"We Can't Get Over Our First Marriages"
Her Turn"When He Died, My World Shattered"
"My new marriage is haunted by memories of my old one. Like me, Jeff is a widower; his wife died of cancer, too. I'm afraid that's about all we have in common now.
"I grew up in a small town near Boston. My dad, who worked for the postal service, had been married once before. He had a daughter from his first marriage who quit school at 16, got pregnant, and moved far away. Dad was determined that I wouldn't follow in her footsteps, so he kept me and my older brother, Robbie, on a short leash. And if we ever did anything my parents disapproved of, my mother, a homemaker, was nasty and caustically critical. I was so shy and passive, if someone looked at me sideways, I'd cry.
"I met my first husband in a bowling alley when we were both 18. I knew the moment I saw him that I was going to marry him. Alan was a wonderful, special man, loved by the entire community. He had started his own fuel-oil business in town, and over the years he slowly built it up to be the largest in our area. He was very active in community projects and raised money for all sorts of civic causes.
"We married a year after we met and had two kids -- a girl and a boy -- right away; I sent the younger one to college this year. Alan worked long hours, but that was fine with me. I loved being a mother and my work on school committees and community boards. Antiques are also my passion. For several years, I ran a small antiques business. Life was full.
"Then we found out Alan had lung cancer. Shortly after we got the diagnosis, my mother had a massive stroke. Suddenly, I was caring for two critically-ill people at once. Then Dad, who'd battled diabetes since childhood, became seriously ill and died from complications of the disease. I've always been the family caretaker -- it's a role I like and do well -- but I was drained. My mother passed away a month before Alan, who died a year after his diagnosis. When he died, my world shattered. I couldn't walk down the street without someone stopping me to talk about Alan.