Those who've loved and lost also mark Valentine's Day.
It's almost Valentine's Day again - that day of the year when we celebrate the love given and received from that special someone in your life.
I had that once, a loving mate where mutual admiration was the be-all and end-all, but I lost it with his death in 1993.
Our love affair began in a New York City singles bar in the spring of 1968. He was fresh out of the Army in the midst of the Vietnam era, and I was attending community college, with the intention of moving on to a four-year school the following fall. Just before we met, I sent applications to small four-year schools in close proximity to large Ivy League ones, in hopes of snaring an Ivy League husband.
Life has a funny way of dealing the cards though, and after our first meeting, snaring someone else was unnecessary.
We were rarely apart after that initial romantic period. I was 19, almost 20; he had just turned 24 - babies really. We grew up together. We became soulmates, best friends and partners in life, and created three beautiful children. Life was a series of adventures; facing each day anew with your best friend was more than anyone could hope for. We left the East Coast and made a new life in the West.
Charlie was not exactly the most romantic guy in the world, and cards for things such as Valentine's Day were not on his radar. We were together 22 years, and in all that time I received only a handful of cards for any occasion.
Then on the Valentine's Day that fell before his untimely death in July of 1993, he gave me a beautiful, lush, lacy card. As he gave me the card, he showed me that it had no date, and instructed me to save it and take it out again for each ensuing Valentine's Day, declaring he would never have to purchase another card. Little did I know how prophetic his instructions were.
He's been gone 13 years now. Love and romance in your 50s is definitely different from your 20s, and romance in your 50s in 2007 is much different than anything I could have imagined, ever. Now it's all about Internet romance - match.com, eharmony.com, cupid.com, etc. That's where those looking for love go these days.
It used to be you would attend an event, meet someone, have an instant visual connection and move on from there. With Internet dating, things are quite different. You begin by scrolling through pages of faces, or screen names without photos, or by answering questions to an anonymous computer that might take up to an hour or two to complete. Then the contact begins, anonymously at first, then directly to each other's e-mail address. The next step is talking on the phone, and then the inevitable public meeting.
First meetings are usually for coffee, drinks, snacks, walks in the park - somewhere public where both parties feel safe. After all, who knows if you are going to meet some sexual deviant serial killer or who knows what?
Public spaces are the way to go. Many romances end right here: Someone who may have seemed like Mr. Right on the Internet is suddenly Mr. Oh-So-Wrong in person.
My experiences have been quite varied with regard to this meeting. I still don't understand why someone would want to lie about something as obvious as his height. Don't they realize they will be found out upon meeting? But sometimes the two parties click and a relationship begins to develop.
At my age, 50-plus, most men have been married and divorced at least once, or widowed like me, but we are all carrying some baggage from past relationships. It's difficult not to share something about those failed attempts at love and romance. It helps to sort out whether you even want to try it again.
Time goes by, dating turns to romance, maybe you call it love, intimacy ensues, and before you know it, you might realize that it's oh-so-right, but so much more often you are realizing why his last partner let the guy go.
Change is difficult at any age, but if you've been with the same person who has accepted your faults for years, decades maybe, before lodging any complaints, why would you want to pursue change with the next partner?
Sometimes it takes a few attempts at hooking up with someone new to clue you into the fact that if you don't want to be alone the rest of your life, you better invest in some behavior change. Some folks never get it, and just keep moving from one relationship to the next, hoping to find acceptance for their dysfunctional behavior somewhere along the line. Valentine's Day will be upon us shortly. I'll be pulling Charlie's card out from its storage place, basking in the memories of love and companionship, and leave the Internet dating scene alone for a while.
So if you are lucky enough to have someone special in your life this Valentine's Day, look around for those of us who have loved and lost, and consider dispensing a few extra hugs.
Nancy Maniago of Eugene works for Head Start of Lane County as its regional manager.
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