We make a living by what we get, but we make a life from what we give.
—Sir Winston Churchill
I had been in love with Tina since February 1963. Naturally, within the first few years after we separated in June 1964, I thought of her often. Once she became engaged, and certainly after she married, I assumed we could never be together.
Almost anything would be a bittersweet reminder of her: an Asian woman, news about China or Cornell, tales of separated lovers, certain songs.
The memory was happy and sad, something wonderful, something lost,
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That I scorn to change my state with kings.
—Shakespeare, Sonnet XXIX
Some nights I would look at the moon and think that it was shining on both of us, joining us in that way, at least.
After my marriage broke up, in late 1980, I wrote to Tina. Her careful, more-than-polite response made me think that some day we might be together, but that it was a long shot. I adopted my “actuarial strategy,” to outlive that marriage.
In 1982, alone after my first date with Gail, to whom I eventually became engaged, I sobbed. This was so much less than what I had with Tina. In time, I came to think it would be enough or at least the best likely to be available. We became engaged. When I realized my fiancée felt she, too, was settling for second-best, I broke off the engagement. She deserved better? I deserved better.
THE PHONE CALL, FEBRUARY 1983
Twenty years after we had fallen in love, I called Tina as I was passing through Chicago. Her response to my short and semi-formal letter back in January 1981, which had told her of my separation from C, had been carefully worded; but that letter did allow the interpretation that her marriage was not going well.
My February 1983 call came little over a month after I had broken off my engagement to Gail, ten years younger than I and more of a feminist than I could abide. I needed to know whether my hope of marrying Tina some day was realistic. As we spoke, it was so comfortable, you would have thought we had spoken the week before. I told her truthfully that I had not stopped loving her during the 19 years we were apart. I told her that what I needed to know was: If she were free to do so, would she marry me? “In an instant,” she replied. Did she love me? “Nothing has changed in that regard in the last twenty years.” Wow!
Many calls and letters followed. We saw each other that spring, each pleased with the other. Lawyers and negotiations followed to settle the divorce from K. All very messy. All worth it, for us. Tina and young Phil went to her parent’s home for a month, then to the Rosendale, NY, home of my mother and sister. We were careful not to give K any ammunition for the divorce and so did not live together.