“With Her: 19 Years, A Great Run”

Father’s Day on Governor’s Island 2013 or 2014

Today August 8th, is our 19th wedding anniversary…

     Last time, my dear reader, I told you about the anger that I was feeling. This time… I’m overjoyed with the blessing given to me, of 19 years of marriage. Sure I feel a bit cheated out of not being in Greece or New Orleans next year for our 20th Anniversary. But! God was gracious enough to give me 19 years and 2 kids in our older years. 

Vacation in Lancaster PA. Outside the Sight and Sound theater. Judah, Sharol, Me and Hannah.

19! Go ahead, say it. Today, generations and scores of couples are fine living together. Many are opting out of marriage all together, calling it out dated and unnecessary. Even an affront to womanhood and the advancement of women’s Lib. Well…Sharol, as did I, viewed it as an honor, a privilege…a gift from God, that we had someone to walk through life with. Someone committed to Christ and the relationship enough to want to care for and make the other better. That, my dear reader, means you daily put to death selfishness and think of the other’s needs before your own. If you have trust, in that relationship, then you will find that you never have to worry that your spouse is taking advantage of you. Because you both are doing the same thing…putting the other first. It also put a smile on her face when she was called “Mrs.Bland..” “Mrs.Bland? Your husband is….”  one of my favorites “Mr. and Mrs.Bland..?”  To hear it made it official  we were a team, a married couple; we belong to an exclusive Club. We were partners…for a lifetime! Another favorite of mines was “Um…excuse me, where’s my husband?”  Or “My husband will be here in a moment”  it meant I had someone who loved me. Someone proud to be fastened to my hip. Someone willing to watch my hair turn grey then white. Someone who would nurse my cut and bleeding foot, without flinching even though she was afraid watching the blood pour. Someone who would bring the bathroom  to me because I was bedridden. Someone who would say “Ty…why is there blood in there..?”  Both of knowing full well that blood coming from your body where there hasn’t been a cut, means something is wrong.

And likewise, she could confidently walk in this relationship knowing that, I had no problem picking up her feminine products. Bathing her when she was ill or in pain. Like her personal doctor, I would examine her when she had concerns about things but wasn’t able to see the issues…I was her eyes and hands. We once heard a story from a pastor. He was talking about a relative who swallowed a bone and the man’s wife went above and beyond to search for that bone. While we may have said that, that was yucky, we knew that was love and devotion. As we were getting older and got older we found ourselves in some of those very same situations. Caring for someone like that… it’s beyond intimacy and you would have to have more than a strong stomach ; it has to be love, the love of and for Christ. It had been the key to our caring for one another in such a way. Not looking for anything in return but loving that person enough to care for them, I mean really care for them; even if they could never speak again and lay motionless in the bed. That’s the kind of love and devotion we had for one another. Even our kids don’t know half the things we did, in caring for the other. There have been so many nights when I stop breathing in my sleep or choked and Sharol was startled from her sleep. Yet she’d watched over me until I was alright. I too, would get up when her stomach was bothering her and she suddenly disappeared from the bed or needed me to pray.We spent a lot of nights rubbing each other down in Tiger Balm…. So yes, she wore Mrs.Bland  with honor and distinction. And was very honored to be my wife (she said so herself). I even gave her a Purple Heart once, because like many soldiers, she endured a great deal in life… sexual assault, ridicule for being smart, the ups and downs of marriage, parenting and Christian life. So, though she was a living warrior, I wanted to do something to let her know that I loved and appreciated her.

Valentine’s Day, weekend getaway with Sharol, Judah and Hannah. February 14, 2015

She was so happy and proud when I gave her that charm. She was also extremely broken hearted when it broke off a bracelet and she lost it. Luckily, I found the company and bought her a new not too long before her surgery. It’s sitting in her drawer now, because she wanted to have the piece welded to her bracelet so it wouldn’t fall off again. Further proof  that, that tiny little trinket meant  a lot to her. But it wasn’t really all about the gift but about the gesture…

The Bride. My rib. August 8, 1997

Daily beloved we are gathered here today… Tyrone and Sharol

It was a hot and sweaty August night in 1997. I spent the morning preparing the apartment. I bought a new bed(hadn’t slept in one since a previous failed relationship) laid it down and spread rose petals all over it. Then lined the hallway leading to the bedroom with the remaining flower petals. Then, I was in the care of my Best Man and his son. We later made our way to the church. Which was filled with choir members, a few friends, my immediate family members and Sharol’s dad. Most of her family opting out of attending.

I waited for what seem like 5 hours for Sharol to arrive…she was late. My nerves were shot! She’s not coming   I thought.  My confidence and trust was lacking after I failed the first time at marriage and the disagreement we had a few days before the wedding didn’t help me at that moment. My active imagination was doing somersaults… she changed her mind. I went on.  The tuxedo felt like an oven. I nervously shifted my weight, my heart was sinking…

“Sharol place your left hand in his, Tyrone repeat after me…”

Then the music started to play, the kids came down the aisle…the flowers sprinkled and the ring arrived on a pillow… my heart galloped.

My best man praying for God’s blessing on us and our household.

Then, she appeared! Music started and the guest were confused. They were waiting for the standard here comes the comes the bride song.  But chose “Praise You”  by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  

There she was! My rib! Coming down the aisle to take her place by my side. I met her and walked her up to the altar. The pastor said something, “blah blah blah”… I have no clue what was said. We have evidence to support that, a recording…where we both, as we listened, repeated all sorts incorrect words. We were prayed for and announced to the world for the first time, ever! as “Mr. and Mrs. Bland”.  By the way, I was praying too, I had asked God to use us as missionaries…to use our family to reach the world for Christ…

2007 our first Spirit of New York cruise

The result of that day was a wild ride. Four out the six kids went on missions trip, two to foreign countries. I served as a summer missionary to adults and children with special needs. Sharol and I for those 3 summers counselled young adults and ran prayer meetings in our summer home for them. What came out of that day was, a plunge into extreme poverty and a rise out of it. Combative and rebellious teens turn into self sufficient young adults. Two formed a band and lent their talents to others, to speak to their generation. What came out of that day, was three grandchildren. What came out of that day, were two children born in our older years. Sharol said her “Jesus babies” meaning they came after we were Christians…

Thanksgiving 2007

Thanksgiving 2007 photos by Imani

In the past or last 7 years or so, we decided to focus our attention on the last two kids. Because we a lot older, I’m 40 older than the last child. We wanted them to have the benefits the first 4 had. The problem was, life changed. There was now two full-time working parents. I was in college from 2006-20012,then returned to the work world. But we pushed to spend time with them as well as spend more with each other.

In Jamaica. Our first trip out of the country. Beaches Resort 2010

As a couple, we also wanted to do things we’ve never done before together or as single people. Anything, but skydiving!

Breakfast with Sesame Street. Jamaica 2010

On the beach. Yes, we were standing in the water. Jamaica 2010

Private dinner on the beach. Our 13th wedding anniversary. Jamaica 2010

In 2010, after my undergrad graduation we had the chance to use our passports for the first time. Unfortunately, it was the only time. My youngest has been bugging for the past two weeks to go the London. Jamaica, dear reader, was more than a trip. It was an adventure!! I hate flying, but my fearless partner was with me. And held my hand tight. I couldn’t sleep or relax. Then….even with the promise of all that. The trip was plagued with issues. First we missed our flight, not our fault. The airport had some construction going on and the gate was waaaaaaaay on the other side. We got to gate and was directed to somewhere else… it’s a 5 hour flight to Jamaica…it took us…well, let’s see. From NY to PA 1 hour, laaaaaaaaaayover until about 11pm! Then flew to South Carolina…where we spent the night! Then boarded a plane to Jamaica.  We arrived to a sea of brown people. I’ve never seen that many black folks in one place in my life. We passed through customs without a problem. Went for our bags…they weren’t there! Noooooooooooo. Yep.

Private dinner on the beach

Sharol with Hannah after her morning water aerobic class. Jamaica 2010

It was hot, humid and we were tired. The agents assured us the bags would turn up. They did, later that day. Sooooooooo we hopped into a van and headed towards the resort. We got there, 2 hours later!!!

Preparing for our anniversary dinner. Photo by Hannah.

But! The week’s stay was well worth the trouble.

Spirit of New York boat ride. 2007

Celebrating love. Spirit of New York cruise. 2010

13 years of marriage, looks good!

In 2013 we went to Virginia Beach, Va. For a College tour with Judah. We’d hoped he could get into Regent University. While we were there we visited CBN, Regent University and The 700 Club.  We  also went to Busch Gardens and Virginia Beach.

The 700 Club. 2013

The Aquarium in Virginia. I had the camera, Sharol the video camera. The fish were swimming above our heads. 2013

Sharol “Dancing it out” with the local Regent University & YouTube celebrity Nathan Stump. Nathan often ended his videos with a silly dance. We saw him in the cafeteria this is the end result.

Wyndham Governors Green Resort Virginia 2013 on our way to play mini golf

19 years is a long time but it wasn’t long enough with my wife. We continued to do things we hadn’t, like go dancing. I know it’s unheard of for Christians but  we were grown adults who had never known each other when we were young and hadn’t had the opportunity to dance together. Nope, I ain’t justifying a thing! We had good clean, fun dancing with one another, for 6hrs! Celebrating life!

Crazy faces, before I beat them! Wyndham Governors green 2013

Resting our feet in the hallway of BB Kings on 42nd Street. At the Rhythm Revue dance party summer of 2015

What made things work so well for us, is we thought of our marriage as a partnership. No one goes into business with someone calling them their partner to lose money. You partner with someone because you see their skill and their strength and you know together you can meet the challenges and be successful at whatever your endeavor is. She was also my sister in Christ and I her brother.    We protected each other. She was my lover, enough said. She was my friend, my business and writing partner

Working on on a autobiography. 2015

My bride, my wife, my girl…my…

I’ve been spoiled for the past 19 years, I’ve only dated one woman in all those years. I remained faithful to her and she to me.

“This, man!” She yelled, because I kept taking pictures of her. Busch Gardens 2013

Sharol was not only the matriarch of the family. But she was also the standard-bearer, where could I find such a woman today..? Intelligent, funny, easy to look at, prayer warrior, confidence Builder and the list goes on and on.

Dear, reader, I know this was very long. I have much more to say, but understand my point of the title, 19 years. You can’t possibly explain or tell that story in two paragraph.

Beaches Resort 2010 Jamaica

On June 14,2016 I lost one of the greatest gifts God has given to me and from this brief tale that I’ve told, you can see why, that on my anniversary, I’m not sitting around depressed or writing a suicide note. But I am grateful for the time I had with my wife. Now, maybe when I approach the 20th anniversary next year, God willing I’m alive. Maybe I’ll feel different I don’t know but today I’m so filled with joy because I was loved and I had the opportunity to love. that, is, awesome! Listen, take care of yourself. Enjoy the love of your life, build those memories…

Until next time….

 

“Without Her: Anger”

January 2014

I have stacks and stacks of papers and letters on my bed, desk, chair and ottoman. I now nap (I don’t really sleep) with half my bed covered in bills, letter…and newspapers. Well, the newspapers I’d fully intended on reading. But in the beginning I didn’t want to read the news. Now I don’t have time to because of the constant shifting through letters and threatening bills…

Looking at her phone of course.

The other day as I sat with a letter in my hand, a thought hit me what else am I missing. One of those letters was a bill for the three cell phone lines I’m still paying for. But I said I wouldn’t turn off my wife’s (Sharol) until I had contacted everyone and changed all the billing information into my name. So I unlocked her email to check for a bill that might have been a online/direct payment. I found two…and much more. As read a few saved emails I was instantly transported back in time and became very angry. What did I find? A few old angry emails from past arguments!! I remembered them well too. I could hear Sharol’s voice, see that annoyed look in her eyes, I could hear her yelling above me, I could smell the air of that day, I could feel my heart rate raising, my glucose level as well. I remembered the look I gave her, the thoughts I was thinking about her, how I hated her in that moment… I couldn’t believe I kissed that foul disrespectful mouth! I could feel the taxing drain of hours of combat. The dry mouth and hurting feet from standing. What was it about this time…? The kids? Something I said? Something she said? Something we did? Does it really matter?! Why keep such things! And when you die, leave it behind to be read!…

I remembered one day so clearly… we were fine, in fact it was a good year for us. But something happened, we argued, didn’t talk to each other. I believe I threatened to leave. Sharol didn’t care. I was furious, I had enough of the kids, married life and arguing. I packed a bag and walked out. I found a cheap motel up by Co-Op  City in the Bronx. I’d taken my cell phone just in case she decided she loved me enough to call.  I bumped into our oldest son on the train, he was clueless. So, I handed the guy my ID and credit card. He gave me a key…I walked in the room, turned on the TV and checked my phone…no call! As the night progressed I became more and more uncomfortable be in the motel and not at home. But I crossed a threshold, I did something I’ve never done before. I can’t turn back, I left, like many of men before me…but why didn’t I feel good about it?! I went to the bathroom…stared at the TV, then suddenly dread fell on me. What if I die here? What would the headline say? What about the kids?…but if Sharol cared she’d call…  

2014 weekend getaway. Sharol liked picture.

My phone didn’t have reception…

After a sleepless and restless night I swiftly left the motel. It hit me that I had to drop the kids off to school. I didn’t know how Sharol would feel, would she answer the phone? etc. I called and said I would be there…Sharol told the kids, one of them ask where I was, that I was probably at store and would be there soon…

After the kids were gone I walked into the bedroom. No words said…we set on the edge of bed beside each other. Then she started crying, I did too…we talked about where I’d been, my horrible night and how she couldn’t sleep. We apologized to each other. Then Sharol did a strange thing. Strange because there are many “strong woman” that don’t or at least act like they don’t, need or want men in their lives. She asked me with tears streaming, not to do that again, not to leave her. I didn’t. She told me, but I could truly feel it at that moment..”I love you”

About a month or so later Sharol heard this word in church Akrogoniaios “Jesus the Cornerstone”  after the service she told me the Lord spoke to her heart. And said she was with me to help me become the man God wanted me to be. Of course I was skeptical, we’d just had major marriage crisis. But there was a paradigm shift in our relationship from that time forward. Mostly because our dependency was focused on Christ.

I have been wearing a wedding ring for 19 years, there have been times when I took it off because I didn’t want to be reminded that I was married. A few days a week I’ve gone without it (feels very odd), because eventually, now that I’m a widower, they (She gave me one an anniversary gift, I wear both) will come off. The first day I went without it, I was reminded of a horrible day. Words were said, she and I were mad…Sharol through her rings, it went out the window! Apparently,I followed with you don’t deserve to have/where them!(I didn’t remember saying that,until she mentioned it about a year ago) Later that day Sharol searched the grass and street like the woman in the Bible looking for her lost coin. She vowed never to take them off again. She didn’t. My words cut her deeply…and taking off my ring now, has been incredibly hard. Not to mention the guilt and sadness over how simple minded I had been in the past.

My dear reader, I don’t know why we humans keep such heartbreaking things. The Bible does say that Love doesn’t keep a record of right and wrong. I can see why. Things like our angry word emails can last a long time. So can the effects of them. The day I read said emails, about a week ago, I spent the entire morning bitterly crying over the loss of my Abby. I didn’t go into work because I didn’t have the mental or physical strength to get up. Then came the reading of the emails, the anger, the rage and the questioning of Sharol’s love for me. A hellish pit a woe!!…

A few days later I was reminded of Lots’s wife who was warned to flee and “not look back”, she did. She died. She turned into a “pillar of salt”. This is what happens to many of us, we get stuck in a horrible loop of grief. Unable to move forward, backwards or any direction. And our love ones suffer for it too. Some of us need help dealing with our loss. My boss/friend suggested that I go to a grief counseling service for city workers. Her assessment of me was, I haven’t had a proper time to grieve because of all the things I’ve been taking care of. I chose to make the appointment. You know, not too long ago I was talking to my sister. She was telling me story about being around a group of mostly young people. They were talking about marriage, the usual  whining and complaining. Someone posed the question “What’s the absolute worst part of marriage?”  My sister said “One of you will have to die”  She is absolutely right!!  That’s why I’ve always hated standing around a group of guys whining about their wives and it never failed, someone would turn to me and say “You know how they are,right?  My response was always the same “No I don’t, I actually love my wife”  You could usually hear a leaf drop after that…  

2015 summer vacation in Atlantic City. Picture taken at the aquarium

  I also chose to remember something very important…Sharol told me she loved me! And I have proof of that love. And it’s not in some old, out dated angry letter!! It was said to me daily and most recently in a Love letter. 

A letter from Sharol written May 20, 2016 I didn’t find it until a week after her death.

2014 Father’s Day

these are the things, dear reader, that we need and should hold on to. Be careful not to step in to the trap/pit that I did. Yeah I know, some of you have already done it…well, learn from my mistake. Don’t look back into the past, it could paralyze you. Rendering you powerless and incapable of healing and moving on.

Until next time…


“Holding hands”

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28 days ago my life and my world changed. It’s another Tuesday…I’m wearing my usual Tuesday work clothes, bright orange and blue plaid shirt with a burnt orange sweater,(AC in the office) tan pants and brown shoes. It’s what I was wearing on Tuesday June 14th…I came home and changed shortly before Sharol went to walk/exercise…

The other day one of our neighbors caught me in the elevator, she was with her husband. She asked how I was doing and expressed once again how heart broken she was that my wife died. “You guys were always together..” she remarked, when I said I was much better but was still having trouble sleeping. “If you need anything…” she continued. “I loved your wife”…

She’s absolutely right, we were always found together. Most times, arm around arm or holding hands. We never gave it much thought…but holding hands is beyond “old fashion” it’s ancient! Very few couples do it today, especially the younger ones, much less do it for 19 years strong. Even when we were mad we’d walk close to each other…then eventually grab each others hand.

Nineteen years ago Sharol invited me to her swearing in ceremony, she’d just become a fresh face NY lawyer. I didn’t go with her, we were courting at the time, I had taken the kids to school first. When I walked into, what is now “The National Museum of the American Indian” I was swallowed up by the vastness of the space. It was wall to wall attorneys all waiting to be sworn in. The noise from all the talking was so loud I could barely hear my own thoughts. A sea of mostly white males, all in suits. The ladies were wearing business dresses. Above the noise was a whisper, in a soft deep alto voice…”Ty…” I looked in the direction of the voice, but I didn’t see anything. Then “Ty…over here..” a pond of suits moved slightly.

Out of the corner, seated in an arm chair was Sharol. But all I could see was a pair of thick round calf’s sticking out from between a group of lawyers. Her feet shifted and her skirt rose above her knee as she leaned forward to see me. She was in a brown skirt suit…and looked good to!! I couldn’t help but stared at those gams “Ty…” she said and our eyes connected. Of course I had a goofy look on my face. Who wouldn’t?! We kissed then soon moved to “The Room”I have no clue now what was said, I did feel a bit lonely when she went in. The crowd closed in on her and separated us.

When it was all done we pushed through the heavy crowd to get to one another. She had a big smile on her face. We said something, I don’t remember what it was, all I have is the image of us looking into each others eyes… I know we hugged! But what can’t forget and have never forgotten is the rush I got when she held my hand. My heart felt something it hadn’t and my body responded in kind. The smiles were fixed on our faces. We held hands out the building…down the street…on the train, to the place we ate at, on the train again and ALL the way to St. Jerome school where she walked with me to pick up the kids. We were holding hands when they came out the door…

This Memory is implanted in my mind forever…why? Because of the incredible, painful cramp I had from holding hands, for hours!! We continued to hold hands and walk down the streets of NY, New Orleans, Rhode Island, Lancaster PA, the beach in Jamaica, the camp in Putnam County, Maryland…and everywhere else we went. And to the marvel of others who would say “wow, you don’t see that often” or other things similar.

We’ve talked about that day a lot over the years. But it was just the beginning of something that left a lasting impression on the world around us. And I’m so glad that out of all the things our kids saw us doing together…cooking, arguing, dancing, laughing, kissing, sitting etc. They had the chance to see romance in action.

Until next time…

  

“Still Mine”: Growing Old Together

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Still Mine is a wonderfully quiet romantic film about a couple in their very late eighties and a husband who will do anything to care for his wife of 61 years…including going to jail for providing a home for her.

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  The film opens with signs of the wife’s illness, it’s never mentioned in the movie what the illness is but she has some form of dementia. She leaves a pot holder on the stove that catches fire, luckily her son comes for a visit and puts it out. The two oldest of their 7 children voice their concerns about the mom’s health but the dad fans them off…
   At on point Craig (James Cromwell) sits with his wife Irene (Genevieve Bujold) one cold evening and tells her that the water in the toilet froze the night before and that it might do the same that night. As they sit at the table, Irene just stares and Craig tells her that the house “…may no longer work for us…”

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Irene makes him promise that they won’t move until they “have to”…
  At 51 years old and married for nearly 18 years, I truly appreciated the look of love in this movie. Hollywood is producing less and less realistic romantic love these days and even less, full grown adults in love. So, when Irene said “I want to see you…”  “Take off you clothes old man…”  my brown face was flush! as I watched the clothes slide from their aged and wrinkled bodies…there they were naked and in love. They embraced each other with tenderness and my heart warmed with the thought of my wife and I at that age.
   When you hit 50 most Americans head to the hospital for a colonoscopy, when your 20, most Americans thinks they know everything (or at least act like it). When you’re 25 you realize you’re not a teenager anymore and you despise those older than you, because you know you’re getting older. So, most 25 year olds make jokes about their parents being Old.  When you hit 30, you know for a fact, that the clock will never turn back!… when you are 50, you have lived long enough to know that life will soon end and if you are married, then you have enjoyed a wonderful life with someone, while marveling at the aging process. And boy oh boy is it a process!…

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    Irene gets worse and Craig panics when he comes home to see that she’s not there. He searches the town for her and later finds her smoking a cigarette on the beach.
     There was an accident earlier that cause him to move forward in building a new home for them on a small plot of their 2,000 acres of farmland. Unfortunately, government regulations and bureaucracy put a stop to it…but Craig could care less, their home didn’t work for them anymore. Finding Irene on the beach doing something she hadn’t done in years, smoking, propelled him to continue in his defiance against the government bureaucracy. That’s what I lifetime of love will drive you to do.

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   After nearly 18 years of marriage, like Craig, I can’t remember nor imagine life without my wife. We met as adults in good health. Now we giggle as we listen to the other’s bones crack from arthritis,  but we don’t laugh at the pain and swelling. We stare in each other eyes a lot longer these days and every touch of the hand, speaks unspoken passionate love to one another. I’m now a diabetic and she has blood pressure issues. There was a time when I could eat a bowl of 5 alarm chilli and she could eat 2 slices of pizza…Now, I can barely look at anything hot and she can’t eat more than half a sandwich and a salad. I used to love Italian food with mountains of pasta. Now I’m cool with a chicken salad and a kid’s size fruit snack. Life changes, so does the life you share together, but the love continually grows.
      We spend a lot of time figuring out how to care for one another’s health these days as well as enjoying quiet moments alone. I often wonder what life will be like when we are 65/70 years old. My dad is 78 now and in really good health, he bowls in a league and regularly work’s out in the gym. He also jumps rope, granted, he’s not as quick or strong as he was 20 years ago but I see and know very little people my age that can do what he does.  In the movie, Craig is 87 when he builds the house, alone; for his ailing wife.
   If I have even a fraction of their health and strength at that age it would be awesome! As far as love and passion for my wife goes… I try to get home as fast as possible to see her face each day. I love just sitting next to her. I love reading books with her, I love cooking for her, I love praying with her… I’m glad that God provided me with someone to walk through life with.
    Still Mine, gives the audience a different look at love in a different stage of life. A stage where fancy designer names are irrelevant. A stage of life where you find no need to talk every second of the day and where silence doesn’t scare you “I there something wrong with us, are we breaking up? !”  It’s a stage of life where you’ve spent a lifetime together and all that matters, is just being in the room with your best friend. The world needs to see more of this kind of love on display…

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    Getting older shouldn’t be feared, despised or looked at as the end of love, life and passion… because it isn’t!  It just looks different…