Happy Anniversary to My Late Husband

January 30, 1982

January 30, 1982

Sydney, Friday, January 30

On January 30, 1982, my husband Gary and I were married in Darien, Connecticut.  Gary died on August 2, 2003, in Sydney, Australia.  Today would have been our 27th wedding anniversary. 

There are marker dates with every death:  birth date, death date, and all the dates in between that hold special memories.  I believe I share a view with others who have been widowed after a happy marriage that the date of one’s wedding anniversary is one of the most meaningful, because that date is most of all about the couple.

Red-eye and Racquetball

Gary and I met in May 1981, at a singles racquetball party in Stamford, Connecticut.  I almost didn’t go.  I’d just returned that morning from a business trip on the red-eye from San Francisco, I felt tired and grungy, and my hair felt dirty.  The last thing I wanted to do was wash it and go out again.

My friends kept saying, “You have to make an effort.  Mr. Right is not going to ring your doorbell and say ‘here I am’.” 

I was in a period when I was trying to meet more people.  I loved my job and in my 20’s was already a workaholic.  But I knew my friends were right, and I’d read ‘you should do what you like to do, to meet people.’  So I had joined a singles group that played tennis and racquetball.

I was getting tired of ‘trying’ and close to going back to the ‘if it’s meant to be, it will be’ approach to meeting men.  But I forced myself to go to yet another gathering of mostly older, mostly divorced single professionals with whom I usually had little in common.

Midnight Magic

When I walked into the racquetball centre, I saw no-one who looked under 40.  I figured I’d at least get some exercise, and went on and off the courts for the next several hours, playing with different partners.

At almost midnight, I sat down at the bar and noticed a young-ish looking male at the far end.  I hadn’t seen him before and had only a profile view:  brown hair, straight nose, and straight teeth that showed when he smiled, which he did often.

After a few minutes, he got up and walked down the length of the bar, towards me.  I was struck by his calm, his utter lack of pretentiousness, and the way he slowly and directly made his way to where I was sitting.  He didn’t laugh or joke with others, or look around the room, or pretend he was doing anything other than coming over to stand beside me, smile, look into my eyes, and say, “I know it’s late, but would you like to play a game before they close?”

We had a friendly game and short chat afterwards.  I can’t say it was love at first sight, and I don’t think it was for him, either.  But there was a definite ‘this is positive’ feeling on both sides.  He walked me to my car and asked if he could call.  I said yes, and he did.

Tennis and Travel Files

We played tennis on our first date, a week later.  He invited me back to his place afterwards, where I met his son, of whom he had full custody.  They had an aging cocker spaniel named Freckles and a male cat named Goliath.

That day we also discovered we were both avid readers and travellers.  We each had travel files for Paris, London, England, Switzerland, Alaska, Africa, and Australia.

Not only did we have the same travel destination interests, inside our files we had many of the same articles, clipped 5 and 10 years earlier from the New York Times Sunday travel section.  Our Africa files had almost identical contents.

Husband, Child, Dog, Cat, House

We dated throughout the summer, and became engaged on October 1.  Our wedding in late January was a small ceremony in a Presbyterian chapel.  We went to Kenya on our honeymoon, designing our own itinerary which included two independent photo safaris and a number of places from our travel files.

In spring after we returned from Africa, we bought our first house.  We moved in in early May, 1982, less than a year after we met.

Gary was sensitive and supportive throughout our marriage, never more than in the early months when I was adjusting to being a stepmother.  He told me often he loved and appreciated me, and would say to others, “In less than a year, Carolyn got a husband, child, dog, cat, and house.”

It may sound a lot, but it wasn’t hard at all.  I felt then, and for the next twenty-one and a half years, that I was the lucky one.

I’m Still the Lucky One

Today is Gary’s and my anniversary date, but I can’t write about it without also acknowledging the second love of my life, my partner Clive.

Clive is not a widower, but has the sensitivity and thoughtfulness of one.  This morning he asked, “Is there anything special you’d like to do today?”  I told him I wanted to write this post, and asked if he’d read it before I publish it online.

Thank you, Clive.  And Happy Anniversary, Gary. 

Gary in 1989


14 Responses

  1. What a beautiful tribute! I’m trying to write through tears now…it is so very tender.

    To have such sweet loving men twice in your life takes more than luck and says much about who you are.

    Thank you for sharing this part of your story and thanks also to Clive for his openness and sensitivity.

  2. What a marvelous post. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    It is always the quality of life that is most important but, selfishly, we all desire as much quantity as possible, too.

    My friend, Johanna in Vancouver, lost her husband when she was only age 24. She often talks about him and things they did together. He was a very accomplished man – commercial pilot, race car driver and so on.

    The people we have been with in our life have helped shape us into the person we are today. And I have always been a believer that love is very elastic in that a person’s capacity for love is not limited but, rather, as expansive as we allow it to be.

    Take care and my thoughts are with you on this special day.

  3. Oh, what a lovely post. I think people are so lucky if they get a second chance at life. I agree with Russell’s thought that a person’s capacity for love is not limited but, rather, as expansive as we allow it to be. Yes! We all deserve to meet that “someone special”.

    I wish you and Clive lots of happiness!


  4. That’s so beautiful and made many tears run freely down my cheeks… Thank you for sharing your story with us… Happy Anniversary to you and though Gary may be gone physically his is still stays dear in your heart… I feel like my mom is really gone but I keep her memories close to my heart….. It’s never easy to lose the one you love, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Alex… I am happy that you have someone like Clive beside you now. I know he must be a very, very special person to you and he sounds like a dear! God bless you!

  5. I met my present husband on a blind date in Austin, Texas. I had really given up on dating and almost didn’t agree to go. Our first meeting wasn’t love at first sight either. I don’t have the lovely memories of meeting my first husband and finally stopped even remembering the date of our anniversary. It’s nice to find love the second time around as they say.

  6. What a beautiful tribute, really lovely.

    Clive is very thoughtful, seems such a great man!

    God bless you both, wishing you lots of happiness. 🙂

  7. Hi Carolyn,
    Big hugs to you honey and to Clive also for being to sensitive to your past.

    (((((((((((( ))))))))))))))
    Thank you for sharing these most precious memories.

  8. Your spirit evolves during the years. You are very lucky to have (had) 2 terrific husbands, 2 wonderful life experiences. Thank you so much for sharing those memories with us.

  9. A heartfelt thank you, Elizabeth, Russell, Jo, Leesa, Linda, Anne, Barbara, and Nadege.

    Elizabeth, as always I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Russell and Jo, I couldn’t agree more about the heart’s capacity to love (and I hope you are experiencing the same!). Leesa, it’s so true about memories in our hearts, and Linda, just “yes yes yes” re love the second time around!

    Anne, we just have to have a coffee sometime in Bury or Felixstowe! You are always so sweet, and so are you, Barbara – thank you for the hugs! Nadege (the only ‘blogless one’ – I bet you could write a great blog!), thanks too and I agree I am very, very lucky.

    I really appreciate your thoughtful comments about Gary and Clive.

    Cheers all.

  10. What a sweet and tender tribute to two men you so obviously love. I am with Elizabeth and Leesa, this beautiful post brought me to tears. Really heartfelt writing. Thank you for sharing this with us.xoxo

  11. Dear Carolyn,
    I miss Gary a lot. I often think about baseball practice every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Gary kept control of a rowdy bunch of kids without any obvious effort. It was great to watch. Even better were the Saturday games where he got the best out of everyone, even the non-athletic.
    I also think of Gary when I cook on his barbie (he treated it like a new Mercedes, and it’s still in pretty good condition). It was always a pleasure watching him cook with the ocean view as a backdrop. I wish he was still here to cook prawns and hamburgers for all of us.

  12. Very nice.

  13. Belette, thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot.

    Phil, I appreciate your memories so much. Gary loved you and you were a great friend to him and our family. Thank you, thank you.

    Sven, thank you too for your nice comment!

    Cheers all.

  14. […] and give extra thanks for the life Gary Frank Barnabo. I’ve written about Gary before, about our meeting and how lucky I felt throughout our marriage; about the kind of person he was and the gifts he gave to the […]

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