Caussey's Corner

The Wonder of JoAnn’s Smile: Finding Love After Heartbreak

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We were married for 22 years, and raised three kids who are now married with children of their own. Then we divorced.

Most things and people that were important to me were lost. The next two years were spent on the streets of Fort Worth. I lived under the overpass of Jones Avenue for some time, before packing my garbage bag and moving into a hobo camp in the high grass near Seminar Drive and the railroad tracks.

I was broken, because I had somehow failed at the most important thing in life. My marriage. I was haunted by remorse.

I worked steadily, doing odd jobs in construction and other things that would bring in a little money. During that time I was never arrested, never begged for money, or stole anything. Drugs and alcohol were never used, but What-a-Burger and Kroger’s measured much of my buying attention.

The Wonder of JoAnn’s Smile: Finding Love After Heartbreak

Photo: @doondevil via Twenty20

I got a job driving a cab for a while. Living in that cab allowed me to save enough money to rent a room at the Salvation Army.

Finally, after tiring of self-pity, I applied for and got a job teaching special needs children in Dallas, Texas. The principal was most pleased to hire me. I had already taught for over a decade with excellent credentials, and hoped to finish my PhD at North Texas State in the next few years.

I told him everything about being divorced, admitting that I took responsibility for my part in the failure of the marriage. I could understand should he wish to withdraw the job offer.

He stood, smiled and said, “See you Monday morning.”

For the next five years I taught fifth grade self-contained special needs classes during the day, and night classes at Brookhaven Community College.

The Wonder of JoAnn’s Smile: Finding Love After Heartbreak

Photo: @richard.p.mars via Twenty20

Then I was offered an opportunity to become a special education supervisor. I moved to South Dallas and worked for the school system while teaching night classes at Mountain View Community College.

In a twinkling of an eye you can lose everything that is important to you. People will disappoint you, discourage you, rebuff you and forget about you. Why? Because they are just people.

During these two decades of being alone, I dated occasionally, but never really met anyone special. I never felt alone or desperate, but admittedly wanted someone in my life. But she would definitely have to be special.

I discovered if a man could cook and clean, enjoyed reading, and liked listening, loved the theatre, wore matching socks, bathed, possessed spiritual overtones, was gainfully employed, able to tolerate some pets, and was attentive, there was definitely a possibility in finding a soul mate.

The Wonder of JoAnn’s Smile: Finding Love After Heartbreak

Photo: @clarebevanphotography via Twenty20

I joined a singles class at the local Methodist Church. There were about 120 women and 12 guys. For two years I never felt so appreciated in my whole life.

I quit the singles class and started working Sundays at the local Albertson Grocery Store. I managed the specialty aisle. It consisted of items like tobacco products, perfumes, baby formula, jewelry, and watches, etc.

One morning at work I looked up just in time to see the most beautiful lady walk in. She headed toward my aisle. My heart leaped so high that I developed chest pains. Our eyes met and she smiled at me. It was the most wonderful, enriching expression. I was so excited I knocked over a stack of fruit cocktail.

By the time I had chased down all the rolling cans of fruit, she had disappeared.

The Wonder of JoAnn’s Smile: Finding Love After Heartbreak

Photo: @andreyyalansky19 via Twenty20

I waited breathlessly for the next Sunday. I staked out the front door pretending to stack the dog food. I saw her approaching the front door. With only one more 25-pound bag left to stack, I heaved it high toward the top back stack. I turned just as she came through the door. She smiled but just as I attempted to return the smile, the dog food stack collapsed. This caused dozens of bags of Kibble & Bits and Purina Dog Chow to fall on the floor, scattering the dog food down three aisles and temporarily blocking the front door.

Before I could scoop up pounds of dog food, quieten crying children, assure adults that there was no bomb, and convince the manager I had not been into Sunday’s Sacramental wine, she had disappeared.

I thought the next Sunday would never come. I stood in the center aisle, so I could see the front door. I kept my hands in my pocket, and ignored anything that was packaged in plastic or glass.

I thought about the lady with the smile the whole week. She looked to be trim, 5 feet six inches tall, with short dark hair and about my age. Each time I saw her she appeared to be focused and on a mission.

The Wonder of JoAnn’s Smile: Finding Love After Heartbreak

Photo: @meandering_mari via Twenty20

Next time I would be ready. I practiced making eye contact, repeating a warm greeting while smiling broadly.

Suddenly she appeared and smiled. Embracing the warmth of her smile and gentle brown eyes, I stepped back, tripped on my apron strings, managing to pull down a rack of commode deodorizers. I quickly got up, announcing that tuna was on sale for 89 cents.

Well, things got better after that. And for the next 23 years I have been smiling broadly. We live a wonderful life. We are both writers. She is the love of my life and my best friend.

Sometimes I get up early just to watch her sleep. Then I awaken her. When she opens her eyes, she smiles. All through the day I bathe in the richness of her smiles.

I strongly believe there is a God and a place called Heaven. Should I lose her and am fortunate to make it to Heaven, I just know she will be there to greet me with that heavenly smile.

I will completely understand if the other angels are a little aloof. After all there are always clouds to trip over and harps to break.

Durhl Caussey is a syndicated columnist. He may be reached at this outlet or [email protected]