Thursday, October 25, 2012


Haven't posted in awhile.  I have deliberated about whether or not a chronology is appropriate here, and I have decided that so much has happened that I can organize my thoughts in no other meaningful way but time order.

I read somewhere recently that you never stop grieving from a serious loss; you only make space for it in your life.

Since that September walk along the beach at Robert Moses, my life has gradually and sometimes suddenly changed for the better. It remains true that I can burst into tears in a second, but other, more sanguine truths have filled my life so that those bitter moments are rarer, and softer.

Perhaps the rainbows and the sunset at the Robert Moses Beach marked a place and time where I turned a corner.  Not long afterwards I began thinking about "what to do after the money runs out" at the end of February, 2012, when my Dowling severance package would end.  I took some positive steps:  started writing my resume in hopes of getting a job; bought some "interview suits," shirts and ties; began spending more time learning about things that interested me, both in technology and elsewhere.  I joined a couple of hiking groups and biking groups, and went on hikes in groups as well as alone. (I stopped biking because it was cold and because my back was hurting from a fall.)  In retrospect, I think I was starting to come out of the fog that my grief had created. I even made a furtive, though ultimately unsuccessful, attempt at getting friendly with a woman I met at a traffic jam in Huntington.

I have talked about my belief that the Universe (or God) seems to provide what I need. I wanted to win the lottery, but instead He gave me a job:  I was asked by a former colleague, whom I consider a friend as well, to join his staff in a technology company named Vicom, in Farmingdale. The job utilizes my skills and enables me to enhance them, and is stocked with warm, intelligent people. I feel that it's a great fit, and since the first of January I have been enjoying work much more than I had been able to enjoy it at Dowling in the last few years.

So the "money runs out" problem went away, and in fact, there was some overlap with my Dowling "paychecks" such that I was able to pay most of my debt (except mortgage) down to zero.  Truly remarkable.

It's not that there haven't been bumps along the way.  In February I landed in Huntington Hospital for a few days with an irregular heartbeat.  I wore a heart monitor for a month so the doctors could figure out the right dosage of medicine to reduce the problem. I have joined the ranks of those taking medicinal maintenance doses for the foreseeable future.  But from all the tests I learned that I have very little blockage in any of my heart blood vessels, and a cholesterol level that's "close enough" to be regulated by diet and exercise.  Oatmeal, cheerios and long walks in the woods, those are my friends.

In March, having talked with me about the various scenarios with Raquel and Zachary, Mark decided to move back to Yorktown.  It took him only a few weeks to gather everything together and cram it into his family's house up there, though it has taken him months since then to gradually empty the house of unneeded stuff.

For me, this was a major negative.  Allison had frequently expressed a desire for me to remain close to Zach, but that's not possible when he is 100 miles away.  By May we had started to find a weekend routine where either Mark would bring Zach to me or I would go upstate.  But the house here in East Northport was cold and silent, and it amplified my grief.  Early and mid-May were unhappy times for me, as the reality of their leaving set in:  it was Spring again and life was blooming outside my window, but not in my house, nor in my heart.

Cue the dramatic music.

Around Memorial Day Bonnie (sister-in-law, Ronni's brother Mike's wife) posted a link to a Joe Biden speech to the families of deceased veterans. She urged that we read to the end, where I found this quote: "There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen." An old school friend of Bonnie's, Debra Davidson, had thanked her for posting, and I posted subsequently: "'It will happen.' It already has. Doesn't make it easier or better. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other... Thank you for posting this."

Curious, Debra found my blog and private-messaged me, and we started a conversation on Facebook that lasted through two days and many long paragraphs of deeply personal thoughts.  We agreed to chat by phone, which lasted three hours the first night and almost six hours the second.  The part of our conversations that I remember most clearly was when she choked up about how she felt things had gone wrong in her life and how she wasn't going to have a deep, strong, life-long relationship of the kind I had with Ronni.  I felt I already knew her well, and felt already that SOME kind of relationship with Deb would be a good and happy thing.  Later she told me that she felt that almost anyone else would have said a quick, embarrassed good-bye at the first sign of her tears, and that she felt very close to me as I stayed on the phone with her and tried to comfort her.

We met in person two nights later.  We have been nearly inseparable ever since. She spent most of July in East Northport while her son, Ethan, was away, then the two of them spent the rest of the summer at my house until Ethan went back to school.  Since then I have spent most weekends at her apartment and weekdays commuting from home to work.  It's a routine we will endure until I sell the house.  Once she gets a job we'll be able to decide on a good location, probably outside Manhattan, where the three of us can move together.

So we thought about when to get married.  Just a few weeks after we met we kinda knew it would happen, but there have been too many unknowns until now so we just kept talking and working out the kinks.  A couple of weeks ago we bought Deb an engagement ring.  Done!  We don't fool around.  Between her interviews and job prospecting Deb has been working on the wedding, which is scheduled for December 2 in the home of her best friend who lives near her in NYC.  It won't be a big, extravagant, elaborate wedding.  But we will do what it takes to make it special for both of us.  Why wait?  As Ethan said, "At your age you shouldn't wait."

Why did all of this happen? Because:

(1) I was ready.  A week or two earlier while I was in the doldrums, it wouldn't have happened.  Several months earlier and my priorities would have been elsewhere, on Zachary, or on getting settled at work.  It was just the right time.

(2) The Universe intervened. The odds of two people coming together like this on Facebook seem to me to be astronomical.  Deb connected with Bonnie through Facebook only last year, and they were not in frequent contact even after they friended each other. And how likely is it that someone sees my "thank you for posting this" and is both motivated AND capable to dig deeper? Deb has made her living doing research, and her knowledge and experience happened to lead her to me. What are the odds???

(3) We were made for each other.  Despite major differences in our paths through life, we seem to think alike, and we have so many things to talk about that, even if the romance wasn't there, we would have become great friends.  The romance is a wonderful surprise bonus to this "us" that has arisen.

I know that Ronni wanted me to find a way to be happy in the remainder of my life without her.  She told me so herself.  I have taken a four year journey through sadness and despair, to return to joy.  I know that Ronni is happy for me now. I feel so grateful for the wonderful things that have happened in-between the bad things: the weddings, the achievements, the grandchildren... I owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to all of my family and friends who stood by me and held my hand.  I only hope I can give back a little of myself to them and to Debra so that they feel as loved as I do.

So many people live their whole lives without having found true love. Somehow, in my life, I have found it twice. I am so blessed.


Debra said...

This blog led me to you and all of the blessings we share, I love you more than I can possibly say.

Bracha ihm said...

Truly touching
But, you left out another blessing in your life...Shlomo!

Christopher Ihm said...

Bracha, when I wrote, "the weddings, the achievements, the grandchildren..." I was thinking of all three of my little blessings!