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It doesn’t look anything like what you think it looks like.

That picture above is my wife, my oldest daughter and my youngest daughter. It was taken about 25 years ago.

I met her one evening because I accepted an invitation to have a beer with my best friend and his girlfriend. The women had been roommates in college and my friend’s girlfriend thought we might just hit it off.

The moment I walked into the room, I just KNEW. I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend. Most of my friends thought I was gay because I didn’t date and as far as they knew I was a virgin (I wasn’t, but that’s a story I’m not quite ready to tell yet). I thought she was attractive but it didn’t matter. I KNEW this was the woman I was going to marry. I don’t remember much of the rest of the night. We played trivial pursuit or something. I was just too distracted to make sense of anything. I’m pretty sure I told my other best friend the next day that I had met the woman I was going to marry.

It took two years before we would even kiss. I had no idea what she thought of me (if she thought anything at all). I was a college dropout with no real direction in life. And frankly, I was pretty okay with that. She lived a long way away from me and we really didn’t see each other. But I still thought of her, from time to time.

One day I saw her walking down the street in my hometown. Thinking back, I’m sure it was all very much contrived. Men are STUPID (I’m one of them). I’m sure women get a huge thrill about how easy it is to arrange things to put us right where they want us. I mean really, here’s someone I’m very interested in, just walking down the street in my hometown. She’s 400 miles from where she lives! I guess it could happen. Let’s just say, she was very patient with me.

Flash forward a year or so and she’s moving north to pursue a Master’s Degree. Coincidentally, it’s much closer to me and I’m made aware of her willingness to pursue a relationship. I think I moved in within a couple of months.

It doesn’t really matter what sort of machinations took place. Not on her part or our mutual friend’s parts. I fell in love at the very moment I met Liz. I would have done anything to be with her. And, although I didn’t know it until much later, she felt the same way, from the very first moment. The most telling part being when she said to me that not only did she know it but she was aghast to realize it was a guy that offered her almost no future. I was not a “good catch” as they say.

We built a life. Together. I became the kind of man she believed she deserved. She gave me unconditional love, support, and later, four children. We were all in, together, right from the very start. The only time I even considered throwing in the towel, we were mere months into our relationship, she somehow convinced me that if we could weather this, we could weather anything. I never had a doubt again.

This wasn’t a fragile love. We had complete trust in each other. She went out with her friends on Friday nights. I went north to go hunting with my friends. Neither of us ever worried if the other was cheating. We had discussed it long before and made an agreement that if that were ever going to happen that we would talk about it. We wanted to be together. And we also knew that the best way to do that would be to maintain lives that were not completely intertwined. I was never even tempted. I’m convinced she wasn’t either. We were more than partners and more than spouses. We were best friends.

It’s hard to let myself miss her. I know what I’ve lost. I knew what I was losing long before she died. Liz passed away from ALS in November of 2009. I crave the sort of connection I had with her, with my entire being. She was my confidant, my lover, my wife, the mother of my children, my intellectual sparring partner, my career coach, my inspiration and my very best friend. I want that back, and I’ve met many different women that want to fill those roles. But, so far, none can fill more than one or two of them. I don’t expect to ever again meet someone that can give me what she gave me. And even if that’s the case, I will still be the luckiest man to have ever lived, just to have had that for twenty plus years.

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