We met up in ‘Gascoignes’ (now renamed ‘Haworth Steam Brewery’) and over the following hour, we chatted and swapped stories. I would have to say that the conversation between us was far from any exchange of ‘small talk’. It was stimulating, interesting, and quickly told me that the woman I was with was no man’s fool. I could sense her strength of character, along with her depth of thought, and I was left with much more than a hint of having met somebody who was my equal in every sense of the word. I mention Sheila’s strength of character, as such a trait has always been essential in any woman I have ever loved. I have always known that only a strong woman could possibly live with me and that my own strength of character would crush a more gentle female.
I am the oldest of seven children, born to the most independent father the world has ever known. In addition, my early life experiences at the age of eleven years (when I incurred several life-threatening injuries after a wagon ran over me, leaving me at death’s door for a month) and then being unable to walk for three years after my hospital discharge, had also placed me on a path of losing the remainder of my childhood for the following seven years whilst I learned numerous survival skills. My seven-year programme of physical self-improvement after my hospital discharge at the age of 12 years forced me to grow up before my time and to become as independent and as strong a personality as my father was before me. I can truthfully say that by the age of 18 years, I ruled the world that I walked in, I bowed to no one, and while I offered appropriate deference whenever necessary, I placed or respected nobody above or below myself.
For the remainder of my life after my 18th year, I determined to go where I wanted, do what I wanted when I wanted to do it, and with whom. Although such a declaration of independence was selfish in large measure, I nevertheless managed this. By the age of 26 years, I was a mill manager on nights, earning over double the national average wage, and had the brightest of prospects to look forward to after my imminent marriage.
Unconsciously, ever since my 18th year of life, and in my selection of lovers, I have always been attracted to powerful women of strong character and had no time for any other type of female relationship however physically attractive she was, or however wealthy or influential. The reason for this pre-requisite was that no relationship I ever established with any woman would have worked if they were unable to withstand my own strength of character within it! Less than five minutes in Sheila’s presence told me that she fitted into ‘my strong woman category’, and that assessment alone naturally increased my interest in her.
Sheila had been widowed three years earlier and had obviously had to readjust to the difficulty of sorting out business interests and putting her future affairs on an even keel after she had been left to face life alone. She had become a Yoga instructor during the years of early widowhood and was the fittest of women in every regard. My own history in Relaxation Training, allied to our mutual interest in all manner of ‘alternative medicine’, and ‘alternative health methods’ conveniently dovetailed and enabled us to keep our conscious thoughts initially on more practical matters being discussed.
From our very first meeting in Haworth, I knew that this woman (who is fourteen years younger than me and could easily pass for being another ten years younger than she actually was) would be a force in my life that I could not ignore. The impact she had made on me was significant and mutual, and over the next ten days, we spoke on the phone and internet as much of the day that was possible. Having held the prize during my romantic years between the ages of 18-26 for the number of times a person was able to ‘fall in love’, I could not fail to be aware that I was ‘falling in love’ again. I did find the situation strange, I must confess. Here I was at the age of 68 years, and there was Sheila at the age of 54 years (and looking no older than a 40-year-old woman). Neither of us had been consciously looking for love, but found it unsuspectedly in the unfolding company of each other on a cold December afternoon, 2010.
Around one week after our first meeting, Sheila revealed the accuracy of my assessment in her confidence and strength of character when she messaged me, saying that she had ‘fallen in love with me’. In truth, her message came as no surprise to me, as it mirrored the same conclusion which I had arrived at, having wrestled with the same thought for the entire week after our first meeting in Haworth. However, the fact that Sheila spoke the words first, confirmed her as being a strong and confident woman of good taste and discernment in the male department of picking a husband, besides merely endearing me to her more. As Sheila had been the first between us to reveal her boldness of purpose and inner strengths, I felt it only right that she ought to pay for the wedding licence, which she duly did.
I have not the slightest doubt today that our first meeting in Haworth on December 15th, 2010 was ‘destiny’, and that our following meeting pre-Christmas 2010 that we spent together was an ‘opportunity’ neither of us wanted to go unwasted. As for our marriage in Haworth on November 10th, 2012 (my 70 birthday), that beautiful ceremony was nothing less than the triumph of love in the making between two strong individuals of like mind and similar interests who were unafraid to publicly express their love for each other in the respective summer and autumn of their lives, by looking into each other’s eyes as they declared, “I do!” The rest is history, as they say.
On this tenth anniversary of THE FIRST DAY WE MET, I say to my wonderful wife Sheila, that since the first day we ever met, you have changed the course of my universe. The remainder of my earthly life exists to serve you, and should we be fated to be together in another world at another time, I will know that our lives (like our world) rotate on an axis of love that is eternal in its orbit of human affection.
Sheila, you gave me your hand in marriage (please note that you bought the wedding licence which I did not pay for), you have provided me with the happiest decade of my life, you have been my first and last thought at the start and end of every day we have been together, you are my beautiful wife, and I know you will be my ‘best love’ and my last woman with whom I shall ever ’fall in love’ and 'be in love' with.
No words better describe what I truly feel for you today than saying, “I love you, Sheila Forde’.
Love and peace Bill xxx