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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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To My New-Found Valentine

Jeffrey and Kenny

Saralee and Bob (center) with The Cape Cod Surftones

By Saralee Perel

He was seated in the front row of the lecture hall, wearing work boots and jeans. I could see, even from behind my podium, that his sea-blue denim shirt matched the color of his dazzling eyes.

It was Thursday, June 10th, 1976, the evening of my first lecture on "Life After Divorce," and many years before my SCI.

I put my glasses on, ostensibly to see my notes, but I was able to sneak a quick look to see the blue-eyed fellow's nametag. It read Bob Daly, who one year later, became my husband.

After the lecture, we had our first fight.

We were in the hallway. Bob asked if he could walk me to my car.

I said, "But I don't even know you. How do I know you're not a mugger just pretending you want to protect me and then in the parking lot, you grab me and steal my purse and my wedding ring?"

He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms and his legs in a posture I would see for many years to come. Then he laughed and said, "That whole ridiculous scenario was just so I'd look at your hand and see you're not married."

"Oh yeah?" I said, and started walking while hiding my smile because he was absolutely right.

He caught up with me. "I'm not married either."

"I know that. You're attending my lectures on divorce for heaven's sake."

"That's quite a presumption. I could be on my second marriage and not want to make the same mistakes."

I tried, unsuccessfully, to resist looking at his left hand.

He said, "I already told you I'm not married."

"You're arrogant."

"I'm arrogant."

"At least we agree on something." I did let him walk me to my car – because I really wanted him to.

Thirty-three years later, we still have "our song." It was played at our wedding.

I'll be loving you
Always,
With a love that's true
Always.

We danced to it at every anniversary, until our twenty-fifth. Suddenly, the music in our love stopped as abruptly as my spinal cord injury occurred.

Bob became my full-time caregiver. I felt like a burden, but didn't tell him. Bob was overwhelmed, but didn't tell me. We cried by ourselves. If only we had cried together, we'd have grieved and started to heal. No longer best friends, the words to "Always" were meaningless.

When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand
Always, always.

I should have known what we needed. And that was simply to talk with each other. Instead, we believed it would be too hurtful to share our heartbreaking thoughts. We both put on an "I'm fine," façade, but like any façade, it was just a veneer of an outward display. Our inner worlds were shattered.

Then one day a miracle happened. Bob had a dream. For some reason, we had to get to an island. When Bob prayed for help, a path appeared. We made it to the island. And that is because we were supporting each other, not only with our arms but with our hearts.

That day, we finally cried together. Tears of love. Tears of healing.

Bob had made our path . . . on firm ground.

One recent Valentine's Day, he said, "We have to stay home today because there's a surprise coming."

He kept looking out the front window, anxiously waiting for heaven-knows what. I knew it was going to be something other than flowers or candy because he would not have been so nervous.

Finally, there was a knock at our door. I opened it to find four gentlemen who greeted me by name, gave me a beautiful red rose and came right on into our living room, where they asked Bob and me to have a seat on our couch.

They stood in a group in front of us and in magnificent barbershop harmony, sang "Always." I was overwhelmed with tears while they sang.

Bob had secretly arranged for this well-known group, The Cape Cod Surftones, to bring this singing Valentine to me.

On that same day, he gave me another gift. He had made me a beautiful needlepoint. On it, were words from our song.

Days may not be fair
Always;
That's when I'll be there
Always –

When I was a kid at summer camp and we jumped on the trampoline, we always had a "safety." That was someone who was there to watch over us – to keep us from harm.

And so, when Bob or I need one another, in so many ways that we now do, we are always each other's safety.

Not just for an hour,
Not just for a day,
Not just for a year,
But always.

"Always" by Irving Berlin
© Copyright 1925 by Irving Berlin
© Copyright Renewed. International Copyright Secured.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by Permission.

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, welcomes e-mails at sperel@saraleeperel.com.
Please visit her website to see her latest project or simply to have fun: www.saraleeperel.com.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

The information provided in the Paralysis Resource Center was supported by Cooperative Agreement number 1U59DD000838-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the Reeve Foundation and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC.