Will talked often about future plans in a way that I’d normally find presumptuous, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Instead his desire to be included in my inner circle was comforting. He was sticking around.
He said he looked forward to meeting my daughters and mentioned that he’d told his entire family and friends about me. He wanted to meet my friends, too.
Those around me had normal concerns.
“Take it slow, no need to rush,” said Karen, my surrogate mom. “How do you know he’s who he says he is?”
“He’s got crazy eyes,” said my daughter Morgan, while studying his photo. Several days later, we were on the phone and his battery died. Morgan said that was “shady.” It wasn’t as if she had anything to go on beyond what I’d told her but when I begin a new relationship Morgan’s first reaction has always been to dislike the interloper threatening to upset the normalcy of our lives. When she was a teenager and I told her about Neal she became hysterical and screamed, “You’re ruining your life!” then stormed towards the front door yelling, “I’m telling Papa!” Papa is my father—another person who’s been consistently suspicious of the men in my life. My dad asked for Neal’s Social Security number so he could do a background check. With one final shot before heading to get my dad involved, Morgan howled, “And what about Howard?” Howard was someone I’d had an on again off again relationship with for quite some time. Morgan couldn’t stand Howard in the beginning, either. It was nice to see that as an adult she’d toned down the hysteria.
Will was just a shady psycho.
Will’s family, (one brother in particular), had reservations, too, and advised him to date lots of women in the beginning of his new single status. He said his friends were happy, though, as he told them about me and shared my photos.
I wasn’t ready to meet his family. I wanted to cement our relationship in familiarity, spend time together, before we complicated us with our tribes. I told Will about my complex brood. When he described his, it often sounded like the plotline to Leave it to Beaver, and it seemed he grew up in the Rhode Island equivalent of Mayberry. I figured it was probably bullshit. A wise yogi once told me, “I was embarrassed to talk to people about my family but once I did, they did, too, and I realized we’re all one big Jerry Springer Show.”
Two days after our date I was heading home to Las Vegas for ten days and Will had a week of golfing planned at his family’s summer home. I was staying with my father while his wife was away.
Those who’ve followed the blog know my father hasn’t been well. He’s fallen and broken both his hip and femur. I’ve told you about those maladies. What I haven’t told you is a year ago he was diagnosed as having Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) symptoms. It is a disease often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s and one that can’t be confirmed until an autopsy is performed. It mirrors Alzheimer’s in many ways as people with LBD also have disorientation but they also are afflicted with balance and mobility issues. A definitive diagnosis really doesn’t matter, as Alzheimer’s and LBD are equally awful and this manner of slowly, tragically losing my father has left me heartbroken.
My dad raised me and I lived with him after my parents divorced. Though I’ve written much about my father, I haven’t done so with my mom and although many blog followers have asked, I’ve remained vague. My relationship with my mother has been complicated for as long as I can remember. As a child she told me, “You rejected me from birth.” Adults know that babies don’t reject their mothers. But we also know the opposite is possible and that was the case in my life. As stunning as it was to know my mother felt that way, I knew my dad adored me with every parental fiber possible and that was more love than many have from two parents.
My grandmothers also filled the maternal void and both loved me fiercely. I did not have an unhappy childhood, though sometimes confusing. I managed to sort all that out years ago when I was able to look at that relationship through a grown-up lens–with the help of therapy, of course. My dad was it and I considered myself lucky.
I told Will this in bits during several of our marathon telephone conversations. As it appeared he’d been raised by June and Ward Cleaver, it was a rather embarrassing, but also necessary. I was heading to Las Vegas and it was going to be painful. I needed Will to understand why I might not be myself—at the very least, distracted. It was also important that he was cognizant of the situation as I wouldn’t be so readily available for lengthy conversations or rapid response texts. A couple of times he’d seemed perturbed when I didn’t answer the phone or respond quickly to his text messages. He expressed this in jest with statements like, “If you didn’t call me right back, I was going to be so mad!” He would sometimes text when I was out with friends or my daughters and, again, joke about being ignored. He pressed for my undivided attention, despite his jovial approach and I didn’t mind. Perhaps it’s a personality type I’m drawn to, but I can’t remember a man I’ve been with who didn’t expect the same thing.
Will and I spoke on the morning I flew to Las Vegas. I also sent a text that I’d landed and he called again. We talked as I drove to my father’s house but once I got there my dad would be the focus. I loved my time with him and made sure he understood my undivided attention was all his. With the disease he’s often impatient, demanding and argumentative. He doesn’t have a filter anymore and says some horribly shocking things, too. Growing up he was always easy going, fun and brilliant. Nobody could make me laugh more. The stranger inhabiting my father’s body appears more often now and it’s gut wrenching. I keep it together when he’s awake but after he’s gone to bed I cry like a child who’s homesick. I miss my dad so much, yet he’s asleep in the next room.
Will and I talked in the evenings and I would give him the rundown. He was supportive as he reminded me this was the disease. He would find a way to make a joke about certain situations and the levity helped. He was having fun golfing with his family but they were giving him a hard time about how often he was texting and talking. One early morning he even asked me to text with his brother—the one he mentioned wasn’t thrilled about his new relationship. I think he wanted to prove how clever I was but given the pressure I was under, it seemed rather insensitive. I felt like a performing seal but did it anyway and even overlooked the caustic undertone of his brother’s texts barely hidden behind what he pretended was humor. Texts like, “Are you a ballbuster?”
Hmm, would Theodore Cleaver ask Wally’s girlfriend that question?
My dad had lost contact with many friends since his diagnosis. One buddy, John, called near the end of the week and said he’d been trying to reach my father for a year. I explained what had happened and he asked if we could to go to dinner. I was hesitant because this would take him from his routine but I asked my dad, and he was excited to see his old friend. The plan was to eat early and John made a reservation at Hugo’s Cellar in the Four Queens Hotel/Casino, downtown.
It’s a fancy place, my father wanted to wear sweatpants and got mad when I asked him to change. Sweats it was. He uses a walker and it was an arduous trek from valet parking to the restaurant. Once there and with his friend I began to relax as he ordered a glass of wine. It was a great evening. My dad and John talked of old times and I couldn’t believe the fine points he recalled. His short-term memory was gone but long-term was amazing. They laughed and talked as they always had, both having fun. When my dad ordered a second glass of wine it made me nervous since he was unstable enough on his walker. I didn’t want to say anything, though, he was so happy. Then he ordered a third, which I knew was a mistake. Once dinner was over we got up to leave the then-crowded restaurant and my father began to sway, tipping the wheels of one side of his walker, then the other. I held onto the front to steady it and my dad yelled at me to take my hands off. Everyone turned to stare. I quietly explained that I was helping because he was tipping over and he yelled again–this time screaming the F-word. In my entire life I’d never heard him use that word. The maître d’ walked briskly towards us and asked what was going on. I discreetly explained my father had Alzheimer’s and I was trying to steady him. My dad loudly told the maître d’ to get out of his way and started pushing forward. And then he fell and yelled, “What the fuck are you doing?” A woman at a nearby table screamed as his leg hit her chair on the way down. I hurried to help him up but he began flailing his arms and yelling. He was completely disoriented, didn’t know who I was and refused to move, bellowing at me to leave him alone while shooing me with his arms. His hand grazed my mouth and when I told him to stop yelling he grabbed my upper arms and roughly shoved me away. I could see in his eyes I was a stranger. Someone obviously called hotel security, and they arrived a moment later. As three big guys walked towards us one was holding handcuffs. Having worked in the gaming industry for most of my adult life I’d like to clarify that hotel security guards don’t always make smart choices and certainly handcuffing an eighty-two-year-old man confirms that. I stepped between them and my dad and told them to stop. Then I explained my dad had Alzheimer’s. We didn’t need handcuffs but a wheelchair and help to the car. Thank God they listened.
On the drive home he asked what happened. I told him he fell and Security helped us to the car. He called himself “stupid” for drinking wine and said he was sorry. “No big deal, Dad. Everybody drinks too much sometimes and we handled it.”
That sort of episodic break is symptomatic of Lewy Body Dementia and alcohol can be a catalyst.
I got him from the garage to his bed, helped him into his pajamas and gave him a sleeping pill. He told me I was the best daughter a father could hope for. I told him he was the best dad ever. Then I shut his bedroom door and fell apart.
The first person I wanted to speak to was Will. I called his cell but he didn’t answer. The cell service was sporadic at the vacation home so he’d given me the landline number. I called that, too. Again, no answer. I called his cell a second time and left a message letting him know I needed to talk. At that point I was angry. It was a combination of what happened that night and the fact that I’d always been available and accommodating when he called. Even during the difficult week with my dad—because I knew it was important to him. I performed on demand, first with his business partner, then his brother (Angry Bird). Was expecting the same too much to ask?
Texts go through at the vacation home even when calls won’t so I sent him a text. “Answer the fucking phone, goddammit! I had a crisis with my dad and need to talk.” And I waited. Nothing. I finally called my friend Jeanne. Once she helped me calm down, I sent another text letting him know he should disregard the previous text, I was with my friend and OK.
The next morning I got up to a text from Will sent several hours before—given the three hour time difference. He said he was “confused” by my texts. He also said they had an early tee time. I figured that meant he was unavailable to talk while playing golf, and still miffed, I replied there was no need for confusion and then gave him the awful details of the night before. I assumed he would respond by telling me he’d call when they were done playing, but I heard nothing.
By late afternoon I had a bad feeling and checked my email.
There it was, a message from Will.
I’m paraphrasing but it’s pretty close.
He was sorry for the ordeal but my angry text really set him back. He was at a loss to even discuss it and was rattled all day. He wasn’t in the right place to deal with that kind of drama with all the issues on his plate. When he resolves his issues perhaps he would feel differently and we could explore getting to know each other. He closed by asking me to respect his decision.
I wrote back (paraphrasing, again) that I would absolutely respect his decision and my reply would be the last time he heard from me. I apologized for the inappropriate tone of my text but explained that I had just been through a traumatic experience and trusted him enough to talk me off the ledge. I assumed he would understand as I’d told him about what was going on, as he knew about my close relationship with my father. I wished him well in finding someone better suited for him, and added I will be cautious with the next man in my life. I said I would never again be so quick to trust in the infancy of a relationship no matter how close I think we are.
So there you have it.
I never had any intention of telling this story and I’m well aware of the irony: Will asked if I was on the site for writing material, I told him I wasn’t and yet here I am sharing. It was my friend Jeanne who pushed me. She explained that doing so was an opportunity to be vulnerable—something that does not come easy for me.
It has been a couple of months since this happened and it’s god awful to relive. I buried the Will sorrow for a time after returning from Vegas. The reality of how far my dad has gone away was all I could handle. It eventually bubbled up, though, as tamped down feelings usually do. There are lots of things that are troubling, but most of all his delivery method. I deserved to hear it from him directly, either by phone or in person. He didn’t think a text message was the proper way to ask me on a date so surely he knew sending that email was even worse. And if he had many things on his plate why push for an exclusive relationship and talk about a future? I would’ve happily dated Will and continued to date others until his plate was emptier. Why say you’re “baggage free” when you’re obviously not? And why ask to meet my daughters and friends? Perhaps one day I’ll run into him and we’ll finally talk.
My girlfriends bolstered me up.
“You’ll hear from him again.”
“He’s not for you.”
“Now he has things on his plate?”
I have lots of male friends and asked them how they’d feel if they received the crazy text I sent Will.
“I’d apologize the next day for not being there when you needed me.”
“I’d be frantic to reach you.”
“I might be surprised but would understand once I knew what happened.”
“He’s weak. Move on.”
Morgan’s reaction was my favorite.
“The first thing that came to mind is, are you strong enough to be my man, and the answer is no.”
As hard as this was, something good happened. Finally I have confirmation that I can love again—in that big way. I wanted to believe it was possible but sometimes wondered, especially given the number of dates I’ve been on with many decent men. It even feels good to hurt over Will, as odd as that sounds. I wasn’t sure I could feel loss for anyone but Neal.
I’m back online again and dating. Not much has changed with that process, but I have. I have a new outlook and can thank Will for that, too. It was exhilarating to feel deeply and I want more. Gone is the mantra of “I had a big love once and if it never happens again, I’m luckier than most.” Instead I now say, “I can and will love again.”
Two quotes today, as I couldn’t decide which I preferred.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemmingway
“When I’ve shown you that I just don’t care. When I’m throwing punches in the air. When I’m broken down and I can’t stand, would you be man enough to be my man?” Sheryl Crow, “Strong Enough”
PS-I’m going to take a break from blogging for the remainder of the summer so I can focus on finishing the book. Whew, these last three posts have been rough. If you don’t want to keep checking back I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog. Who knows? I could meet Mr. Right in July or August.
Also, if you aren’t following me on the Melani Robinson Facebook page, I hope you will. The conversation is always interesting and I’ll be posting on Facebook throughout the summer. Click here to Follow.