Story by Jaye Lewis
Louie. What a giant of a man he was, from the beginning. We met in the home of mutual friends, who had rescued me and my children from a woman’s shelter. I remember seeing him for the first time, how he seemed to fill the room, and I remember thinking, this is a man who knows exactly who he is. My children fell in love with him immediately, especially nine-year-old Jenny and six-year-old Helen.
I had always wondered what a real man, who truly loves children, would be like. I found out that first night. I was cautious and distant, but I couldn’t deny the charm of the man who willingly made a fool of himself for the sake of my children. My daughters were entranced, and they recited the most awful jokes, teaching him how to talk in belch, informing him proudly, about how they had learned these things from their mother. I explained, blushing, that “my children are always bragging about me.”
He was charming and outgoing with the little ones; yet with the adults, he was quiet and seemed quite shy. At one point, my twelve year old became frustrated, because no one was listening to her. Louie propelled himself from the floor, waving his powerful hands, and silencing everyone.
“This young lady has something to say, and we should all listen.” Everyone looked at my daughter, as she told her story. Louie laughed in all the right places, giving an encouraging look to anyone who wasn’t paying attention.
“Now isn’t that a funny story?” he asked, and, of course, everyone agreed.
I watched him that night, and I marveled at his tenderness with my little girls, who had never known a man’s tenderness. I sent a silent communication toward heaven. So this is what love is.
We started out as friends. He talked to me like a big brother, when he thought that I was not taking care of myself. I was picking at my food, and all the terrors of our flight from an abusive home had paralyzed my throat, so that I couldn’t swallow much food. Louie gave me a searching look, yet his voice was softly reproving.
“Those little girls need you.” He said. “If you don’t take care of yourself, who’s going to take care of them?” I was mesmerized by the innate decency of this man, and his ability to state the simple truth. He was right. I was all that my children had. So, I began to eat, chewing slowly, and finally swallowing, as we talked.
He was in the Navy. He had served on the same ship with the husband of the woman who had taken us in. I was beaten down by the time I met Louie, and I was very protective of my children. No man would ever hurt them again. But I reveled in this new friendship. I was assured that Louie could be trusted, and that was enough for me.
I found myself so drawn to the respectful, shy man, who had already captured my children’s hearts. I had the irresistible urge to make him laugh, and I seized every opportunity, as he heaved boxes and furniture, helping me move into my own place. It took us all day to move from one end of Jacksonville, Florida to the other, but finally I was set up, with my little girls, in my very first apartment.
It was a lovely place. I had fought for a decent place to bring my daughters to, and the state of Florida had made certain of it, defending the rights of my children, and protecting their lives and mine. I will never forget how strangers befriended us, after relatives and friends turned their backs. To me, it is amazing the angels that God brought into my life, when I was most alone.
When we were finally settled, and the girls were put to bed, Louie and I talked long into the night. He walked my dog, as I made sandwiches. I watched him. Every nuance. I noticed the strong lines of his face. I watched him through the front window, as he patiently waited for my dog, of discriminating taste, to find just the perfect spot. Louie’s face, in repose, spoke of deep thoughts, and if God would grant me one wish about that night, it would be to know what was on his heart and mind, in those moments.
Louie’s ship was leaving the next day, for a six week deployment, and I gathered up the courage to ask for his mailing address, never expecting to see him again. I was alone, and I knew it. That first night alone in my first apartment was a night of reflection. I turned out all the lights, and my bedroom was softly illuminated by the street lamp outside my window. I thought about a gentle man and kind friends, who selflessly gave of themselves out of the goodness of their hearts.
I recalled what I had said to Louie the very first night that we met, when he was encouraging me to take care of myself for the sake of my children. I could not resist the urge to speak, boldly, to my new friend.
“Louie,” I had said, watching his deep green eyes, shyly meet mine, “Someday, a woman will come into your life, who will love you, as no one has ever loved you before, and all the sorrows of your life will be left far behind.”
Perhaps my words were the simple reflection of my own heart’s longings. But I never dreamed what God already knew…that woman would be me.