Love Stories: Together, Against the Odds

Not all romances lead to picture-perfect plotlines and not all happily-ever-afters look the same. As this author learnt from her  own love story, true, enduring love can master distance, despair, even loss--and outlive them all.

Alexandria Barton D’Souza Published Feb 14, 2021 14:25:03 IST
2021-02-14T14:25:03+05:30
1970-01-01T05:30:00+05:30
Love Stories: Together, Against the Odds Siddhant Jumde

I don’t believe in ‘Valentine’s Day!” my husband David said, looking at me from across the room. It was the week before Valentine’s Day and every newspaper had advertisements that promised love. “For me,” he continued, folding the paper and putting it away, “every day is Valentine’s Day.” I believed him. David was an affectionate sort and he really didn’t need a particular day to let people know that he loved them.

Yet, every 14 February, there would be a gorgeous bunch of long-stemmed roses delivered to me first thing in the morning! And somewhere in the house was a little gift tucked away for me to find! I had seen David growing up. We lived in the same neighbourhood. Our paths often crossed as he stopped by my brother’s place. Sometimes with his guy friends and dare I say, with his girlfriends as well! He must had been around 18, tall and lanky with a wispy moustache. I don’t remember ever talking to him. He did try to strike up a conversation a couple of times but I kept him at arm’s length. You’re my brother’s friend. Stay that way, I thought.

We met again many years later. This time we spoke a bit. He was now a mechanical engineer, more responsible, quieter and good-looking with broad shoulders! “He seems interesting,” I told my sister. “Dependable, too,” I added. She continued staring at the crossword she was working on.

But David had caught my attention. I loved that he could make me laugh. We bonded over sports at a neighbourhood club. He played some amazing carrom while I couldn’t hit a coin straight! “How come you play so well?” I asked him. “It’s all geometry,” he replied. “It’s about the angles,” he quietly told me, his eyes scanning the board for his next move. One day when he didn’t show up at the club. I missed him. I knew it then: I really liked the boy! When I lost a dare and he made me pay up (I had to buy him four bottles of beer), I was certain that this was the man for me! David was soon visiting my office and before we knew it, we were dating. But David was a couple of years younger than me and I wasn’t sure if the relationship would work out. It didn’t worry David but it played on my mind.

We dated for seven years and planned to get married in January 1997. Just days before the wedding, David held my hand and asked me to come with him to the terrace of my mum’s home. I got a little worried. Don’t tell me something’s happened! I dug my heels in, but he urged me on. I followed him very reluctantly. Then before I knew what was happening, David—ever the romantic—went down on one knee, and slipping a ring on my finger, he asked, “Will you marry me?” I laughed a bit nervously. Was I hearing right? The wedding was three days away. “I can’t say no, can I?” I said, holding on to his hands. “Of course, I will marry you!”

 

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It wasn’t a happily-ever-after story. David was by now working long hours at a job that took him across the country and overseas as well. I had to learn to live on my own which wasn’t easy. I came from a large family and I had never spent a day alone till then. My mum stayed a stone’s throw away and David’s family was just a floor below, but I stuck it out in our home. I got spooked when music floated through my house in the early hours of the morning! I kept a heavy wooden artefact near me in the night—just in case! And I shocked myself once when I flung it across the room at an unsuspecting cat who had crept in through an open window! My imagination ran wild. I can still hear David’s deep laughter rumble through the phone line as he listened to my stories. “When are you coming home?” I would squawk over the phone. He had a simple answer: “Lock yourself inside the bedroom if you are really scared”.

He was away from home for so long, people looked at me sadly. I was even told “He’s forgotten about you.” But I shrugged it off. David loved his job. Of course, I was lonely and maybe even sad. This wasn’t how I imagined my marriage to be. And it grew deeper when I lost a pregnancy, months into our marriage. It might have been easier if David was with me, but we were miles apart and spoke fleetingly over the phone.

We were unprepared for love’s tests, but as the pain receded, we became closer. Slowly the delightful romance of our early days came back to us and we held on to each other. The love we shared gave us the courage and strength to deal with the unknown. Like the time in 1999, when I was detected with a kidney ailment and the side effects of the medication made me gain weight, lose my hair and made my voice faint. And then, more recently, in 2014, when David fell gravely ill with cancer and was told that he had three months to live.

***

I watched David lying in bed. Our bedroom resembled a hospital room. He was now frail and fading away. I held his hand and felt his fingers curl around mine for what might have been the last time. His eyes met mine, each mirroring a pool of sadness. I recovered first. “It’s okay. All will be well,” I told him as I gathered him into my arms and hugged him through the IV lines that were around him.

The days and weeks I spent alone in the initial days of our marriage helped me cope with his passing in 2015. But it has never been easy. I fall back on the beautiful memories of the love we shared. Like the time he tossed a bag of Hershey’s Kisses at me and said with a gleam in his eyes, “The Kisses are for you. Only you!” Or the time when he dropped a beautiful box of liqueur chocolates into my lap. The name emblazoned across the box made me break into a huge smile—mon chéri (my darling) it read, as David would call me sometimes!

David showed me what love is all about. That it is patient and kind and filled with laughter. That love is not only expressed in tight hugs and kisses but it is also seen in the everyday things. It was love, indeed, when he bent low and kissed our sleeping child before leaving for a flight. And the first call of the day, every day, was to his daughter before she left for school. I take pages from David’s book of love. And I try to make each day a happy one for my teenage daughter and his mum. There’s laughter and music that brighten the day. Family and friends gather round the dining table, sometimes to chat, other times for a meal. And there’s a dog who’s helped us love again. Things change but some things remain the same. Every day will still be Valentine’s day. Yet, on 14 February I will head out to the nearest florist and order a gorgeous bunch of red roses for our lovely daughter and her grandma!

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