A couple weeks ago, I finally concluded that the lifelong love affair that I had should end. It was not an easy decision to make. To be honest, I can think of only a few things that I have ever experienced that were more painful except perhaps experiencing the death of a loved one and of course paying taxes. Breaking up is simply never easy. Breaking up is especially painful and difficult when you have had the same love since high school.
For more than three hours, on the afternoon of October 8th, my now former love attempted to convince me that things were not as bad as I believed them to be and that we had a chance to rekindle the flame that once burned so hot and bright. During our time together that afternoon, I reflected on almost everything we shared, every moment and every memory in an attempt to convince myself that things could be repaired.
She reminded me of our unexpected meeting. I was first introduced to her over 31 years ago, while she was visiting Miami, Florida. The moment that I saw her, I fell in love and knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life being devoted to her and her alone. Throughout high school and college, family and friends alike tried to persuade me to consider another. Everyone told me that long distance relationships never worked, as she lived nearly 1,000 miles away. Like any single, red blooded American man, I looked at others but there were none as beautiful.
Throughout the 80s we dated as often as we could but it was tough. I simply wasn’t in a financial position to love her the way that I wanted and in the way she deserved. If I was lucky, I would get to see her once or twice a year. We made a pact that we would both do our parts to connect sometime around New Years. Unfortunately, for us, caring on a long distance relationship back then was not as easy as it is today with all the current technology.
During the 90s, we consummated our love. I had earned my first college degree and now had a few dollars to spend, professing my love for her more openly. Many weekends, I spent reverencing our love and we would at times be found dressed alike. This type of PDA (public display of affection) is normally ridiculed especially by other men but for some strange reason, I was given a break from the type of grief associated with being so openly and publicly in love.
It seems like only yesterday when I had my first opportunity to visit her home. I knew how alluring I considered her to be but I was surprised to find what seemed like tens of thousands of others who were outside her home hoping for a chance to visit wither her. She resided in a most beautiful, continuous brick structure. The landscaping was 419 Tifway Bermuda grass and was absolutely meticulous. Her home even showcased stained-glass windows and it was simply one of the most fabulous homes I had ever seen.
There was a fourteen year span where our love could only be described as simply legendary. I am certain that no one has now nor ever will experience the type of love we shared. We had brief moments of disappointment during those fourteen years where things seemed to go wide right a couple times but even still there was nothing that could compare to what we had. Twice in a span of 6 years, we renewed our vows during the New Year’s celebration, in front of the entire Nation. We wanted the whole world to know that we had a love affair that was simply the best.
Regrettably, around New Years 2000, things began to fall apart. As is the case in many long term relationships, one party starts to take the relationship for granted and stops doing the things that made it successful. I’m not claiming to be perfect and I recognize my faults but I can assure you that this was not a case of me taking her for granted and not loving her with the passion associated with a new love.
Rather, in our case, she stopped taking care of herself. She stopped doing the things necessary to prolong our relationship. Her changes were initially subtle but like anyone who eats a few extra hundred calories a day, in a few years the pounds are many and undeniable. She was heavier and lumpier than ever before. She looked old and haggard. It was as if she did not own a mirror or the mirror she owned continued to tell her lies. As much as I hate to admit it, I was almost embarrassed to let others know that we were together.
We sought our longtime marriage counselor, our coach, if you will, for guidance but he like my love seemed to be less in touch with the reality that our relationship was in trouble. Every spring, when we would meet with our “saint-like” marriage counselor, he would tell us that we were close to being okay. He would repeatedly tell us that we just needed a little time to work out the kinks and we would be able to return to those glory days. Sadly, he was more often wrong than right. We had a few good moments but alas it simply was never going to be the way it once was. A side note, our saintly marriage counselor is now retired after 44 years of a hall of fame career.
In 2009, I was really very tired and ready to give up. My love made one more attempt to convince me to stay with her. She suggested that we try another marriage counselor, a man self described as a fisher of men, to work with us. She was sure the new counselor’s youth and evangelical style would better serve us. Despite, my reluctance, I agreed to give it one more try.
I had known only this one love for 30 years and the thought of starting over or worse living without her was to be frank, as scary as it was unpleasant. During our first session with our new counselor, he persuaded and implored me to give 100% to the relationship. Although our new counselor did not have the experience or history of our old counselor, he appeared organized and committed to keep us together. So per his prescription, I opened myself up and threw myself completely into my relationship again. I was unbelievably hopeful that our new counselor could help restore our love.
Per his directions, I began to do the things that I did when our love was thought of like the loves of history’s greatest dynasties. I began to dress like her again, willingly setting myself up for the ridicule associated with PDAs. This time to my surprise, my peers were not so kind as to spare me the ridicule. Instead, my peers not only snickered but in some cases they ridiculed me often and openly. National and international media outlets reported openly about my loves repulsive appearance. They wondered how she could go from so beautiful to so wretched seemingly overnight. They asked why a man would love someone who by outward appearance seemed to no longer love herself.
Despite this barrage of criticism and humiliation, I trusted our new counselor and was committed to restoring my relationship. So even in the face of the scorn and ridicule, I traveled with her more than ever before. Wherever she went, I made arrangements to be with her. We traveled to the place of our initial meeting, Miami, a couple of times. We traveled to San Francisco, Nashville, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Atlanta among other locations. When we were not traveling, I would arrange my schedule so that I could spend the weekend at her (our) home where we were once the toast of the town often enjoying standing room only house parties. However, now except for a rare occasion here and there not as many people seemed to be interested in spending time with us the way they once did.
So on that depressing Saturday afternoon, as we sat together outside, for our final time, in Winston Salem, NC, despite our phenomenal and long standing history it became increasingly clear to me that it was simply time to let her go. I could not continue to invest time, energy, emotion, or money for that matter in a relationship that was never going to be the same. Kenny Rogers once said, you have “know when to fold em, know when to hold em, no when to walk away, no when to run.” So I turned to my love, looked at her intensely for the final time and softly and calmly uttered these words, “Florida State football, my love for more than 30 years, I can’t take it anymore…It’s over! Florida State 30 - Wake Forest 35