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Texas | Columns

A Valentine's Day
Love Story

by Barbara Duvall Wesolek
Barbara Duvall Wesolek

Charlie came to visit her every day. He brought her flowers. He also brought a mesh strapped lawn chair and a bottle of water, and he sat by her grave. He would be there when I arrived, and he would be there when I left. My dad's grave was just a few rows up from Charlie's wife, and I walked by Charlie every time I visited. From my first visit, Charlie and I spoke to each other. He was tall and slender, with a soft voice, gray hair and sad blue eyes.

Charlie had been keeping his lonely vigil since 2009. Before that date, he and his wife had lived and loved a long time together. They raised a family, they danced, they laughed, they spent their lives together. So it wasn't unusual to Charlie that he would sit by her grave every day, he had been by her side as long as he could remember.

He told me he missed her more than words could tell. He missed dancing with her, hearing her voice, holding her hand. So he came to her grave every day.

Every two or three months, I would return to the cemetery on the west side of Houston to leave flowers on my dad's grave and stop to visit briefly with Charlie. Even in the burning Texas sun or the damp chill of winter, Charlie was there, sad, lonely, devoted.

One day he walked with me to my dad's grave and I told him about my dad and how he had died a cruel, lingering death. Charlie just shook his head in sorrow, not saying a word. Because he knew so well the pain of loss, no words were necessary. At that moment Charlie, stooped and frail, reminded me of my grandfather, a gentleman who had lost two wives and also knew well the most important part of life is love.

Day after day, as Charlie sat by her grave, millions of cars passed on Interstate 10, just one block from this final, lonely home of so many people who were loved, and some who were not loved. The silence was unbroken. Freeway travelers could not see the graves behind the shrubbery. The living had places to go and things to do, and I doubt few noticed the cemetery. Other than Charlie, no one was out there every day to bear witness to the love.

On February 14, Valentine's Day, I drove in from the west side on I-10 with red roses for dad's grave. I had been unable to go to the cemetery in the past seven months. With an uneasy feeling, I wondered if Charlie would still be there.

As I parked the car, I did not see Charlie. As I walked among the graves, cradling the roses and approaching Charlie's wife's head stone, I saw what looked like a freshly laid grave. When I reached the grave, I saw Charlie was buried beside her.

He had died in October. I put one red rose on his grave and one on hers before walking on to put the remaining roses on my dad's grave.

Charlie no longer feels the loneliness of the living left behind, but I hope somehow he still feels the love they shared.


February 6, 2017 column

Barbara Duvall Wesolek
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