Three years ago I started a fresh journey. As with all great adventures, I wasn’t sure if I was prepared, but I took the first step. After that your other foot just has to keep up and you find yourself down the path.
A month after Emma’s passing, I went to a fiftieth birthday party for a friend, and when I looked at the pictures, I couldn’t recognize the person wearing my clothes. I was lost. I spent some time with some other friends the next weekend, and by speaking with someone who had lost her husband at a much younger age and then rebuilt her life, I was able to see that I would indeed move forward.
I hadn’t really planned for it, Emma and I had this romantic notion that we would leave this life behind together, because I just couldn’t imagine life without her, and I have a fairly good imagination. Then, a few weeks before her death, she told me she wanted me to live the life that was being denied to her. What choice did I have? I carried on, but I wasn’t doing it well. Gracefully of course, but not well.
I’ve thought about the cosmic conditions that took place in order for Lieve and I to meet. She was about to give up on dating, I was just starting to look around. We met on an internet site, and she wasn’t quite a perfect match, her profile indicated she was looking for a relationship with another woman. Reading her story, I couldn’t help but feel that she was indeed heterosexual, so I wrote to her to let her know that if she was straight, we would be nicely matched. How fortunate I was, she hadn’t been getting many responses because she had checked the wrong box on the questionnaire, so she was available when I was available.
We chatted by computer for a bit, and there was something magical there. I could feel the vibration through the monitor. Eventually we spoke on the phone, and her accent was thoroughly charming. We arranged to have dinner on a Monday evening, 16 August 2010.
It was like being caught up in a hurricane. Seriously, I’ve been in a hurricane, and the physical and emotional responses were much the same. I knew that I should take it slowly, and the fact that she lived in Princeton, an hours drive away, and had two teenage children, made me think there were adequate “brakes” in place. Lieve had said that it would be months before she was comfortable enough for me to meet her kids. She invited me to her house the next Friday. I asked her to marry me a month later.
We’ve had some incredible ups and downs over the last few years. Her kids have been, well, kids. Like my own, I often remind myself that only half their genes and upbringing comes from me, the other half from someone I couldn’t stand living with. Her family in Belgium seems to genuinely like me, and I like them as well. I’ve known my family for over fifty years, and they played their parts as expected.
Lieve has introduced me to a new language, and I’ve helped her English become more American. She’s introduced me to the world of Belgian beers and chocolates, and I’ve put on twenty pounds. Lieve has helped me look at life from another angle, and I hope I have done the same for her. We have shared each others life experiences and have grown from the sharing.
We have some differences, but if we agreed on everything life might become boring. She was born Catholic and became an Atheist, I am a very spiritual person and we have found some common ground. She is very liberal politically, I am more conservative, but we still find things in the political world that we agree about. She tends to be a “people pleaser”, I tend to be less interested in personalities, but we are both strong individuals capable of standing our ground on any issue, while knowing when to compromise.
There is a lid for every pot. It took a while to realize how Emma and I fit together, and having recognized how differences can be complementary, I am able to see how Lieve and my differences make us stronger and more complete.