My Only Valentine

Valentine*750“We got this far, darling, not by luck, but by never turning back.”                                         – Mary Chapin Carpenter

My husband, Bob, and I met through mutual friends when he was 20 and I was 21. We went on our first date the following week. He had just gotten out of a tumultuous relationship and was determined never to fall in love again. After hearing that, I figured I’d better proceed with caution. We tried our best not to fall for each other, but our hearts won over our brains. I made the above illustration, featuring Mae West and W. C. Fields, for Bob after we had been dating a year. As an artist, a handmade Valentine is the only way to declare your love.

Bob and Sue Final_550

When we first met.

One year after we met Bob proposed to me. I said, “yes” but wondered if it was a good idea to tie the knot with the only real boyfriend I ever had. This July it will be 37 years for us. Our commitment to each other has weathered many storms. There was too much drinking on his part and way too much “fixing” on mine. When I finally went and got help for myself, things slowly began to change for the better. Bob got sober and we grew together in a positive direction. That’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing ever since. I’ve always held onto the advice my sister Ann gave me about sticking it out in a marriage. After three husbands, she had come to the conclusion that you should work out your troubles, if you can, because no marriage is problem free.

Bob and Sue Wedding

On our wedding day, July 28, 1979.

In hindsight, I can see that Bob and I had no business getting married when we were 23. We were way too young. I question the wisdom of conceiving our oldest child six months later too. What was our hurry? I think in Bob’s case it seemed like the right thing to do because he came from a huge Irish/Catholic family. In my case, I adored kids and was certain that love would take care of the details. Thankfully, in the end, it always did.

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. – Robert Browning

Yes, there is something to be said for growing old together. Being with someone longer than you’ve been without them brings the kind of comfort that a well worn pair of shoes does. Not exactly a romantic notion, until you consider the discomfort that can come from breaking in a new pair. As we age, our love deepens. Sure, Bob and I still can get on each other’s nerves, but we have the presence of mind to let many of the little annoyances go. We are two separate individuals and have come to respect our differences.

Next June, after forty years at his job as a signal maintainer, Bob will be retiring. I have to admit I do worry about having him around all the time. In my work as an  author and artist, I need solitude to reflect and allow inspiration in. At other times, I am not concerned at all about him invading my space, and am looking forward to adventures with him and our grand babies. One thing is certain, the man I married all those years ago deserves a break. He has worked tirelessly to support his family and his wife’s dream of being an artist. It’s his time to fulfill some dreams of his own.

It looks like Bob and I will be approaching this next phase of our lives much like we did our marriage. Jump in and figure out how to swim later. When you think about it, how much of life can you truly plan anyway? What I do know for sure is the love that has carried us through the early, and middle years is not going to fail us now.

DSC04918 (1)-2

On our 35th wedding anniversary.

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Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.

13 thoughts on “My Only Valentine

  1. Well great, thanks for starting out my day in tears. You have such a unique way with words Sue. Your posts fill me with emotion and reflection every time. We love you guys. Lu

    Sent from my iPad





  3. Sue, your story is so similar to mine that I cried! My Bob and I got married in 1980 and, on our first anniversary I was discharged from the hospital with a baby girl. My Bob had a drinking problem as well, but with the help of AA, he quit drinking in 1986. Here our stories differ.

    When my Bob was 36 years old, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. To make a long story short, he passed away due to complications in January of 2007. I received his death certificate in the mail on Valentine’s Day.

    So treasure each other and enjoy your good health!

    One more similarity is that, like you, I always wanted to write children’s books. My first book will soon be available on Amazon and Kindle!

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Judi Cunningham


    • It’s funny when I post an essay I never think anyone will relate to it but so many do. I’m sorry your Bob passed but am glad you have good memories to carry you through. Best wishes on publishing your children’s book. It has been a dream come true for me. Happy Valentine’s Day!


  4. These days, I hear so often that love is not enough; some other magic ingredient, some excitement is needed to keep a marriage going. But I’ve always been quiet, not willing to be drawn into such discussions because for me, love is a powerful, mysterious grace. It’s never what it starts out to be. Given time and hope, it blossoms into a beauty never imagined. There is life in love, and all it needs to flourish is faithfulness.
    And that’s what I think both you and Bob have, and you gave it unstintingly.
    God bless you both.


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