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Thursday, 20 November 2008

Falling Apart Together - Part 1

By Old Woman of 20th Century Woman

Jerry had heart problems this week. He felt dizzy a couple to times, once after unloading fencing materials from the pickup, and the second time while we were walking with a friend and the dogs in the woods. Between those two events he had two visits at the cardiologist, had a stress test and wore a monitor for 24 hours.

He is now heading for another session of catheter insertion in his femoral artery to look for cells in his heart that may be causing electrical irregularities. I spend time at night worrying about it.

Before I go to bed I take eight pills prescribed by two doctors, and a couple of other pills that rumor has it will prevent me from getting silly in my 80s or 90s (if I live that long). If you saw Jerry and me you would see that we are physically fit, well preserved old people.

Today we walked down to the ferry dock parking lot to retrieve one of our cars left there for a couple of days. We shuffle cars between the island and the mainland to avoid ferry fares and carrying heavy groceries (like cases of beer).

We both knew where in the small parking lot our car was parked, and we went straight to the spot. No car. Well perhaps we were mistaken, perhaps that was another time. We wandered around the lot. Had it been towed? Could someone have actually wanted to steal a three-door ‘99 Saturn? (That’s right, three-door. Two on the driver side, one on the passenger side.)

Still no car. We wondered who to call about towing. We felt despondent as we started out of the lot. And, naturally, that’s when we saw the car. We had walked past it when entering the lot. That sort of thing leaves you feeling less than competent. You wonder whether it’s age.

At least we are together. Yesterday, because I was unnerved by Jerry’s heart problem and our subsequent indecision about whether or not to go to the hospital, I didn‘t cook dinner and we ate at the local island eatery. There we saw a friend much younger than us, 62, who often eats there since his wife died of breast cancer. He is alone (well, three cats) with a multitude of medical problems (prostate cancer and Parkinson’s to mention a couple, but there are a lot more.)

Our friend sat with us. He and Jerry talked about building houses and geology and flying. Jerry had been a physicist and a bush pilot in Alaska, and our friend had been a geologist and science teacher. They exchanged sympathetic talk about their late wives’ struggle with breast cancer. Our friend said that he was dating a few women, but would be going on trips with his brother. I advised him to get on the internet and find a more permanent partner.

That’s how Jerry and I met. In my long life I have had a multitude of romantic misadventures and three failed marriages. When I signed up for match.com, I was not looking for a husband, but I had been entirely alone for the three years since my quite reprehensible part-time partner had died of cancer. I thought it would be pleasant to have a companion for trips, theater and dinners. I have to admit, I met some weird and not wonderful elderly guys through the internet.

When I took the ferry to a distant island to meet Jerry, a recent widower, I was ready to give up. His experience with internet dating had been similar. We had exchanged a few emails and he said he would meet me on the mainland and take the ferry over to his island with me. I told him what kind of car I would be driving, and he said he would wear his orange hat.

Right there I felt a qualm. Orange hat? A guy who wears an orange hat? As I locked the car in the ferry parking lot I saw, lurking by a telephone pole, a tall, lanky, slightly-stooped, old man wearing an orange baseball hat.

It was a long day. I was feeling nervous and blue, and he was guarded and subdued. He was nice, and he tried. After lunch (hamburger, no wine) we toured the island and then I went with him to his house for tea. He had built his house entirely by himself on top of a doublewide trailer. He and his wife lived on the newly built second floor while he removed the trailer bit by bit from the inside of the first floor and then finished that floor.

His wife had had a passionate interest in collecting things and she was in an Arts and Crafts phase when they furnished the house. Many of the things she accumulated had value, but I was not familiar with the period and didn’t relate to the décor.

His politics, libertarian/conservative, were different from mine, classical liberal. He was not interested in travel. He said his marriage had been a good one and his wife had died only three months before. I thought, he’s looking for a replacement wife. I thought, not me, babe.

I went back to the mainland on the four o’clock ferry. It was a long trip, one-and-a-half hours, then an hour drive to my ferry. I felt tired and discouraged. I had an email from Jerry saying that it had been a good first meeting and that we should meet again. Here is, in part what I responded:

“I want to tell you what a nice day I had with you. You are an intelligent and gentle man, and we had lots to talk about. But I have to say that I do not see romance for us in the future. A friendship would be a thing I would value. I’m afraid that isn’t what you are looking for, and I know that I would not fill the real need you have for an intimate life companion.”

I told him I thought he should spend more time mourning his loss before making any life changing plans.

He responded, in part:

“I am of course disappointed. I also thought it was unlikely that we would have a future. For my selfish interest I need to be with a lively woman, do a few things with her…Then think more seriously about the future. I need something between my recent past life and whatever the future is going to be. I expect that you do not see how you fit into this. What else can I say?”

His reply to my suggestion that he wait before changing his life was:

“I have come to realize that I am not going from one marriage right into another. I do not need to mourn anymore. I need to do some living. After you left…there is a real live woman.”

Flattery often works. I wrote back:

“Let me think this over. I like you very much. We might try again, but I couldn’t let you hope for anything long term, and I had no idea that a fling would be your cup of tea. Falling in love would be a bad idea.”

We negotiated a visit to my island. I wrote “…not sure when, but soon. You come here, have dinner and we’ll see what’s next. No promises of anything but good food — and some wine for heaven’s sake!”

Falling Apart Together - Part 2

[Everyone age 50 and older is invited to submit stories for publication at The Elder Storytelling Place. Information and instructions on how to do that are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

It is going to be interesting to find out how you got from this inauspiciou beginning to the island eatery with your husband.

This is wonderful! Great writing! By the way, I wish you had given us the names of the pills you take to avoid sillyness. I am 71, and in order to postpone dementia, I have recently taken up memoir writing, watercolor painting, and learning to speak italian. Can't wait to read Part 2! - Sandy

I look forward to reading Part 2...
Enjoy your writing!

How interesting!! I hope I will never be in your shoes, but the thought occurs to me occasionally. I am not sure if I would "put myself out there" in a dating service - but one can never tell. I'd love to know the rest of your story.

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