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Love is More Beautiful the Second Time Around

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I am a woman in my seventies, becoming old and frail, but I can still remember details of my life that will live on even after I am gone. On a daily basis I think of how many blessings God has bestowed upon me through my lifetime. One of the most precious gifts that God has given me is wisdom. It is a gift that can only come with time. Though one may think of aging as a curse, looking back on my life, it is obvious that it should be seen as a good thing. Things happen in our lives that hurt and take time to heal. Things that happen may cause one to think that their life is over when it is only just beginning. Something bad can happen and then cause something good. I like to call these happenings a “blessing in disguise.” Living my life, I have learned to appreciate every minute and find the good in every situation.
There was a specific moment, or collection of moments, in my life that made me realize that the end of the world wasn’t the end of the world at all; it was the beginning of something beautiful. These moments came together to create a major turning point in my life. It all started during the years after I graduated high school and decided college wasn’t for me. I was working some different jobs when I met this wonderful man, Milton Finger. We only knew each other for three months when we were married. We had sixteen and a half really great years together. We had four children. Then one day, God scooped him up and took him away from me in just four hours when he had a heart attack and died. When he died, I thought the rest of my world died with him, but I looked at my four kids and I knew that I had to go on. It wasn’t easy, but with God’s help, I knew I could get through it.
What I’d really like to tell you about now is what happened after Milton was gone. In the summer of 1967, in the same year that Milton died, a friend took me to the top of the World Trade Center. In the course of conversation, she said, “I’ve got somebody I want you to meet. It’s a guy I met in college. And he’s widowed too. His name is Herbert.”
Then the friend’s husband piped up and said, “He’s got four kids, are you kidding? Vonnie can hardly handle the four she’s got.”
Anyway, I retaliated, “I don’t want to hear it. I’m not there; I’m not going that route. I had a wonderful marriage, and it will never happen again.” When I said these things, I truly believed them. How could something so beautiful as true love happen twice in one lifetime? How could someone get so lucky?
Shortly after that conversation with my friends, September rolled around and I had to go back to work teaching the first grade. Anne-Marie Thurber, a beautiful blonde six-year old girl, was in my class. We had the first parent-teacher meeting and I meet her father, Herbert Thurber. At that time, I had only known him as H.T. Thurber because that was the way he signed her papers. That was the first time I met him, and little did I know we would meet again about three months later. In December, I saw him in the store shopping for Christmas outfits for his four children, but he didn’t know what to buy for Anne-Marie. I told him that I would be glad to help him because she was so precious. I helped him and that was the end of that, or so I thought.
February came around and the phone rang. It had been exactly a year since I lost my first husband, Milton, and Herbert was calling to ask if I wanted to go to a parade with him. All I thought was, “oh cool. This man, Anne-Marie’s daddy, is going to drive and park the car and I won’t have to do it.” I told him I was going to a friend’s house to watch the parade because she was having a party.
He said “Oh no, I don’t want to do that because I’m bringing three of my four children.” Herb had these four children with his first wife, Mary Anne. She died when she had their fourth child, Margaret. She had an aneurysm during the night and went into a coma that she never came out of. So, he was a single parent with four kids just like I was. He had to bring them with him when we went to the parades. Every night for two weeks, we went to Mardi gras parades, and I had never done that before, gone to a parade every night for two weeks. It was exhausting because I had to get up and go to school every morning.
On Mardi Gras day, at the last of the parades, he asked me on a real date. He said, “Would you like to go to the opera with me?”
I responded, “Are you kidding? Those seven kids would never sit still at the opera.”
He said, “I didn’t mean with the children, I meant with just me.”
All of a sudden it was like, “Da-dum! He wants to have a date.” It finally hit me that he liked me. We had actually already had about 14 dates because of the parades, but I didn’t realize it until he asked me to the opera. So, we went to the opera and then to the Camellia Grill after, it was very late so we had breakfast. We sat there until they practically closed the place. We just kept talking over coffee. We came home and I was stunned when I let him kiss me goodnight. I’ll never forget the way he had his hands on my arms; it made me feel safe for the first time in a long time. After that, he would stop by my house to see me everyday after work.
We dated from the 19th of February until we were married on the 27th of April. It was such a whirlwind courtship, and we were very much in love. One should never doubt that they could love after they’ve lost. There’s a song called, “Love is More Beautiful the Second Time Around.” This is true but not because it wasn’t as beautiful the first time, but because, for me, I learned so much about myself. Once I lost my first love, it helped to see what I did wrong so I could learn from my mistakes and make the second love even more beautiful. It made me think that maybe I shouldn’t have made such a big deal out of Milton going to play golf instead of going to church with me. I should have been more patient with him. I should not have complained about having to cook dinner for his clients at the last minute because once he was gone, I actually missed those kinds of things and I wished I hadn’t been so hard on him. That’s why the second time I learned from my mistakes.
When I married Herb he would do the same thing. He would call and say “Vonnie, listen, so-and-so’s in town from Europe and we’re going out to dinner tonight. Can you be ready for six thirty?” Then I would look around the house and by then I had eight kids. I would think, “I cant handle this,” but I did it because I remembered the times when Milton wanted me to do things and how I wished he would have been more excepting of what he was asking me to do.
To get back to when Herb and I were married, we went to Jamaica on our honeymoon. His mother kept his children and my mother kept my children. We even each made a hand written will that if anything happened to us, each of those children would be taken care of by our designated parents. We told everyone we were coming home on the Friday, but we really came home on the day before, on Thursday. We wanted to be in our new house by ourselves. We had to buy this house with some of the money that Milton had left for me. We didn’t have much.
Herb told me, “Well, I just don’t know how we are going to manage.”
Then I told him, “You know what? We’re going to manage because if we don’t have a place big enough for these children to get along, they’re not going to get along. We need more space.” When I said space, I meant… Slayton, Billy, and Johnny shared a room. Kent and Wayne shared a room. Anne and Lori shared a room. Everyone shared a room.
Steven, by the way, was our 9th child. Herb and I had Steven together. About a month after we got back from our honeymoon was when I got pregnant with Steven. Everyone told me, “Don’t you know Eight is Enough?” which was a very popular television show back then. Well, nine has been my lucky number all my life. I used to wish the Metairie bus would have the number nine on it where it said the number of the bus. I used to hope for it because I knew that if I got on that bus something good was going to happen. Herb and I chose to get married on the 27th of April because two and seven makes nine. Nine is still my lucky number.
Anyhow, when we came home that night there were boxes all over the place. Herb’s mother and father and my mother and father had moved us into our house while we were gone. They put some things away but not everything. There were pictures piled up everywhere so we had made a collage of the pictures. The collage is still hanging up in my kitchen today. It contained pictures of the kids with Milton and Maryanne, their grandparents, and with Herb and me. There were none of Milton and I together and none of Maryanne and Herb together. We did this because we wanted to establish Herb and I as the mother and father of the family. Not that we wanted to take anything away from the others but we wanted that image. We wanted all nine of the children to know that we were the mother and father of the household and we loved them just as much as their previous mother and father had loved them. We also wanted them to know that we were going to be one united family. I also wanted to keep the collage up so we could have the picture of Milton for my children to see and I wanted Mary Anne’s picture up for her children to see. I wanted the kids to know that they all had a mother or father in heaven watching over them. That’s just where I’m coming from because every year I grow older I realize how important Jesus is in life.
When we told the kids that we were going to be married, my son Slayton said, “Momma, im glad you’re marrying Mr. Thurber cause I know you like him, but I’m never gonna call him dad. I have one daddy and that’s the only daddy I have.”
I told him, “Slayton, don’t worry about that, just don’t call him Mr. Thurber. You can call him Herb.” Then, on the morning after we were home from Jamaica, I got up and called my mother’s house. Slayton answered the phone.
When he answered, he said to my mother, “Momma and daddy are back home!” then he said, “Can I talk to dad?” and it was at that moment that Herb became dad to my four kids.
A few months later, I asked Slayton, “When did you decide that you were going to call Herb dad?”
He answered, “Momma, remember when we went to that fishing camp…? Well remember when I picked…well I didn’t really pick the fight, but, Billy and I were fighting… but daddy said I picked the fight. So dad said, ‘come on out here.’?”
I said, “Yes, I remember it very well. Daddy said to bend over on the trunk of the car and he took his hand and whopped you three times on the bottom.”
Slayton said, “I was just so mad at him I wanted to run away, but then Billy started laughing and daddy said, ‘It’s your turn Bill, we don’t laugh when our brother is being punished.’ when he told Billy that I was his brother, that’s when I knew he was my daddy.”
Herb and I had a wonderful life together. We got to travel to many places like Holland, Austria, Germany, and many others with his business. We made traveling a theme of our life because we loved it and we had to do it to see out kids because all nine of them became very successful and spread out across the globe. My loving, successful family was only possible because of Herb. We were always referred to as the “Finger-Thurber Family.” We were “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” We were very happy, but recently, Herb had been having problems with his back. He had surgeries and things like that, but when he really fell sick, he contracted cancer. It settled on the eighth vertebrate of his spine. I will never forget on July 3rd, 2008, when got out of bed and collapsed. He was then paralyzed from the waste down. Not even a year later, on April 3rd, 2009, he passed away.
I am only making it now because of what I have learned through the years. One thing I have learned is that if God leaves you here on earth, it’s for a reason. In my case, I guess it’s to correct all the things I have done wrong, but I am having trouble remembering what they all were. I do know that God didn’t leave me here to make my family or anyone else unhappy so there is no point in being miserable. Everyone says, “Vonnie, you’re dealing with this so well. You’re doing so good,” but why wouldn’t I do good? Looking back at it all, I have had such a great life. Life has given me so much that a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to have. To have loved and lost, and then to have the opportunity to love again and have it last forty-one great years is truly a blessing.
There are no limits to love. The heart knows no limits to love because God gives you that love. Things that happen to you, that might have not been perfect are still a good part of your life because they make you who you are and you learn from them. We’re constantly growing. And in growing, we change, and that’s where we have the control to change for the better or the worse. You can’t take the past with you. You can remember it, but there’s no point in remembering anything but the good things unless the unpleasant things teach you a lesson.





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Julie123 said...
Jun. 3, 2010 at 10:45 pm

What an inspiring story! It truly makes all of the trivial things that happen in our day to day lives seem so, well... trivial.

Thank you Heidi and thank YOU Vonnie, for sharing this intimate peek into such a beautiful life!

 
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