Life Without Parole #2
Based on true and actual events, this is the story of Sarah and Jeremiah (not real names), in their effort to create a life together.
It's not every day that you meet a couple like Sarah and Jeremy, the kind who bring to life the phrase, opposites attract. As I flipped through thirty-year-old photographs in the couple's living room, I couldn't help but notice how good they looked together. She had a waist line you could wrap your fingers around and he had a smile that lit up other people's faces. Theirs was a love grown in a time of economic instability and disco music. He was a scientist by day and deejay by night, she was a social worker, turned teacher, turned smitten girlfriend; and all they had was each other.
Sarah's is a strong personality and as my parents' long time friend, I recalled her eagerness to tell her story and counsel me about marriage when I approached her about doing this profile piece. Jeremiah on the other hand, being somewhat of a hermit had asked me to call him another day to make an appointment. He had since been avoiding me. I gathered it wasn't as easy for him to talk about his marriage. He seemed skeptical until I assured him that their real names wouldn't make it to print – they would remain anonymous. Thankfully, upon my fifth attempt to reach him, he obliged over the phone so we made an appointment for later in the week. I felt all tingly with excitement – he wasn't an easy man to find or crack for that matter. I concluded I was something of a ninja in that regard.
I shifted my body to face Sarah as she handed me a cup of tea and sat down to tell me her story. When they met, she was young, naive and in love with another man, she recounted, a true daughter of the highlands. When Jeremy walked into her life, she was engaged to be married to a rich man ten years her senior and with him, security and certainty were a given. Jeremy was based in Nakuru, Kenya at the time, working as a scientist at the marines. He had done all there was to do – sown his wild oats and after much restraint, he had decided to give in to his friends' suggestions that he settle down. Of course, as tradition dictated, they preferred he take a wife from his own tribe. After some searching, they pointed him across the border to Tanzania where Sarah was, twenty-two and engaged. She's about to get married, he complained, but his friends didn't care, knowing that even a ring on a woman's finger had never stopped him before.
Being a man who never turned down an adventure, Jeremy jumped on a train and headed to the girl's hall at the university in Tanzania. Laden with a kilo of sugar, some margarine and wheat flour, he followed a friend of his to her room under the guise of being an escort. He liked her appearance at first glance, and even though he didn't believe he was a one-woman man, he could see it working with this one. Sarah and her roommate graciously accepted the gifts, but little did she know that those were the first of many to follow. And so, the courting began. He charmed her, and in no time, her heart was his. Even though she knew he didn't have very much, she knew they'd be happy together. So she eloped with him to Kenya and they started a life there. They were happy, taking walks along the beach, attending disco nights and living in simplicity.
Even after their first two children, Sarah and Jeremy were still experiencing what they had come to believe was a prolonged honeymoon. They grew more in love with every year they spent together. She couldn't believe her life was as beautiful as it was. He was the perfect gentleman, helping her in the kitchen, with the kids and nursing her when she fell sick. He supported her in her career and gently advised her on a number of things. He surprised her one sunny Wednesday morning when he showed up at the door of a class she was teaching, proposing that she become his legal wife at the chief magistrate's office. She said yes. They were married that day in the presence of a court judge, his assistant and four of their best friends at the time. After that, they had a small lunch to celebrate and they went back to work. There was no honeymoon. They were happy.
Thirty years down the road and I am seated with Sarah looking at the smile on her face as she tells their story. She turns to me and adds – it hasn't been easy since we got back. The move back to Tanzania, took its toll on their marriage. With no jobs and nowhere to live, they found themselves dependent upon the kindness of friends and relatives. It was hard and brought out the worst in them, as they fought over finances and nagging relatives, and Jeremy turned to his alcohol and womanizing for comfort. It got a little easier as they started to grow their careers, spending less and less time together, which meant less fighting. He wasn't a model husband all the time. He cheated on her, lied to her half the time and even hit her once or twice. She wasn't a model wife either, always complaining and constantly telling him what he was doing wrong. She slowly turned into the cliché nagging wife. Life's pressures were taking their toll and they were growing apart.
If it hadn't been for their teenage son's near-fatal illness, Sarah and Jeremy would have been like strangers in their own home. Having to deal with Jason's chronic depression forced them to work as a team as they tried to figure out ways in which to help him get better. The idea that their son had tried to commit suicide and almost succeeded under their watch broke their hearts. In the midst of that challenge, they found God. When Sarah met God, she held on for dear life and to this day, she speaks of not much else in every area of her life. She believes God healed her son and took him out of that dark place. Jeremiah believes it too.
Their marriage never really survived the move back to their home country. For them both, their children are their joy and sole reason for living. Sarah believes she did the right thing in staying with Jerry. They're still friends, and even though he still cheats, at least he doesn't flaunt it in her face. His excuse – he's a work in progress and all men cheat. Jeremy says he doesn't look at Sarah the way a man is supposed to look at his wife. He says he can't help it. Maybe he simply fell out of love.
Where this couple is concerned, it is life without parole.