Thursday, February 18, 2010

On Starting Over

This post was originally planned to be put up around New Year’s Day, but as you can see from the sidebar, it’s been well over a month since I have actually posted anything here. The good news is that this has been less for grief-related reasons than it has for hectic, everyday life type changes. When I returned to work after Christmas Break, I was informed by a colleague that she was moving, which in turn would more than double my workload. So we spent the following four weeks rearranging our schedules and preparing for these changes, which left me exhausted on the best of evenings.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I started dating someone.

Yes, just when I had accepted the fact that I would likely be single for the next ten years or so, someone sparked my interest in a way that I didn’t think was possible anymore. Now, since I write this blog largely to chronicle my life as a widowed, single father, I will refrain from gushing about how great she is. She does have some great qualities, some of which are not all that unlike qualities my late wife possessed. But the beauty is that she is not an exact replica of my wife and I’m okay with that. One of the things I have worried most about since I started thinking about dating again in general, was that I would seek out someone who was a carbon-copy of my wife. I would guess that is a fear with most dating widow/ers, and I’d bet that many of us end up falling into that trap at some point or another. But unless this initial foray into the dating world is my last, I am not immune to this possibility. I’m just glad it didn’t happen that way this time.

Now, this might be a good time to point out that I am not a casual dater. Including my wife, I’ve only had four serious relationships since I was old enough to date. I put a lot of thought into the possible ramifications of actually dating anyone I might be interested in. I am as comfortable as I can be with being single, which I think allows me the freedom to act when I do meet someone. And being choosy landed me in a good marriage the first time, so I have no reason to think it won’t again if there is to be a second time.

That being said, I was as surprised as most of my regular readers probably are now when I found myself attracted to someone else less than three years after my wife’s death. But as I posted in the fall, I wanted to work toward healing so that I would be ready when the ”right” person came along. I’m just still really floored that it happened so soon.

Now for some background. I actually met her this summer at church. She was supposed to be the assistant for the Bible school class I was teaching, but ended up being assigned to another class. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think she was physically attractive even then, but at that point even finding another woman attractive was a huge step. So that’s as far as it went then. We saw each other off and on at church, but communication was pretty limited over the next few months.

Enter Facebook.

Not one to jump on bandwagons, I reluctantly joined Facebook this summer. As it turns out, that proved to be to my advantage. Sometime in October I received a friend request from her and over time we started chatting. (I had actually tried to look her up prior to this point, but was unaware at the time that her name is not spelled in the traditional manner and could not find her). I definitely felt like there was interest on her part as well, but let the chatting continue over the course of the next several weeks to give us time to get to know each other and allow myself to get my head around what could ensue.

Even then, it was still early December before we had our first date.

And even now, we are continuing to take things slow.

Dating in and of itself can be a scary venture, but throw widow(er)hood and a grieving child into the mix and it can be downright frightening. So once we had decided to go out, I sat down with my daughter over a bowl of ice cream and tentatively told her that I had a date. I expected tears. Or screaming. Or drama of some variety. The only thing I didn’t expect was the reaction I got – a wide grin and a gleam in her eye.

My daughter had, of course, met this woman and had seemed drawn to her in a way that she does not show with many women outside of our extended family. So in her own way, without even knowing it, my daughter had given me the green light to begin this relationship. And what I loved about it is that my daughter sought her out during some of our initial encounters at church. She wasn’t overly zealous about it, but she would ask if we were going to see them that day at church and things that she never asked about anyone else.

One of the many things I worried about when I thought about dating in general is that some women attempt to get to single dads through their child/ren. I was afraid that if that happened I might not see it coming. I’ve had single women friends who suddenly took more of an interest in my daughter than I was comfortable with, so I have experienced it on some level and knew what to watch for. It didn’t happen with her.

Perhaps that is because she also has a young child from a previous relationship.

And that is one of the many reasons we are choosing to take things slow. When I mentioned the date to my daughter and she smiled, she also said she was happy. Then she proceeded to determine which room would be the other child’s (there was only one choice) and how often she would be willing to share her toys with her. So I put my hand up and explained the process to her. I told her that we were starting with one date, then maybe another and so on and so forth, and that eventually if things went well, we would possibly start doing things with the kids at times too. It seemed only logical that if I had worked out the process in my own mind, it might bring her comfort to know what could be expected.

And for the most part, that has worked out well. The morning after the first date, my daughter smiled and asked me how it went. So I told her there would be a second date and she seemed fine with it. But when the time for the second date actually rolled around she was not quite as “okay” with it as she had initially been. She acted a bit more like I had initially expected her to, and it actually made me feel better to see that she was having a “normal” reaction. There were a few moments like that during the first month or so, but she seems genuinely glad to include them now. I make sure my daughter and I still have plenty of time to ourselves, including our Friday night dinners out, and she asks to include them sometimes when we do things. It has become a pretty workable balance so far.

But dating as a widow/er does not come without its pratfalls. Not only is this my first new relationship in ten years, but it started in winter (note to new readers: I loathe winter) and the three-month mark falls smack dab in the middle of the darkest part of the year for me. And it’s still early enough that I view everything through my widow/er glasses. Every phone call. Every text. Every Facebook status update. Every face-to-face interaction. And let’s face it, it’s hard to be romantic sometimes when grief has you by the scruff of the neck.

But she’s stuck by me thus far. And I can’t help but think that if she’s attracted to me at my worst, then things can only get better from here.