Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Dating Trials and Surprises

I have always worked best under a deadline.

I’ve been framing portions of this post in my head for two months, but now that I’m leaving on vacation in a couple days, I’m making time to sit down and actually share these things here.

First, an introduction of sorts.

It has been requested that I “introduce” my girlfriend here. Unless this is the first time you’ve read my site, you’ll know that I do not use any real names and typically limit physical descriptions of people as well as names of specific locations, with rare exception. I have decided that I need to give my girlfriend a name for this site, as she is someone I hope to be writing about in future posts as well. The name I have chosen is a play on words that only I can see. So for the purposes of this site, I have chosen to call her Winn-D.

Now, I realize that some of your imaginations jumped immediately to a former chain of grocery stores (if you live in an area where they existed) or a beloved storybook puppy by the same name. That is precisely the reason I have chosen to shorten her moniker to Winn-D, as opposed to calling her Winn-Dixie, as was my original intention. She is neither a grocery store chain or a four-legged creature, so hopefully after this no one else will be inclined to think of her as either of those things.

As far as other information goes, she is also a school-based employee, though we do not work in the same school building (which would go against my strict policy about dating co-workers). The good news about that is that we have been able to spend an increasing amount of time together this summer. The bad news is that when school starts again we will have a harder time being able to do so as we live and work in different towns.

She is probably the tallest woman I have ever dated (not that there have been many, mind you) and has brown eyes. I never had a type before I met my late wife, but the few women I did date before (and including) her all had two things in common: they were on the short side and all had blue eyes. The first woman I dated after my wife passed away was not as short and had brown eyes. Winn-D is even taller than she was. She possesses a great many of the wonderful qualities that attracted me to my wife, but does not remind me of her in the least bit. (And so far there are no red flags like there were with the last woman I dated). Oh, and did I mention she has an accent that is thick as mo-lasses?

One of the many things that has surprised me about dating Winn-D has been the response my daughter has had to her. She was initially prepared not to like Winn-D, which is precisely the response I expected the first time I dated someone after her mother died (and did not get). As I gently talked to her about it, she mentioned that she didn’t feel like she really knew her. Now, to her credit we had made it a point to get to know each other via texts, e-mails, and late-night phone conversations before we decided to go out, but my daughter had not been privy to any of that information. So she didn’t really feel like she knew her at all, and she definitely didn’t see the possibility of a relationship on the horizon. I made the comment to her that I knew her and I knew Winn-D and I was sure they were going to like each other. And when they did, I was going to make sure to remind her of that fact from time-to-time (which I do!) We had been dating over a month before the three of us spent any time together. I believe it’s important for me to see where a relationship might be headed before I drag my daughter into it. Our initial plan was to have dinner and see how things went, but the evening ended with my daughter inviting her back to our house to watch “kid tv” and curling up in her lap to do so. Now if Winn-D and I are together when I go to pick up my daughter, she always runs straight for Winn-D and only gives me a hug after-the-fact.

One of the other things that has surprised me is how often Winn-D is presumed to be my daughter’s mother. Now, I know that to a casual observer we likely seem to be a little family when we’re out to eat or shopping or on an outing. I understand that. What I didn’t expect is that her role would be “understood” and mine would be questioned. We even had one man at a festival refer to us as “your mom and, I assume, dad”. If it had only happened once, I would chalk it up as one person’s response, but it’s happened several times over the past few months!

But then, when I really think about it, for all intents and purposes, my daughter does act toward her as a child would normally act toward her mom. And for her part, Winn-D is, quite naturally, doing the same thing. It’s a beautiful thing and it warms my heart. I try not to allow myself to be plagued by the “what-ifs” (the foremost of which being “what if it doesn’t work out and my daughter is heart-broken?), but they creep in from time-to-time. Right now, I don’t have any reason to think that it won’t, but I also didn’t have any reason to think I’d be widowed at age 29, so you can see where a bit of worry might be justified.

We have already, unfortunately, had to weather a few trials (/relationship builders?) in our five-plus months together. Some of them I cannot go into here, of course, but the most recent one has been my health. I don’t know that I can say it has taken a turn for the worse, but something is not right. I had not been noticing any additional breathing difficulty (though I was on antibiotics for my teeth during our high-pollen season this spring), but when I went for my appointment with the pulmonologist last month, he discovered that my lung capacity has decreased significantly since my appointment in January. He wouldn’t give me an explanation for this as he said the list of possibilities was too long to go into without further testing. But I’m smart enough to know that this is not normal for an otherwise healthy, thirty-three year old man who has never even put a tobacco product near his mouth. (On a side note, if you smoke or use other tobacco products, please consider quitting.) So he sent me for a CT scan, which took ten minutes and cost me hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket as apparently my insurance doesn’t pay for diagnostic tests. (Money is a bit of a sore subject with me lately as my body and about half of my appliances have quit or tried to this year!) He also put me on medication, which I had been hoping to avoid. I wish I could say that it wasn’t working and could go off of it, but I think its helping. If that’s true, then I will likely have to use it indefinitely.

I go in for the results of the CT scan tomorrow afternoon. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. It’s been 13 months since I had the initial episode that started all of lung issues and I feel like I’ve bounced back and forth between extremes. I’m worried that I’ll go in and he’ll say I have some terrible disease (like the one I thought he had originally diagnosed) and that asthma was either not the right diagnosis or is not the only lung issue I have. But I think I’m even more nervous that I’ll go in and he’ll say we need to do more tests as the results of the CT scan were inconclusive. In some ways not knowing what’s wrong is harder than knowing (or at least thinking) it’s something really bad. Any prayers would be greatly appreciated.

As I mentioned before, we are headed on vacation in a couple of days. And by we, I mean there will be three of us making the trip this time (four if you count the dog). Winn-D has met my mom, and some good friends from “home”, and my late wife’s parents, and all of those encounters went exceptionally well. But she hasn’t seen where I come from. I’ve only been building a life in the South for nine years. I lived the first twenty-four in a small town in the Midwest. I considered waiting till Christmas to ask her to come with us, but we will have been dating almost a year at that point and knowing my roots seemed too important to wait. We will be staying with my late wife’s parents, just as we do when my daughter and I travel there alone. I have tried to be sensitive to their comfort level with meeting Winn-D (as well as hers), but everyone seems more than willing to move forward with this. There are also a few friends that I inherited through my late wife, and Winn-D will be meeting them as well on this trip. They have also completely welcomed the opportunity to meet and get to know her. We’ll head to the Upper Midwest for a wedding halfway through the trip, then stay the rest of the time with my family. If she isn’t completely overwhelmed and chooses to fly home halfway through the trip, then she will have met all of the key players in my life (with the exception of my one brother who lives in New England). I’m not sure I realized until recently what a monumental thing I am asking of her, but she is more than up for the challenge, and that’s how convinced I am that this relationship is going somewhere.

I certainly hope so anyway.


  1. Wow, that's a lot to take in all at once. It must feel like a lot to move through all at once as well. Congratulations on your new relationship. It sounds lovely. I can only imagine the anxiety that such a trip, with all those key players, must play on the two of you. I hope you both take it in stride, and make time for private check in's, or breathers, throughout the trip.

    I have only recently began exploring the dating scene. I haven't actually gone out on a date, but am open to it.

    I wish you well, and will say a prayer tonight regarding your doctor appointment.


  2. you are always in my prayers and more so today. i hope you can relax during your trip. you are a good person who comes from good people and only befriend good people. i know it will all go well and that your worries are unnecessary.

    i wish you peace.

  3. I am learning from you, so thank you. I think the reaction of everyone in your life shows that you're doing the right thing.

  4. Thank you for writing this post. You're always so honest it doesn't matter that you disguise details in the people and places you write about. I'm coming up to seven years since my husband passed away, and it's only in the last year that I have found someone I wanted to be with. I am thrilled that your late wife's parents and friends are continuing with you and your daughter on this journey. It's not what any of you chose, but it's how you are responding to your late wife's passing that would make her so very proud of you and your daughter. My very best wishes to all of you on your vacation.
    (PS I still blog, but less often than I used to about grief and widowhood. If a link shows up it might be to my most recent post, which is to do with my work as a writer and fundraiser. Thanks, Virginia)

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