there was one thing I could do: stop looking at the things I hated and instead spend each day looking at what I appreciated. Let go of the negativity, stop trying to change him, and love openly. It wasn’t easy, but it marked a turning point in our marriage. The best part? He responded in kind.
Work in progress
Both of us are flawed. For me, knowing his flaws and watching him try to better himself means everything to me. He’s done some boneheaded, misguided things. He’s said some cruel things. You know what? So have I. So have I. We’ve been able to forgive each other and move on. Not everyone can do that, which is something I truly admire about him. I feel treasured and respected. He’s got my back. He still makes me laugh. We’ve learned a lot in forty years of marriage, and knowing we’re both a work in progress, even now, goes a long way.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell the truth without shame.
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
2015 Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters