“There are some things that are burned into your memory. There are some events that are so important in your life that they are imprinted on your soul so deeply that you will never forget the moment. And, not just what that moment looked like, but what it felt like. What it smelled like. How cool the air was and how effortlessly the wind moved. To this day, I would still be able to trace my husband’s face the first time I met him. I was 15. He was 17. And, he was the most perfect thing I had ever seen. His hair was perfect. His smile was perfect. His Levi 501’s were perfect. His ‘Hard Rock’ café sweatshirt was perfect. His jawline was perfect. HE was perfect. It took me less than five minutes to fall in love with him. People scoff at that. They tell me it’s not possible. They automatically decide that young love doesn’t exist, and it must just be lust.
Yet, 31 years later, I still love him exactly the way I did on that spring day in 1988. I am still in love with his face. I am still in love with his smile. I am still in love with the way he looked in his Levi’s, and I am still in love with the way he made me feel. I am still in love with the way he made me laugh, how he cured everything that was wrong, and how he sometimes felt like the only person in the whole world who understood me. He was safe. He was comforting. He never judged me or chastised me or made me feel dumb. Not at 15, and not at 40. So much of that was because he was a nice person, but I think it also was because he had known me most of my life. We grew up together. He knew my story. He knew who I was and who I promised myself I was going to be. He knew what every look meant. What every smile hid. What every tear tasted like. He knew everything. He knew everything for 30 years, and he knew everything for 30 years because we refused to buy into the idea that young love wasn’t real.
So, the first time I saw a picture of my teenage daughter and her boyfriend as he picked her up, I cringed. I screamed into my phone. I yelled at her. I demanded she take it off social media. I pointed my finger at him and told him to never pick her up like that again. I shook my judgmental head at both of them and rolled my eyes and how dumb they were. I was infuriated by their PDA and embarrassed at what other people must think. I went to bed mad. I woke up just as angry. And as I opened my eyes and focused on the empty space next to me in the bed, the space I once shared with that man I love, I couldn’t help but smile. I couldn’t help but be thrown back to a time where I knew for certain what that kind of love felt like. I couldn’t help but remember the times we drove around with the music too loud, or the times he gave me piggy back rides, or the times when we thought we were cool breaking curfew or being obnoxious in the movie theater during the first run of whatever version of ‘Friday the 13th’ was out at the time. I couldn’t help but recall how many times we ticked off my mom, or how many times we broke the rules to be together.
We were young. Maybe we were dumb too, but man, we were in love. And then it hit me – couldn’t my daughter and her boyfriend be in love, too? Couldn’t they feel the same way we did all those years ago? Couldn’t she look at him and be in love with his smile? In love with his face? Couldn’t she have found the person who understands her, who comforts her, and who makes her feel safe? Couldn’t she have found the one who will know every story for the next 30 years and who will know how to calm her, reassure her, love her and remind her of the woman she wants to be? Couldn’t she have found the person who proves to her that young love is real?
The answer is yes. We all know the answer is yes.
I know it can be true. I know it because I have lived it, and I know it because I see who they are together. I have seen the way he takes care of her. I have seen the way he has been there for her. I watched him when she was admitted to the ER drop everything to be there for her and hold her hand and tell her it would be alright. I watched him, for the week after when she still wasn’t feeling well, cut her food and feed it to her to make sure she ate. I have watched him encourage her to do the right thing, and I have watched him love her even on the days when she drives me so crazy, I am not sure I like her very much. I have watched him laugh at her jokes, play with her hair, and cry with her when her emotions become too much to bear.
And during those times, I wonder what her dad would have thought of him. I wonder, if he had the chance to meet him, if he would have liked him. Probably not. I am pretty sure he wouldn’t have liked him, at least not when he first started dating his baby girl. I am sure he would have glared at him. I am sure he would have sneered at him. I am sure he would have warned him. And then, after he saw what I did, I think he would have softened a little bit. I think they would have worked on their cars and rewired their stereos and found commonality in loving the same beautiful girl. I think my husband would have always kept a watchful eye on him, and a strong grip on her, but I think, over time, he would have remembered what I did and been reminded that young love does exist.
She had a dream about it, you know. She dreamt that her dad came down from Heaven to meet her boyfriend. She dreamt that he shook his hand and looked him up and down, and after some time, he smiled. She dreamt that they worked on the car and her dad showed him how to fix his speakers. She told me that her dad thought her boyfriend’s car was cool. Oh yes, my love, yes. He could have thought it was cool. I can promise you that.
My young love was cut much too short the day he died holding my hand. I knew nothing of what the world would be like without him. I knew nothing of what it would be like to suffer some kind of pain without him holding me. I knew nothing of what it would be like to raise our child without him here to help me and calm me down during one of those moments that moms and daughters have. I knew nothing about what it would be like to walk life alone, and not have somebody here who knew everything about me. I knew nothing about what it would feel like to have to explain myself to somebody else, or how much my heart would hurt when it realized that I would grow old without him and the young love we shared. I would know nothing about how regretful I would be when I realized how much time I wasted worrying what other people thought.
And because of that, I hope my daughter and her boyfriend never worry. I hope they never pay any attention to anybody who questions their truth. I hope they don’t care if people wonder if young love is real. I hope they never stop hugging and kissing and telling each other they love each other. I hope they never take that picture down, and I hope they stand up with each other and for each other for as long as they can, whether that’s three years, or 30 years, or 60 years. I hope they get to love each other for a lifetime, and I hope that my husband is looking down on all of us and that he is pleased. Because I know if he was here, he would remember, and I know he would love that she was loved and loving, no matter what that looks like to anybody else.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can find more of her books here. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
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