I winced at my dear friend's words. "Why in the world would you want ANOTHER man in your life right now (or EVER)?" she wrote in response to my blog post about a JDate fiasco. "You would probably wind up being a nurse for him. You should be a caregiver for YOURSELF."
Was my friend trying to guard me from a future I wouldn't allow myself to consider? Why indeed did I -- now happily independent in my new downtown digs -- sign up for JDate in the first place?
And, why have I been spying on physically fit grey-haired men at my health club?
Furthermore, why have I asked my paired-up friends to keep me in mind if they know an older single male who meets my criteria; i.e. strolls without the aid of a walker and drives at night?
"Someone to hug," I shot back, believing my pathetic answer would win sympathy and stall further scathing. My response seemed reasonable, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn't bodily contact I missed. After all, there's any number of friends and relatives who would welcome my arms wrapped around their torsos.
If not an embrace, what then have I been seeking in my attempts to find a date? To find clues, I stretched out on the couch, closed my eyes, and reviewed past examples of familiar marriages. And, what I came up with is this: I miss the feeling of being adored.
In my stroll through wedlock history, I realized Tommy spoiled me for future relationships. When I rummaged the drawers of our house before I put it on the market, I found stacks of yellow-lined notes that I had saved and bundled in rubber bands. Each one a sentiment from a love-struck middle-aged man who paused every day to let me know he felt as if he had won the lottery.
Tommy's heartfelt emotions were a revelation because they were unfortunately missing from my first marriage, and tragically one-sided in my parents'.
In my initial go-around, my husband and I appreciated, admired, and cared for each other. But, did we adore one another? Perhaps in the stars-in-our-eyes early years; but after that, with our own personal struggles blinding us, the word went missing.
My parent's marriage was so impressionable that it spurred my memoir, "The Division Street Princess." As I wrote: Irv loved Min from the moment he saw the 19-year-old neighborhood beauty. But alas, Min didn't return his ardor. It wasn't until her old-world mother urged, "You'll learn to love him," that Min accepted Irv's proposal.
Bubbie, you were wrong! Despite Dad's longing, and his purchase of gifts he couldn't pay for -- like the mink stole cradled in tissue and presented in a white box -- Mom never grasped the lesson.
"Take it back, we can't afford it," I remember her saying as she stared at Dad's present. And bity me, channeling my father's pining, pleaded, "Just try it on, Mom, just try it on." She did and twirling in front of a full-length mirror like a 1940's movie star, decided to keep the mink while Dad paid for it in monthly installments.
I never did learn why Mom couldn't return Dad's adoration. I guess some of it could be linked to her disappointment in spending her pretty young life behind the counter of a grocery store on a tenement street. The neighborhood beauty deserved better.
So perhaps glum childhood scenes inspired me to take the part of my mother in my adult life? I would show her how an adored wife acts. When I would find Tommy's love notes, I'd squeal as if they were hidden jewels. Then, I'd get my own post-it and draw a heart with the words, "Love you, hubber! and tuck it into a gym shoe, golf glove, or some other spot he would later discover.
Among the other mementoes I saved was a letter Tommy wrote to me early on. It was the one I read it to him as I sat on the other side of the metal railings of his hospice bed. It was two pages long, written in pen on yellow-lined paper and began: My Darling Elaine, I don't know what lies ahead but I do know I want to spend the rest of my life loving you and taking care of you. We make a great team. When I think about all the years I was alone I realize now that you were the missing part of the puzzle that makes it all fit together.
That's what I'm talking about.