North Star

The North Star

I met Marilyn in the foyer of the nursing home where her beloved husband George was dying from lung disease. After introductions, I leaned in with, “Tell me about George.” I expected to hear about his heath but instead, Marilyn beamed, “These last forty-six years with George have been the best of my life.” Of course I inquired why. Marilyn prefaced her marriage to George with a rather detailed story about Thomas, her first husband.

Marilyn rolled her eyes and said, “Thomas looked real good on paper.” She hesitated before firmly noting, “There was no good reason why I shouldn’t have been madly in love with him.” She then held up her right hand and started counting the reasons on her fingers, “Thomas was Harvard educated, ridiculously handsome, and played golf like a pro. He was an executive at a marketing firm, and loved to take me along on business trips to Europe.” She ran out of fingers on her right and finished on her left with, “We lived in a beautiful ranch house near Portland, Oregon, where Thomas bred racehorses, and we threw big parties on The North Star, our fabulous yacht at the Portland Yacht Club.”

“Don’t get me wrong, he was real good to me.” She whispered, “For over two decades I kept working at falling in love with him and I failed.”

Marilyn then shared in detail how she met George. One early summer day in 1968, Marilyn decided to forgo her usual Wednesday lunch with the girls at Thomas’ office. “It was too beautiful a day to be inside.” She took her lunch to The North Star.

Marilyn recalled her disappointed to see that there was a maintenance man working on the bow of the boat. She climbed aboard anyway and silently nodded at him. He smiled at her, followed by a genuine hello. Marilyn ignored his greeting and sat at the table on the stern of the boat and took a bite of her sandwich. She could see him out of the corner of her eye.

Marilyn reminisced how she couldn’t shake his presence. She couldn’t focus on her lunch or the beauty of the harbor. Turns out he couldn’t focus on his task either.

Marilyn shared that after twenty minutes of missed glances, their eyes met. He gently put down his bag of tools and slowly walked to the stern of the boat. He said he needed to take a break in the shade and asked if he could join her. “George introduced himself with a smile that pierced my heart.” Marilyn said, “I was dumbfounded.” She silently motioned for him to sit across from her. They sat in a nervous stillness for a minute, just gazing at each other. They both started talking at the same time, which was immediately interrupted by a mutual belly laugh and two hours of talking about nothing in particular. Marilyn said, “I felt an instant unexplainable bond with George.”

“My heart ached at the thought of telling Thomas, but I had to.” Much to Marilyn’s surprise, Thomas was relieved. He had been questioning his feelings for Marilyn for years as well. Thomas gave Marilyn his blessing to follow her heart.

Marilyn and George were married in October of that same year, forty-six years ago.

Marilyn said to me with certainty, “George did not look good on paper. He wasn’t particularly good looking. He was a high school drop out and broke. George was a manual laborer but the love of my life. There is a beautiful ease about his company. Relationships shouldn’t take a lot of work to make right.”

Relationships take effort sometimes. Relationships take compromise, flexibility, and sacrifice. Do you think relationships are wrong if they take “work?”

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