We were newlyweds, living in a grungy apartment.
Each morning, I would wake before her. I would pass my morning hours writing poetry on a yellow legal pad, sipping coffee.
Mostly, I’d write the kinds of god-awful things you’d expect newlyweds to write. I’m talking painfully corny stuff. I’d leave these poems on slips of paper scattered throughout our apartment for her to find.
One such poem read:
“Together, the two of us,
“In thought, and deed, and breath, and heart,
“Shall never be lacerated apart.”
Gag me with a number-two pencil. “Lacerated?” What kind of a dork uses that word? In fact, I’m not certain this verb works in this particular case.
LACERATE [verb: las-uh-reyt] lac·er·at·ed, lac·er·at·ing
1. to tear; mangle; rip. Example: “Hey dude, that poem you wrote really freakin’ lacerated.”
My wife saved all my crummy poems in a shoebox, and today they reside in a storage closet.
Anyway, when we first married we lived in an apartment that smelled like dead squirrels, and I am not being figurative. I mean our apartment actually had a nest of decomposing squirrels in the attic above our master bedroom.
The place was tiny, about as ugly as homemade underpants. The tenant before us had painted the walls black and greenish-gray. Sherwin Williams officially titled this color “Seasick Granite®.”
When we moved in, we made the place our own. We painted the walls brown and khaki. We bought a used coffee table and some scented candles.
My friend, Chubbs, found an old console television on the side of the road. I was lucky enough to claim the TV before the garbage man came.
The thing was heavier than a dead man, but we got it up the stairs. Chubbs, however, would suffer from severe disc degenerative problems for the rest of his life.
Our building sat across the street from a Waffle House, a Chick-fil-A, and an ice cream shop. And this is why we gained nearly fifty pounds within our first year of marriage.
We never went to the movies because we didn’t have the money. We ate Hamburger Helper without hamburger sometimes.
We saved our cash for a new window unit AC—our air conditioner was on the fritz. The thing would only work on days of the week beginning with “R.”
On weekends, every weekend, we ate donuts. It was our simple ritual, and I loved it. Krispy Kreme was only a stone’s throw from us, and when the hot-and-ready light would glow, by dog, we were there.
Over donuts, we would talk for hours about nothing. Heavy doses of sugar can do things to the human mind, it can make a person honest. She told me all her stories. I told her mine. You can do a lot of soul-searching over crullers and chocolate cake donuts.
My professional life was non-existent, I took whatever jobs I could get. I spent days crawling rooflines, swinging a hammer, or operating a commercial lawn mower. She worked as a preschool teacher at church, or in a kitchen.
For extra income, I played piano at a Baptist church on Sundays, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, Thursday night choir practices, and Saturday night prayer meetings. All the while we were learning things about each other. Important things.
We learned how to argue in the middle of a Winn-Dixie, and how to attend three Thanksgivings in one day. How to share a sunset, seated on the hood of a truck. How to read in bed with a flimsy battery-powered book light.
We learned how to travel together with paper maps. And after years of practice, we finally learned how to make a bed together without me getting murdered.
We learned how to hold each other when a loved one die. We learned how to sit together—me reading a magazine, her playing a crossword puzzle. We learned how to wring our hands in hospital waiting rooms. We learned how to bury dogs with a shovel and a burial sheet.
We learned how to make a life together.
A lot has changed since those days, but I still wake early in the mornings to write. I don’t use a legal pad anymore, I use a laptop.
This morning, however, I did not write. Instead, I sifted through our storage closet. I found things. An old coffee-tin sewing kit, some scented candles, love poems, and the picture of a young man and his new wife in their first apartment.
In the picture, the place had ugly gray walls, but that’s the only ugly thing about this photo. He’s holding her. She’s holding him. They are young. Their skin is smooth. I wish I could tell you how much I love these two people in the picture.
I wish you could see their faces, and their punch-drunk smiles. You can tell they belong together by looking at them. You simply know that their names should never be said separately.
It’s as though nothing bad in this life can ever touch them. As though the two of them, in thought, and deed, and breath, and heart, shall never be lacerated apart.
Susan Parker - February 14, 2021 6:51 am
Happy Valentine’s Day, Sean and Jamie!
Bob E - February 14, 2021 7:05 am
Thanks for the laughs – love you and your wife’s bio.
Just wrote my wife a Valentine card on the front of a used business envelope – ‘cuz it was addressed to her and I love her.
And I love you and your stories – “cuz you’re a great sentimentalist.
Christina - February 14, 2021 7:08 am
You two are really a match from heaven, and what God brought together, man cannot lacerate them apart. Love your love stories!
Annie Franklin - February 14, 2021 7:33 am
Love this. Just beautiful may your love last till the end of days ❤🙏
Ernie Tompkins - February 14, 2021 10:08 am
Really enjoyed this Sean! You seem to always capture the essence of love I. Your writings.
Meredith Smith - February 14, 2021 11:20 am
Judy Mercer - February 14, 2021 11:33 am
What a truly heartwarming love story…Happy Valentines Day to you both!
Karen Howard-Goss - February 14, 2021 11:52 am
Please do not ever lacerate your column from me! They make my morning. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Jamie!
Christine - February 14, 2021 12:49 pm
You’re so funny and so romantic.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you both❤❤
Leigh Amiot - February 14, 2021 12:17 pm
The stages of marriage are beautifully captured here. “How to share a sunset, seated on the hood of a truck.” Oh, that’s living, loving! 🥰
Happy Valentine’s Day, Sean and Jamie and all your readers!
Jimpa - February 14, 2021 12:29 pm
“Ugly as home made underpants”. I am so stealing this one! And don’t stop writing.
Joretta Parker - February 14, 2021 12:37 pm
Happy Valentine’s day Sean and Jamie! I have spent the last 10 years alone on this day. Just hold on to and treasure each day together.
Amanda - February 14, 2021 12:38 pm
Happy, happy to both of you! And thanks for sharing!
Tammy S. - February 14, 2021 1:03 pm
Happy Valentines, Sean & Jamie!! ❤️
My husband leaves me post-it notes almost everyday. I get a card on Sunday before he heads to church to preach. Out of all of the things he writes, the cheesy things are my favorite. And I know he means each and every word.
Jamie got one of the good ones. So did I.
Al Cato - February 14, 2021 1:17 pm
Cherish those memories, save the poems and pictures. Build more, add more and save more but cherish them all and revisit them. Life will intervene one day hopefully many years down the road and all of these will help sustain you.
Phil (Brown Marlin) - February 14, 2021 1:21 pm
Sean, your writings can sew up any lacerated heart. Thanks for sharing the beginning of your and Jamie’s love story. Funny, my then future wife kept all of my loveletters sent from college. Her sisters found her hiding place and read them, then laughed and puked at the same time. I don’t think I wrote her poems, though.
Our first apartment was not quite as rough as yours. It was on the second floor of a big, old two-story frame house. We did not need to paint, but we did have to buy a window AC unit.
We are sharing a happy Valentine’s Day here, and will head for church shortly. Even though attendance must be kept to a minimum and masks must be worn, it is still a blessing to worship with others.
Do something nice for Jamie today, but no poems, please.
S 💞 J - February 14, 2021 1:29 pm
You’ve really done it this time, Sean! Today’s column of your love story is so similar to ours, it is downright spooky!! We are also “S & J”, we had a tiny first apartment with its own resident squirrel, but instead of writing poetry, my husband liked to make up silly words. We had an old black & white “box” tv that barely got 3 local stations. And we were only two doors down from “Ye Olde Donut Shoppe” that woke us up every morning at 4 am with its wonderful aroma!
I guess the most important similarity we share is all of the early lessons we learned on how to make a life together! The foundation of our marriage that never cracked or became lacerated after almost 50 amazing years❣️
Thank you for “My Valentine”…one of your finest‼️
Hawk - February 14, 2021 1:31 pm
This is for Sherry. Who’s heart I’m still searching. And hope to hold one day. And her mine.
This is where I go to see the good side life.
Patricia Harris - February 14, 2021 1:56 pm
So similar to our early poor beginnings. Loved that man for 60 years. Four years of Highschool dating. 56 plus years of marriage until Alzheimer’s stole him from me. Always hand in hand till the very end.
AlaRedClayGirl - February 14, 2021 2:05 pm
A beautiful love story!
Teresa Blankenship - February 14, 2021 2:12 pm
Karen - February 14, 2021 2:18 pm
What a great story!!! So happy for you and your wife! Treasure all the moments! I pray for my kids to have that kind of relationship! Happy Valentines Day! And thank you for starting my day with a smile and a single tear running down my face. ❤️
Eddy - February 14, 2021 2:19 pm
Very funny and very touching! We love Y’all and miss ya up in the cold Mississippi Delta!
Jan - February 14, 2021 2:20 pm
Perfect, just perfect!!
Barbara - February 14, 2021 2:37 pm
What a delightful human being you are. I love you and your dear wife like a mother would. May your life together be long and filled with with love each of your days.
My sweetheart and I have been married 57 years tomorrow, the 15th. What a life it has been and continues to be.
Thank you for all you do for so many. I am grateful.
K. D. Kempf Jones - February 14, 2021 2:42 pm
Sean – Thank you, THANK YOU, Thank YOU for this inspiring and honest Valentine’s Day article! And for the way you Always inspire me.
After more than 24 years of healing and unconditional Love and support [including bringing me back to life after a serious crash with a truck, brain surgeries, 5 years of recovery and counting] – I finally have a great idea of what to give this dear man who means more to me than anything.
So many many Thank yous to you as I go to dig out my file copies of the 3 years of emails we sent to one another while we courted more than 25 years ago! They’ll make great reading on this sweet Day! THANK YOU!
We all have so much to be grateful for – especially those of us who are alive, and can praise the Lord. – with deep gratitude to you for sharing your gift of creative expression with all of us – DiAn
Suzanne - February 14, 2021 2:52 pm
Thanks for reminding me.
Sarah Wright - February 14, 2021 2:55 pm
You make me laugh and cry at the same time. Thank you.
Jenny Young - February 14, 2021 3:35 pm
Oh I love this.
Happy Valentine’s Day
Kathleen Cox - February 14, 2021 3:56 pm
You touched my heart with this.
Margaret E Odell - February 14, 2021 4:09 pm
We called our first hone “abject poverty and fetid squalor”! The linoleum had been laid directly over uneven dirt, so walking across the living room, even sober, was always an adventure. But we were, young, in love, and enjoying the adventure.
Bonnie Joslin - February 14, 2021 4:12 pm
Linda Moon - February 14, 2021 4:59 pm
Lacerated. What a “romantic” word. So what kind of dork were you back then? Shoebox savings can be among the most romantic memories of a long life together, SeanandJamie…..your one name with one heart and everything you said. Our closets are full of them. Happy Valentine’s Day from L&LMoon!
Nancy M - February 14, 2021 6:48 pm
This was so sweet and tender.
💞💗 Happy Valentine’s Day, Sean and Jamie!! 🎶❤️
peggybilbro - February 14, 2021 7:28 pm
Dang! You did it again Sean! My eyes are leaking! Many hugs to couples young and old and in between.
elizabethroosje - February 14, 2021 8:10 pm
I love this so much!! I am so glad for you and Jamie!!!
Cindy Unland - February 14, 2021 10:43 pm
That is what Valentine is all about…24/7/365
Sylvia Sykes - February 14, 2021 11:12 pm
Been there; done that!
Chasity Davis Ritter - February 14, 2021 11:37 pm
Happy Valentine’s Day Jamie and Sean!!! And here is to an eternity together and all the many mores!
Robert Chiles - February 15, 2021 12:25 am
46 years of learning how to make a life together. Our marriage vows- we promised to “..be good and sweet and never fuss.” Tip- always do the dishes.
joan moore - February 15, 2021 3:18 am
Happy Valentine’s Day to the Poet Laureate of the South and his beautiful lady!
Helen De Prima - February 15, 2021 4:39 am
You got me backpedalling down memory lane. Our first apartment didn’t stink, but our bedroom backed up to the communal laundry room which rumbled day and night. And spitting’ distance from the main line of the Denver Rio Grande RR whose freight trains growled past getting up steam to crawl up the grades of Colorado’s Front Range. Must not have been too bad — we’re still together 54 years later.
Charaleen Wright - February 15, 2021 6:06 am
Bob Brenner - February 15, 2021 1:06 pm
Can you spell love! Not any better than this “love note” just did! Thanks Sean 💕
Susan Kennedy - February 15, 2021 10:04 pm