As today is Valentine’s Day, I would like to share my story with you. It is particularly appropriate, as I was actually married on Valentine’s Day!
My late husband, Chris and I, met in the middle of a field one September. He was in the Army Recruitment team, who were having a large recruitment drive with a variety of displays and side shows to show people what the modern Army does. These included a display by the Motorcycle Display team (I found out later that Chris had been one of the star riders in that team for three years and had invented some of the movements that they were using to wow the crowds.)
This was taken on the day we met. Not brilliant I'm afraid, but you get the idea.
I went along to the Show with my sister and Dad. I found myself attracted to a quiet, darkly brooding, young man in full uniform and kept wandering back to look at him, until he plucked up the courage to stop me and ask me out that night.
He had to go back on tour the following day, but we spoke often on the phone and wrote long letters, he came to stay with us whenever he could get some time off, it was a real long-distance romance, then in November the same year, he proposed to me as we were standing in a queue for fish and chips! Not a very Romantic chap was he? He was never deeply Romantic, but always kind and thoughtful.
We set a date, then found out he would be on tour in Northern Ireland that month, so we had to bring it forward, among whispers of us ‘having to get married’. The only other available date he was free was Valentine’s Day. That meant it was only six months after first meeting that we were wed. (And no, I wasn’t pregnant, our only daughter came along seven years later.)
OUR WEDDING DAY.
Even then, he wasn’t the most Romantic of men, then one Valentine’s Day he came home with a big bunch of roses, I was delighted and thanked him appropriately, but did wonder why they weren’t wrapped in florist’s paper? I found out a few days later that he’d ‘rescued’ them from a Sergeant’s garden! Oh well, he tried!
Chris remained in the Army for two years after we wed, with another tour of Ireland and a three month tour of Canada in that time. While he was in Ireland and we were living in married quarters, we Army wives lived on our nerves until the men came home from fighting.
One evening there was a knock on the door. Imagine my horror to see two MP’s standing there, those guys only ever meant bad news. Then I realized they were asking for someone else who lived a few doors away. The mixture of emotions I felt as they left knocked me sideways. I was relieved of course, but sad to know that someone so close was going to hear that terrible news. Chris and ‘the boys’ came home safely three weeks later, in time for another Valentine’s Day, with him swearing he would leave the Army as soon as his time was up. Which he did.
After having had ten years of travelling, he found it difficult to settle to any job for a while and we moved around a fair bit, eventually settling in ‘The Garden of England’, Kent, where Chris got a job as an Agricultural Mechanic on a large arable farm. We lived an idyllic life for almost ten years, in a little cottage with an old Rayburn stove, a huge open fire, and almost an acre of land, which I soon filled to overflowing with livestock. We grew our own produce and there was plenty of wild food available for free, we’d never had it so good.
Unfortunately, Chris had a bad accident on the farm, and was told he would never work again and would end up in a wheelchair, it led to him losing his job and the house, which was ‘tied’ to the job. We had to get out as the Boss needed it for another worker. He told us the week before Christmas and gave us three months to get out. That was a wonderful Christmas! (Not). I had to try to find homes for our animals and poultry, (at that time I also had a pair of beautiful Shetland ponies. It broke my heart to have to part with them, and I still miss them.) I don’t think we celebrated Valentine’s Day that year.
We ended up moving to Lancashire to be close to my family for support. It was a small house with a tiny garden, in a bad area. Chris went through a long period of depression. Then we moved to this house and things began to improve.
Chris had never known who his real father was, as his mother wouldn’t tell him and passed away without telling him. He said right from the start of our marriage that he wished he could find his father, but with no names to go on, it was an impossible desire. For his sixtieth birthday, I bought him a DNA test. We posted the results on the Ancestry website and waited, without much hope. After about six months or so, we received a mail from a man in USA who said their results had some similarities, and asking questions about Chris’s father, which of course, we were unable to answer, it looked like another dead end.
Then, Chris’s sister remembered she’d found some photos of men in uniform among their mother’s possessions and saved them. We emailed them to America on the off chance that Stuart might know the men. The next day his first email simply said “We have a match!” It turned out that one of the men was one of Stuart’s uncles! So Chris and Stuart were actually cousins. What are the chances of that happening? There were many tears that day, when I was able to tell Chris we had found his father’s family at long last! Had his sister destroyed those photos, he would never have fulfilled his dream.
This is the photo my sis-in-law saved of Chris's real dad.
It was exciting and interesting to learn about the family in America. Stuart lives in California, but the family come originally from Wisconsin. The best thing is that their Great-great Grandfather was chief of the Sokaogan Chippewa tribe in Wisconsin. All my life I had been on the side of the ‘Indians’, now I found out I was married to one!
Stuart and his partner came to visit for a couple of days the following year as part of a tour of Europe. For Chris to be able to shake the hand of a blood relative at last, was a momentous moment. And there were more tears! Chris and I were given Native American names by Stuart as an elder of the tribe. Chris is ‘Waa-bani-noo-din’ or ‘The Wind from the East’, and mine is ‘Nii-gaan-o-se-kwe’ or ‘Woman who Leads’. I am so delighted by my name that I use it for my website. I am still in regular touch with Stuart.
Me and Chris (in grey) with his cousin Stuart from USA
Unfortunately, my own Indian chief had a stroke about four years ago, and his condition slowly deteriorated until he passed away in March 2013.
Valentine’s Day is bitter sweet to me, on the one hand, it was our Wedding Day and we always tried to celebrate it in some way, including having a conservatory built on the house for our Ruby wedding. On the other hand, he wasn’t really able to understand the final one (our 44th) and now I have no-one to celebrate it with, but I do have many, many happy memories.
I hope that this Valentine’s Day, you all take some time to remember just how much your partner really means to you, and I wish you all a wonderful and wonderfully Romantic day.