Terry was a pretty high school student with a bubbly personality, honor grades, and a circle of close friends. Life was good. Best of all, she was dating John.
They’d started going out when John was 16. She was 15. Within a year, they’d become ‘an item’ among the high school crowd in their small town.
“I liked John a lot,” Terry said wistfully. But she admits that at the time she also felt conflicted.
Terry was a student at a Roman Catholic school. Like many other students, she was constantly encouraged toward a religious vocation. She’d come to feel an obligation to explore that as a career. For her, it would mean becoming a nun. But Terry also knew that she was drawn to a far more appealing option: John.
She had to be sure. So, Terry entered a convent during her final year in high school. She was 17.
A year later, when Terry returned home convinced that a religious life was not for her, John still waiting. She knew then: only John could make her life complete.
Soon after, he asked her to marry him. Terry was ecstatic.
Usually, that’s how fairytales go. Right? Not this time.
It was the 1960s. Religion had a powerful influence over many families. Terry’s parents belonged to one religion; John’s parents believed in another. That didn’t concern Terry and John, at first. They paid no attention to such things. After all, they had each other. That would be enough, or so they thought.
John’s parents supported Terry and John’s plans to marry. What the couple hadn’t counted on was fierce opposition from Terry’s father. Despite her tearful pleas, he was adamant. He refused to reconsider. Ultimately, it broke their hearts. Terry and John were forced to go their separate ways.
Eventually, Terry and John married others. In the years that followed, they raised families, pursued careers, and experienced the triumphs and tragedies of life. Each of their well-ordered lives cruised along for decades. And then tragedy struck. Both lost their spouses just a few years apart.
“I loved my husband,” Terry said. “We had a wonderful relationship. I was blessed. But during all that time, never a day went by that I didn’t think about John, wanting him to be happy and well. There were no thoughts of disloyalty. I’m not made that way. I even told my husband about John . . . and he said that proved to him I knew how to love. It was a gift, he said.
“Wasn’t I lucky to have someone like him? I have to admit, just remembering the feelings that John and I shared all those years ago, would often warm my heart. I think it made me a more caring person.”
John freely admits also that Terry was on his mind persistently throughout those 50 years.
“I would hear her wonderful laugh in my mind, and often feel buoyed by the joyful sense of humor I’d experienced with her,” John said.
On rare occasions, John and Terry’s growing families would encounter each other in parks and restaurants in their hometown. Terry still lived there; John and his family lived in a town a few miles away. Both Terry and John admitted there would be an emotional twinge, at first, but it passed. The four parents and their children would mingle happily, leaving the past firmly in the past.
Terry’s career led her to study accounting, ultimately becoming a supervisor in an accounting firm.
John’s route in life was more unusual.
Fifty years ago, a high school graduate could become a teacher with just a few months of training. So, at 19, John not only became a teacher in the elementary school of a small rural town, but he also became the principal.
He was nicely settled into his career and raising his family when he and his wife agreed to take over a pizza restaurant and an ice cream shop owned by his wife’s retiring parents. Both businesses were located in a summer resort, not far from John’s school.
During the school year, he would be focused on school. But when summer came, John and his wife were kept busy running the pizza restaurant and the ice cream shop.
Then, tragedy struck. John’s wife died unexpectedly of a heart attack. In his grief, he found solace by focusing on his family, his career in education, and his business interests.
A few years later, tragedy struck Terry’s life. Her husband died of cancer. She found comfort in her family and career. In time, Terry began to get on with her life. She didn’t want to be alone. She had a few relationships.
“Those came and they went,” Terry said with a wry grin. “I have no regrets. You could say those experiences left me a bit wiser.”
One day, quite by accident, Terry and John met. They went for coffee. The pair hadn’t had contact for several years. The former teenage sweethearts caught up on their recent histories. They decided to meet again for a coffee, or two. They began seeing each other.
At first, they were uncertain, tentative even, about their rekindled attraction for each other. Those feelings had been tucked away ‘safely’ for many decades. Neither dared to call it ‘dating’. They told family and friends: “We see each other occasionally”. But that wasn’t exactly true.
Terry knew. So did John.
“My heart soared every time I saw John, or heard his voice on the phone,” Terry said, a huge smile lighting up her radiant face.
Those occasions became more and more frequent. Still, their unease persisted. After all, half a century had passed since they’d been high school sweethearts.
One day, John told Terry that he was going to the Florida Keys for a few weeks. It would be a combination business and recreation trip. Terry’s heart fell. Now that she’d found John again, the thought of being apart from him for that long was more than she felt she could bear.
Then to her surprise and delight, John invited her to accompany him. He explained that he had a condo on one of the keys (islands). He quickly reassured her the condo was a two-bedroom unit. She would have her own room and her own private bath.
The separate accommodation lasted most of the first night.
The lovers were reunited – a modern day Romeo and Juliet story. But this time, with a much happier ending.
“Terry’s Story” is Copyright 2014 By James Osborne All Rights Reserved
(Author’s Note: ‘Terry’s Story’ is about a real life romance. Sincere thanks are due Terry and John for their extraordinary generosity in agreeing to share their heart-warming modern-day, old-fashioned love story.)