This fateful day: A true story.
It all started with a message from my girlfriend. She’s exceptionally intelligent and humorous, and a delightfully charming and kind woman but this message was somber and raw: "Can we talk tonight, please?"
I met her several years earlier, abroad, and while both of us were in a relationship. We "clicked" as I have rarely clicked with anyone - an instant connection - and a feeling of wonder and utter joy overcame me the first time we interacted at her uncle’s dumpling and noodle shop. I would often go there for a scrumptious local lunch yet found myself more and more often just ending up there, on autopilot, and even without much of an appetite. Just being around her was somehow enough, receiving that fabulous smile - and later a gentle and warm hug - upon arrival, was overwhelmingly satisfying and relaxing.
I knew, though, deep in my heart, that we will never be together. She was in a long-term, high-school-sweetheart-kind-of-relationship, and I was about to go abroad (another abroad) for a one year stint as the Director of a Healthcare Center. In short, worlds' apart, literally and figuratively. When the time for my departure came, we said our goodbyes, a bit sad for sure but both of us mostly just happy to have met and to have had a chance to get to know each other, and I promised to stop by when back in town.
Time flew, seasons came and went, a devastating earthquake where I was located, 2 non-related deaths in my family’s and friends' circles back at home, and 18 months passed before I visited her shop, and. . . it was gone! No sign of a new location, no forward address, just gone!
I remember painfully how empty and sad and lost I felt. I have no idea why I felt that way as we really were not that close, we never dated, never went out, never shared a meal. Sure, she sat down with me at her shop when there was a lull in business, and we talked about food and health and her family, in particular, her mean uncle who was the boss of the shop, while she and her mom were doing most of the work. I often watched him as he was rudely turning down simple requests or scowled at his sister or my friend for no apparent reason. I deeply disliked and ignored him as I could feel his negative energy as well as his disdain for foreigners. She often told me that she and her mom may leave someday, to be on their own.
So how could I have felt this connection, this chemistry, this . . . "love" for this woman? And now she’s just.... gone!
Weeks and months flew by, again, until one day I opened my MSN messenger. (Yes, this all happened a few years ago, with the exception of her message at the beginning of this story, which I received in April of 2015). Someone said hi to me, and as we often do when we have absolutely no idea who this person could be, I responded "it’s nice to hear from you", and she said "do you know who this is?" and I sincerely answered "actually, I have no idea; who are you?" And that’s how we reconnected, and she told me that she and her mom got fed up with the mean and lazy uncle, left his shop, and a few months later, opened up their own shop. Needless to say, the next day I went to their little restaurant, received a fabulous and much desired and NEEDED hug and smile, and a most delicious bowl of handmade dumplings! Never have dumplings tasted this scrumptious, and her hug brought back memories of kindness and tenderness and love, and a deep desire to get to know her better.
Fortunately (for me), she broke up with her boyfriend due to the fact that his mom pressured him to leave her, as she was unlikely to bear him any children. Her ovaries were slightly deformed, her periods several months apart, the chances of becoming pregnant were close to zero. I felt sad at the thought of someone "rejecting" this marvelous woman for these reasons, and of course, totally elated for finally being able to ask her on a date.
We had our first meals together, which were fantastic, and we took our first walks together, which were romantic and filled with endless talks, and we finally made love together, which was truly beyond words in its tenderness and sweetness and passion. I found my soulmate and she found hers, and it was total bliss!
This continued unblemished and with absolute mutual appreciation and awareness for several months. The more I got to know her, the more I fell in love with her, and with her style and her charm and her inner and outer beauty. On her day off, we would explore the city and the countryside and each other, and would often bring her mom and mom’s elderly boyfriend, and we always had a fantastic time. This was the first time since I left my country over 30 years ago, that I had a family, and I loved every silly moment of it.
Then one day I was offered a dream position, a career goal that has taken years to achieve, and again it was abroad. We discussed it thoroughly and concluded that we can easily handle it with me returning once a month for about a week, at least for a few months.
This went on for several months without any problems or issues at all, and 6 months later, after many wonderful monthly visits and meals and long talks together, I was back at my office abroad when I received her message: "Can we talk tonight, please?"
I said, "Of course, baby, I’ll call you after I’m done. Is everything OK? "
"Mmmm, I’m not sure, let’s talk later", was her immediate answer, again curt and to the point, very unlike her.
Needless to say, I was ridiculously worried. Did I do something or say something wrong, forget something? At the same time, I knew we didn’t have this kind of passive-aggressive relationship. Far from it, we communicated extremely well and clear, and always with love and humor.
Of course, there was the simple fact that I was 54 and she was 31. But our age or rather, our age difference, never came up, not even once, and even her mom, whom I called mom, and who was not much older than I was, had always been treating me with utmost respect and warmth, knowing how long her daughter and I knew each other and how long it took for us to finally be together, and also sensing how much we loved each other.
So, could she now have changed her mind about our age difference? And even though we have talked about us living in the same country sooner or later, and both of us are truly and absolutely fine with our situation for now, did she finally get tired of only being together one week a month? Or, heaven forbid, did she find someone younger, more handsome, richer?
Even much darker and forbidden possibilities entered my consciousness with ferocious clarity. Is she ill? Has she undergone another health exam to verify that her delayed periods are harmless and have they found something serious like cancer?
Several years earlier, I lost the only other "soulmate" in my life, a magnificent French woman with whom I experienced my only true love, both of us 35 years old. We were amazingly compatible and deeply in love, and excited about having a child, at least one, and preferably a girl (we both were joking and yet were wishing for), when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 uterine cancer. We swore to never give up, and courageously took on two hellish years of chemotherapy, radiation, recovery, and eventual remission, which was followed by recurring cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, and finally the dreaded palliative care until a most horrific and mind-bogglingly painful last few weeks and her death that shook me to the core and shattered my heart.
Our memories together and her death, and our friends' attempts at "coping", and "consoling" me and themselves drove me to go abroad and continue, at least for a few years, my life in a memory-free and therefore somewhat pain-free environment.
So here I was, in deep thoughts, and I could absolutely not imagine to have something like this happen to my baby now, this wonderful woman, my future life partner, my best friend, someone that is so precious and so loved and so very important to me.
"Mmmm, I’m not sure, let’s talk later", I was repeating her reply in my mind, over and over again.
The day dragged on and on and even though I was very busy, I kept looking at my watch, my thoughts drifting to endless possibilities, none of them with a happy ending for me or her or us, and yet, I felt such a deep love and trust for this woman that part of me totally and unconditionally KNEW that everything will be OK once we talked.
"How was your day ", I said when we finally connected that evening, I guess trying to delay the expected bad news," I’m sorry it took me a while to get home ".
"It’s ok, I just want you to know as soon as possible so we can make a decision", she was speaking rapidly, nervously, which worried me even more. "I felt a bit uncomfortable lately and went to see my gynecologist, and.... I’m pregnant", she blurted out. And then she cried, and cried, and cried, and I was dumbfounded and confused and shocked and then worried about her crying, she just couldn’t stop.
"What’s wrong, baby, why are you crying? Are you in pain?" This went on for a very long time, and finally she said through sobs, "I’m so sorry!"
"Oh, my goodness, what are you sorry about?" I was so relieved and euphoric that she was not ill and not planning on leaving me, that I didn’t understand her crying nor her need to apologize for being OK!
When she finally calmed down enough to continue our conversation, she said, "I know this is very bad timing, you just accepting this position abroad, quite possibly a long-term project, and me getting pregnant. What should we do?"
"Yes, I’m away at the moment, and it may be several years before I would permanently move back or you move here but what’s most important is, what do YOU want to do? I know you wanted a baby before, and it seemed impossible. Do you still want a baby now? Do you want a baby with me? And will you and the baby be safe during the pregnancy and during birth?" I blurted out in my excitement and nervousness and relief.
I suggested a thorough exam and evaluation of hers and the baby’s health and booked a ticket to be with her for that appointment. I also promised her that no matter what my situation and location will be in the near future, if she decides to have the baby after getting a green light from the gynecologist, I would do anything I can to support her and the baby for the rest of their lives.
Two weeks later, we received a thorough report and clear answer that there is no increased risk to her or the baby. With tears of joy streaming from her magnificent eyes, she told me that she will keep the baby and promised that she will do anything she can to be a fabulous mother during my time abroad. Needless to say, her mom was ecstatic, and reassured me not to worry and to come back often to visit, just like before.
I returned to my job abroad, happy and excited and ready to continue my project, and yet I was absolutely and totally terrified. A child? Now, at 54?
To be continued…