Married in a Kuspuk
Today is the day for which I have waited for more than fifty years. The day that, for many years, I thought would never come. The day that, for the last four years, I have joyfully anticipated. Today is the day that Dutch and I will be married.
Our story goes so far back that there is not a time in my life which I can remember before I knew him. His name echoes down the hallways of my memory for as far back as it goes. I was three years old when we met; he was almost five. The first existing photo of us together was taken at his fifth birthday party, in July of 1955. He is the adorable boy in the white shirt at the corner of the table, third from the left. I am the tow-headed girl in the white sweater, second from the right.
The photo was taken in
Our moms decided at that early point in our lives that Dutch and I were meant for each other; they could not have known how right they were, or how long it would take for that rightness to manifest. I grew up with the assumption that one day I would marry him. That was just how it was.
By high school the Colonel had retired and there was strong consideration of them moving to
He was a star athlete in basketball, football, and track, and sent me clippings when he made the local papers, which was rather often. Once he even made the front page of the second section when he dragged a dead human body ashore from a lake near his home; for a moment he was a shining local hero. I was quite dazzled by his deeds and prowess—not to mention his incredible good looks—and so proud that I knew him.
Upon high school graduation, he received an appointment to
A huge event at the Academy each year is June Week, and his junior year Dutch invited me to come up for it. The seniors are preparing to graduate and receive their commissions, and there are lots of official events, parties, and parades.
The junior class has a large prom-style party during this week at which they receive their long-awaited class rings. It is a formal event complete with pomp and ceremony. There is a 10-foot-tall paper machae replica of a class ring through which each cadet and his date (all cadets were male back then) walked. Until that point in the evening, she had worn his ring on a ribbon around her neck; as they stop under the giant ring, she removes his class ring from the ribbon and places it on his finger. A photo commemorates the moment.
It was 1971, and at 19 I was as pure and virginal as a good Southern girl should be. Dutch invited me to bring my best friend, Jinks, as a blind date for his best friend, Claybo. The guys rented a beach cottage for us to stay in, not far from the Academy. Jinks and I drove all the way to
Jinks and Claybo hit it off immediately, and I was as happy as always to see Dutch again. We had a whirlwind week of activities at the Academy, and dreamy, romantic nights at our picturesque little beach cottage. Jinks and I both gave up our virginity there, in a storybook setting, to our tall, handsome cadets who were gentle and kind and ever so grateful as they were virgins as well.
Over the rest of that year, Dutch found several opportunities to visit me at college in
Not long after returning to the Academy that January, he met a young woman and fell rapidly in love with her. He wrote me a long and painful letter in which he explained that he wanted only to be with her. In October of that year they were married. I was devastated. I never answered his letter, a childish response which I now regret; he deserved more from me than silence.
Over the years I thought of him frequently and wondered how he was, how his life was going, if he were happy. Our parents continued to exchange Christmas cards, but his mother became very circumspect about mentioning him. I knew when his two sons were born, but not much else. I tried several times to contact him, but never with any success. He has been my soul mate since we were children, and I never stopped wanting to know of him, to keep a connection of some kind.
In the summer of 1983 we almost saw each other. A family vacation took us through the town where his mom lived (the Colonel had passed away by then) and Dutch and his family lived nearby. Of course we stopped to visit his mom, and she called him to let him know and invite him to join us. He very much wanted to, but declined for the sake of maintaining peace on the home front. I was incredibly disappointed.
Life continued to chart our paths in separate directions. He completed 24 years as an officer in the Coast Guard and retired at the rank of Captain. He was living in
I, meanwhile, moved from college in
In the summer of 2003, I received an email out of the blue from my old friend Jinks. She found me through the internet and we began writing. She mentioned that she had also found Claybo, and I was stunned. I knew that he would know where Dutch was and how to contact him. I wrote to him, he wrote to Dutch, Dutch wrote back to him, he wrote back to me, and eventually, I wrote to Dutch. That was the beginning of the most incredible year of correspondence in our lives.
Our connection as soul mates was still there, and immediately apparent, after all the long years of silence and separation. We wrote to each other daily, we talked about everything; we fell in love again through our writing.
The following summer he left his life in
Dutch is my soul’s true mate, and the love of my life. I feel incredibly fortunate to have known him for as long as I can remember. He is one of the finest men I have ever known, and I will be honored to be his wife.
Our ceremony (in about an hour!) will be brief and private, with only two witnesses in front of a Justice of the Peace at the courthouse. And I do plan to wear a kuspuk; a lovely new one made for me by one of the physicians at the hospital (thanks, Dr. R!). The whole wedding-gown-thing seems somehow not appropriate for me, for here, for this. There will be no flowers, as