Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

My Funny Valentine

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It has been a long time since I have felt a connection to Valentine’s Day.  For me, it has always been about pressure, pressure to make sure that I bought the right Valentine’s gift, made dinner reservations.  I cannot remember celebrating the holiday for what it should be about, being with someone who makes you feel special, without any effort.  It just happens, naturally.

I am dealing with a lot in my life that causes a lot of stress, and a lot of heartache.  But I am so thankful for someone who has come into my life, and day after day, guides me through those days.  Each day, Josephine reminds me, encourages me, and emotionally supports me, that I will get through everything that I must deal with.

Recently, a friend mentioned to me, that it was nice to see me “authentically” be happy.  This was not the first time that I had heard this comment.  The first time that I had been told that it was great to see me smile like I had never smiled before, I really underestimated what that compliment had meant.  Over the last couple of years, I look at pictures of me, and in spite of everything I am dealing with, I do smile.

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My youngest daughter, who is experiencing her first crush ironically around this holiday, offered this advice.  “I think Josephine would like flowers.  And chocolate, but you need to get the chocolate with the words inside the box that says what they are.”  Her admirer had obviously done right.  The young gentleman had given her a Valentine card, and some chocolates.  Actually, my daughter’s advice to me for Valentine’s Day, comes from a much deeper place in her heart.  Actually both of my daughters feel this strongly.

Though still in the process of divorce (actually well over two and a half years), both their mother and I have moved on in our lives.  With my daughters living with their mother the majority of the time, they get to see the every day connection between their mother and her boyfriend.  They hear the plans that are being made, and are happy for them.

By the same token, as happy as they are for their mother, they are concerned for me, and being alone.  While they know I have someone in my life, and they have spent considerable time with Josephine, they do not hear conversations from me about “plans.”  And that is because, there are no plans.  For the first time in decades, I am doing things right.  I am letting things happen naturally.  My little matchmakers are adorable, but they know that I have feelings for someone, and she has them for me.  They adore her, and she adores them.  And that is just the beginning.

The story of how we came to this day is romantic and tragic, comforting and heartbreaking, and as we are finding out, day after day, as we allow our relationship to progress naturally, surely something that is meant to be.  First and foremost, we are best of friends.  In the time that we have known each other, we continue to learn about each other.  I refer to her as my “funny Valentine,” because she makes me laugh and smile, when she laughs and rolls her eyes at my comments, my jokes, and my decisions.  It is only moments before she realizes that I am having a conversation with her, using lines from either a television show, movie, or song.  And the great thing is, she has the ability to turn the tables on me with this talent.

Josephine does not ask me for things that I cannot give her, because material things do not matter to her heart.  She wants me to open her car door for her.  She wants me to hold her hand.  She loves hugs.  Me being a finicky eater, she insists on me trying foods, and of course eating vegetables.  We will watch comedies the majority of the time, with an occasional “chick flick”.  My big day is coming up next month with the Batman Vs. Superman movie coming out.  She cheered on my Seattle Seahawks throughout the season by my side, because to her, it was all about wanting to spend time with me.

Josephine enjoys my voice.  It has been a long time since I have been encouraged to sing.  I have always loved music, and enjoyed singing.  But I lost that enjoyment years ago.  Now, every week, I sing to her.  And I can see in her eyes how much that means to her.

We met each other by chance.  Her son had “met” me on a support website for people battling the same cancer that I had, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He was just beginning his treatments, and I was done more than two decades earlier.  We began chatting, exchanging details on how things have changed since I was treated.  And it was not just a young man who knew so much about what he was going through, he actually would end up providing key support for me, when my father would be diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  He would get through his treatments, only to end up having to face a severe side effect from the treatments that saved his life.

It was during this point, that his mother turned to me for support.  I myself, have a lot of severe long term side effects from my treatments decades ago.  Some are managed, others are like ticking time bombs.  But when it comes to advocacy, knowledge of survivor issues, and  who and how to push to get the help, she knew that I would do all that I could.  Sadly, he would lose his life a little over two months later.  On this planet, he would never see what would eventually develop between his mother and I, but we are both pretty sure that he is smiling on us right now.

But Josephine must still deal with the fact that I have so many health issues that stem to my treatment days.  She is very protective of me, making sure that I do not physically push myself to the point of injury with my physically compromised body, helping me to deal with, and release stress so as not to aggravate my cardiac issues.  Of course, there are many more health concerns, and she protects me, supports me, and will advocate for me.

I am truly blessed to have Josephine in my life.  She cares about me, and for me.  She laughs with me, for me, and occasionally at me.  She loves my daughters and they love her.  And that is all that I need.

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Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

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