We married young. He of twenty-three years. I, less than a month shy of my twenty-first birthday.

The year prior, I first laid eyes upon Melvin Underwood in the student union at Central Michigan University. He, enrolled in CMU’s Master’s Degree in Business Administration by his father’s funding. I, barely a sophomore, financially assisted by the National Defense Education Act.

Destined to meet my future husband on that crisp, sunny, winter Friday, a roommate suggested we walk from the house we rented to the Union.

My friend ratted and styled my short hair, embellished with a red band which looked rather preppy with my navy pea-coat. The occasion felt auspicious, so I slipped my camera in my coat pocket before we left our house with two other roommates.

On campus, I snapped several photos before we entered the Union. And someone snapped a photo of my group. In the spirits of awe and adventure, my eyes scanned the large room filled with groups of fraternities and sororities. Couples sprinkled the more intimate spaces.

My roommate nodded to a set of tables along the most distant wall of glass. Young men talked and laughed, ate and drank. “That’s the Theta Chi table,” she said. “The guy talking is Mel Underwood.”

Mel spoke emphatically with his hands and mouth to the point we could read his lips. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, laughed, and shook his head. “I just don’t want to talk about it.”

This past January 24, our two surviving daughters and I celebrated our fifty-fourth wedding anniversary in the hospital with our critically ill husband and father. After several days of medical tests, a cardiac catheterization revealed a congenital heart defect within a valve in his heart, explaining his heart’s 15% ejection fraction of blood to other organs and extremities.

This belated discovery explains the cause of many health complications throughout Mel’s life, and as he aged, his withdrawal from activities outdoors and with family and friends. Now, in our grief, we ask that relentless, unanswered question, “How did we miss the cause of his symptoms all these years?”

One consolation is Mel drove as an outside salesman on the road for forty-five years, and his John Deere over thirty years, without incident or injury to himself or someone else. His new John Deere now waits in our garage with chains on the wheels, and blade on the front to plow our driveway.

Dear Reader, if you cherish life, and particularly if you’re a male who doesn’t want to talk about your aches and pains, please seek and schedule an appointment with a referred cardiologist. If you don’t like him or her (I assure you this may happen), try another doctor. They’re plentiful.

Yes, I’m thankful Mel and I married young. Opposites in many ways, he a northerner, I a southerner, we built a beautiful family and life together. As he wouldn’t want me to write about his decease, please don’t talk about it. Do your beloved wife and children a favor and call a cardiologist instead.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com