Though this poem was written for another love in another chapter of my life, the photo I have chosen to place with it is of me and my only real true love, Stuart Felker. If I am honest, he is the only man that has ever truly loved me.
Stu was always in my life. His family was a prominent family in Mt. Morris, IL were we grew up. Stu's grandparents owned Felker's Pharmacy that was passed down through the generations. When I was young, Stu's dad Albert was the Pharmacist. The night after my high school graduation, I was making the rounds to graduation parties. When I drove up to Dan Van Scotter's house, there was Stu. He was on his skate board with a 12-pack of Old Style under his arm headed toward Ogle Ave on E. Lincoln Street. Stu used to call Old Style beer, "Old Smile." Though I had known him all of my life, something in my heart just smiled that night. Within days we were dating and he was my first real boyfriend.
Stu was going to school in Boulder, CO at CU-Boulder and headed int his senior year of Pharmacy School. Stu felt a family obligation as the eldest son to follow the family legacy. He was my mountain man. We had a fun summer full of storm parties, Felker Lake parties, and Old Smile. When the fall came, I went off to Blackburn College for my freshman year, Stu went back to Colorado. We broke up before Christmas because Stu started dating a girl someone at CU.
My family moved to Paw Paw, IL the summer after my freshman year in college in 1980. In the fall, I started attending Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. I was a commuter student for the fall and spring semesters. After a summer class digging at an archeological site near the Mississippi, I moved just a block off campus on to Central Avenue for the summer semester. The big yellow house was split into two apartments and I lived in the upstairs unit. I loved that apartment and the new found freedom of living just off campus and in the DeKalb college town life. It was the first time in my life I had a bedroom just to myself.
The Forth of July is always a big deal in Mt. Morris. That summer I went over to join the festivities as it is also considered Alumni time. There is an annual Alumni Dance and many people come home for the holiday. I ran into Stu at some party and we began dating again the following week. The photo above is from that summer of love in 1981. Once again though the relationship did not last. In January of 1982 we broke up again. He started dating a girl from Oregon. I was very committed to my Anthropology studies and working 15 hours on campus at the Admissions Office. I grieved but something shut my heart and did not date again until I lived in California.
When I graduated, I fulfilled my teenage proclamation to live in San Francisco. At 14 on a family vacation, on the steps of The Cannery at Fisherman's Wharf in the summer of 1975, I folded my arms like any teen and told my parents, "This is where I am going to live when I am an adult." I can even describe my outfit – purple elephant legged pants, a gauzy purple shirt with a soft Chinese print, a purple cable button down sweater (it was July and foggy) a pukka shell necklace and wooden platform sandals. I had waited until I got my degree to go however because I was paying for school myself and it was cheaper to get an education in Illinois. Once that summer was over, I bought my sister's red Chevy Luv truck, packed the back with my DeKalb seed company flying ear of corn sign in the back camper window and went west to seek my fame and fortune. (And, those I am still believe are before me 😉!).
Stu had settled in to his life as a pharmacist in Mt. Morris. In 1985 I was working at The Union Street Inn in San Francisco as a hostess. I still remember the call I got when my sister phoned to tell me Stu had brain cancer. It was in his frontal lobe, they had done surgery and he was in recovery. I was heart broken. He was still the love of my life. I rarely dated but had tried to move on but we all only have one first love.
In 1985 to 1986, my siblings, with the great wisdom of my parents, were living in Amboy, IL. My brother had wanted to play high school football and Paw Paw only had a soccer team. Lucky for him, Amboy even won the state championship that year. During Christmas, they had a party that friends from Mt. Morris came down to. There are other stories to tell from that night but the most important one was Stu came. The very next day he showed up unannounced at my parents house in Paw Paw. Once again, we were on.
That year we did what I called 'The Cross Country Waltz' and even met for a fun adventure camping in Colorado. During the second year I was getting weary of the distance and I began to push Stu to commit. I wanted to return to Illinois. I wanted to go to graduate school at NIU and I would be able to commute from Mt. Morris. Stu was hesitant. He wanted me to wait to move back from San Francisco where I had a life I loved until he was 5 years free of cancer. By September, I could not do it any more so I broke up with him.
In November, Stu had his annual appointment with his doctor and MRI. The cancer was back. He wanted Stu to wait until after the holidays to do the surgery. Stu listened and waited. In January, he found out the cancer had doubled in size and the surgeon did not want to perform the risky procedure. Stu insisted that he have surgery to remove the tumor.
That summer Stu was my date for my 10 year high school reunion. We were still dear to each other. However, I still had longing in my heart and it always skipped a beat when I heard him call me Sweet Sal.
Stu died in December of 1989. I was incredibly busy with my real estate work, my healing practice, preparing for a wedding to be held New Years Eve at my house, and I was going to New Zealand to speak at the 2nd World Congress of Healers for Peace in Hamilton in January. When he went into the hospital, we talked on the phone and I asked him if he wanted to see me. I can still hear his voice say, "Of course I do Babe." I immediately bought a plane ticket to go back for the weekend.
Friday evening after work, I drove to Marin in my Chevy Luv truck to get my Christmas Tree, went to the airport for my red-eye flight and landed at O'Hare very early Saturday morning. My dear friend Jane picked me up. We were both so tired and the hospital was not open for visitors yet so we sat in her car and slept.
The hospital room had many people in it. His family, sisters and brothers were there. After a while his father said gently to let us have some time alone. I crawled into bed with Stu. He was skin and bones. We held each other and he just kept kissing me. My parents arrived to take me to their house and though I had no desire to leave, I had to go home with them.
In the morning, I did not understand why my parents would not take me immediately to the hospital. I was flying out in the afternoon and the longer we stayed at their house, the less time I would have with Stu. By the time we arrived at the hospital, Stu had started having non-stop seizures and there would be no more conversation or kisses ever again.
My parents almost needed to drag me out of his room to leave. In the hallway we ran into one of my all time favorite high school teachers. He and Stu had become great friends. Harold took me into his arms and told me I was going to be ok. The drive back to O'Hare was nearly silent the whole ride.
It was several days later when my sister called to tell me that Stu had passed. In the coma of grief I still had to perform the first of many weddings in my career and fly to New Zealand. I was going on a six week vacation that was starting with me being one of 66 speakers from around the world to share our knowledge of healing. I was to be in New Zealand a month, Australia for two weeks and the final weekend was going to be in Honolulu, Hawaii.
So far in this life since my time with Stu I have loved though never married, been engaged, and said often, "Always the Minster, never the bride!" The end of my engagement came just three weeks after my brain surgery. When I called my fiance in Switzerland to tell him that I had an Acoustic Neuroma tumor and having it removed, the first word he said to me was, "Stuart."
Today has been profoundly healing for my heart. I have known true love and I am better for it. Now, I am ready to love again. I know this to be true too.
~ Sally Aderton, Utica, IL, April 5, 2022
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