Monday, February 08, 2010

Deathbed Dating: A Valentine to Hope

Do these jeans make my butt look single? Maybe it’s my deceptively youthful hairdo.

When I married for the second time nearly 10 years ago, I happily bid adieu forever to dating, which I never really enjoyed. Dating was invented so young people could choose the best spouse-for-life available. Over the decades – my teens, twenties, thirties and forties – dating seemed like a series of interviews for a job I probably didn’t want in a workplace where sexual harassment is a socially acceptable perk.

Now, at age 53, I find myself on the verge of a divorce I never expected and the recipient of male attention I never solicited. Men from my past and men who want a piece of my future - or a piece of something, anyway - are forcing me to recycle my trusty old polite refusals when I yearn to say, "I vant to be alone." I was unforgivably rude to the first gentleman who asked me out last fall after my marital collapse. I stared at the poor guy, horrified and completely unprepared to respond, squelching an inappropriate outburst of laughter. I quickly apologized and explained my complicated situation, but he was justifiably offended. Months later I saw him on The Millionaire Matchmaker.

My marriage may feel like a legal technicality that I can blissfully ignore until forcibly reminded of it, but I am assured that it is quite real in the eyes of God, whom I seek to please above all. My STBX (soon to be ex-husband) Luis has provided ample Biblical grounds to justify divorce, but the Bible makes clear that I may not remarry until he does and I'm fine with that. Nothing personal against the nice, attractive men I have met recently and I am flattered by their invitations, but dating is near the bottom of my list of Things to Do Before I Die, slightly above bungee jumping, worm eating and sword swallowing. I would be a very contented spinster if I had a companion as sweet and loving as my late, lamented, legendary Tigerlily. Unlike my STBX, my Maine Coon remained loyal to the end and never tom-catted around on me.

I met Luis several years after avowing that I had given up on men. I had been a single mom for a long time and was - still am - perfectly comfortable in that niche. I joked to friends that, if I tripped over a diamond, I would probably pick it up - which is figuratively how I met Luis, who came to work where I lived. I was so committed to avoiding another mistake that I put him through every conceivable premarital test of his maturity and character. My sister believed that God had sent him to me and, although I was well aware of his vanities and weaknesses, I considered myself the luckiest woman in the world.

I have been living with breast cancer for seven years and in stage 4, when it is considered incurable, since 2006. Luis deserves credit for being as loving and supportive as any woman battling cancer would want her husband to be - at least, he was during my first two episodes of cancer. He committed his life to Christ after my 2006 recurrence and presumptuously took credit for the miraculous remission that followed as though he had paid my debt to God and I was healed forever. When I was diagnosed at the end of 2008 with additional metastases that invaded my liver and thoracic region, Luis began to change in ways not outwardly apparent even to me, the person who knew him best.

During the course of my cancer treatment, I have grown several large tumors and seen them disappear as though they never existed. When Luis started to exhibit strange, scary, sadistic behavior toward me last July, I felt like I was watching the formation of a terrible malignancy that gobbled up all his good cells until he was unrecognizable and finally gone. Although he apologized for it before he moved out, he systematically and relentlessly tried to convince me to stop chemotherapy to die for his convenience. Like the tumors in my breast, on my hip and throughout my liver, Luis had become a thief and a murderer - and I would not wish him back. I will not let my STBX steal any of the blessings God has granted me, even if my peace and joy continue to confuse some men drawn to a smiling face.

I dare not second guess God and His plan for me, but I cannot imagine signing myself up for another experiment in romantic love. On a strictly superficial level, I would dread getting to that point in my relationship with Tom or Harry – I’m done with Dicks – when I am forced to reveal the physical battlefield of cancer. My body is like a topographic map of the doomed trail immortalized by the Donner party. This is where we slaughtered our oxen. There is the camp where we faced imminent death and agonized over our options to forestall it. Oops! Don't look here.

If I tried to write a personal profile for eHarmony, it would read like that old joke about a newspaper ad for a lost pet described thus: “Three legs, blind in one eye, tail broken, missing right ear, recently castrated. Answers to the name Lucky.” Nevertheless, I believe it is possible to find a kind, caring man who would accept me and my collateral damage. According to a new biography, Warren Beatty was more than willing to satisfy the desires of a woman whose husband rejected her after a mastectomy. But it is the invisible scar tissue holding my battered heart together that I don't want anyone to see or touch.

I learned a lot from my first divorce and vowed never to repeat it. I had wanted a baby in the worst way, so I married one. My first husband was emotionally paralyzed after childhood physical abuse and completely devoid of any relationship skills. When we actually had a son together, I foolishly expected him to be transformed into a devoted father. When I packed up and left, it was more habit-breaking than heartbreaking.

My STBX Luis, whom I loved and trusted more than anyone under God, stopped loving me because he finally acknowledged I was going to die and leave him alone. In a virtual instant, his tender feelings, his years of devotion, his humanity, his Christianity vanished. What lesson can I derive from this experience that would improve my next relationship? Don't get cancer? Don't die?

I helped raise two nephews. I adore my son and we have always been close. I'm not a man hater. I love and appreciate and sympathize with men. But it took me sixteen years before I would commit to another husband. During those single years, I was guided by the words of a wise friend and former in-law who told me, "Only a good man is better than no man at all." For eight years, I thought I found the very best man, but in truth my STBX was just as damaged as my first husband. He simply hadn't been tested yet.

My oncologist cannot guarantee me another sixteen months, much less years, to figure out what the hell happened. Frankly, I am so relieved after months of chaos and wickedness that I do not want to waste sixteen days analyzing my second marriage or my second husband. I have, as they say, moved on. I count as a blessing that Luis's mask dropped when I was still around to help my family adjust to the truth.

I have always been envious of the resilient optimism displayed by elderly couples who find last love in their twilight years, especially since cancer forced me to reassess my own measurement of time. I get misty-eyed thinking of all the people in this impatient world with so much to offer except the promise of longevity. I pondered and I wondered: Is there a dating service that caters to their needs? And does it have a drive-thru window?

As any Super Bowl quarterback can tell you, it takes uncommon courage to hear the 2 minute warning as a call to action when the temptation to run out the clock must be overwhelming. I seriously want to help these brave souls overcome fear and defy the odds - as seriously as any broke, terminally ill, determined spinster can be.

I already have a name, One Foot on a Banana Peel™, but I need a business model and some startup funds, thank you very much. If interested, please inquire within. That is one proposition I would gladly welcome!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

SB Sunday 2010

We're having a Super Bowl partay at our house catered by the Shingle Belle. That's just a silly nickname I'm using as I recover from a recurrence of the shingles probably caused by stress over finances and job instability. Apparently, shingles can strike twice, although God has blessed me with a much milder case than I had twenty years ago.

What's on the menu? Nothing on a shingle, I can assure you. The theme, if there is one, is clean-out-the-pantry-and-freezer-and-shake-down-the-avocado-tree. It's good stuff. Are you itchin' to come over?

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Crab Cocktail Dip

Layered Mexican Dip


Tostito Scooops

Ruffles Potato Chips

Cheese and Crackers

Deviled Eggs

No Bean Chili

Baby Back Ribs

Barbecue Beans

Bacon and Cheese Potato Casserole

Cheddar Scalloped Corn

Espresso Irish Cream Bundt Cake

Seriously, who objects to the Tim and Pam Tebow commercial from Focus on the Family? Wusses!

Here is another adorable ad that celebrates life - plus it has a song I can't get out of my head.