Ten years ago today on May 3rd, 2009, my life changed. Not that I was aware of it at the time. In fact, I was not aware of much of anything. Mostly I was in a kind of an emotional limbo.
My wife of 25 years had finally succumbed to a battle with breast cancer just five months earlier, and although I appeared to be functioning in public, I was still in the last stages of what I came to think of as the “Weep n’ Sleep” phase of mourning – fifteen minutes of sobbing followed by four hours of sleep, rinse, repeat.
I would keep it together at work for the most part, although I was still ducking into a stall in the men’s room once in awhile for a small private breakdown.
I was dealing not only with the loss, but also the beginnings of Survivor’s Guilt, which really still has its ghostly fingers around my psyche today (I promise, a book about that struggle is on the way). In short, I was trying to come to terms with the knowledge that I would be all alone for the rest of my life. Although only 51, at 319 pounds I not only tipped the scales, I sent them spinning into another dimension. If I thought about it at all, it was only to ponder that the available pool of women interested in being sexually disappointed by a blubbering wad of blubber was probably less of a pool and more of a damp patch.
But the life-changing event that I failed to be aware of that rainy Sunday in May was that I was on a date.
I had met Rita Rhodes in March when I was looking for investment properties, partly as a way to keep my mind on other things. I ended up buying two different rental homes from her that spring, and during the course of doing business we did talk a bit about ourselves in person, on the phone, and via email.
We had both lost spouses to cancer, both enjoyed travel, and had two adult children each, so we had things in common. Although I was hurting badly I was not actually dead, so I of course noticed that she was very attractive and intelligent. Situation noted, but of no consequence to the likes of me.
So after some talk about how we both enjoyed walking along trails in parks, and how that was great exercise that I really needed to get back into, Rita invited me to meet her Sunday at her home in Shepherdstown, WV and take a hike along the C&O Canal, citing her own need to “lose weight”. I remember telling her she looked like the only way she could lose weight would be to have some organs removed. I honestly had no idea I had been asked on a date.
My complete lack of awareness continued that morning when I pointed out it was raining, and she told me to come over anyway. I also failed to notice that there were two steaks that happened to be thawing in the fridge, next to a bottle of wine.
I will admit that by the end of the evening, after we had spent more than seven hours talking as we prepared and cleaned up after dinner together, that I was beginning to suspect something might be up. I began to suspect she might be trying to decide if I was worthy of being setup with one of her fat friends or something.
It really did not sink in for me until a couple of days later. I had emailed Rita earlier asking if she wanted to meet at a local restaurant for a drink or something after a band rehearsal I had that night near her home. I was sitting in a Senate cafeteria with my friend Ed when I got her reply – “why don’t you just come by here?”
I showed my friend Ed, who exclaimed “Dude! You just got asked to make a booty call!”
To say I was a little flummoxed is to say that the Hindenburg had a glitch during landing. This couldn’t possibly be happening, could it? To me? With someone as great as her? Am I even wearing clean underwear?
Well, sorry to disappoint you, but it turned out not to be a booty call, just another chance for us to get to know one another. Only this time, it was finally sinking in that this incredible woman might actually be interested in me. Why, I still really have no idea.
We shared a chaste kiss goodnight that evening, and her Corgi barked at me for doing so, the first of many barks. Within a few weeks, we were taking turns spending the night at each other’s homes, and in a few months we had a place on the Eastern shore we bought together. Although we didn’t marry until April of 2013, we knew we would be together and we were joined in our hearts and minds by June of 2009.
Now, ten years later, it is a wonder to me home much my life has changed for the better. I’ve lost weight and enjoy better health, we’ve visited dozens of places including six different countries, lived in Ecuador for six years, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, acquired a place to call our own in eastern Tennessee, and found ourselves grandparents to a combined nine beautiful children. As soon as we sell our condo in Ecuador, it will be off to explore more countries.
Ten years on, thank you Rita for coming into my life at a time when I needed you most, even if I didn’t realize it. You not only saved my life, you have worked with me to build something new and wonderful for us both. I love you, and look forward to what the next ten years may bring.