In 1998, I changed work positions at Portland Parks & Recreation and went to work for Jim, the manager of the Operations division. He had a strong work ethic and brooked no nonsense, but was also a funny, interesting, and compassionate man. At the ripe old age of 51, I developed a crush!
Due to economic changes and a reorganization, Jim retired in the fall of 2000, and I missed him immensely. I truly never thought to see him again. Imagine my surprise when he showed up one Tuesday morning at the end of a staff meeting, looking for me! He was in the market for a computer and wanted me to help him buy it. I was really happy to see him and to have the opportunity to spend time with him; and, of course, I've always enjoyed spending other people's money!
One thing led to another, and we were soon dating - something I hadn't done in 40 years! Jim was twice-divorced - as was I - and we were both leery of long-term commitment, but there was no question that we enjoyed a lot of the same things and each other's company. As a lifelong Oregonian, an avid hunter, and an accomplished white-water rafter, Jim introduced me to parts of this glorious state that I had only dreamed about visiting. We briefly discussed marriage, but Jim had been single for more than 20 years and was reluctant to re-enter a legal commitment. Although I was disappointed (I'm a marriage-believer) I agreed that it was probably best not to spoil a good thing!
In 2001, I lost my job with Parks (another reorganization!) and was unemployed for nearly a year. Unable to keep up with my mortgage payments, I also lost my condo the following year. After much agonizing and equivocating, Jim asked me to move in with him. Although the transition was rocky (I have lots of "stuff"; Jim's "stuff" is mostly garage-related), and we had a fair number of rough minutes, we have now "lived in sin" for 5-1/2 years. We're as happy together as any other couple we know (and happier than many of them), and our life together has taken on the easy familiarity and comfort of age. One of our greatest joys is reading and commenting on the paper while we have our morning coffee and listening/watching the morning newscast. When one or the other of us is away from home, it's a big hole in the life of the other.
In many ways we are different. Jim is a very logical and concrete thinker; I am more philosophical and idealistic. He is somewhat family-phobic; I embrace large gatherings and close family relationships. My Christian faith undergirds my life; Jim is an avowed atheist. I am clean but untidy (I build "nests" wherever I spend time and my shoes can be found in nearly every room in the house); Jim always puts everything right back where it belongs! But we are undergirded by mutual love and respect, and a healthy sense of humor about each other's foibles.
We have traveled extensively together, first in our trailer and now in our 5th wheel. We spent a month together in Mexico in very close quarters, and earlier this year took a two-month trip across the US in our 5th wheel - stopping to visit all of my family members along the way! My children and my siblings and in-laws all think the world of him, and Addison calls him Grandpa Jim.
Jim surprises me with marvelous gifts: our first Valentine's Day together I went in to take my morning shower and found my bathtub filled with heart-shaped mylar balloons! I have come to anticipate cards under my pillow, decorative hearts or rose petals scattered between the bedsheets, and a constant flow of holiday-themed gadgets - pencil-toppers, spider rings, wind-up chicks - awaiting discovery in my bathroom or under my pillow. My birthday presents are almost always something that I can share with my sister - a trip to have a mineral bath and massage, a weekend at the Oregon Coast. This year he took me on an Alaskan Cruise - my dream for many years.
He has also graced my life with the addition of his son Mike (I refer to myself as his "Kindly Old Pseudo Step-mother - KOPS-M), Mike's wife Christina, and their baby girl, Ada. Mike is a blessed addition to my son-filled life and Christina is a dear and well-loved almost-daughter-in-law. Ada is a joy, and I am her "Gran."
We enjoy our home, the thrill of feeding "our" birds and squirrels and watching them at play outside our windows, working together to bring beauty to our yard, the relaxation of an evening glass of wine on our deck in the summer and near the woodstove in fall and winter, and the simple joy of knowing and being known. As we age together, not always gracefully, but always with joy in our companionship, I know that I am so blessed and remain ever-thankful for this man who has come to me in our evening years and taught me so much about what sharing life is all about.
My companion, my partner, my love. I am blessed.