The Matchmaker

During the fall of my first year in nursing school, I was attending my first Nutrition class. We had lab table seating and I sat down in the back of the room at the only empty table still vacant. Shortly after the professor passed out the syllabus, a late comer entered and quickly sat down beside me. The professor had us all stand and do the traditional “introduce and say something about yourselves.” The student next to me, male mid-late 20’s, very attractive and “GQ,” said, “Hi, I’m Dave and I was late for class.” He proceeded to blush. Over the semester we became friends. Good friends even. I had a real crush! We talked about dating after the holidays and then proceeded to do so. It didn’t last but 5-6 weeks maybe, but got really awkward after a few weeks when we couldn’t get past foreplay. We both wanted to, but never at the same time. We ended up “breaking-up” in the end. It’s my best break-up story! Dave and I went on to become really good friends and still are today, although distanced by time. Time truly does go so fast.

Thru those years of college, Dave and I had a blast. We’re both spontaneous and did lots of crazy things, but always as friends. I cried on his shoulder about heart-aches and heart-breaks. We had sleepover at his place. Purely platonic. Watching rented movies and talking, enjoying a few beers or a bottle of wine. He was great company.

He lived in a great old house near campus. He had a number of roommates over those years. I becoming one of his last. It was a great place to hang out. We had several parties, and he introduced me to a number of his friends early childhood. Some are now my in-laws. It was at one those parties that he introduced me to husband and his first wife. Husband was charismatic, friendly. The kind of guys that everybody knew and loved. During those few years I ran into him at hospital. We’d stop and say, “Hi,” and exchange quick small talk and move on. He was always rushing off to some meeting. I found him attractive, pleasant to talk to. He’d be on my list of maybe’s, if he wasn’t married. So I never considered him beyond acquaintance.

For reasons I just don’t recall, David moved out before we graduated. I’m not even sure how long before, maybe six months. He struggled with the last semester for personal reasons, as did I. We were no help to each other. I was helping to care for my grandmother on hospice. My mother had an MI, the very day her mother died. She ended up having an emergent CABG surgery and a week later moved to Florida. She abandoned me. Again. I was also scheduled for deployment to Saudi Arabia after graduation. struggled with grief and those last weeks of nursing school where a challenge. Paxil for a few months helped.

Graduation and all the fun and festivities that come with it came and went. My mother didn’t. I packed up and moved all my acquired stuff to a storage unit and went home to stay with my dad and His wife Linda those few weeks before deployment. Such a hectic time… 3 weeks before my boards, my Gram died.

Gram is one of my favorite people, such a beautiful lady. She lived a happy life with her share of heartache, loss and sorrow. She was a devote catholic, but never preached. I think it’s from her that I learned one shouldn’t judge a person by the path they are walking. She avoided passing judgement. She would ponder what it must be like in their shoes.

She was a first generation American. Her parents immigrated here from Portugal, the Azores actually, with her 2 older brothers. She was born shortly after their arrival at Ellis Island. I think it’s from her that I’ve also learned tolerance and unconditional love. She had the patience of Job! Nothing was ever a crisis, and if it was then the “Good Lord” would see us thru! She would know how to comfort me now. I could tell her all the things that have happened between husband and I. All our secrets, and not fear or feel judged or condemned. She is always in my heart, not a day goes by without thinking of her. I miss her still. I know what it is to truly grieve. I have for nearly 20 years. I also know that grief eases with time.

I was nervous about my upcoming state nursing board exam. It was a new process, scheduled individually and on a computer. Results still took weeks! My 1996 graduating class was the first to take them in that format.

The evening before my exam, I learned that my closest college friend had failed. We’d also learned learned that 6-7 others had failed as well. My anxiety was peaked. Nursing board exams are notoriously tough! I struggled with sleep that night and had abandoned studying days before. Truly if I hadn’t learned it in the previous weeks of review and 4 years of College, and all my years of experience as a flight medic, then I wasn’t going to learn it in those few dark hours.  I got up early, well before my alarm and creeped to the family room, curled up on the couch and watched the local News then Today Show. My routine still. There was a report about a bombing at Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. I was leaving in 3 days for that very place.

June 25th; dark from the clouds that were pouring rain on us. An early summer morning where a blanket feels good. The phone rang at 6:30 or so. I think I dozed off, but I picked it up.  It was Gramps, Linda’s father, a lovely old man I had come to love. He said, “I can’t wake up Lucy.” I dropped the phone and ran to their house, just 2 homes down. The house in between was Uncle David, Linda’s brother. Across the street was Auntie, a very dear friend to the family and to me. The activity caused everyone to become aware and I don’t remember all the details, but I was the one to determine that she was gone. She didn’t want CPR, and had a DNR. She had been diagnosed 3 weeks prior with lung cancer and hadn’t started treatment yet, but her prognosis was very good. Her diagnosis was very early. Her sudden death was very unexpected. Everyone was quite upset.

Lucy was a true matriarch. She was a hard woman. Quite bitter and angry most of the time. She was an alcoholic, though I never saw her drunk in the few years I’d known her. Gramps loved her. That’s really what matters. They’d been thru 50 plus years of marriage, 4 kids; the death of one, 9 grandchildren, I can’t remember or count the number of great-grand children. They built a successful business, were elders and pillars in their church, well-known and respected in the community. They loved and lived a happy life. Certainly not without it sorrows. Her death was a true loss for the family and I felt for them. I wasn’t nearly as fond of her as I let on. But I was sad for my family as I’d come to consider them all, and love them as such today.

Still few tears, trying to focus on my exam only a few hours away, but truly feeling the mounting anxiety. I left as I just couldn’t miss my exam. I showered and dressed and arrived early, a rare-feat for a procrastinator. I sat in my car, gathered my thoughts, did some deep breathing and cleansing breathe exercises. This was it. My only chance to pass the first time. Thus far all of my classmates that I’d heard about taking the boards, had failed. This added to my anxiety. I didn’t want that label. Failed.

Seventy five questions and ninety-seven minutes later the exam ended. Probably told me I’d receive my results in a few weeks by mail. I had completed it in 75 questions, the minimum amount of questions possible. That meant I either passed and did well or had failed miserably. I don’t recall having a sure sense of either.

I got into my car and finally the tears came. I sobbed. Out of relief, fear, sadness, grief.. Why did my mother leave me again and miss my college graduation? Why was I not good enough? And I was leaving in just a few days…. To a location that was just bombed by a terrorist group. This all before 9/11. I learned a different sense of fear that day. So much unknown. I still missed my grandmother terribly, her loss so fresh just 3 weeks prior. Why did Dad and Linda have to experience such a traumatic loss? And I wouldn’t be there to support them.

For some reason I seemed to measure my loss of my grandmother as less than theirs because they lost their mothers. Weird I know, but it’s something for me… I always found away to minimize and internalize my own experience of something compared that of someone else.

I still do. I’ve read your blogs, my fellow-betrayed, and I find my self comparing my husbands indiscretions against yours during his affair. At least my husband isn’t a sex addict, discovered I believe near 30 years together. How truly tragic! My grief can’t possibly compare, right? And those of you that who have been stalked and terrorized by the “other woman.” I can’t imagine the horror of that. I’m so thankful that Mouse was able to erase the affair and retreat to her miserable hole. I hope she can keep her vile secret there.

I don’t want the drama of her husband knowing, though I do sometimes fear him finding out. He does some high-profile grant work for healthcare. They both have political goals or connections at the State level. I think of the scandal we’ve avoided because of their careless and reckless selfishness. The amount of damage the affair could cause if it’s ever publicly exposed.  The families destroyed, political dreams ended (because nobody votes for a known cheater, high level jobs likely resigned abruptly. So much easy-to-see fallout with such total disregard? I hope it was worth it.

I’m thankful my husband’s affair didn’t result in a child or STD. I’m thankful my husband claims he never loved her, felt and still feels “nothing” for her. I read few exchanges of affection, but never “I love you,” to date I’ve found no evidence of further contact, I don’t know the explicit details of their sex, so much I don’t know, so I minimize my experience by comparing it to all the much more horrendous affair details than I do. I don’t know why I do this…

And for any of you waywards that may still be reading this far… Yes, it was the most disgusting thing I read that day; because I so want to believe that my husband doesn’t think of her in such longing ways as you write… Your poor wife… It hurts me to think she could possibly read that. I only imagine the pain…  And if all you have to worry about is March Madness, then life is good for you. Bravo. Have a little compassion and humility. Those and kindness will get you far. Please find someone else to be an asshole to.

After I was able to compose myself enough, I left the test site and joined my mourning family. The next three days were blur; ongoing news about the bombing, 19 confirmed fatalities and near 500 injured. Packing to live in Muslin nation. An unexpected trip into Boston for passport Snafu; shopping for another dress, as almost all my belongings where in storage; another funeral, my third funeral in 5 months; a bunch of goodbyes before I left. Making sure things where in order for my father to manage my affairs while I was away. Traveling to a new and foreign country, simple as they seem, collectively I was overwhelmed.

I left for Saudi Arabia and spent the next 14 weeks there, under the highest terrorist threat. It was awful. My experiences where life changing and lead me to get out of the USAF after nearly 12 years of service. Up until Saudi, I had planned to retire from the Air Force, possibly even going active duty again.  I was planning  to peruse  my commission as a Flight Nurse. So many life changing events and experiences that year.

As it turned out, I did pass my boards, the first time. And did it in the top few percent. I remember my commander calling on the radio to tell me he had an important fax message for me. It was my Nursing Licence! We celebrated with root beer, no alcohol allowed in Saudi, and an assortment of care package goodies.

I came home and struggled to reintegrate. Found an apartment and settled in. Bought a new car and started a new career as an RN. So many things happening in my life at the time….

During the holidays I met up with Dave. We had lunch or a long coffee. I don’t recall. We had so much to catch up on.

He asked me “Hey, did you hear? Husband and first wife got divorced last year.

“No, I hadn’t heard. How would I? Well then, You should set us up.”