Longform

Loved to Death

Page 4 of 15

So many little things I should have
said and done,
but I just never took the time...
But you were always on my mind...
You were always on my mind.

Dana's divorce was final in August 1982, the same month her sister was getting married in their mother's backyard. The juxtaposition made her sad. Her own marriage--the only thing she had ever really wanted--had failed, and now she was alone with a baby daughter and no support.

Since leaving Gene, she'd been pretty much of a recluse in her mother's home, rarely venturing out. She told God that if he wanted her to meet a new man, he was going to have to insert him directly into her life. There was no chance she'd meet someone at a bar again; she'd learned that lesson with Gene.

Still, she never expected to meet the man of her dreams at her sister's wedding.

That Jim Garner was there at all was an accident: The minister who was supposed to officiate had been called out of town, and Jim was asked to stand in. He was an attractive man, nearly six feet tall, slender, with blond hair, a close-cropped beard, green eyes and a smile friendlier than any handshake. But what caught Dana was his voice. Jim was from the South and spoke with a warm, cultured accent. That voice, combined with his vocation, immediately made him seem kinder, gentler, more trustworthy than other men.

It was a traditional ceremony. Jim talked about the duties the couple had toward each other. "Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.

"The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does...

"A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife."

Dana barely paid attention to the words, she so enjoyed listening to Jim's voice. "To love, honor and obey...'til death do us part."

The ceremony ended. A few minutes later, Dana was in her mother's kitchen talking quietly with Jim over a cup of coffee. She found herself telling him about her divorce and subsequent self-doubts. Then he left, and she thought that would be the last she saw of him.

A week later, she was having a heart-to-heart with her mother, who was worried that Dana showed no signs of getting on with her life. Her mother suggested that getting involved with a church group might give her some direction. In fact, maybe she should go talk to that nice minister from the wedding.

The idea appealed to Dana. She called Jim, and he suggested they get together at his Presbyterian church.

When they met a few days later, Dana wound up saying far more about herself than she'd intended, telling Jim about her feelings of abandonment by her father--but she felt she could trust this man. He told her that he had a doctorate in psychology, as well as a doctorate in theology and a master's in English. The walls of his office were covered with commendations and achievements, including one honoring his work as an Air Force chaplain.

They should meet again, Jim said. Perhaps he could help her sort things out. She agreed, and then agreed to a third meeting and a fourth. And then to talking over lunch or dinner instead of at the church.

Dana was in love, and Jim felt the same way. He always seemed to know what was best for her. He was so smart--he spoke four languages and could read the Bible, which he knew forward and backward, in Hebrew and Greek. He was well-versed in politics and world affairs and could hold his own in any conversation. He seemed as solid and as far above the foibles of other men as Longs Peak.

It was only after they'd been dating several months that she learned Jim was married. As if it were of no consequence, he explained that he was "in the process of a divorce," that his wife no longer loved him and that she had left him. Dana believed him.

Perhaps that explained why Jim could be a little possessive. Sometimes, that possessiveness flared into fits of jealousy. If Dana went to the store, he wanted to know if any men had looked at her. He called often, to make sure that she was where she was supposed to be. Sometimes it felt like he was conducting an investigation rather than courting her.

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Steve Jackson

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