This is a picture of my dad on his wedding day in Marco Island Florida last February 2013 -he was 77 years old. My dad and his bride LuWayne dated for about 16 years before they decided to tie the knot. Yes 16 years.
My dad and my mom divorced when I was thirteen -my brother and I lived with him. That was not common in those days and divorce itself was just becoming something you didn’t have to whisper about. My dad found himself raising two kids- one a teen and the other a pre-teen. Needless to say our house was quite crazy! I was full of myself and boy crazy at the same time. How does a dad deal with that? Anyway we wouldn’t have survived without my Nana- my dad’s mom. She is another story for another post.
My dad began dating which was super weird when you are a teen. I didn’t want to pay much attention to his dating and I was ridiculed by neighborhood kids when he brought a woman over for a cookout. She had a couple kids of her own that came along. I was mortified as I listened to the neighbor kids sing the Brady Bunch song to me. Anyway I never saw that woman again and my dad began dating a fellow IBMer named Jean. At some point my dad became serious with Jean and married her the summer before I went into tenth grade. Back then I didn’t think much of her- she was very strict and cramped my teen style. But later I realized what she took on by marrying my dad. She took on two teens and a man that is – how can I put it- unique. My dad has a very strong personality. So poor Jean had to be tough. They had there ups and downs but mostly ups. Sadly Jean developed cancer at age 51 and passed away. I was 30 by then. My dad was 58 years old.
So there was my dad alone and having to navigate the world again as a single man. He and Jean had planned a move to Marco Island , Florida. He put it on hold a year and sold their home in Potomac, md. and rented an apartment in the same complex where my Nana – who passed in 1987- had lived for nearly 30 years. I think that move to that apartment was a comfort thing for my dad.
My dad is not one to show sadness. So he always tried to remain upbeat. He was going down to Florida a lot as his new home was being built. I was surprised he kept that plan to move south. He was always a beach guy but I never saw him as a Florida guy. But it turns out I don’t know much!
My dad definitely had his pick of suitors -but I think he was looking for someone special. He dated a nice woman for a bit in Maryland but when he moved to Florida it fizzled out. On the other hand , Marco Island , seemed to be just the right place for my dad. There was a lot to do, it was beautiful there, and there were many retired folks there. My dad was semi-retired and he could work part-time right from his home that overlooked a lovely canal.
Soon after moving there, he had a clutch of new friends. I have to say I think that was brave of him to go where he knew only one person (an old school friend who was a bit older than my dad). That would be hard at age 60 but he knew what he wanted to do and it was a great choice. He was very social and went out a lot. He never really talks about love and anything too sentimental. But to me there was always an undertone of loneliness in those early days in Florida. I really hoped that he would find someone special.
I was still single when my dad was newly single. I had ended a long term relationship just before we lost my stepmother. I was building up my career and I was hoping to find the One somewhere along the way. In some ways my dad and I were on the same path looking for love. In 1997 I went to visit my dad in Florida- i was coming out of a breakup of a short relationship but it left me in a bad state. So running to warm,sunny Florida in September seemed a good idea. And I thought hanging with my single dad would be fun too. The funny thing is that now as I’m writing this I remembered that the person who dropped me at the airport is now my husband! That’s for another story as well!
The thing is when I got to Florida on that visit my dad had someone to introduce me to. I suppose he had spoken of her on the phone when we chatted but I am sure I was caught up in my life so I didn’t pay much attention. So I was introduced to a very pretty lady about my dad’s age. Her name was LuWayne. Right away I knew this person was special. She was warm, friendly, talkative, smart and just zany enough to get my dad. She was a music director at her church and played the organ on Sundays. My dad long ago broke his rule about dating only Catholics. That was a big deal for him. But a good thing because otherwise LuWayne may not have been in the picture. And I was very glad she was.
I could tell my dad really liked LuWayne -I could see he tried to be a better person when he was with her. She laughed at his jokes and she made him smile. My dad can be impatient and she dealt with that like a pro. She was independent and laid back. They were very different but good for eachother. LuWayne was and still is so positive. She is a great person to just sit and chat with she makes you feel cared for. She has three kids who I have not met to this day. All of them I feel I know we have chatted a lot about them.
My dad and LuWayne dated for 16 years. They had ups and downs and even a breakup that lasted a while. LuWayne decided to buy a home in Nashville,TN . Her son and his wife were in that area and I think she wanted to be nearer to them and their children. That fueled a break-up that I don’t have all the details about but I know I was quite sad that they weren’t together anymore. My dad was not the same person as he had been with LuWayne and I worried for him. Luwayne grounded my dad and without her he seemed lost. My dad didn’t express his feelings but you just knew he missed her.
Lo and behold they got back together after seeing eachother on a Saint Patricks Day. The luck of the Irish my dad might say. So began the reconnection. Luwayne began to live with my dad during the winter and shacking up was not something either really believed in. So talk began about getting married. I think my dad would have married her long ago even prior to that breakup but he never pushed it. He had found love again and was happy just being together. She told me that they just keep ending up together and that she knew he was unique (my word) but she loved him. And they are best friends. What more can you ask for? I know my husband just gets me…or what he doesn’t get he just accepts bc he loves me. We are best friends.
My dad and LuWayne got married in a small ceremony – just them and two friends – on the beach on Marco Island last February. They went on a short cruise for their honeymoon. I sent them two toasting glasses for a gift. They were thrilled and used them for their toast after the ceremony. In the picture I see two very happy people. I keep this picture on my fridge. I love seeing my dad so happy. I know it’s been a long road for him. He suffered some major losses. But the one thing I see is a man who never gave up on love. He always longed for it and never ran from the possibility. He found someone later in life and he never thought he wouldn’t. Or at least he never said it. And finally when the time was right for both of them, they got married. Just like Jon Katz said in his new book “Second Chance Dog” that love was not just about him and what he wanted but it was about what the other person needed and wanted too. I think my dad got that idea especially after he and LuWayne broke up and reunited. My dad never gave up on love and now at 78 he is as happy as I have ever seen him. That is a love story.
Thanks for reading…