Lover's Key, Florida

Lover's Key, Florida

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


This is something I posted more than a year ago.  It seems appropriate to publish it again, on the first day of spring.  We've been having exceptionally warm weather in Ann Arbor; today the temperature was in the 80s.  The daffodils, hyacinths, lilies and crocuses have all poked their head out of the ground.  This was Gwen's favorite time of year, and she enjoyed seeing the emergence of living things when she had been told by doctors that she wouldn't see that annual miracle of the season.  I am particularly happy that the four hyacinth bulbs I planted as part of her garden last fall are now up and ready to bloom.  She loved hyacinths, particularly their sweet smell.  So, this repost is kind of about all those things, life and love and living:

I try always to keep clear my primary purpose in making these postings.  It is to honor the memory of my dear wife Gwen.  I find, however, that at times, rather than a memorial commentary per se,  they take the form of a memoir.  This posting will probably fall into that category.  It's unavoidable, to talk about Gwen is to talk about me, we were pretty much inseparable all of our life. In a talk on transformational love Msgr. Zenz made a statement that "when we fall in love we find ourself by losing ourself in the beloved."   It helps me to understand my grief to think about how Gwen and I, early on, really did lose ourselves in one another.  I'm sure we didn't talk about it in that manner.  It was more like the note I talked about yesterday where she says, "I can't think or concentrate much tonight because you give me too much to think about myself."  This is an extremely self-confident, cocky young woman, 19 years old, who is making this statement.  I remember it well.  Love, real love, can be scary.  It's such a leap of faith.  What we both learned, of course, is that when you fall, you fall forever, at least, that's how it was for us.

The first five years of our marriage were an exciting adventure to say the least.  Year one we spent the summer in Marquette where I attended summer school.  (Also, this was our "honeymoon".)  In the fall we moved to Ann Arbor where I attended the UM and Gwen worked as a secretary in the Dietetics Department at the Veteran's Hospital in Ann Arbor.  It wasn't all work, she also became pregnant with our first child, son John.  Year two we spent in Reedsville, Wisconsin, where I was the "Guidance Man" in the schools and Gwen gave birth to our daughter Jeanne.  Year three we were in Portland, Oregon, where I completed a year of graduate studies and Gwen participated with me in many of the group activities that were popular at the time; "sensitivity groups" come to mind.  That year we discovered "the pill." Years four and five we lived in Flint, Michigan, where I served as guidance director for the Westwood Heights Schools and Gwen worked as a substitute teacher.  Early in year five Gwen gave birth to our third child,  Michael, and, later in the year,  I secured a position as a counselor with the Ann Arbor Public schools.  In the fall of that year we moved to Ann Arbor.

In order to earn money for a down payment on a home in Ann Arbor I spent the summer of 1968 working as a security guard at the Chevrolet Stamping Plant in Flint.  The job paid very well, but I filled in for vacationing permanent employees, which meant I worked weekends, holidays and the late shifts, 3:00 p. m. to 11:00 p. m. and sometimes 11:00 p. m. to 7:00 a. m.  Gwen was left with the task of keeping the household running.  She had now reached full maturity and become a most beautiful woman in spite of having given birth to three children; I could tell by the way men looked at her when we were out together. I remember feeling some occasional pangs of jealousy when I had to leave her alone at night although she never gave me the slightest reason to doubt her love.  Maybe it was more like I've discussed before, I was jealous of myself. I wanted only to continue to be worthy of that wonderful woman.

One task I had as a night watchman was to  spend four of the eight hours of my shift assigned to a little guard house in a field next to a place where trains enter the property through a gate in the cyclone fence.  My only job was to remain alert and, if, as occasionally occurred, a train came through the gate, I would write down the number of the train and the time it arrived.  Remaining alert was the challenge, I was not allowed to read,  listen to a radio, talk on the telephone or do anything that might distract me from my primary duty which was to wait for that next train to come down the tracks.  No one had said anything about writing, so I did a lot of that when I pulled duty guarding the railroad tracks.  Looking back now, I can see that it was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to slow down the crazy pace of life I had been pursuing and reflect on the important things in my life, and my beautiful wife Gwen was number one on that list.  It was then that I wrote this lengthy reflection on the love of my life.  I found it in its original, written in pencil on a yellowed sheet of paper from that guardhouse by the railroad tracks:

How strange it seems, but it’s true
to be married five years and awake one
day to discover
that your love for your wife is real,
and to feel in your heart what it means
when you say you love her,
to know and to feel that this woman
is your commitment, not just for now,
but for always,
and to know that this love that you feel
will grown stronger and more beautiful through
all of your days.

Does this mean that you did not love her before?
That for five years and more you’ve been
living a lie?
I think not, for it seems only right
that, if love is to grow, its earlier
imperfections must die,
and be recognized as such and nothing more,
lest they smother the tender new love and
prevent it from bearing new fruit,
which too must be harvested and planted anew,
so that new love may again appear while the
love that bore it remains mute.

So you ask her (your wife) to understand
that this new you who’s come into
her dull routine life,
seeks only to say words to her
that you’ve said before and will say again
to her, your wife,
that with each time she hears them again,
the man who speaks them is a little more
devoted and true,
and he’s learned a little bit more
about what it means when a husband
tells his wife “I love you.”

John A. Bayerl,  circa 1968

After I shared this with Gwen, I put it away to be typed later.  Now, almost 50 years later, I finally got around to typing it.  It means as much today as it did then, the evolving and growing love that I shared in the poem didn't die with her.  She's reading and loving those word again, just as I am.

1 comment:

Yummiraawo said...

Oh my... I was just searching for a french-english translation on Google and I don't even know how I got there. But I'm so grateful I could read this today.
Even though I didn't read everything, what I read was enough to bring me to tears. You are so blessed to having experienced such a beautiful marriage and your beloved Gwendolyn is also I think very blessed too to have a husband who loves her so much that he keeps her alive in the most beautiful way : writing about her.

Bravo sir, I admire your inner strength and admire even more the everlasting bond you share with your wife.

Be blessed and keep writing more beautiful words !