When I was in 7th grade I had a huge crush on a handsome “bad” boy. My actual boyfriend was a good boy I had known since grade school, who was athletic, smart and popular. I had waited years for him to think I was worthy of him and although I didn’t feel much, I liked the status of “going with” him—which in middle school meant my friends told his friends I liked him and his friends reported back that the deal was sealed. Still, bad boy asked me to slow dance at a sock hop. The song was Cherish. I have no clue who the band was but I can still recite most of the words:  “Cherish is the word I use to describe, all the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside…..” That was it. I was in love. It would be immoral to be the girlfriend of one boy while in love with another so I sent word through my friends that good boy and I were over. Alas, bad boy was not really boyfriend material, but we did continue to talk on the phone and flirt incessantly for the next 6 years before finally sharing one chaste little kiss.

Still, the concept of being cherished was planted. I wasn’t sure what it would feel like but I was pretty sure I didn’t have it in marriage number 1 (although my chronically unfaithful husband admired me, encouraged me in career pursuits and in many ways was my number 1 fan) and most decidedly did not have it in marriage number 2 where the overriding emotion was distain bordering on loathing. My sister kept telling me I deserved to be CHERISHED and said she was positive that one day I would be. She had spoken to God repeatedly about this issue and was confident he was on the case.

And then along came Tom. There are more wonderful traits to relate about this man than anyone would have the patience to read, but for today let’s just focus on his ability to make me feel absolutely, totally and completely loved and accepted; the way he would look at me like I was the best and most special person in the universe and he couldn’t believe I was his. He would cook for me, bring an extra sweater or jacket on every outing in case I got cold, pack a bag for me to take to the beach, get on my side of the bed on cold nights to pre-heat it before I got in (no, I’m not making this up), listen to me rant endlessly about life woes and then make the one spot-on observation that caused everything to fall into place. He wanted nothing more than to be in my presence—whether hiking, biking, kayaking, sitting by the fire or in a pew at church. He never let a day go by without kissing me, holding my hand and telling me he loved me. Maybe it was the fact that he never had kids of his own, but I knew I was the most important person in his life and that he would do anything for me—except, as it turned out—grow old by my side.

None of the things my children complained loudly about seemed to register with him. In four and a half years together he never once mentioned my dreadful housekeeping, my marginal cooking, my morning breath or the 20 lbs. I needed to drop. Not once. When I visited the psychic after Tom’s death she said, “You know how no matter how much you love someone there are just things about them that really annoy you? Well, there wasn’t ANYTHING about you that annoyed him. He loved everything about you.” I don’t see how that is even possible. Maybe some people are just less easily annoyed than others –kind of like the varying pain thresholds. It is true that Tom was an extremely kind man who always saw the good and believed the best about others, so maybe I just plain hit the jackpot.

I was speaking of him to a woman who had also lost her husband to illness. I described the feeling of being cherished and her eyes lit up—“Yes, that’s the word,” she said. “Cherished.” She is now in a second marriage that sounds very happy, as are many other people I know. Others may not be completely happy but have security, stability, what someone recently characterized as “a solid relationship.” That all sounds pretty appealing to me as I look toward the next 20-40 years (my mom lived to 97!) as a single woman. But I am so grateful that for one sweet, all-too-brief, period in my life I got to experience first-hand what they were singing about in 7th grade—I was cherished.


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