At this point Lee and I are about two months in, seeing each other a few times a week including the times I’d hang out at his bar and try to read a book while sports surrounded me. Then, work kicked up. For me this meant getting my butt on a plane for 4 days of the week to various parts of the country. It was a good gig, don’t get me wrong, but not great for a social life.
So I’m traveling around, seeing my guy when I’m home and thinking things are good. We’d covered ground on messaging (ie I asked him to be more responsive because otherwise I felt ignored) and were still having a good time. Being the kind of person who wants to help where I can; Lee and I talked about new roads he could take that would make him happier than serving undergrads beer. It can be a slow road to course correct after a big detour, this I know, so I was trying to be patient (not my strong suit). Everyone has their own pace for their life which is what makes it beautiful.
By this point it’s summer and I’m full on in love with Lee. I don’t say it to him much because I know he doesn’t feel the same, which is ok by me. I understand these things take time and our lives are busy and being on the road doesn’t help matters. How much can you invest when someone is gone the majority of the week? Besides some (most?) people just take longer than others to get to ‘I love you’.
Then my big break to spend more time at home came. A customer contract went from onsite to remote work. I could not have been happier and that is just about the time Lee hurt his back. A disk was misplaced and he was in constant pain, numb on one full side. Our once a week date night dwindled into basically nothing. I offered to drive to see him, to come and just keep him company. He never once agreed.
I was sad, but kept it to myself knowing that he had enough to deal with. It was a battle with his work to get the medical expenses covered and not having his own insurance Lee was at the mercy of what the bar would pay for. Every once in a while he would give me a ray of hope that he appreciated me, and for those brief moments I felt valued. I became very good at stretching those small acts into weeks of sustaining emotional support.
It hurt me to know that Lee had already been through so much and now had this to deal with. He was alone with his thoughts a lot and they seemed to be getting darker every time I talked to him. Lee was already a bad sleeper to begin with and prone to depression and I was worried for him. By November there was no progress on his pain. He went to physical therapy and work. And even though the therapist’s office was a 10 minute walk from my house I hardly ever saw him.
It was actually by accident that I found out the clinic was so close. I felt like I had been there for him as much as he would let me, which obviously wasn’t further than the front gate, and still I hung on. I just wanted to be there for him because I could only imagine what it must have been like to be hit around by life so much in so little time. Looking back on it now I am almost angry that he let me keep hanging on.
I think any decent person would have told me to save my time, but he never did. Lee let me keep giving what I was willing to knowing how I felt about him and knowing that he was willing to be pennies back on my dollar in terms of emotional investment. Whether he consciously knew what he was doing or if he was so far down in his own well of pain that he was incapable of seeing anyone else around him with problems that he deemed less important or not, the emotional impact on me was deep.
Eventually, other doors opened. I met multiple people in passing who gave me a hint of emotional availably and suddenly the behavior from Lee I once thought was fine and was happy to have felt suffocating. There literally was no emotional breath left in Lee’ and my relationship to sustain me. A year after we met and after countless times of asking him for more Lee and I parted. I still loved him deeply and prayed with all my heart that he would find happiness or at least peace. In my mind I knew him intimately and held him close, hoping one day maybe he would see me in a different way.
Lee and I remained friends and honestly the communication was about the same as when we were dating which says a lot. I began the process of getting to know someone new. I tried to take it slow because like a starving person, I knew I couldn’t eat everything in sight for my first meal. The emotional accessibility of my new beau was startling. We talked for hours and saw each other 40 days in a row all without being physical. I thought I was in heaven but also slightly taken aback that a person could be so open and honest without ulterior motive. The emotional feast that was Dan soon pushed my feelings of romantic love towards Lee into a genuine friendship love. I prayed for him regularly, wishing him light and happiness however it came to him.
Nine months after his initial accident Lee had surgery to correct the slipped disk. He recovered feeling in this leg and thigh rapidly. Every time I saw him he looked better and better, my heart was filled with relief for him. For my birthday he gave me a card that let me know how much he appreciated me in his life. Eureka! The revelation had come with absence of his pain, but it came at a price for me.
To be continued…