We're both geologists and we graduated from the same program. And the first time I actually met my future husband was a Friday morning after one of my classes when I was exiting the room and he was entering the room. He was campaigning for President of the Geology Club in an upcoming election and he said that he'd pay me $20.00 if I'd vote for him.
I told him if he'd make it $30.00 he had a deal.
We both laughed and I thought he was cute. And funny. And driven, seeing as he was campaigning for President of the Geology Club. And when he won the title by a landslide a few days later, I thought he was smart.
And then, when I joined the geology softball team and he was the Captain and he could hit a ball out of the park and throw a ball from one side of the field to the other and he rescued me from having to "catch" any balls that were hit in my general direction, I realized he was athletic.
I was definitely smitten. But true love didn't happen until a few months later when the two of us made it all the way to the finals and played each other for the title of Intramural Singles Champion.
Once upon a time, I was actually a fairly good tennis player.
I had played tennis all through highschool and had lettered my senior year. I received a tennis scholarship to college where I played for two months before severely straining my knee and having to sit out the rest of the season.
By the time I transferred to school in California for what was supposed to be a four month "semester exchange", I hadn't played tennis in at least a year. But, I signed up for the intramural team because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get involved again in a sport I had once thoroughly enjoyed.
And as it turns out, I hadn't lost too much of my competitive edge seeing as I made my way all the way to the finals where I played my future husband for the Championship.
(Guess who won?)
I doubt that I ever would have even known the first thing about how to play tennis if not for my mom dragging me out of bed every Saturday morning during my youth and taking me down to some public tennis courts where a small group of people from our church would gather to play.
Every Saturday at 7 AM they would be there.
And so would we.
I was the youngest player by 40 years. Some of the players like Buck and Joe were in their 70's. But I learned a lot. I learned all about scoring and the difference between singles and doubles. I learned how to serve and I perfected my backhand. I learned how to hit lobs and I learned how to dribble a stopped ball up on my racquet.
Those Saturday mornings on the court is where I first met Jim and Pat. This husband and wife duo were not only great tennis players, they were extremely good to my mom and I. Pat spent an exorbitant amount of time standing at the net and coaching me as I hit ball after ball to her and she would patiently give me pointers on my overhead serve.
I remember like it was yesterday, the afternoon that Jim and Pat came over to our house and presented my mother with a brand new Prince graphite tennis racquet. Which, at the time, was the finest tennis racquet known to mankind.
(And which I quickly
When Charlie and I were married in 1994, Jim and Pat traveled from South Carolina to Massachusetts so that they could attend our wedding. Unfortunately, a few years later, Pat began experiencing complications from breast cancer.
My mother and Pat had always been good friends, but when Pat was ill, they became even closer. With my mother's background in nursing, mom would frequently visit and lend support. She rearranged furniture to make it easier for Pat to get around and when Pat's health began to decline, mom would give her sponge baths and rub her hands and feet with lotion.
I believe it was ten years ago this year that Pat died.
Within a few months of Pat's passing, my mother and Jim began spending time together. They would go see a movie and perhaps have dinner. They'd sit next to each other at church. They'd spend time working on crossword puzzles together. They took a few small trips to the beach and to the mountains. And then in November of 2001, they drove from South Carolina to California to spend Thanksgiving with Charlie and I.
By the time my mother and Jim started spending time together, it had been over 20 years since my parents had divorced. Infact, Jim was the first man my mother had in her life since she divorced my father. I had always wished that my mother would meet someone, but she never did. She didn't want the distraction when I was still living at home. She wasn't ready. She didn't have the time. She just wasn't prepared to share her life at that point.
There was Jim.
Since she had known him for so many years - and he was such a good friend - the two of them quickly found a comfortable companionship with each other.
A few years ago, Jim proposed to my mother. They are engaged and mom has a diamond ring. They haven't yet tied the knot, but they were spending so much time together that Jim recently sold his house and moved in with my mom. From April through November they live in South Carolina. From November through April they live in Florida. And at various times throughout the year, they will drive up and down the coast to visit family and friends.
Unless my math is wrong, Jim will turn 86 in December. He flew a blimp during World War II. He played basketball at Brown. He has three children and six grandchildren. He has an additional seven children and 20 grandchildren that he inherited from my mother. He has a brother, Bob, who is two and a half years younger that lives in Canada. Every year, for the past thirty plus years, the two brothers have vacationed together in Florida.
Jim is quite possibly the most crazed sports enthusiast on the planet. Lending, I'm sure to the fact that his father and grandfather and uncles were all professional baseball players, the man is completely obsessed with sports. He could watch ESPN from sunrise to sunset. He might take a break to complete the New York Times Crossword Puzzle (in pen), but he'll never lose track of what's happening on the field. It doesn't matter who or what is on. It could be baseball, basketball, football, tennis or hockey.
Heck, it could be preschool ping pong and Jim would be perched on the edge of his seat.
In addition to loving sports, he has more close friends than any man I've ever met. He is still friends with people that he went to grade school with. And although they might live in various parts of the country, he makes every effort to visit them. Frequently.
He loves sports. He loves crosswords. He loves traveling. He loves his friends. He loves reminiscing. He loves laughing. He loves his life. He loves my mom.
And my mom loves him.
And I love that the two of them have spent the past several years together because I believe that their friendship has brought an untold amount of joy, happiness and purpose to their lives.
How is it that my father's health has deteriorated so rapidly?
How is it that my Uncle Bill who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and given three months to live four years ago, will be flying to California for a vacation at the end of the month?
How is it that Charlie's 81-year old father Alex, who lost his wife 17-years ago, is currently on a trip to the Bahamas where he is swimming with dolphins?
I think that a large component of a person's happiness and survival depend upon not only having a sense of purpose in life - but having someone that they love and that loves them back. I believe that companionship is important. Because having someone to share your life with - generally speaking - makes living more fun.
Earlier today, Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
I am sickened to think that this wonderful man who I've known for the past 25 years and who helped teach me to play the game that would one day lead me to my husband, must now face this dreadful disease. I am heartbroken because cancer has once again struck someone who is a part of our family. He is my mother's best friend and our children's beloved Jimbo.
Throughout today, I kept reminding myself that Jim has a lot going for him. He has a winning spirit. He has a warm heart. He is kind. He is gentle. He is optimistic. He has a lot of people that care about him and are praying for him.
But perhaps most importantly he has my mom.
Someone that loves him, by his side.