My mother was wrong

“A man will never love a woman as much as a woman loves a man.” – A quote from my mother after one of my boyfriends left me when I was in my early twenties.

If my mom were here now, I’d tell her how wrong she was.

Richard Kevin Palmer loved me as much as I loved him. He proved that love to me daily. He expressed his love for me better and more vocally than I did in return.

Rick showed me his love with his words.

Rick spoke to me of his love often.
He could humble me with a few well-chosen words, words of love and adoration.

He told me I was beautiful thousands of times in our 21 years together. He told me how smart I was, and how talented. He boasted about me to his friends – about how I handled the technology in the business, about how well I could write. He expressed his love so often, that I was often speechless in return.

Rick showed me his love with his gifts.

He constantly bought me little gifts, trinkets, and surprises – sometimes the dumbest things – and those were the ones I loved the best. The blue china cow from the Mall of America – with white clouds instead of spots? What did that even mean?

Sometimes the gifts did have meaning, elicited memories. The Route 66 tote bag – because we had driven Route 66 together on one of our trips.

He brought me barbecue sandwiches from Memphis wrapped in paper and stuffed in his blazer pocket. He brought me Jack in the Box tacos from California that he’d picked up on his way to the airport where he caught the red eye to Detroit.

Rick showed me his love through his actions.

We had known each other only a few months when we went to a barbecue. He brought me a plate of food, and I was amazed to see he knew exactly what I liked. No one had ever done that for me before, but he had watched me on other occasions and knew in our short time together that I liked only mustard on my hot dogs and knew that I didn’t like pepper.

Once we were married and living back in Michigan – after Rick retired from Delta – he made my breakfast every morning and put it in a disposable bowl with a lid. Then he took out a cold can of Diet Coke and put it next to the breakfast bowl on the counter. As he went out the back door to the garage, he said, “I’m going to warm the car. I’ve got your laptop bag. Don’t forget your breakfast!”

He did this every morning before taking me to work. Every single weekday morning for five years.

Rick did all the grocery shopping. He knew I hated it. He asked me each day what I wanted for dinner, then bought any necessary groceries, prepared the food, and cooked it when we got home – after he had picked me up from work.

We were together as often as possible. He drove me to work in the morning, often picked me up and took me to lunch, then came back to drive me home. We texted throughout the day. We spent our weekends doing everything together.

My first indication of the kind of man Rick was occurred when we were first dating. We were visiting his mother one evening. She was complaining…and complaining….and complaining about something. I can’t recall what had upset her. Rick and I were sitting together on the couch, and – after a few minutes of her whining – he reached over and started rubbing the back of my neck. He had the largest hands I’ve ever seen. Seriously, powerful huge hands that complemented his size 14 feet. He was strong, insanely strong, and he was gently kneading my neck, upper back, and shoulders with those powerful hands. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Later, when we were in the car, I thanked him for the back rub. He told me he felt so bad that I had to listen to his mother’s unpleasantness that he was trying to make it up to me.

I received many many more of those back rubs throughout the years. I’d come to bed late, and he’d awaken and reach over to stroke my back. He’d know when I was stressed because of work deadlines or life events and give me a thorough massage without prompting. He’d stroke my head when we lay in bed together on weekend afternoons, just talking and whiling away the hours.

Rick continued to show me love, tenderness, and kindnesses throughout our twenty year marriage. Over the next twenty years without him, I will do my best to remember every single act of endearment and write it down, so I will never forget him or his legacy of love.

Rick was known throughout his life as the Gentle Giant. He loved me with a gentleness and treated me with such kindness, that I know without a doubt he loved me as much as I loved him.

Sorry, mom, but you were very wrong.


About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at

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