Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Love Story - Losing the Dog Daddy

Note:  I originally wrote this to share as a Valentine's Day blog post, however my eyes had a different idea.  I've been diagnosed with Chronic Dry Eye and have had to limit my online time to only a couple of 15-20 minute sessions per day.  Just couldn't get this edited in time for Valentine's Day.  But not only are my eyes slowly, but surely, improving...   today is Gary's birthday.  Happy birthday, babe.  

Once upon a time...    

No, that's not a good beginning.  

It wasn't a fairy tale.  It wasn't love at first sight. And as I once told a friend, it was not some big storybook romance.

But it was a love story and it began in Kansas City.

In the beginning...

I was the director of a halfway house for women coming out of prison and had reason to meet with the probation officer of one of my charges.  

That, of course, was Gary.  

He was freshly divorced; I was married.  None of which mattered because it was very much a business meeting.  Later we both discovered that we'd felt a strange sense of already knowing each other, but at the time we were both strictly business.  Regardless, due to mutual friends and our jobs, over the next year or so, we continually ran into one another and eventually became friends.

When I became divorced, he asked me out.

First date was, shall we say, a surprise for both of us.  He'd planned what most would say was a nice date:  a riverboat dinner cruise on the Missouri River.  Too bad he didn't know they were serving steak and I was a vegetarian.  Too bad he didn't know how terrified I was being in what really was a barge on the water.   And too bad neither of us knew that Mother Nature would stir up one heck of a lightning and thunder show while were were out there.

Second date was another surprise for both of us.  Unbeknownst to me, Gary had gotten tickets for the circus.  Little did he know that I was vehemently opposed to circuses.  Animal cruelty in my book. I was ready to leave as soon as I realized where we were going.

Poor guy. Here he was, trying to do something more creative than the traditional dinner and a movie, but so far striking out big time.

Third try was the charm.  Gary picked me up and drove straight to the Plaza. French bakery first for a baguette and some pain au chocolat. Next the cheese shop for cheese and wine. Then we headed for the Burr Oaks Woods Nature Center for some hiking and a picnic.  He'd brought along a quilt, some pears and grapes. 

It was an absolutely perfect date that led to 37 years of marriage richly filled with some amazing adventures.

And in the end...
Gary was hospitalized on a Thursday.  On Saturday we were talking about him being released the next day.  I headed home that night full of relief and to clean and get ready for his return.

However, when I arrived at the hospital on Sunday, he didn't know me.

The nurse with him explained that he was very worried about his wife.  He'd been trying to call her and had the nurse call, too.  Gary told the me and the nurse that his wife would be wondering where he was.  He told us how sweet his wife was.  

And no. When I told him who I was, he still didn't know me, though he remembered that the next day would be Rudy's birthday.

On Monday Gary's son arrived from Colorado.  He didn't know Andy either. 

I'd been at the hospital for the better part of a week at that point and decided to take advantage of Gary's son being there so I could go home and try to get some much needed rest.

Before I left on that Monday evening I told Gary that I loved him.  

The expression on his face was like a sunrise - full of joy - as he said: You do?  

And I told him:  So, so much.  I love you very much.  

He was grinning when he said: I love you, too.

Those were the last words we spoke to each other. 

Gary slipped into a coma that night.  He never awakened and passed away on Thursday, October 13.