Last Kiss: A widower's story of a loving couple's life

 
By Ken Channer
Straight from the Source
Inverness
Updated 4/24/2018 9:56 AM
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  • Ken Channer of Inverness and his late wife, Michele, on their wedding day in 1970.

    Ken Channer of Inverness and his late wife, Michele, on their wedding day in 1970. Courtesy of the Channer family

Posted on Facebook near my birthday last summer:

In a few days it will be my birthday. I will be 70 years old and, sorry kids, but I do not care.

This does not mean I don't care about important dates in my life. I care about my kids' birthdays (sometimes I need a reminder). I care about my grandkids' birthdays. I care about Michele's birthday and our wedding anniversary. Plus one all-important date. We did not make a big deal about it, but we both knew it. That was June 5, 1964, when my best friend, Jeff, set me up on a blind date. It would be my first date of any kind with a girl. I was just very shy.

We went bowling, had a great time, but I still messed up my first kiss good night, crossing up our arms.

After that day, I never went out with another girl in my life. She was very good-looking, though I did not like her hairstyle, which changed almost overnight to one I liked without me ever saying a word.

We went out like everyone else did, to movies, dancing at the Cellar and Purple Onion, went for long drives to several so-called lover's lanes and spent lots of time at her house watching TV, cooking and just getting to know each other.

It did not take long for me to fall and fall hard for this wonderful young lady.

When I gave her my class ring, before I knew what I was saying, I told her I wanted her to wear it until I could replace it with one with a diamond. I thought to myself, "Do you know what you just said?" After I let it sink in for a second, I knew I meant it and that is why it just came out.

For our first year and a half, we just took baby steps getting to know and learn about each other. One night, we changed from a baby step to a big step, and since we were young, stupid and unlucky, Michele got pregnant.

Our parents stepped in fast to put us on a course they told us was best. I would go to college. Michele would be kept out of school until the baby came and would be put up for adoption. (Things like this just did not happen to nice girls in the '60s.) After that, the best thing would be for us to each go on with our lives and not see each other again, as we were just kids and it was just puppy love.

In the fall when I had my first chance to come home from my first year in college after the baby was born, all I wanted was to see Michele. Her dad said no, but I begged and pleaded and cried until they gave in. That was it. We were back together again forever.

In 1970, we got married. It was wonderful. I still had one more term to finish school, but that was great just being together all the time. When school finished, we got our first apartment on Cater Street across from the Palatine train station.

After a couple years, we got our first house on Benton Street just a block from the old high school. Then in 1975, we had our first daughter, and life just could not get better.

In 1978, we bought my best friend Jeff's parents' house in Inverness, and then in 1979, along came daughter No. 2 and life was even better, followed in 1985 by daughter No. 3, and I finally had one that loved playing baseball with me.

I don't want you to think life was always perfect. I had some major heath problems along the way, I just don't think they are important for this story.

When I was healthy, which was most of the time, life was good. No, very good. A wife I loved every minute of every day. (OK, sometimes, we had little fights.) Kids that gave me 15 straight years of Indian Princesses (loved every minute of it) swim meets, hundreds of softball games.

A photo from the 1970 wedding day of Ken Channer of Inverness and his late wife, Michele.
A photo from the 1970 wedding day of Ken Channer of Inverness and his late wife, Michele. - Courtesy of the Channer family

Everything was great, but there was one thing missing: Baby No. 1.

I was the soft one in this area; after 30 years it was still with me, and I just wanted to know he was OK and had a good life.

Michele had looked at the paperwork when no one was looking and knew the names of the couple that got "Bill." I then went to work trying to track them down. Took about a month, but I found them, called and asked if I could meet them. Thought I should tell them of my health problem. Said I would never try and see "Bill" if that was not OK with them.

We met. They were a great couple who had three kids the same way. They asked me if I was married; I said yes. Asked if I had kids; I said I had three daughters.

I can still remember as clear as a bell when she said "Oh, Bill has three half-sisters" and the gasp that came from her when I said, "No, Bill has three full sisters."

Not to spend too much time here, but Bill became a big part of our lives and even bigger part of his three sisters' lives.

Now life moves forward about 20-plus years. Michele and I have both had some health problems. But with my heart problems starting at 37, I think we always assumed I would go first. I said to myself I would be happy to just watch the girls grow up safe and be happy.

But in December 2016, Michele started breathing funny whenever she tried moving around. We went to the doctors right away. They sent us to the hospital, and after a few days of tests, we found out Michele had cancer all over.

Tears have not stopped since that time.

She was gone the next month. And while I have great kids all around, I have never felt so lost and alone.

They have told me I should talk to somebody about it, and that is sort of why I am writing this, to see if it will help with the heart pain I feel.

I found out when Michele was in the hospital that I, too, have cancer, but in my case, it was just in my bladder, which is now gone.

Every night when I go to bed, I think of Michele and our early years, of us falling in love, and I never want that to change. I just wish I could sleep a little better.

In closing, I want to thank my wonderful children. Without them, I don't think I could go on, I love you all very much forever and a day.

Thank you to all of you that have bothered to read all this and get to know me better. Take hold of your loved ones, hold them tight and remember every touch.

Last Kiss rose

THE LAST KISS SERIES

Patty & Corey: The Heartbreak.

Diana & Joe: A widow's advice: Embrace bereavement, don't avoid it A Straight From the Source story.

Janice & Joe A story of someday A Straight From the Source story

Janice & Joe Five lessons I've learned so far A Straight From the Source story

Patty & Corey: The Love Story.

Patricia & Tim: A widow cherishes the memories of her warrior A Straight From the Source story

Bill & Marian: A love that lives in dreams A Straight From the Source story

Dennis & Maggie: I reread her letters, I played her favorite songs A Straight From the Source story

Dennis & Maggie: Just Let Me Talk A Straight From the Source story

Patty & Corey: A widow wishes she had asked for one more kiss.

Patty & Corey: A widow's mission to sustain her husband's barbershop.

Donald & Helen: A widower's essay becomes his daughter's short film A Straight From the Source story

Susan & Guy: A widow's guide to dealing with the loss of a spouse A Straight From the Source story

Ted & Donna A widower's plan to count his blessing at times of deepest grief A Straight From the Source story

Fred & Beverly: Unique and Devastating Loss (by Wifeless) A Straight From the Source story

Last Kiss Epilogue: Some widows heal from grief by healing others

Ken & Michele: A widower's story of a loving couple's life A Straight From the Source story

Stories of loss from our readers


For more on the series, please click here.


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