believe that our lives are filled with many chapters or transitions. One of the most significant ones for me started in 1968.
I had the perfect job in Pittsburgh and was able to spend quite a bit of time looking after my aging parents. After many dating disasters, meanwhile, I decided to become a confirmed bachelor.
I needed some space from my parents, and I loved the woods and skiing. I decided to build a chalet at Bear Rocks, a community with a small ski resort at the time in the Laurel Mountains near Mount Pleasant.
I spent several years looking at plans and photos to come up with the ideal place. My home was set back in the forest and looked like it had been transplanted from Switzerland.
It had a large deck, natural cedar siding with a 22-foot cathedral ceiling, a huge fireplace and an upstairs bedroom with a balcony that looked down into the living room. Disney couldn't have done it better.
After work on Fridays, I would make the trip up there. Halfway into the mountains, the weather in winter changed to alpine conditions. I would stop at a country store near the upper entrance to Bear Rocks for freshly baked bread and then descend into the forest.
Usually, there was so much snow that I would have to park in the road until I managed to shovel far enough into my driveway to pull my car in. Plunging on foot the next 100 feet or so through deep snow was always an ordeal.
Once inside, I was in a beautiful world of my own making. It was warm, and the view through the front windows into the snow-covered trees was breathtaking. Falling asleep to the sound of the snow-making machines was magical.
For three years, I spent my weekends there mostly alone. Then, I met a fascinating girl through my photo supply business. Though I was too shy to ask her for a date, we became friendly. She was a native Floridian and returned there shortly after.
I wrote to her, and we started a six-month, long-distance communication that turned into love. In January, I invited her to come up for a ski week at my place. Her parents weren't too keen on the idea, and I think Suzy had some trepidation of her own.
I picked her up at the airport and we made the trek to Bear Rocks. That evening, we sat on the sofa in front of the fireplace, held hands and shared the stories of our lives. That week will always be one of the highlights of my life.
As I sat in my car and watched her plane take off for Florida, I started crying, thinking that I might never see her again. But as it turned out, we got married the following August and lived at Bear Rocks in total happiness for the next three years until my 110-mile-a-day commute and the isolation of the forest became too much for Suzy.
In 1974, after some soul searching, we sold our beloved chalet and moved to Penn Hills near my parents' home. Our wonderful marriage lasted 35 years. Suzy was a talented freestyle figure skater, in addition to an artist, and we spent much of our leisure time attending figure skating competitions around the U.S.
Our Penn Hills home, where we loved to garden, became our own private nature preserve, helping us continue our love of trees, birds and all things outdoors.
Suzy was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer in 1994. She was in remission for nine years before it returned and ended our fairy tale love story, but not our love.
After she died in 2007, I made one last visit to my beloved chalet. It had been painted barn red, trees had been cut and a huge nondescript garage had been built in front of the house. There was no longer any vestige of the magic that once existed there.
In my dreams, I still see my beautiful ski place in the dark forest with the warm light from its windows playing out through the trees and snow, and an angel standing just inside the front door.
Denny Edwards of Penn Hills, retired from the photographic supply business, can be reached at email@example.com