This week, my thoughts are with my own Beloved, the only person I have trusted wholly, loved with a singular passion impossible to describe and without reservation: Stacey. There, I wrote her name here. Now that I'm officially "out" from under my pen name, not needing to refer to her simply as "Beloved", which she has been for 27 years. She truly hated the moniker "Mrs. Blue", and I'm sorry my dear. I thought my identity was "secret" and thusly tried to protect us both, but I know you never were on board with the whole "Deke" thing.
I have been listening to a myriad of tunes from the 1970s tonight. The one that remains is Roberta Flack's The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. I first heard this song as a nine-year-old who had no thoughts of love or forever anything. It was the song, Roberta's masterful voice, which entranced me, not the sentiments expressed within it. I was too young to understand, but as the son of a masterful tenor soloist in my father, I understood the power of this song. Along with James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend", that year was when I woke up as a music lover. I had sung in a children's choir at Dad's urging, and Mom also praised my youthful soprano voice. As the years progressed, I lost interest in singing, but I could belt out the tunes nonetheless. I loved hearing Dad sing. His music was deeply ingrained into my soul, and I learned to appreciate vocalists and instrumentalists. Count Basie, who I had the awe-inspiring moment in time to meet, Louis Armstrong, Sara Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and many others whose voices soared with precision and soulful majesty have filled my life with a love I could never describe.
As I listened to Roberta for the upteenth-millionth time singing that song, tears streamed down my safe as I recalled seeing Stacey's face for the first time. Her serenity, powerful confidence and eternal beauty instantly captured my heart.
One year ago, we embarked upon a trip to Scotland to celebrate our 25th anniversary. It was much more than just a date to me. Until she came into my life, I was a lost soul. An early marriage screeched into a fatal collision with youth and reality, I had lost any hope of finding someone to share my deep well of love with. A single parent whose every moment was dedicated to a beautiful daughter, the victim of a lost love, I had no more passion for anyone but her. After several failed attempts at relationships, even with the one who abandoned my youthful passion through a tortured childhood she could not ever forget, my every forward movement was solely dedicated to the now and future of that beautiful child I had helped create. Any moment spent with my daughter was magic and nothing else mattered.
Then, Stacey happened. She appeared at my door, solely intent upon retrieving her notebook of poetry. As I opened the door to my "bachelor pad", I had no idea the powerful face which awaited me. Hers was the picture of serenity, power and confidence I hadn't even dreamed of. Instantly, my heart began to pound, my breath taken away. It was as if God Himself had brought her to me in answer to my countless nights of anger and tears and prayers and anguished hours of lonely silence had just... stopped. Stacey will probably attest to my jaw dropping as I encountered her, a lovely lass of 19, dressed confidently and staring at me intently.
Stacey knew my parents before I met her. She feared I would be my mother personified, a truly fearsome person in her own right. Instead, she looked into my eyes and found a troubled soul who was immediately entranced by her quiet, confident beauty.
For two weeks, I had read her poetry. It was neatly presented in a binder. Her typewritten or hand-lettered words presented a woman of advanced integrity and depth. I was truly intrigued by her grasp of what she described in what others her age might have struggled with. I could tell she was a "reader" because the language was perfect, the diction practiced and decisive. As a student of our language, I found her poetry lingered after reading. When she called and asked to have her words returned, I invited her to retrieve it. Personally. I wanted to meet her. Not out of anything other than curiosity; her soul was laid out in a language so deep it was our initial introduction, although she knew nothing about me.
As she entered my disheveled bachelor pad, I was immediately embarrassed. I hadn't taken much time to prepare for a visitor. The kitchen was bachelor-messy and I hoped she didn't walk past it to use my similarly-unsanitary bathroom. My daughter was with her mother, so I had a few days yet to prepare for Bear's return. Nothing seemed to faze her; Stacey simply smoothed her dress and sat on the couch across from me.
The next few minutes of our initial meeting remain a hazy daze to me. All I remember is blurting out that I would love to take her out sometime, to which she surprisingly agreed to. For the first time in nearly eight years, I was entranced with another. Completely "twitterpated" and enamored of this quiet beauty's grace. An age difference of 13 years didn't dissuade our seeming mutual attraction. She met my gaze with no fear, no trace of self-doubt. When she left after just a half-hour, I instantly began grading my lack of decor, grace and demeanor. Even so, Stacey left with a backward glance and slight smile, as if she was feeling the same instant attraction I had.
Within months, we were inseparable and engaged to be married. Ever since, I have counted endless lucky stars to have her beside me. On Thursday this week, we will celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary, just a year since we made an epic journey together to Scotland to celebrate our silver.
Stacey helped me raise my daughter through the tense, turbulent years of Bear's teens. She had already won the child's heart, and she knew more about being a teenaged girl than I could ever imagine. Every step of the way, Stacey guided me through the hell my willful child put us through. Stacey's steely vision, understanding and knowledge was far beyond her years, being just 10 years senior to my Bear. An only child, she understood the love I felt for my then-only offspring and helped me make the decisions which would ultimately shape our lives together.
We made two beautiful babies together, who have grown to become strong young men today. My Bear is now a respected and hard-working member of an attorney firm, with far-reaching goals. Bear graduated high school with honors, after a challenging teenage journey. Throughout our life together, I have been comforted by Beloved's calm, stoic and beauty. After a hard day's work behind the wheel of a city bus, I know the hug awaits even if she is awakened by my return. Stacey is the iron bar upon which I lean, the well of power I channel when life throws its most-cruel darts my way.
Beginning this night wanting to write another chapter of my novel, I was struck by the music of my past. It led me to tunes which made me think of her. From the Rev. Al Green, to The Fifth Dimension, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and then to Karen Carpenter and finally Roberta Flack. I am hopelessly, irrevocably entwined with my best friend.
I hope you all have the opportunity to feel the comfort I enjoy in this incredible love we share. It's a feeling that far surpasses anything I've ever felt. Each accomplishment the past quarter-century I can attribute to the support Stacey has given me. If I died today, it would pass knowing I had the best time of my life spent with her and the joy she brought into my formerly-darkened world. Everything I write here is subject to Beloved's wise eyes. No matter what strangeness invades this mind, I can share it with her and find new insights.
My reward is surely much more than hers in this relationship. I'm not easy to live with, often subject to an artist's angst. Every day, Stacey does something that makes me smile, deep within the recesses of what makes me tick. I cannot think of anything that has ever made me doubt her love. I am truly one of the luckiest people on this Earth today.
Not only has my Beloved enriched my life beyond any reality I could have conjured, her parents have deeply enriched me as well. Few can attest to their inlaws deep love and support, but I can. Through each step of our life together, MIL and FIL have been intensely-supportive. Their guidance and love saw me through the loss of both my parents, helped ease the strife of parenting our kids, and been close friends throughout. Thank you JoAnne and Terry, for raising the wonderful woman I am forever entranced by.
Thank you, my love. Happy 26th, and hopefully we'll live long and happily for another 30 or so. As I approach my 60th birthday in a few weeks, the only gift I know will have the deepest meaning is her enduring love for the irascible soul I have become. And that, my friends, will guide me as long as this writer's heart can thumpity-thump.
Love you MOST, Stacers. Happy 26th, and several dozen more!