Our wedding, Sept. 1, 1984.

Love has not been kind to the Romanowich Smith kids this year. Drew and his girlfriend of two years broke up in February. Griffin and his girlfriend of nine months split this week. Joseffa, who longs to just go out on a “normal” date with a “normal” guy, is left longing. More than once, one of them has asked me, “How will I know…?”

Jamie and I met in college at UW-Whitewater in 1979. He was the managing editor of the newspaper, the Royal Purple, and I was a cub reporter, the only one ambitious enough (stupid enough?) to want to cover student government. The meetings were Monday nights, and the weekly paper was put to bed that same night. I would go to the meetings and then to the newspaper office to type up my story while the editors were doing the page layouts. Once they finished, they would reconvene at the Red Lantern restaurant for beer and pizza. (It was legal to drink at age 18 then.) If I finished in time, I would sometimes go along.

At the time, I was still in a relationship with my second boyfriend, Tom. He and I met the summer between junior and senior years in high school and dated senior year. He went to UW-Eau Claire. The long-distance thing wasn’t really working, and I was tired of having a serious relationship. I was in college! Free! I wanted to have some fun! And Jamie seemed the right guy for that! He was flirty in a way even he would admit was awkward. It was fun to go out with the other newspaper staff members and joke around.

I broke up with Tom at the holidays and went back to school to get to know Jamie better.

My college man

We became best friends and spent a lot of time together. We talked and laughed and had fun. And he had beautiful big brown eyes that looked at me with so much love.

In 1982, he graduated and got a job in Boone, Iowa. I still had a year of school to finish. I visited him once or twice during that time, and when I graduated I got a job in Fort Dodge, Iowa, about 45 minutes away. That was when we began talking seriously about getting married.

Did I ever actually decide that he was the one I was going to marry? Obviously I must have, but there was no “big moment” of realization; it just seemed natural and right.

Jamie in Boone, Iowa.

In 28 years of marriage, we have gone through wonderful times and some very, very difficult times. It would be easy to say that love has carried us through, but I think it has been more than that. Commitment. Courage. Intense friendship. Mutual respect. Shared history. Honesty. Luck?

When the kids meet “The One,” I don’t think they will have to ask. They will just know, if they listen to their hearts and heads. Their loved ones will make them better people. They will respect their needs and values. They will have their own lives, hopes and dreams to complement their mate’s. And I hope the kids will commit to the relationships remembering the model we’ve given them. It hasn’t been perfect by any means, but it has been lasting and loving.

Christmas in Fort Dodge, 1983