Valerie Bertinelli says ex-husband Eddie Van Halen was her "soulmate" — and, while they were married to other people at the time of his October 2020 death, the love between them was there until the very end.
In an excerpt of the Kids Baking Championship host's new book, Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today, obtained by People, she shares the last words Eddie said to her and their 30-year-old son, Wolfgang, before he succumbed to cancer at age 65. Bertinelli, 61, also details the heart-to-heart they had one year before his death, as their second marriages struggled, in which the Van Halen guitarist told her he "messed up" during their marriage and presented her a special gift.
"'I love you' are the last words Ed says to Wolfie and me," she wrote, "and they are the last words we say to him before he stops breathing."
Bertinelli, who married Van Halen in 1981 but separated in 2001 before divorcing in 2007, said in the rocker's final weeks, she and Wolfie spent every day at the hospital, along with Eddie's second wife, Janie Liszewski, and his brother, Alex Van Halen.
"Maybe next time. Maybe next time we'll get it right," she said she also told him, through tears, before he died.
Bertinelli detailed their complicated love story, which began when the seemingly "good girl" Bertinelli — TV’s sweetheart as Barbara Cooper on One Day at a Time — fell for the "bad boy" rock star after meeting him backstage at one of his concerts.
"We were portrayed as a mismatch," she said of the labels slapped on them by the press. "The bad boy rock star and America's sweetheart but privately, Ed wasn't the person people thought he was and neither was I."
She was just 20 when they said "I do" in 1981. While their love was strong, they had struggles — he fought addiction, they lost a pregnancy, he had tongue cancer.
"I hated the drugs and the alcohol but I never hated him," she wrote. "I saw his pain."
They separated in 2001 and divorced in 2007. Both Van Halen and Bertinelli found love again: In 2008, Eddie became engaged to his publicist, Liszewski — an actress, stuntwoman and dancer — and they married the next year. Bertinelli started dating financial planner Tom Vitale in 2004 and they were married in 2011.
Despite moving on, "I loved Ed more than I know how to explain. I loved his soul," the Hot in Cleveland alum wrote.
She recalled how on Thanksgiving Day 2019, Eddie came to her house and asked to speak privately. He presented her with a small bag with a pendant-sized gold bar inside that he purchased in Germany, where he had been going to get his lung and throat cancer treatments.
"I hope you don't think it's weird, you know, that I bought my ex-wife this gift and didn't get my wife anything," she recalled him telling her through tears. "I just love you."
Of that intimate conversation, Bertinelli wrote,"He wants me to know he messed up [during our marriage]. I contributed to our troubles too and I am also sorry."
She revealed that both of their marriages were struggling at that point. They didn't act on anything, but there were definitely feelings.
"There is no chance we are going to get back together, but I do know if one of us were to open up, the other one would too, and I don't want to get into that." she wrote. "Who really knows had he not died. I doubt it," she wrote. "I loved him more than I know how to explain and there's nothing sexual about it. It was more than that. And Ed and I understood that."
She added, "There is no greater love than what we had between the two of us and with that, we made this beautiful son," she adds.
In November, just over one year after Eddie's death, Bertinelli filed for legal separation from Vitale. She said her remaining feelings for Eddie had no part in that in the uncoupling.
"We grew apart," she said. "The decision has nothing to do with my love for Ed. I wish Tom the best and I know he feels the same way about me."