Well, as it turns out, Cornelius wanted to take my mother to the Great Smoky Mountains ... not my mother and her 11-year old daughter. Mom wasn't interested in any of that "hanky-panky" so Mr. Keaton got his pink slip.
And that was the end of a potential romance.
When Pat, Jim's wife of 50+ years died more than a decade ago and my mother and Jim started to spend time together, it made my heart so happy that the two of them had found companionship in one another. By that point, I'd been living in California for several years and my mother, although surrounded by close friends and her sister, was alone in South Carolina. But then Jim was there and suddenly, she wasn't alone anymore. She had someone to travel with, to eat dinner with, to sit and talk with, to hold hands with, to care about, and to love.
My mother will turn 80 in July and Jim will turn 90 in December. They'll be celebrating their four-year wedding anniversary this coming September. Several years ago, Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Last year he was placed in hospice, primarily because my mother needed a break during the day. Caring for someone round-the-clock can be exhausting and my mom was at the brink. Since then, Mom has come to realize that it's easier taking care of Jim in Florida than it is in South Carolina and by all accounts, Jim is doing better in the warmer climate. He is able to get around on his own and is the same jovial, welcoming - albeit sometimes forgetful - man that I've known and loved for so many years. My mom is crazy about him (sometimes crazy frustrated) and he's crazy about her, usually serenading his bride with love songs throughout the day.
Of course Jim's not my father and I don't treat him as such. But I do honor and genuinely respect him as the kind and gentle man who is my mother's husband. I'm convinced that one of the keys to my mother and Jim's success and happiness, is that each of them respects the relationships that they've had with others before their union. Jim has a healthy relationship with his friends and children, independent of my mother; just as my mother has a healthy relationship with her friends and children, independent of Jim. From what I can see, they aren't insecure or jealous of any relationships that each other has that doesn't include them. Instead, they trust one another and are happy in their togetherness. They do not cast any expectations on each other nor those around them. They are living just as The Prophet by Kahil Gibran had prophesied two people bound by marriage should live (my mom read this at our wedding):
... Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone. Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together. For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.I'm so thankful that Mom and Jim have each other and they have intentionally and graciously chosen to open their lives to us so that we are able to make joyful memories, together. Because when it all comes down to it, that's what life is all about. Family. Friends. Happiness. Unconditional Love.
And of course, Happy Hour while watching the sunset.