This morning, I was craving a steak biscuit and some dirty rice from Bojangles’, so I went. As luck would have it, I arrived at the peak time to dine with the retired and elderly crowd, or as they’re known around here, the old coffee drinkers. What I didn’t expect was for one of them to remind me of why I write romance novels, nor did I expect for one of them to make me cry.
I was tucked away at a corner table playing invisible woman and tap, tap, tapping away on my tablet screen when I overheard one sweet little grey-haired man talking about the loss of his wife. I didn’t hear him say how long she had been gone. I didn’t hear what she died of. What I did hear was him saying, and I quote (I recorded it on my tablet so I wouldn’t forget), “You know, when my wife died, I actually though about pitching a tent up at the cemetery, up at the edge of the woods, so I could be right there with her.”
I’ve been writing some emotional stuff the last few days, so I’m sort of a wreck anyway. Hearing that sweet little man speak of his grief broke my heart right in two. I actually had to turn my head, so they wouldn’t see my eyes welling up. That’s right, I cried over what was left of my biscuit and dirty rice. Shoot, I’m getting misty-eyed now just thinking about it.
The rest of the conversation only drew more tears from me. One of the ladies at the table asked him what he does to keep busy during the day. Of course, he said he visits his wife’s grave every day, sometimes three times a day.
“Do you, really?” the woman asked.
He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sometimes I stay up there for 30 minutes or more just talking to her. I know it’s just her body, not her soul, but that’s all I know to do. I just talk to her.”
I believe my unintentional eavesdropping this morning confirmed for me what I already knew—true love does exist. I would even argue that, aside from the need of food, water, and shelter, the human need to love and be loved is basic to our existence. This is why I write romance novels—because they chronicle the basic human quest of finding that one true and devoted love and overcoming adversity to make it work.
Naysayers of the genre speak of romance novels as if they are ridiculously corny, completely unrealistic, and not representative of real relationships. All I can say is, tell that sweet little grey-haired man that his devotion to his wife, a devotion that had him considering living in a tent in the cemetery just to be close to her, tell him that his love for that woman was/is unrealistic. And me…I cried all the way home from Bojangles’ because that sweet little man made me consider what it would be like to live on this earth without my husband of twenty-four years. Just the thought takes my breath and wrenches the heart in my chest. The thought of losing him—my partner, my best friend, the love of my life—kills me. I’m sure I would be lost, just like that sweet little old man. Tell me the love I have for my husband is unrealistic?
When I write, it’s not from some fantasy land of emotion. It’s from a real place in my heart. I don’t pretend relationships are easy. Whether real or imagined, they take work. But to say that adversity cannot be overcome, to say that people cannot work through problems to achieve a real and lasting love is just stupid. So to the naysayers I say, it’s okay. Perhaps you are not emotionally ready to find meaning in my writing. Perhaps the current state of your relationships will not allow you to have hope in your heart. Don’t worry, when you’re ready, the romance genre will still be around.