When I was 17 I had my first “serious” boyfriend. I met Tommy during our senior year of high school. We were high school sweethearts, prom dates, and we stayed together for four years. We were a couple all through college even though we were at different schools. Strangely we broke up about a month after my college graduation.
We both happily married other people and had children.
I ended up in N.J. and he was in Westchester. Tommy is the kind of person who likes to keep in touch with everyone, so I would hear from him once every year or so and we would catch up.
I remember standing in Target sometime in the summer of 2011 (a few months before Howie died). I was looking for a certain color bedskirt for Lily’s bed and I couldn’t find it anywhere. After shopping at a bunch of stores, I was getting frustrated. Back then this seemed like a huge problem to me (I would like to go back in time and smack that Stacy in the head!).
While standing in the bedding section, my phone rang. It was my old high school sweetheart Tommy. I answered the phone and we chatted while I walked through the store. During that conversation he told me that his wife had a rare kind of cancer. I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of Target.
I was shocked. He told me how they found it and what they were doing about it. He tried to sound very positive because he’s always like that, but it did not sound good to me at all. We hung up and I remember thinking how bad I felt and how lucky I was. And also how stupid I was getting upset over a bedskirt.
Fast forward to October when Howie passed away. My family and Wendy were calling extended family and my old friends to tell them what happened. My sister asked me if she should call Tommy and I said yes. She walked out of the room to call him and they spoke for a while. She came back and handed me the phone and said he really wanted to talk to me.
I got on the phone with him and just hearing his voice made me feel a little better. It was like talking to my past when life was simple and we were high school sweethearts. We spoke for a while and I told him the story of what had happened to Howie. He told me how his wife was doing, and again it did not sound good.
Later that day he texted me to see how I was doing and that started our constant contact. And I mean constant. We texted all day long and spoke sometimes also. His wife seemed to be getting worse. We talked about how crazy it was to be in such similar situations. We talked about everything. It was nice to have someone who understood how I was feeling. We also made each other laugh and cheered each other up. He told me that he let his wife know we were speaking, and she thought it was nice – she said we probably needed each other.
At the end of December 2011 his wife passed away. I remember it being right before Christmas. I believe I was one of the first people he called. It was expected but he was of course devastated. I tried to be there for him and help him through it. I was still in it myself so I understood what he was feeling.
When I think about it I still cannot believe that this was happening to both of us at the same time. We had known each other since we were 17 years old. Who could have possibly predicted that these two terrible tragedies would renew our connection after so many years?
I remember telling a friend about this while it was going on and she said it would make a great Hallmark movie. So, I would love to give you a fairy tale ending for these high school sweethearts. That this story gets tied up in a neat little bow – that Tommy and I fell back in love and lived happily ever after. But no that did not happen…
Tommy and I had grown into two very different people since we were 17 year-old high school sweethearts. I believe that we were meant to find each other again to help each other through two very devastating losses.
I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through that time without having him there, and I’m sure he feels the same about me. But we were not meant to be together any more. What we are meant to be is the best of friends. And we remain that way to this day.
No, we no longer text all day long or speak constantly. We don’t need to any more. But we do speak or text once every week or so. We talk about our kids, dating, and everything else in our lives. I actually texted him yesterday to ask if it was ok for me to post about this and he gave me full permission.
As bad as things were, this was one of the bright spots in my darkness…
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.
Ah, Stacy & Tommy the true “Jack & Diane”. So glad to hear you still such good friends.
With much respect for you as a woman, a mother and a survivor you are brave beyond comprehension!