For Tina on her 67th birthday:
I met Tina and Doug in 1987, the summer we moved to Ledgewood Commons. Their son, Phil, became the link to our two families. I first met Phil and Doug in the swimming pool, and then later met Tina as Phil and our son, Ben, became friends.
When I first met Tina, I was instantly impressed with her graciousness and beauty. She was very welcoming to their home and invited Ben to share play time with Phil often. It was on one such occasion, when Ben and Phil were playing, that Tina and I were talking over coffee and tea, that Tina shared some of her life with me.
She reminisced about meeting Doug in college at Cornell and falling in love as a young woman with him. They had wanted to marry, but Tina’s parents did not approve of her marrying an Occidental. They sent her to England to study [for her junior year] and would not permit her to marry Doug. Tina complied with her parents’ wishes, not wanting to disappoint them and respecting the traditional values of her parents. Subsequently, both she and Doug married other people.
Their history resumed some years later after Doug and his first wife divorced and Doug located Tina, who was living in Chicago with her Asian husband and two boys. [He wrote her a brief letter about the break-up of his marriage.] It was not until about a year later that they met in person in Chicago. Both were struck by the bond which they still felt for one another.
It was at this juncture that Tina and Doug decided they wanted to be together. I will not go into the details of this decision, because I know that Doug will be detailing this information in his story about them. However, I will say that Tina did not make the decision lightly and was terribly conflicted years later when talking about it, because her first husband would not grant the divorce without her promising to leave Ted behind. When telling her story, Tina wept; and I wept too, because I understood that this was not what she wanted to do. For her then, it was a matter of her physical and emotional survival, as well as her love for Doug.
Sitting at her kitchen table and reliving her decision as she talked, Tina remembered all the struggles she had gone through. She seemed to be ashamed of herself for making the decision to survive because it meant leaving Ted behind. Years did not diminish her sorrow and guilt over this decision. It was at that point I shared my personal story and my own sorrow and guilt over my own decision years earlier in my life. Self-acceptance has been difficult for both of us to achieve, but Tina’s sharing with me, and enabling me to share with her, helped us both.
Tina, by sharing her love story, showed me that day the qualities which I admire in her to this day: her courage, compassion, and integrity. I felt the courage that she needed to make the decision to start a new life and to leave behind her little boy, Ted. I knew that leaving him behind, she felt that Ted must feel abandoned. Her compassion for Ted and her desire to show him her love was evident to me. It was not so easy for a young Ted to comprehend, however. I knew that with time and maturity, Ted would understand her decision and grow to know his mother, as I do: as a woman with the courage, compassion and integrity to live that love each day.
I told her that then, hoping it would help her. Today she continues to be that same person. She lives a daily life today which I know of no other person could easily bear, but which brings her happiness and love, knowing she can still share in her husband and children’s lives. For her husband and children, her choice to live today has given them as much or more.
Her daily courage has been an inspiration to me, her compassion even now for others’ suffering always amazes me, and I continue to find her a woman of great integrity and abounding love for others.
Happy Birthday, my friend!