It was the best of times; it was the worst of times

(Originally posted August 9, 2006)

This post is for Beth, who didn’t know that today was my third anniversary and just Monday asked the question of how Tim and I met.

The short story is that we met at work.

The long story is much longer, and is proving hard for me to write. To write about Tim and I building the foundation of our relationship, I also have to write about the ending of my fathers life—for both of these events took place at the same time. I can’t smile over the one without feeling sorrow for the other.

And I will warn you that when I say “long” I really mean “grab a drink and put your feet up because this is really going to take some time to tell you this story”. I know nobody ever reads the long posts, otherwise y’all would comment more on them. But here it is anyway, in all its 1,773 words.

A few years ago, when I was dating this guy, I left the place where we both worked and went to work at the place where I work now. Halloween came around, and we all dressed up. Well, not all of us, but a good portion of us. And there was this cute boy! And he was tall and lanky, and just so … cute! And he was wearing the sharpest Star Trek uniform! Go ahead, laugh at me. I’m a dork, and I fully embrace that.

But I was already dating someone. Who suddenly decided to break up with me via email. I’ve long since deleted it, but the gist of it was something along the lines of “since I never officially asked you to be my actual ‘girlfriend’ in those words, even though I’ve had unlimited pooter access for the last year or so; I hope you don’t mind if I break our plans this Friday and take out XXX instead of you.” This was even funnier because XXX was the girl whose hair I had held out of the toilet just a few weeks earlier. HAHAHAH! JOKE WAS ON ME!

Needless to say I was all, I am so fucking finished with boys and their stupid boy… boyisms. I had gotten divorced a few years earlier, and was really just tired of the dating game. I decided “no more” and that I was going to take a year off. A year off from dating, a year off from stupid boys, a year to just be with myself and work on my strengths and hobbies and I was going to … just be.

Even though there was this cute boy at work who was obviously a science fiction fan.

Besides, it turned out that XXX didn’t want the same things that ex-not-boyfriend wanted. She just wanted dinner. Nothing else. He came crawling back, and I was all, “did we actually break up, if we were never dating? I’m so confused!”… but he had cable, so I tried to be nice to him long enough for the current season of The Sopranos. Even though we kept not dating, and not breaking up, for about six months.

I decided I needed to do other things.

So one of the things I started to do in order to branch out and do things that did not involve the ex-not-boyfriend and all of the friends that we had in common, was join a bowling team at work. Yes, I bowl. And I’m pretty good, for a dabbler, if I do say so myself. Now… how Kelly got me on the bowling team is quite the story in itself, and maybe I’ll tell it to you one day. But this story is already going to be long enough, so let’s just move on.

This is a typical conversation at the bowling alley between myself, Kelly, Kelly’s long-suffering husband Robbie, and our friend and co-worker Barbara.

Kelly: So why don’t you want to go out with Tim?
Me: It’s not that I don’t want to go out with Tim, I just don’t want to go out with anyone right now.
Kelly: Well, what’s wrong with him?
Me: Nothing’s wrong with him, I just don’t want to date anyone right now. I’m done with boys for a while.
Barbara: Well, what do you like about him?
Me: I like that he makes eye contact when we talk, and he has a great smile that lights up his whole face, and he laughs with his whole body. He’s also brilliant, and educated, and talks with me, not at me.
Kelly: Well he sounds like a great guy.
Barbara: I can’t believe that you don’t want to go out with him.
Me: Okay, I tell you what—if I bowl a strike next, I’ll ask him out.
Robbie: I’d like another drink, please.

This went on for… months. Really. It probably felt like years to Robbie, but it was really only months. By the end of the bowling season I had officially finished not breaking up with the guy who wasn’t really dating me (it may sound as if I’m being overly harsh on this boy; he really did have some redeeming qualities, but this is my story so I’ll tell it like I felt it at the time).

I will skip over the many occasions wherein Kelly and Robbie invited Tim and I (and sometimes others) over to their house for evenings of television, in order to set Tim and myself up. I’ll also skip the science fiction convention wherein it was arranged so that Tim and I would room together—and even had to platonically share a bed. Suffice to say that in all of these instances, he made no moves. Not a single one. This lead to many discussions over whether or not he was shy, or gay, or had a secret girlfriend. Even other co-workers would engage him in conversation, trying to get a feel for what he thought about me or whether or not he had a little something else going on, on the side.

But there were two problems. One was that he had told me early in our many talks that he didn’t like Gainesville, and was thinking about moving. Well, crap. I was done with dating emotionally unavailable guys; I certainly wasn’t going to get involved with someone who was soon going to leave town! I love Gainesville, and have no plans to leave any time soon (barring alien abduction). The other thing is that he’s not a pet person, and had no desire to become a pet person. At the time I had two dogs and four cats. There were signs at the beginning that this might not be a good match.

Meanwhile, between the science fiction convention and The First Kiss, my father was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

Hanging out with Tim was a nice thing to do that first weekend that dad was in the hospital, being diagnosed. Hanging out with Tim didn’t have to do with death, with sorrow, with the sudden earthquake of my life. Being with Tim was … safe. Except for the first time I kissed him. To my utter shame, he did not kiss me back. No, he just sat there on the couch and stared at me. The good news is that it wasn’t that he didn’t want to kiss me—it was just that I’d surprised him. So when I leaned over and kissed him a second time, he kissed me back. Good times!

Tim left for Thanksgiving vacation the very next day. He would call me every other day, just to check in and see how things were going. Things weren’t going well. I’d had to be the one to tell my mother that my father had just been handed a death sentence, which is not an activity that I’d hand off to my worst enemy. Friends were flying and driving into town to say their goodbyes. There were phone calls, and visits, and letters, and lots of tears … but also lots of laughter. Lots of love. Lots of moments where that raw nerve of life was being exposed for how beautiful and precious and short it is. The kind of pain and joy that you not only can’t turn away from but that you also can’t let yourself feel day in and day out because it fills you too much to the brim. There’s no room for anything except the thunderous roaring sound of your life being changed by wind and rain, like the entire Grand Canyon being formed in your soul in a matter of days.

And in the middle of that tumultuous storm, suddenly, there was Tim. He came back from vacation early, because he wanted to meet my father before it was too late.

We would stay up late at night and talk. I was renting out part of my house to someone who was driving me insane. But I needed the money, so what could I do? One night, Tim said that if I wanted to invite my roommate to move out, he could move in. “But you know where that would go, right?” he asked. I nodded. It made a sort of symmetrical sense, for there to be a beginning where there was an ending.

A few weeks later, dad was in Hospice. There, at his bedside, we were able to take my father’s hand and tell him that it was okay to let go. Tim told my dad that he would be picking up with my life where my father was leaving off.

A few minutes after my father died, to the sound of my laughter at an off-color joke my uncle had made, Rusty said some very true words to Tim.

“A lot of men would have run away from this.”

But Tim didn’t run. For whatever reason, he stayed. He learned about my family in our most raw, worst time, and he didn’t run away from that. He learned to, if not love, at least to tolerate my pets. Has even buried a few of them, and cried almost as much as I did when we had to have Heidi put to sleep. He likes Gainesville. He puts up with my incessant nattering on while the TV is on, he untangles my yarn, and he is about the handiest damn man I’ve ever met, next to my father. In some ways, Tim reminds me of my father. Tall, gangly, funny, intelligent, handy, computer savvy, likes to drive…

How could I not marry a man like that?

Happy third anniversary, Husbeast.

4 comments

  1. Well, -I- like reading long posts. Especially this one, because I was so wrapped up in what your dad (and I) was going through, I never got around to asking about the details of how you and Tim got together. So, thank you for taking the time to write it down. I share your opinion–Tim’s a pretty fantastic guy! Happy third to you both!
    And for letting me know how that time looked from your point of view, too; I’m embarrassed to say that an awful lot of that time is still a blur, even after all the time that’s passed by.

  2. Remember what I said earlier about words? Y’know, how you have all the right ones *I* wish i had?

    Yeah, the sentiment still applies.

    As if there was any doubt …

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