By Sarah Dohack-Young, Fairdealing, MO
I'm a two time loser-- I've been widowed twice. I met my first husband on a blind date while I was in college,. He was the best looking man I'd ever seen and I was smitten at first sight. We were together almost 25 years when he was diagnosed with an unusual form of leukemia. His first serious symptom was paralysis from his nipples down. When we got the leukemia diagnosis it was unreal to me... a month earlier he had been a big hearty railroad conductor, suddenly he was paralyzed and then they said cancer?
Once they felt they had a handle on his cancer and got him going on daily chemo pills, they moved us to a rehab hospital to learn to live in a wheelchair. At that point we engaged a contractor to retrofit our home for Dan's wheelchair, adding an ADA compliant bathroom and roll-in closet.
We were at St Mary's for 2 months and came home for Christmas with our girls-- ages 13, 15 and 18. He began physical therapy at home, hoping to walk again, but after a month he was very sick again and we were back in St Louis.
The next 8 months were a blur of crises - several pneumonias, meningitis, infections. Finally in August, the doctor told us it was over - he had, at most, 3 days left. We never saw that coming; we always thought that he would get over the cancer and live happily ever after in his wheelchair.
Two weeks before Dan's paralysis, I was at work at my garden shop, out on the highway. An older man stopped in to use the restroom and we talked a bit. He told me his wife had just died with breast cancer and he was driving cross country to see his kids. He was a retired businessman and asked me what kind of software I used and when I told him I didn't use any. He offered to email me something he thought I'd find useful.
Of course I put that out of my mind, but sure enough, a month or so into my new ordeal with Dan, I got emailed software from George. I sent a message back thanking him and telling him my life had just taken off in a new direction. He replied and we began a correspondence.
There were times when I was so confused by all the medical things going on and George would help me figure out how to ask the doctors for the answers I needed and there were times when Dan's insurance refused to pay a bill and George actually wrote the letter to the president of the railroad for me to send in my name that got the bill taken care of.
He helped me see different ways of taking care of Dan's discomforts from chemotherapy and procedures (even though his wife's cancer was very different than Dan's), and so over that horrible year he became a very important support person.
After Dan died, he invited me to visit him at his island home to decompress. He was a wonderful host, gave me the space I needed and the conversation I needed and shared with me the retreat I needed. A few months later he came to MO to visit me and so began a courtship that felt very right. We both felt that life was so short and took a chance on romance.
Many thought it wasn't a good idea. He was 27 years older than me and from a totally different world—but we found those differences good launching pads for great conversations. We were married after my youngest graduated from high school and had a great life together.
George developed a sore throat, followed by horrible bad breath, and after several doctor and dentist appointments, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. We took off for the Mayo Clinic and he had surgery and we thought he was cured. Unfortunately, he wasn't and the first day of my vacation from the garden shop that year he started bleeding from his mouth. Six weeks later he was gone. I carried his remains to South Carolina to be entombed with his beloved first wife.
I came home to an empty house--by now my girls were grown and onto their adult lives. I was relieved that George no longer suffered and we had prepared from the beginning for me to be widowed.. the age difference made it obvious.. but I was SO alone now.
A year into this widowhood my oldest daughter told me I was getting too weird.. and she signed me up on a dating website. George had made me promise him that I would keep living and to him living meant having love in my life - so I cruised that website and talked to a lot of different men - and eventually allowed someone to come visit me. He's been here ever since. I will not marry again, but companionship is nice.