Happy Birthday, Jack

When I glanced at the calendar this morning, I realized that today would have been my late husband’s 85th birthday.  Jack passed away in September 2002, after a several-year-long slide into the depths of Alzheimer’s.  He lost his memory and many of his day-to-day abilities over those last years, but he never lost his sweet and loving personality.

Jack and I met in the fall of 1968.  I was a senior at Florida State University, majoring in Anthropology and Archeology.  Jack had earned an associates degree from a community college in the Tampa Bay area after a long stint in the Army and a career in the public aquarium trade.  That summer he had somehow gotten on the crew of an archeological dig supervised by the chairman of the department at FSU, fallen in love with the field, and entered FSU as a junior.  He signed up for a graduate level cultural anthropology class he shouldn’t have been in and decided he wanted to sign up with me, too.  He couldn’t find me through the school registrar–my maiden name was not spelled the way it sounded, and he had never seen it written down–so he actually followed me home from school one day.  That was not scary in quiet, small-town Tallahassee forty-some years ago; today I guess it might be considered stalking.  Before long Jack had rented the other half of the duplex I was living in.  We didn’t use his half for much besides storage, and occasionally pretending that we weren’t living together.

I graduated from FSU in June 1969, and Jack helped me move to New Orleans, where I had been accepted into Tulane University’s grad school.  Jack stayed behind in Tallahassee to finish at FSU, but that Christmas he met me in Miami to visit my parents.  We were planning to marry the next summer, but my mother was afraid we’d get married by some justice of the peace and she wouldn’t be there, so we had a small church wedding in December 1969.  I was twenty-two, Jack was forty-two.  (My mom’s prediction was well founded: a few years later my younger brother was married by a justice of the peace in the food stamp office of the Lafayette Parish Courthouse in Louisiana.)

Jack and I were together for thirty-four years.  We were very different people.  Jack was an Aries and I’m a Virgo, which I’m told is a hopeless combination, but it worked for us.  We were both book junkies and spent countless weekends in used book stores and antique shops, but Jack was looking for military history tomes, while I was collecting mysteries, science fiction, and Texas history.  Jack loved boats and the water.  I like being near the water more than on it, and I don’t think I’ve set foot on a deck since the last time I was on a boat with him.  Living on a boat was his dream and my nightmare.  He loved war movies, I prefer comedies and science fiction.  He read non-fiction, I write fiction.  He loved to travel, me not so much.  He was a world traveler who couldn’t balance a checkbook, a magnetometer operator who couldn’t run the washing machine.  He was the Grasshopper, I was the Ant.

We were each other’s best friend.  We made each other laugh, we told each other stories, we finished each other’s sentences.  We took care of each other.  We had each other’s backs.

Jack’s been gone almost ten years now.  Sometimes it seems like I last heard his voice a lifetime ago, sometimes it seems like last week.  I often feel him watching out for me.  I know he’s proud of me, urging me on with whatever I do.  Wherever he is, he’s probably not celebrating birthdays any more.  But I’ll bet he’s still celebrating life.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl Bolen
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 13:23:15

    Thanks for sharing your love story. I’m one of the lucky ones who knew your sweet Jack (because, of course, you wouldn’t leave home without him).

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  2. Patricia O'Dea Rosen (@patodearosen)
    May 03, 2012 @ 10:11:58

    Lovely. I never met Jack but wish I had.

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    • Kay Hudson
      May 03, 2012 @ 11:19:04

      I didn’t join West Houston until after Jack passed (Cheryl grabbed me and dragged me along, bless her), so he mostly knew my Houston Bay Area friends. But he just plain loved women (in the nicest possible way), and he was always happy hanging out with my friends.

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