This is Chapter 18 in a series entitled Telling My Story.
In my life where everything went wrong,
Something finally went right.
Now there's two less lonely people
In the world tonight." ~ a song by Air Supply
I guess I will have to call him David, for now, as he was years away from becoming the *LOC, as I now refer to him. (*Lovable Old Coot)
The song above was one of our favorites. D. said it just fit us. Well, maybe. While it was not exactly love at first sight, D. says it came darned close. I refrained from telling him that "close" only counts in hand grenades and horse shoes. I am ever the practical, pragmatic one, and he is the incurable romantic. Talk about opposites attract!
The fact was that were were both the "dumpees" - that is, we had each experienced the pain and humiliation of being the one who got dumped by our former spouses. But there were also big differences between us. The last eight years of my twenty-two year marriage had been an endurance marathon, and by the time I got a call at work telling me he had filed for divorce that day, I was ready for it to be over. Yes, I was grieved; but to be honest, I was also relieved.
D., on the other hand, had fought to save his marriage with everything he knew how to do. He did not believe in divorce, and was determined to fix it if he could. He went to counseling, even when his wife refused to go. He bought her new furniture and a new car, anything she asked for. None of it helped, of course, because the marriage was over. He just did not know that, until she left.
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Baggage does not begin to touch it - to ask whether we had issues is like asking if Dalmatians have spots. We didn't just have baggage, we had giant (emotional) storage units full of "stuff" that we had to sort through before we could come to a safe haven. It was a funny, and sometimes precarious voyage.
And it all began with a missed connection....
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A few weeks after our chance meeting at the department store on New Year's Eve, I received a call at my office from my niece whose picture I had seen displayed at D.'s register.
"Aunt Marsha, would you be interested in chaperoning our "spring fling" dance next month? "
I said I might be and asked about the date in question. C. told me the date, I checked my calendar and came back on the line, "Sorry, honey, I have a board meeting that evening. Otherwise I would be glad to help out." (I had changed jobs and was now working at the health department, and served the country board of directors in various capacities related to county health issues.)
"Oh, okay. You're sure you can't make it?" She sounded oddly disappointed and I could not figure out why, since there were surely plenty of other adults who could serve as chaperons.
"I'm sure. But thanks for asking. Maybe next time."
What I did not know until long after this, was that my niece, C., and D.'s daughter, J., who were close high school friends, were trying to arrange for their aunt and dad to "meet by accident" at this dance. D. had been asked by his daughter to chaperon, too, and he had been told that C.'s Aunt Marsha would be there. They were doing a little match-making (which was how he knew who I was); but they neglected tell me.
He agreed, with high hopes for the evening, and when I didn't show up, he thought that I had been told that he would be there, and chose not to go in order to "send him a message" that I was not interested. It was a comedy of errors. The girls did not tell him that I had no knowledge of their plan, and had to work that evening, so his feelings were hurt unnecessarily.
Meanwhile, I was a little puzzled that this guy who had seemed so friendly and interested never called ... for months, and months and months.
More than six months later, I got a call one late summer afternoon, just as I was huffing and puffing, while pulling weeds in the front yard. I dashed to catch the phone and was a bit out of breath, when the caller said, "Hello. This is Dave, we met a few months ago at the department store. Do you remember me?" He sounded nervous, and told me later it had taken him a long time to work up the nerve to call me after I was a "no show" at the dance.
I said I remembered, we chatted awhile getting acquainted; then he asked me to dinner and a movie the next night. When we hung up, I thought to myself, "Well, it took you long enough." I thought he was a little slow off the mark. Was I ever wrong!
And so it began ...
D. always called when he said he would and he was always on time to pick me up. For someone who was used to not having any idea where my partner was, or when he might be home, and then having him show up about two hours later than whatever time he had said he would be there, this was a complete departure from my usual life experience.
On our third date, we went to a nicer restaurant, different from the more casual little places we had gone earlier. Lovely damask table cloths, soft lighting, etc. I left our table to visit the ladies room, and when I came back, there next to my plate lay a single red rose.
Oh, dear - this was moving faster than a freight train and I was not prepared to deal with it. So much for "slow off the mark." Stepping back into dating mode in mid-life is about as awkward as it gets, and I had no intention of ever marrying again. I was clear with him about this. D. chose to ignore that.
Still, we talked by phone nearly every day, we went for long drives and talked some more. One evening he said to me, "Marsha, you take care of your kids, you take care of your home, your job, you serve on committees and take on projects ... but who takes care of you?"
No one had ever asked me this in my entire life. No one. Not a parent, not a spouse, not a teacher - no one. It caught me so off guard that I had to think a moment before I could answer.
I looked at him, somewhat puzzled at the question, and said, "I take care of myself."
He quietly shook his head and said softly, "Not anymore. I will always take care of you. If you will let me." And he has been good to his word. That was almost twenty five years ago, and I can honestly say he has never broken his word to me - has never lied to me, not once in a nearly a quarter of a century.
But infuriated me ? Oh, yes. Someone once asked Ruth Bell Graham whether she had ever considered divorce from her famous evangelist husband, Billy Graham. She replied quickly, "No. Never. But I have considered murder from time to time." I loved that line. And I have lived that line.
But more about that next time ... Marsha