Do or Die
“Are you going to the Singles’ weekend retreat next Friday?” I asked Tom after a Friday Night Singles’ meeting at the church. Everyone, including me, was crowding around the refreshment tables that were set up on one side of the room. He had come all of the way across the room for our ritual long bear hug. These hugs had been ongoing three times a week after each church meeting for the last month since we first met each other on February 25, 2002.
Norm wasn’t even the least bit interested in me, nor was Doug who I thought was cute, but he liked someone else, who didn’t return the same feelings. So, I decided that Tom was better than nothing. At least he liked me. That’s probably what he had decided, too, since the three different girls he had chosen didn’t like him back. All of us were victims of “unrequited love,” for sure.
At least, I loved the way Tom danced. Under the stars in front of Norm’s apartment since his front room was packed out his front door, was where we had first done the swing – one, two, three, rock. I could dance with him forever. I had kept dreaming of our dancing, replaying it over and over in my mind since the potluck at Norm’s house the previous Saturday. I had loved the feeling of floating in the slow dances and doing the swing in the faster oldies like, “Rock Around the Clock.” We did it very well and everyone watched as Tom twirled me around and around.
“I was thinking of going to the retreat,” Tom responded after a few moments. “It’s at Lake Arrowhead?” he asked. “I’ve never been up there.”
“I haven’t either,” I responded, “but it sounds really fun.”
“I’ll call you up and let you know if I decide to go. Okay?” he asked. “Could I get your phone number?”
“Of course,” I said joyously as we exchanged phone numbers. Wedding bells rang in my heart. This was going to be a relationship where I’m really loved, ran through my mind because I knew Tom always sought me out and really liked me. He was totally shy, though, so conversation was kinda slow. On Friday nights, he always sat by me at the restaurant after Singles’ church meeting where we had our clique meetings.
“I’ve decided to go to the Singles’ retreat,” Tom told me on the phone the next Tuesday.
“Great,” I replied excitedly. “I’ll see you there.”
“Could my friend and I get a ride from you, Tom?” I asked when I phoned him on Thursday. “We haven’t been able to find anyone that we can ride with.” Of course, this was on purpose so that I could ride with him.
“I won’t be able to go until later in the evening,” Tom apologized. “My car has so much stuff in it that there’s no room. I also have to go shopping when I get off of work. I’ll get up to Arrowhead really late. Maybe you can find someone,” he suggested.
“I’ll try,” I despondently replied.
We did find a ride and he did get there way after mealtime, during the evening meeting. I motioned for him to come and sit with our group.
The next day, after lunch, was free-time for the afternoon. Tom came over for his bear-hug. We walked over to the back of the sanctuary.
“I can do cart-wheels and backbends,” I bragged to Tom, when he had brought up exercising. It had been years since I had, but I had no doubt that I still could do them. I looked around to be sure no one else was there. I balanced on my spread feet and bent backward until my hands touched the floor. It was totally embarrassing when I couldn’t stand back up.
“You will have to put your arm under my back to help me stand back up,” I called to Tom with my head upside down.
“Okay,” he agreed, then, raised me up. That was April 8, 1992. He was thirty-six years old and I was fifty-two, but I looked like his age, he had told me. He couldn’t believe I was so much older than he.
“Would you like to go over to Arrowhead Village?” I asked Tom.
“Sure,” he smiled.
As we walked along the shore, I started to pick up small beautiful rocks since I was a collector. Tom volunteered to carry them for me. All of this time, our interchange of information about everything was non-stop. It included likes and dislikes, childhood events, you name it. Our walk continued as we looked in all of the shops’ windows and he bought ice cream cones for us.
After we returned for dinner, we went for a walk down a trail to a fireplace. He hugged me and lightly kissed my lips. It was “true love” for sure, as we smiled at each other. We began to hold hands as we walked.
“Do you want to go to the rec-room?” I asked.
“Sure,” Tom responded excitedly.
“I used to be the ping pong champ at camp when I was in high school,” I bragged.
“I like ping pong, too” Tom rejoined.
“Forty-nine, fifty!” I counted, as we volleyed the ping pong ball back and forth. Then, I missed. We were in love, was my feeling as we laughed and talked together.
When we parted to go to our rooms, Tom prayed for me and I prayed for him as we hugged, then kissed goodnight. This was Saturday night.
You could see us holding hands during the Sunday morning meeting. Tom even cleared out his front seat from books and clutter to bring me back home, down the hill of five thousand feet elevation in the San Bernardino Mountains southeast of Los Angeles. He even stopped at my request at my best friend, Marilyn’s house which was on the way to my house.
“This is going to be my new husband,” I whispered to Marilyn. Her response was shock, but she knew anyone I ever liked, my endeavor was to marry them.
For the next six months, Tom came over to see me after work every day and took me out to dinner wherever I chose. Then, we talked and kissed endlessly until midnight. He lived a half hour drive from me. After this courting period, we got married at the Orange County Courthouse September 14, 1992. We’ve been married eighteen years.
The bad news is that Tom got laid-off from his seven year job at aerospace the day after we got married. Ten months later, after working sixty hours each week to make ends meet financially, I got sharp pains in my side at work and couldn’t stand up. It took three months to diagnose my condition as “shingles” which you can get from stress if you have had chicken pox. I’ve been permanently disabled ever since.
Tom’s 401K savings of $40,000.00 was gone within a year and he couldn’t find work, finally ending up as a retail clerk at a drug store, from $20.00 an hour to $6.00 an hour. My wage went from $30,000.00 annual income to under $10,000.00 per year received from permanent disability payments.
Needless to say, our bliss was ended by stress. Love is turned into hate when we have hollering heated arguments, even to the point of divorce being the solution. Most argument are caused by Tom’s being upset that I can’t work to help pay bills because of my lupus and his genetic mental problems controlled by medication which in nullified when his addiction to diet coke which is three liters within an hour more than once a day occurs. We have our ups and downs, but we have God in the middle and He’s working on both of us. Morning and evening Bible reading always is a must for us and we hug and pray for each others each time we part.
Our vacations have been twice with the Married Couples group to Hawaii, a weekend drive to San Francisco, returning through Carmel, a weekend Ensenada cruise, a two- week Caribbean Cruise of which the third day was the bombing of the New York towers, and a Jon Courson of Applegate Community Church Alaska Cruise. We’ve taken our kids and grandkids the past eight years for a week long Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa family camp. Married Couples retreats at Murrieta twice and once at Twin Peaks, we have also enjoyed.
To be able keep the communication open with God and also between each other, our attitude has to be, “Do or Die.”