Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I am going to indulge myself with a very long post today.

On Long Island, in 1956, I was working for a dentist in Rockville Centre. Ralph was a Certified Dental Technician, whose lab did work for that dentist.

Once we started dating, in early October, we saw one another every day, for the rest of his life. Well, not quite. There was a three day weekend when I went home to PA for Thanksgiving - but he did call me every day then. During the next year we must have hit every restaurant on the south shore and a few up north. We walked the boardwalk in Long Beach. We wandered over beaches and gardens and woods. We drove all the way out to Montauk Point. We spent hours sitting in our favorite booth at a quiet little restaurant-bar in Wantaugh. We traveled to Pennsylvania and to Connecticut to meet his many aunts and uncles and cousins.

When my mother ordered the wedding cake she made the baker a little crazy trying to choose the little bride and groom to go on top. She said, "They're just standing there." But they finally found a pair that was holding hands. "That's more like my couple."

We closed on the little house in Massapequa Park the day before the wedding.

Plans were for a week's honeymoon, but after the third day all we wanted was to be in our own house, so we headed home. Our home! No one knew we were there. It was wonderful!

In the next four years three small people joined us. Ralph was a wonderful father - a wonderful husband. Life was almost idyllic. Oh, I don't suggest we never had our arguments. Life would have been pretty dull without them, wouldn't it? He could be stubborn and hot-headed. I definitely am not the easiest to live with - pretty bitchy, as a matter of fact. At times he would turn on his heel and walk out of the house. When he returned after a long walk, he would be calm and happy and back to "normal", which infuriated me, because I was still seething. But we loved one another, completely, and always ended in one another's arms.

In 1964 he had his first heart attack. I went to the hospital every day. The children were three, four and five. The oldest had heard of a Little League coach who had a heart attack on the field, and had died. Several days after her dad's heart attack, she asked me where it was that I went every day. Of course, I reminded her that Daddy was in hospital and I went to see him. She said, "No you don't. Daddy's dead." That was a shocker! Pay very close attention to your children if there is a family crisis. You never know how their little minds are working. Fortunately, he was in a first floor room and we could take her to a window where he could wave to her.

Life went on. I believe I was in denial. Nothing could disturb our blissful existence.

In 1968 I learned I was pregnant again. The first words that Ralph said were, "I'll never live to see this one grow up." I didn't believe that for a minute. I should have recognized his concern.
We had sometimes argued about this sort of thing. His parents had died in 1950, within minutes of one another. Both had been ill, neither telling the other how seriously, wanting to spare one another worry. I felt that couples should share everything, good or bad. I'm sure Ralph wanted to spare me. I should have been more perceptive.

When the little one arrived, he doted on her. I think he tried to cram in every moment with her that he could, knowing it wouldn't be forever. She was six when he left us. The others were fourteen, fifteen and sixteen.

He was in hospital for a week, but was sent home on Friday afternoon. We spent a quiet weekend. Sunday night he tucked in the youngest. A little later, he began to show signs of another heart attack. We went back to the hospital. The doctor assured us that they had "caught it in time". A little after midnight they persuaded me to go home to the children and return to visit in the afternoon.

I got into bed. Our black lab, Charlie, got up on the foot of the bed. I needed his comfort. At 2:30am, Charlie leaped to his feet and froze like a statue, looking toward the window. I have to say, my first thought was of Ralph, but I rejected that immediately as being foolish. Charlie ignored me and stood stiff for a while. Then he collapsed on the bed, dejectedly. A while later, the phone rang.

Until that time, Charlie had a ritual. Every day when it was near time for Ralph to come home from work, Charlie would go from door to window repeatedly, until his master came through the door. But from that moment, Charlie never looked for him again.

My husband was a quiet man, lay-back, unassuming. I was the one who did the talking. I think at some point I had the mistaken idea that I was the strong one. When he was gone, I came to realize that I drew my strength from him. We had eighteen years together. Not very long in the grand scheme of things - but time enough to store a lifetime of memories.

This weekend our children will be here for a visit. Our beautiful Ruth, who was the light of his life, albeit exasperating at times. Our son, Joe, who in fourteen years, learned from his father what it means to be a man. Our Rita, who is so like him in so many wonderful ways. And our Kitty, who gave him, and me, pure joy. I'm not sure if it is just coincidence, or if they were aware when plans were made for the visit, but this Friday will be Ralph's 85th birthday.

The butterfly counts not months - but moments - and has time enough.
- Rabindranath Tagore


brucesc said...

I can't believe how many people jumped in and ranted about the president on your earlier post and not one has commented on this beautiful post about your late husband. Posts like this, telling about wonderful family life, have a lot more to do with the health of this country than sophomoric ravings ever will. Thanks for a lovely, but sad, story. I hope your Easter with the family was a grand party.

Dianne said...

that was beautiful bobbie - I felt like I met Ralph. I already feel like I know Kitty a bit from her writing and I sure do like her a lot.

you must be so excited knowing you'll all be together this weekend. I'm hoping for beautiful spring like weather for you all.

kenju said...

Bobbie, this is a terrific post! Thanks for sharing bits of your life with us (and doing it so well).

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

What a beautiful post this is, Bobbie. You have lovely memories of your life together, cut too short, for sure.

Casdok said...

Lovely post.

And please help yourself to anything you like! The more awarness raising the better!! :)

Shelly said...

I made it all the way through your post without welling up with tears...until the very end when you wrote that the visit from the kids will be Ralph's 85th birthday...that got me "right there". What a wonderful post about a true love story, thanks for sharing it with us.

KG said...

It's ALWAYS too short, isn't it, when you're with somebody you love? Even if you had 150 years! Great post!

Unknown said...

Oh, my...I'm wiping away at my wet eyes...

I was very touched by your beatiful, poignant story. Thank you again and again for sharing this with your readers.

the P.S.

me ann my camera said...

This is a wonderful tribute.

Lisa said...

He sounds like a wonderful man. I bet you miss him today as much as you did all those years ago... and I'm happy to see all the details you remember.

pink dogwood said...

What a touching story - thanks for sharing. Do you still see part of him in your kids? I was very close to my grandmother and I lost her about 8 years ago. I still miss her so much, like when something happens and I want to tell her about it. I used to call her Amma (means mother in hindi). My mom and I still occasionally say how Amma would have loved or hated this and that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing such precious, tender memories and family moments. Ralph lives on in all of you and how appropriate that your Easter gathering should include his birthday.

I lost my Dad seven years ago, this month, so April has been a reflective time for me, ever since. For my Mom and me, the memories of this beloved, spirited, fun-loving man, continue to buoy our spirits.