A friend of mine was talking about his upcoming retirement. He mentioned that his father worked for the government for 43 years and retired on a full pension, but only lived to enjoy retirement for four years.
He was thinking that if he continued to work for four more years, he’d get almost 40% more in his pension, but he’s already bought a retirement place in Indiana and moving there would cut his cost of living almost 30%. He’s had some serious health issues over the past few years and is a heart transplant recipient.
My advice to him was to go now rather than waiting. My reasoning is simple–you never know what is going to happen.
This reminded me of what happened in June of 2000. Gee and I were almost done with our wedding plans. She and I had been planning it since the previous September, and she had only really been able to get involved in June, since prior to April she had lived 3000 miles away in Seattle. April and May were taken up with her cancer diagnosis, surgery and recovering from the surgery. Even though she started chemotherapy in June, she was quite involved in the planning of our wedding.
Starting just after getting home after her surgery in late May, Gee’s parents had been asking her to postpone the wedding on a fairly regular basis. They had the idea that we should wait until Gee was better–until Gee had recovered from her cancer. I knew them asking us to postpone the wedding was really bothering Gee, but I also knew she wouldn’t say anything to them about it. Finally, in mid-June, I decided to speak with her parents about the issue. I called my future in-laws and had a conversation with my then future father-in-law.
I called them to tell them that we were not going to postpone our wedding. I told them getting married was the one thing Gee really wanted and was looking forward to this year and we had done too much of the planning and had deposits on everything and there was no way we were going to cancel everything and postpone the wedding. I told them we weren’t going to discuss this again. We had the caterer, the photographer, the reception hall, the cake and flowers all set. We had the church reserved for the ceremony. We had the invitations being printed. So, I made it very clear, as politely and nicely as I could, that if the issue was raised again, I would be unhappy and made it clear that raising it again was unwise.
What I didn’t tell them was that there was likely only a 50% chance Gee would make the wedding as scheduled–given her type of cancer, if we postponed it at all, it would likely never happen. I promised Gee I would marry her, and not postponing the wedding gave me the best chance of keeping that promise. If we had waited until she was better as her parents had wanted I would never have gotten my chance to marry Gee.
A couple weeks later, around the Fourth of July, Gee said that her parents hadn’t mentioned postponing the wedding in a couple of weeks. She asked me if I had said something to them about not postponing the wedding. I said I had talked to her father about it. She asked me, “Were you nice to him about it?” I said “I was polite but very firm.” She kissed me and thanked me for talking to them about it.
I was very lucky to get the fourteen months with Gee that I had after she was diagnosed. I wish I had had more time with her…but I treasure every day I had with her as a gift and a blessing. I have no regrets about asking Gee to marry me. In fact, I still consider it one of the best decisions I have ever made. I also consider November 4, 2000 one of the happiest days of my life, because I got to keep the promise of marriage to that amazing and most gracious woman I love.
It also reminds me of a fellow sailor that I heard of. He and his wife were refitting a boat to go cruising, and had been doing so for almost a decade. A month before they were to leave on their cruise, a few months after they had finished refitting their beloved sailboat, the husband had a heart attack as he was preparing the boat for a short shakedown sail. His wife ended up scattering his ashes from their boat a few weeks later, after he finally passed away from complications from his heart attack. They never got to go on their cruise.
Finally, in a few days, it will be one year from when I asked Ellie to marry me. I did not know she was an alcoholic or a drug addict at the time I asked her to marry me. There were many reasons that people might think I should not have told her how my feelings for her had changed and grown–like the fact that she is the daughter of two of my good friends, or that she is young enough to be my own daughter, being foremost among them. However, I do not regret telling her how much I love her or that I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I also don’t regret telling her that I thought she was the woman Gee asked me to find just before her death, when Gee asked me to “not close my heart to the world.” I still believe that Ellie is the woman Gee asked me to find and marry.
I hope the fact that Ellie knows there is one person out here in the world that loves her will make the difference between her being a victim of her addictions and being able to beat them and become the person God has always intended her to be. I hope that if and when she hits rock bottom and thinks that there is no one there for her, she will remember the promise I made her and her mother last summer–that I would be there to walk beside her on her long road to recovery if I was asked to do it.
I do not know if the amazing Irish woman that said she loves me even exists any more. I have walked away because I truly believe she has become a victim of her illness–a casualty of her addictions. I hope I am wrong.
I still believe that love can conquer all. Gee has proven that love can reach beyond death’s veil and that she still watches over me as my personal weather goddess. I hope that Ellie eventually remembers her love for me and lets it guide her back to me and to the future she and I talked about for a week last June. I hope my love will help Ellie become herself once again and bring our lives back together.
I love Ellie. I have loved her all of her life and I always will–whether she chooses to recognize that or not. I have never stopped being her friend or caring for her. I have not broken my promises, vows or commitments to her. I have not broken faith or trust with her. She is the one who has done all that.
Even though I have walked away from Ellie, mainly because I have seen no sign that my beautiful, smart, funny, stubborn and feisty Irish rose still exists, I still pray for her every day. I still hope that she will recover from her illness and ask me to be in her life again. I still hope that we can have those Asians with freckles that she adores and raise a family together. There is still time to do all that. But, it is up to her.
Ellie has to show me that she wants me in her life once again–that she has made a place for me beside her and is willing to fight to keep me there–that she is as committed to me as I have always been to her. Ellie has to make amends for the lies and damage her addictions have caused. Ellie has to show she realizes the truth of what we are and always have been to each other. Until she does all that, there is no hope for us. It is up to her–she knows how I feel about her; she knows where to find me and how to reach me. She has to ask for help before anyone can help her.
May God watch over my beloved Ellie. God bless her and protect her, even from herself. May God grant her the strength, courage, and will to fight her illness and return to being her true self. May God grant her the wisdom to see the truth—both about her illness and about us.