Friday, September 25, 2009


Tonight I've been sorting through men who I'm sure do not even know I'm here. But e-harmony sends them to my mailbox so something must be done with the ever growing list. I've just done some pretty fast culling, eliminating anyone who:
1) has a primary interest in fast cars or sports, either participating or watching
2) looks more fit than my kids
3) has lots of mis-spellings in their profile
4) answers more than two questions with an emphasis on wanting or loving women
5) lists drinking alcohol as a primary activity
6) didn't bother to answer most of the questions
7) lives entirely too far away (because I didn't assign enough import to distance)
8) holds no attraction for me

One of the men in my mailbox today pulled a big sigh out of me, just by looking so darned cute. And I'd have closed that match if only I could have sent a little message. I'd have said: "I'm quite sure we're not a match but that is the most charming, unaffected, endearing portrait I've ever seen of a man. You must be a great guy." But you can't send a little message! How wrong is that? You can only send questions you select from an e-harmony list and I imagine that fellow would have looked at my photo and thought "This gal's a little heavy for me, I'll just close this match now." So he'd never get to know how knocked out this fairly discerning woman is by his photo. And shouldn't we all get to know those things whenever possible at this stage of life?

Finally, I left one obvious mis-match with a 79 year old open (apparently I also need to assign more importance to the age-range I selected). Why didn't I close this match? I believe it would be lovely to meet this man. He says he was a broadcaster, influenced by Edward R. Murrow and actually met Murrow a few times. Better still, he says that when he's 85 he'd rather be hiking on Mt. Rainier than sitting around an old folks home. He's looking ahead to being 85. Six years older than he is now. And he's looking at that like it's a ways off. Here's a man who, I believe, is living every minute of his life with intention and joy. I have a feeling this man sparkles with energy and that a room is enlivened when he's in it.

My mailbox full of men is really very interesting. Note: not one has contacted me. So: Am I dull? Too girly? Too high maintenance? Too talkative? Too serious? I'm not worried about it. I am who I am. Just as the men in my mailbox are. Life is good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Mailbox Full of Men

A recently reanimated woman signed onto an online match service to see what she could see. Let's be honest here, she is me. And I'm not looking for a lot, really.

Why? I enjoy the company of men, very much, especially if we have core interests in common. I thrive on good conversation and have that with my friends, yet I do miss having a companionable man in my life. So, while I'm used to and like living alone and have trouble even imagining living with someone or marrying again, I've decided to see what connections the net can bring me. Dating in a small town, especially for a woman of a certain age, isn't very likely to bring great results. We all pretty much know each other and most people are already married or matched. Before I moved out here I heard a radio piece about this very town, on NPR, where one person interviewed said: "Every single person here has dated everyone else already and they're in line to go around again." Funny? Not so much. I knew then if I wanted a mate I'd better move to a bigger town. But I didn't want a mate. So I moved here. Right now, though, in one important way I'm like most of the guys in my online dating service mailbox: I miss the cuddling and conversations that come with a long term meaningful relationship. So why not give this internet thing another try? It can't hurt to be optimistic and try, right?

The most endearing thing I've seen in some of these profiles is the answer to the question: "Who is the most influential person in your life?" Variations of this same answer have come up now and then: "My wonderful wife. We were married 37 years." This melts me every time. Who wouldn't be drawn to a guy who loved his wife and was married that long to her? I consider raising the top of the age range I've requested to find more widowers. Though I am divorced and haven't had a successful partner-relationship in my life, wouldn't I have a better shot with someone who had?

Opposites attract? When you're a woman of a certain age it's amazing how many potential matches you can close after just reading a line or two. Say the first line is: "The one thing X is most passionate about - great cars, motorcycles, diving." And say the last line is: "X typically spends his time - cleaning the car, eating barbecued wings, maybe a movie." Say the woman of a certain age is most passionate about: "the arts." And say the woman of a certain age drives a '97 bottom-of-the-line Toyota Corolla that might be dark green and definitely always has a dirty dog blanket over the back seat. And she's a vegetarian. And she would like to live at her local movie theater and just rent out her house. Match closed.

Adventure Guy. This guy is articulate, interesting in the thoughtfulness and maturity of his answers to profile questions. So, I'm attracted immediately. Most of his photos show him to be far more fit than I am, which normally would be enough to close the match. I wonder how old the pictures are - but I try to take people at their word so I'll assume these reflect, at least, who he sees himself as: kayaking the Sea of Cortez; strapped into something that appears to be a very pricey backpack...or is it climbing gear? Reality check. This guy is five years younger than me and he's into adventure. I did white water open canoe slalom racing for 13 years to challenge myself (and because I thought it was good for my marriage), and I will step onto a stage to act or sing but I honestly do not like adventure if it involves speed or bodily risk. Match closed.

The Berkeley Guy. On the surface you'd think this would be a great match for me. His first passion: couple dancing. He does it twice a week. The couple dancing, I mean. I've always wanted to learn to dance. He loves cultural activities and puts live theater high on his list. I love theater. So why did I skim this match and close it in less than a minute? He's too perfect. Not for me; for himself. The man is already in love. And he realizes how fortunate he is to have himself, just as wonderful and enlightened as he is. And he wishes more people would see how great he is and how much he wants them to just be happy, too. Match closed.

The Regular Guy. He's not saying much in his profile except that he appreciates and loves his family and friends and that's the most important thing in his life. Occupation: Construction. He doesn't give me a lot to go on here, so we might not have much in common. No indication of interests or activities. But his most influential person? "My late wife taught me how to love and be a good person." Match open.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eau de Pheremones, or Reanimation, Part 2

A funny thing happened once my sensual side was sparked, or as I put it in my last post, reanimated. The pheremones apparently are flowing again.

I went to Mt. Rainier for a couple of days of wildflower peeping and walking. I got there late the first night, slept well, enjoyed acquainting myself with the lodge at Paradise, and got up and out early for a walk in the morning mist. I lucked out, second week in August, to find the wildflower bloom still at peak. I'd never witnessed that and felt I'd put myself into a little bit of heaven, which was just what I needed after burying my cat a couple of days before and saying farewell to my dying neighbor before driving up the mountain.

That afternoon I went out walking again and found that a man about my age seemed to be trailing along and stopping when I stopped and, indeed, he started chatting with me as I was taking photographs. Pleasant enough, but I felt my boundaries firming up and after walking a ways I bid him farewell and went into the Inn. He followed "to see if it was as he remembered" but then left me alone.

Back home I discovered a phone call from a fellow who belongs to an organization I'm a member of but who I don't know at all except to say hello to when I see him. Last time I did that I saw something light up in him. Now anyone who knows me knows I'm no femme fatale. But I think any of us, when we are animated and feeling our best, have a different effect on others than when we're, say, idling in neutral.

Then a day or so ago I was walking downtown when I ran into another fellow I know. I crossed the street to say hi and we chatted amiably for a few moments. As I said goodbye we shared a hug as we usually do. But as I stepped away he reached for me, hugged me again, and put a sweet little kiss on my lips - something he'd never done before.

So all I'm saying here is this: I had put myself to bed, so to speak, sensually, some years ago after one too many unpleasant experiences with men. I'd grown comfortably independent to the degree that I felt "this was it" and I was 99.9% sure that I would never feel these feelings again. I'm overweight, out of shape, trying my best to work on those things, but most certainly past my physical prime on the exterior at least. And yet...a fellow touched me about a month ago and I have felt reanimated, happier, more complete ever since. And now it seems I'm passing a little of that joy along. May it continue.

Post Script: 26 November 2011
Happy to note that I've lost 20 pounds since I wrote this, in a healthy, slow way. When it snowed on monday and the roads weren't good I walked uptown, about 2 miles uphill from me, and I did it in good time, feeling strong all the way. That would not have been true a year ago. This day after Thanksgiving I'm feeling very grateful for good health and increasing fitness!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Working it out while I sleep

I woke this morning from a nightmare. I haven't had one in a while but my dreams and nightmares are stories and I can usually, if I take the time, figure out what it is my subconscious is working out. Sometimes it doesn't seem so much like I'm working out a thing as reliving a trauma and this may have been both but was definitely the latter.

My mother died a couple of weeks ago at 11:20 p.m., and I felt grateful to be with her at the moment of her death, after a few days of being companion and advocate, along with my sister, as she made her way towards the end. I mean to write about that but as yet have felt too tender to do it.

One year before my mother died, on the same day, August 28, I was present at another death. A former neighbor had called me to say he'd returned to town to die. His cancer was quite advanced. He wondered if I would visit once in a while and have tea and chat with him. Easy enough. I made strawberry muffins and brought my teapot and tea along too.

A few weeks later he asked if I could help more often and I said that I would. His best friend works out of town a lot and it was at his urging that this new arrangement was made. The friend left town on a Sunday and on Monday my former neighbor, who had been out of touch with me for five years, asked me to help him get registered with Hospice. We did this.

I began doing some laundry, making sure he had meals on wheels and other food, cooking a little for him and joining him now and then for breakfast. I'd drive him on errands too. This was not hard for me. What became difficult was the fact that not only was he dying but he was unable to allow Hospice to be in charge of controlling his pain. He had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and a stash of drugs he'd collected from different docs in different towns. He asked me to come into his therapy session and we talked about that. The therapist said he had a right to his stash. The problem was, he tinkered with his meds, which had been painstakingly doled out in containers by Hospice to help keep him calmer and pain free. One day he'd be relatively comfortable and the next hour or day he'd be in great pain and pacing or saying the same thing over and over "why doesn't Hospice want my pain to go away?" They'd raised his fentanyl patches from 25 mg to 50 to 75 to 150 in about a week.

Sadly I went one day to take him to therapy and found him disoriented, meds laid out in little piles everywhere, including a slightly fuzzy pile that had obviously been in his mouth and spit out. And he'd taken off his patches and all the extras were gone. Hospice speculated that he'd sucked the meds out of them for a quicker hit. His OCD was out of control and I told him I was doing my best to stay with him but I really needed him to calm down and stop asking, over and over, why Hospice, or I, did not want him to have pain relief. Because, indeed, that was our main goal in helping him: to keep him comfortable.

I suggested we leave early for his appointment, go by my bank, get money and go pay my house cleaner, then stop at the beach until it was time for his appointment. I just wanted to help him focus on anything other than the sensation that his pain was a constant ten and nothing was helping. Hospice told me over the phone that more patches would be delivered but not to leave them in the apartment and that they might have to let him go off their program as he was not cooperating and was the most difficult patient they'd ever dealt with to date.

He agreed to my suggested outing before the appointment and I gathered my purse and a few things and was standing waiting for him to come with me. He paced from the bathroom to the bedroom three times and when I asked if he was ready, he said: "Just a minute. I have to change my pants before we go." He walked from the bathroom to the bedroom and closed the door and then I heard a gunshot. I was on the phone talking to his friend Mark at that moment and I screamed and ran from the apartment. I thought if he had not succeeded he might be staggering out of the bedroom shooting. And if he had succeeded I was not going in there to see it.

I ran from his place to another in the complex, as far away as possible, and asked for help. That neighbor walked me to another neighbor, who took me in and called 911. Officers came, asked me if he had a gun and I told them I was pretty sure it was a gun. I said " sounded like a firecracker but it wasn't a firecracker." I remember the officer in charge was looking directly into my eyes and I recognized him and the others around him were like a blurry blue cloud. They efficiently and bravely went up to his place, warned the closest neighbor to stay down and burst through his door and found him, dead. Another officer was interviewing me. I was, I'm sure, in shock. I had not known that he had a gun. I was surrounded by loving, caring, supportive people and it has still been a tough year absorbing this event and healing from the fear. At first on my daily walks I feared strangers I saw, sure that they had guns concealed in their jackets or coats. I don't have that reaction now.

But deep in the subconscious it's still getting worked out. So this nightmare is part of that and is partly about losing my mother, too. I dreamed I was walking across a field, past a soccer game and to a house with three intact sides and an open front. All the people in the house were people I knew, including family members, but none were at their current age. Except for Dr. Krieher, the elder care doc at Hershey Medical Center who tried to evaluate Mom and help us understand what was going to be happening with her. She was in the center of the open house, directing people in their packing and leaving preparations. For some reason I left the house and was walking towards the youthful soccer game when a man passed me, walking towards the house, and he was carrying a gun, moving with obvious purpose. I turned to watch him and he walked straight in and raised the gun to Dr. K, who shouted out to me "Call 911. Tell them Paul did it." In the dream I did that, then the soccer teams and I fell to the ground to avoid gunfire and the police came and apprehended the man. But the man was not my brother-in-law Paul. It was Mike, the former neighbor who committed suicide a year ago. Paul, though, while I was with the family after Mom's death, told a story about shooting a great many crows, randomly, when he was young, so I think that's how he squeaked into the dream.

Maybe all the people in the house were people dying or preparng to die. Maybe I turned away and towards youth/vitality/life as a healthy instinct to embrace life. Maybe my quick response to the Docs cries was a reminder that I do what needs doing even when things are terrifying. Maybe it had to do with feeling overwhelmed by death right now. My neighbor Ray died, then two months later my eldest cat Lisa died, and a couple of days after that Ray's wife, my friend Marjorie, died. I was at her side twenty minutes before she passed away. It's all been very sad and a lot of death in two months. Then Mom's passing was a deep, intense experience and happened to come on the same day as Mike's suicide. And the day after I got home from her funeral there was a funeral for a man I'd been in a band with a couple of years ago. I'm kind of spent. And I'm grateful on more levels than I have the energy to describe. Grateful for friends, for the kindness of strangers in that apartment complex, for the resiliency to heal and go on with joy and hope.