by Christine New
When I first met Dennis, we were both in ninth grade at a middle school in Ann Arbor, Michigan and we didn’t like each other very much. I had just graduated from a private school.
We didn’t have any interaction at all. I had my group of friends. He had his.
In our junior year of high school, we had a class together and ended up sitting next to each other. I believe it was British Literature. Dennis used to bring a different book to class with him every day. He would sit and read while the class was talking about the book we read or watched a video about the book.
One day, the class took a test on Hamlet by Shakespeare. I had read the book, watched the movie, and studied for the test. Dennis never read the book, never watched the movie because he was reading his book for the day, and he never studied.
Dennis got an A on the test, and I got a C. I was so mad at him.
During our junior year, I had a boyfriend who was a senior and very popular. One day, Dennis came up to me at my locker and asked me out. Dennis says I laughed at him. I said I only laughed because I had a boyfriend and everyone knew about him. He never asked me out again.
Our senior year, Dennis had a locker that was not where he wanted because it was with all the sophomore students. I shared a locker with my best friend on the senior floor. I asked her if we could share our locker with Dennis, and she said sure. Dennis was not at the locker very much.
Dennis and I became the best of friends our senior year. That summer after our senior year, he enrolled in the military. He had enlisted into the United States Army, 82nd Airborne Division.
I was dating a different guy
One day, a letter showed up for me at my house. The letter was from Dennis.
The letter was the first one I had received since he had been gone. In it, he told me how much work it was, and how he had lost weight. Then he said something very weird.
Dennis closed the letter by saying “I love you.”
I thought this couldn’t be true. Dennis knew I had a boyfriend, so I figured he was just saying it because he was lonely. I wrote back to him. I told him about what I had been doing, how my boyfriend was, and I asked him why he wrote that he loves me.
He wrote back that he had said that because he does. He also said that he had been in love with me since our junior year.
I was shocked, confused, torn, and completely in love with Dennis, although I didn’t tell him. We continued to write to each other every chance we got. I refused to see Dennis, because if I did see him, my true feelings would come out, and I didn’t want that.
Then one day after my first year of college and Dennis’s year of service, my boyfriend and I broke up.
I knew that Dennis was coming home and I was excited to see him. I could hardly wait.
Dennis invited me to go to a movie with him, his parents, and his sister and I said yes. When he took me home that night, we kissed, and I knew I loved Dennis New.
We went through some very difficult times after that, but did end up together.
Right before Desert Shield took place in 1990, I went over to his parents’ house. I took them some cookies I had baked.
Dennis called. At first, his mom, Judi, answered and talked to him for a few minutes. Then, she handed the phone over to me. She then left the room and went into the back.
I gave Dennis a hard time about painting their vehicles desert colors. Then his mom, dad, and sister walked into the room with a card and a box. They put him on speaker phone. I thought the card was addressed to his sister, Cherie, but it wasn’t.
I opened up the card and it read, “The legend of the wedding ring.” I opened the card, and there was this big long letter from Dennis which I said I would read later when I was alone.
Then I turned to his dad, David. David was holding the box open with the engagement ring.
Dennis asked if I would marry him, and I said yes.
David put the ring on my finger. The next day Dennis was deployed to Desert Shield and I did not see him for nine months. We talked a few times.
We were married on December 14, 1991
I was the happiest I had ever been and I looked forward to moving down to North Carolina where Dennis was based. I knew I would finish my degree when we got back to Ann Arbor, and I did just that.
But, the war had changed Dennis. I didn’t know that when we got married, but it did. The change was ever so slight at first, I missed the signs. Now, there was nothing I could do.
In 1994 after three home pregnancy tests, Dennis and I found out we were pregnant and we were thrilled. I was only 24.
On March 15, 1995, our son Kyle was born six weeks early. He weighed only 4 lbs. 5 oz. In January 1997, our daughter Kaitlin was born and our life was complete. We had a boy and a girl, and we had each other.
In December of 1999, Dennis was working at a jail in Indiana. He told me he had to move to be in the county where he worked. I asked him if we were separating, and he said no.
So, Dennis moved to live in the county in which he worked. Sometimes I would not see him for a week or more, but Dennis did see his kids when he had the chance.
On the weekend of May 7, 2000, he took the kids to Kings Island, an amusement and water park. And when he brought the kids home, Dennis pushed me down the stairs and left. He said that he was sorry and that he would see the kids this next weekend.
That was the last time the kids and I saw him.
Friday night, May 12, 2000, just before midnight, I got a call that he was across town. I got the kids up and put them in the car. I went over to see him, to talk to him.
A single police car was there when we arrived. I was told Dennis was not there, but they had spotted him. I sat in the car with my children, who were five and three years old. The chaplain came and told me that they found Dennis and that he was no longer with us.