For much of my life I have lived with an absurd notion. It goes like this … all the bad things, the unpleasant things, have always happened without warning. The good things that I dreamed of happening never seemed to materialize. The absurd notion that grew out of these two opposing yet symbiotic trains of thought was that since all the bad things that happened to me were things I hadn’t thought about and all the good things that I dreamed about never did come to pass, I needed to reverse the psychology. In other words, I put all the dreams and hopes out of my mind and instead spent my time thinking about all the bad things that could happen so they wouldn’t happen.
Of course, that silly notion didn’t do anything but make me unhappy. That psychological train wreck simply made me a miserable human being. Think about it. If I found myself dreaming of pleasant, happy events I immediately tried to wipe the thought away and began worrying about what evil event I needed to be thwarting by conjuring one up … so it wouldn’t happen.
Then somewhere in my early sobriety I began get the idea that maybe, just maybe, I had been wasting a whole lot of time, but trying to undo years of negative thought processing wasn’t easy, even sober. And then the worst of all unforeseen, never considered events occurred. The woman I had thought would bury me, died after more than twenty months of battling brain cancer. See, I was right. The bad stuff is always what you didn’t see coming.
That was sixteen years ago, and in the meantime, I have learned a lot … about expectations. The most important thing to know about expectations is that for the most part they are an exercise in futility.
When Marilyn died, I thought that I would immediately fall in love again, but with a few momentary exceptions, like the spur of the moment trip to Korea to see my number two, high school senior year sweetheart, nothing romantic materialized. Not infrequently people would ask me when or if I was going to start dating. To keep from appearing needy and/or desperate I generally replied that after all I was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, which wasn’t all that far from the truth. Then I generally added that it would take someone extremely special to fall in love with me.
I remembered Aunt Helen’s advice following my divorce when she told me that I wouldn’t find the woman God intended me to spend my life with until I was content to live alone. After trying to force contentment on myself for the better part of a year I gave up. Then within moments of finding total contentment in the alone state of being, Marilyn appeared.
After she died it took some time of course but again I found myself content to be alone and to be honest, after 16 years of being alone, I wasn’t really looking for another relationship … when it happened.
There I was, minding my own business, doing what I was paid to do for Home Depot 469 when she sat down across the desk from me and announced that she was thinking about remodeling her kitchen. How did she go about getting that done? For reasons unrelated to me or my performance as a kitchen designer she ultimately went to the competition for her kitchen. But, in the meantime, she had become something of an increasingly consistent presence in my thoughts.
On hearing the message she left on my voicemail at work, telling me that she had decided to go to the competition for her kitchen, I was first dismayed, then unsettled. I was dismayed because I had already told my boss that I was closing the sale that day and then unsettled because I soon realized that there was more to it than just losing a sale. I had been looking forward to spending more time with her. Experience in similar situations over the years had proven that when a customer chooses a competitor over you, they will generally stop answering the phone. Nevertheless, as soon as I heard the message I called her. Of course, she didn’t answer.
The message I left was that I understood her decision completely and didn’t blame her for her decision, which is the same one I would have made under similar circumstances. I then asked if she would call my manager and explain why she made that decision. I had told him that she was coming in that day to make the purchase. Roughly a half hour later he sat down at my desk and told me that she had called him and explained her decision. In the interim, the reality of most likely not seeing her again was the unsettling part.
You see, I had come to look forward to our visits. I wasn’t thinking about any more than spending time with someone whose company I totally enjoyed. When I thought about her I could hear her laugh and that made me smile. I thought “I could really enjoy doing things with her; taking a trip with her, going to a show with her, watching a sunset with her. That’s all. I had no romantic notions about her at all. I just saw her as a potential best friend.
So, a couple of weeks went by. I can’t tell you why I made no attempt to contact her. Maybe it was a lingering fear that in spite of the fact that she had told my manager that I had nothing to do with her decision to go elsewhere for her new kitchen, she would reject any attempt to establish a friendship. But, after a couple of weeks of beating myself up over it, I picked up the phone … and she actually answered.
When I asked if she would like to have lunch sometime she said yes. Two weeks later we met for lunch between my church and work at 3:00. (As I sit here writing this she is on the couch next to me correcting everything I say about our early meeting.) We made future plans for coffee but some unforeseen circumstance on her end precluded that. Instead we went to Mimi’s for lunch. (Now she tells me she hated Mimi’s but because she had picked Culver’s she agreed to Mimi’s) I have absolutely no memory of what we talked about. I just remember watching her walk to her car. I asked her what her memory of our parting was and for once it was the same. Amazing!
Neither one of us remembers exactly how long it was before I asked her to dinner. She had a gift certificate to Red Robin and there was one nearer to me, so that’s where we decided to go … she insisted on driving. That, in and of itself, was a new experience for me. I don’t remember what either of us ate, but I do remember that she paid for dinner … another new experience.
She drove me home and I asked if she wanted to come in for a minute. Simple truth is I just didn’t want the evening to end. I was totally enjoying her company without a romantic notion in my head … seriously! We must have talked for at least an hour and a half before she said it was time for her to head for home. It was just a hug. A parting hug between friends. She says that I kissed her on the forehead. As the lyrics in the KISS version of The Crystals original hit from 1963 go … “And then she kissed me.”
Aside from surprise, I can’t begin to put into words the overwhelming rush of emotion I experienced at that moment. I was instantly transported from simple attraction to a world of emotions I have no memory of ever experiencing in my life. To say that I was befuddled is a mild approximation of what I felt at that moment. The simple fact is that I felt my heart being snatched away in a sense that left me feeling as though I never wanted it back.
In the past sixteen years, I have on three occasions briefly fallen in love, but nothing to compare to this. Laughter has never been a big part of my life, until now. She makes me laugh. I don’t remember ever laughing on such a consistent and joyful level in my life.
All the dreams and aspirations for my dotage years simply evaporated. The desperation that I had begun to feel about Dear Mom and Dad never being more than a vanity project, vanished without so much as an emotional whimper. God, in his infinite wisdom, placed in my life the very last person I envisioned being the answer to all my prayers. And yet, I simply cannot imagine being in love with anyone but her. She is, what I can only describe, as reverently irreverent. Everything in her life is precision, orderly disorder. What I first thought was random placement of her cherished possessions in her home is actually a very well orchestrated arrangement … which precisely describes her and her essence.
Trying to describe here what she means to my life and the feelings I have for her is terribly inadequate to the reality. Simply put, I am now and I believe for the remainder of my life, totally and completely in love with God’s perfect selection of the perfect woman for me. We have laughed over the thought that we are like the opposite ends of a bar magnet; one end north the other end south. She is a lifelong east coast democrat and I’m … well the other end of that magnet. That was the thought behind a small Christmas present I gave her; two bar magnets painted red on one end with a “G” on it, and blue on the other end with a “B” on it.
She is a very private person and not given to publicity (another aspect of our “magnet” like attraction for one another). For that reason, I am not publicizing her name. Those of you who know me well, know who she is and that is enough. Just think of her as “The Blue Magnet!” because she is a veritable people magnet. She draws people to her wherever she goes and I’m reasonably certain that when it happens that those people will never forget the encounter. I have seen her strike up conversations with absolute strangers in the grocery store and the next thing I know she’s helping them find something they need but can’t locate.
She is, in the words of my favorite Nat King Cole song which was a duet with his daughter, Natalie “Unfortgetable” … that’s what you are.