A Love Story
Just reading the words ‘love story’ gets you kind of warm and fuzzy inside, verdad que si? I love to hear about the sweet connection of two young lovers.
I met Lynnda in church. I was a new wife and a soon to be mother whom God saw fit to link to his new child. She had walked in from the hail of self destruction. After 20 years, her marriage had derailed. In a way, grew up together together. Joe and Lynda helped Ben and I through the transition out of military life, we helped them take the baby steps towards Gods word and healthy family life. There a beautiful friendship formed.
With their permission, I want to share a glimpse of their incredible journey. The story of a strong and seasoned couple who stayed in the battle and fought for their love. For better or worse, for rich or poor, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.
Joe and Lynda were two kids in a sea of dysfunction. Alcohol, drunkenness, promiscuity and somewhere was an unseen God that they knew of but hadn’t experienced. All around them, young people took their personal freedom into boundless levels. They witnessed their peers delving into drugs, alchohol and sex, perhaps the unseen God kept them from it all?
Lynndas mother was caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. Her children went to live with their grandmother. It was a crowded home where she saw and experienced the pain of addiction all around her. Yet, it was in this home where she received love and protection from her grandmother and her tias. When Lynnda shares her childhood memories, it’s never with anger or bitterness for not having her mother around. Her stories are always confident accounts of a grandmother who loved her and her siblings. She always has a twinkle in her eyes when she tells of her tia’s protection. “I was tia Linda’s favorite,” she says. It would later be God’s providence that Lynnda would one day care for her elderly tia Tencha and help her through that difficult passage from life to death.
Joe had a huge family. They lived in the projects until his parents were able to purchase a two-bedroom house, not far from Lynndas grandmothers home. In this house they raised their thirteen children. As I write this I can feel the walls closing in around me!
Love At First Sight
Love happened so suddenly for Lynnda.
Education in itself held no kind special pleasure for my friend, though she did enjoy social studies. What happened and who it happened with was very interesting to her. She also enjoyed the time spent between and after classes😁. Joe passed her one day between classes, he smiled with his eyes. That lingering look sealed their fate! Somehow she knew that he would be her husband one day.
This next part is perhaps my favorite part of their young love story. On the school bus, Joe came bumping down the aisle of the bus and stopped at her seat. He looked at Lynnda and blurted out to another girl that was chasing him “She” pointing to Lynnda, “is my girlfriend!” Lynnda covered her surprise and graciously snuggled up to the proposition. From that day on, she was Joe’s girl and they were inseparable.
Woven into their puppy love were the struggles and tragedies at home that they did not know how to cope with. What was Lynnda supposed to do when her only sister chose to walk in their mother’s shoes? While, at Joe’s house, the lack of privacy in the two-bedroom house seemed to suffocate him. They ignored what they saw in their homelife and focused on what they felt, each other. It was what it was.
Lynnda focused on Joe, Joe focused on Lynnda. School days were mundane. She dropped out and together they got him through his high school with a diploma.
With diploma in hand, he immediately went to look for work. A job in a hotel as a dishwasher, equipped him for the next step. What was the next step? He took Lynnda to the courthouse. They weren’t sure about anything but each other, so they were married. As husband and wife, they could finally consummate their desire that burst at the seams.
But there would be no honeymoon. Reality slapped them in the face, dissolving their puppy love. The newlyweds went to live with her grandmother. Ten people living in the small three-bedroom house, something Joe cringed at. No car, not enough money, and no privacy, their existence became a battlefield! The drama of extended family, fueled their own discontent.
They were sure that moving would give them peace, but it eluded them.
While Joe washed dishes at the hotel, he convinced himself that joining the Army would solve his marital problems that seemed to be suffocating him. He went to the recruiting office to take the test to join the Army but failed; twice. Then, the recruiter enticed him with Navy life and presented him with a different test that he was sure to pass. Joe grabbed it, his ticket out of town and the break he and Lynnda so desperately needed. Before he knew it, he was off to boot camp and Lynnda went back to her grandmother’s house, pregnant and alone.
With three hundred other sailors, Joe set sail on the destroyer ship called the U.S.S. Tattnall. The Mediterranean deployment consisted of four ships that were present in the high seas to protect the carriers. Six months at sea were long and lonely for the young sailor, he ached for his wife and solid ground. When the ship entered port Joe and his buddy wandered eagerly into the city. They took in the foreign sights and smells, the fast language stirred their curiosity, while the sensual women in their craft pulled them with their eyes and into the night they lingered.
The West Pac behind them, Joe sought his wife. Their long separation had re-ignited their youthful lust for one another, their baby in her womb did not hamper their enthusiasm.
A dark cloud loomed over Lynnda as Joe’s buddy carelessly spoke about the things they experienced overseas and Lynndas innocent joy went out into the night. She imploded. He had betrayed their love. Why? Was this expected of all sailors? Every detail that Joes friend blurted out burned into her mind. She calculated his violations. Anger steered her course. They were plunged into a downward spiral that continued for almost two decades leaving them bound in rejection, bitterness, and regret.
Sunny San Diego… and Rock Bottom
Military life had landed them in beautiful San Diego. They now had three kids and they brought along the baggage of violations, financial woes, west pac separations, and unending heartbreak. Their marriage was a carcass ravaged by their own ignorant decisions, yet she never spoke of divorce.
Joe pointed his finger at Lynnda and was ready to give up but she stubbornly clung to the dry scattered bones of her marriage and life. Was it possible to love and hate so much? Joe was numb, nineteen years of their foolishness had depleted him of any hope so he was walking away.
Lynnda was desperate for relief and answers. She sought solace with her friend who always offered the same solution: alcohol and men. She knew that was no solution but she went anyway. As she drove across the city, the bright lights of the Coronado bridge called out to her. Loneliness and despair squeezed her as she heard death call her. “Look, you can stand up there and you won’t fall”. Going to Coronado Island would bring peace and the bridge was so inviting. The closer she got the stronger the voice was; “There’s a ledge, you can stand on it and you won’t fall” again the voice lured her, “Stand on the ledge, you won’t fall.” She would go to the bridge. “Yes, go, stand on the ledge, it’s safe enough…but, if you do fall, you’ll be ok”. OK!? She sneered as the bright lights of the bridge twinkled. She did not want to be ok! She wanted to be done, like Joe was! She drove on crying and babbling passing the bridge. In her despair she argued with God, justifying this solution, but he was silent. The silence only grounded her desire and decision to end it all.
Then, in all his mystery and splendor God silently took the wheel. Lynnda knew not how or why she drove on past one exit, and then the next, until she was parked in front of the small storefront Christian church her co-worker attended. Why was she there? Arise, and go down to the Potters House and there I will cause thee to hear my words. It wasn’t truly a church, nor was it Sunday. Lynnda heard words of hope and restoration. Could completely destroyed lives be restored? She opened her heart to the Gospel message, good news that promised to heal the hurt and pain of the past 20 years. With one simple act of humility, a prayer of repentance she was a new woman. The burdens lifted, not necessarily gone, but now they were in able hands.
There was much debri to be cleaned up, especially since they would sail on in military life. This time, the long separation of Desert Storm would be maneuvered with God at the helm. Their marriage was rescued as Joe saw his new woman changing before his eyes. God created “a path in the wilderness and a stream in the desert.”
If you or someone you love is dealing with suicidal thoughts, please don’t suffer in silence. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
Thirty years have passed since that fateful night Lynnda passed the Coronado Bridge. I have incredible respect and appreciation for my friends, especially since I considered military life an impossible task to survive and thrive in. I cringe at separations, even the short ones. Life alone without my Orejon…
Love isn’t always pretty or sweet but in God’s hands, Joe & Lynndas love story has endured and blessed God himself for more than fifty years.