The reason John chose to ask me to marry him on February 13, 2013, was because it was February 13, 2012, when he told me he could never see us getting together. Ever.
Guest post: John P. Gavin – The Real Trouble with Valentine’s Day
(This was the first column in a long time I didn’t send to Loretta to proofread before sending it to my editor, and that felt weird. I didn’t send it because she broke up with me the day before, albeit with good reason.
But I didn’t want to see that yet.
So I was annoyed – and a little shook up – and very cranky.
Let’s see if any of that comes across in the column).
The weeks after my accident were, in a strange way, some of the best in my life. I know that sounds odd, but you need to remember my past experiences of being taken care of were not such stellar memories.
I’ve never had anyone dote on me like John did during those weeks of recovery. He wrote down all medications and times I’d taken what and made sure I was taking a probiotic to offset the antibiotic prescribed by my doctor.
He drove me to doctor visits and physical therapy and he even helped me with my hair. I could hardly go to the bathroom without him wanting to assist me. I felt completely spoiled and cared for by the man I loved, and it was the first time in my life I’d experienced that.
When John and I got the news his sentence would be community service, we were overjoyed. Over the coming months, we worked side by side at the Boys & Girls Club repainting interiors, working with the kids and helping out with special money raising events.
I had been a volunteer for the Boys & Girls Club before, and it was a natural fit to pick that charity to help. John was in his element as a natural Mr. Fix-it and was happy to help out an organization in need.
As the autumn breeze cooled the air, my heart filled with warmth when John uttered those three words he had said to me months earlier. Not only had he said, “I love you,” but I also knew he meant it. Perhaps it was the fear of his uncertain future, but in that moment I didn’t care.
A month later we were sitting together on a bench outside Courtroom A waiting for John’s trial to begin, neither of us wanting to show the anxiety we both felt. I could sense John’s fidgeting before he stood up and announced he needed to use the bathroom.
I watched him walk away and noticed his usual swagger was absent. From the moment I met John, he had an air of confidence that I knew didn’t always match what he was feeling inside. That day he couldn’t mask the anxiety he was feeling, and I noticed his shoulders weren’t as square as usual.
On the drive home from the airport, John was all smiles. He kept glancing over at me and saying how much he’d missed me. He was grinning ear to ear, and it was nice to see him happy.
Once home, I invited him to stay and have dinner so we could catch up. He happily grabbed my suitcase with a bounce in his step and said that he would love to stay.
As with so many other times in the past we sat on my deck and shared food, laughs and the things about ourselves we wanted each other to know.
absurdity of his request, he tried to explain. It wasn’t about seeing her so he
could win her back but rather about seeing her so he could release the
perceived hold she had over him.
I tried very hard to understand…”
Those words were written very recently by Loretta, the woman I love; the only woman I’ve ever loved this way. But I once told Loretta I wanted to borrow her car to go talk to an ex-girlfriend.
What the hell?
I never dreamed I’d need to know anything about how bail works or the process of navigating the legal system to get a loved one out of jail. But as soon as John was taken into custody, I knew I was about to learn. So I stood up on shaky legs and left the courthouse to call the number I’d been handed by the bail bondsman.
The young woman on the phone said she would meet me outside
the courthouse and asked if I had my checkbook with me.
Sitting outside in the sunshine at a picnic table, I couldn’t help thinking about the stark difference of that beautiful warm summer day and the cold reality of John behind bars.
I remember feeling melancholy while driving home after dropping John off at his apartment. It was the first moment I had alone since bringing him home after the accident.
So much had happened in the prior weeks, and I had no idea where our future would go or if I even wanted one with John.
I knew the man he once was and wondered if that guy would
ever come back.
I don’t recall why we made the decision for John to come stay with me after being released from the hospital. But there he was, stitched up swollen lips and broken teeth sitting on my deck drinking coffee from a straw.
He had doctor’s orders not to drive because they were still
trying to figure out the extent of his brain injury. So there I was waiting on him and nursing him back to health.
The guy who forgot he’d said, “I love you Loretta” to me the
night before the accident.
The one who was facing a felony charge for running from the
cops, and the man who now looked more like Sloth from Goonies than Michael
What the hell was I thinking?
Sitting in my car, outside the emergency room, I couldn’t
think of what to do next. I’ve always been a person of action. Get the facts,
figure out what needs to be done, and do it.
But as I sat there with tears streaming down my face, my
brain couldn’t even figure out how to start the car.
The only call to action that came to mind was to phone my best friend.
She listened to me tell her everything and then told me to go home and call John’s brother, he would know what to do.
As soon as she told me, “Yes, they brought him in, he is in the emergency room” my heart sank. I didn’t cry though. That’s not the time to cry.
Instead, I grabbed a jacket and my keys and raced to my car.
I don’t recall the nine-minute drive to the hospital. But I
do remember sitting in a chair in the waiting room for someone to give me
information about John.
When I’d arrived and asked the person at the reception desk
about him, she got a strange look on her face and told me I’d have to sit down;
that someone would be out to talk to me shortly.
I was afraid to ask any questions. If you don’t ask, you
can’t get unbearable news.
That morning John said goodbye and headed home to take care of some business. He wanted to make reservations at his favorite place in Pismo Beach for my upcoming birthday, and said he had a few other things to attend to.
We were so happy.
The night before, John told me he loved me just seconds before drifting off to sleep. We didn’t speak of it the next morning, but there was joy surrounding us we could both feel.
And it felt good.
It’s Sunday night and I wanted to write a little more of my story, but John just left and I’m feeling lazy.
I was in Oregon last week and got back just in time to see John on Monday night before catching the train back home Tuesday morning. He worked all week away from home, and got back Thursday night late.
Right after John asked me to be his girlfriend, he wrote this column for the newspaper. It is still one of my favorites. (You might want to grab a tissue for this one).
A Love Story
My Mom and Dad were married for a very long time.
And it can happen – when a man has been married for a long time – that he becomes a bit low-key in the ways he shows his wife how special she is to him. After enough years of marriage we guys can misplace our flare for the dramatic, and we can underwhelm when just the opposite is called for.
Upon the approach of my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary I think that might have been where Dad was headed. Not that that would have been an unforgivable thing, just the opposite really. Mom would have been happy with whatever he did – but then she’s like that. She was happy to be married to the man she loved – if he remembered an important date, well, that was icing on the cake. Continue reading
What does that mean, girlfriend?
On March 21, 2012 John asked me to be his “girlfriend”. I had no idea what that even meant to him.
I’ve used the term “girlfriend” casually and never thought of what it meant to anyone else. To John it was a big deal. It was a step towards “forever” and his experience with forever wasn’t a good one.
I’d met John eight months earlier, and I can say that the best thing that ever happened to us…for us… was the fact that we became friends first. Once the pressure of the possibility of a romantic relationship was taken off the table, we both relaxed and stopped acting like peacocks looking for a mate.
There was no need to try to impress the other in hopes of “pick me”. Continue reading
I walked back into the bar and up to John. We looked at each other and then held each other, crying. It was all so sad.
We talked as John walked me to my car. I told him I thought what he did was “shitty”. He didn’t like that word at all. It was odd, he just didn’t want me leaving thinking HE was a shitty person.
We said goodbye to each other and I headed home. That night I cried.
I cried for the loss of “us”. After all of the relationships I’d been in, and through each failed attempt, I’d learned more about myself and who I wanted in my life. I could see us fitting together.
But apparently John couldn’t.
I’ve clearly been dragging my feet about sharing this next part of my (our) story. But here goes…
It was February 2012 when I had the unfortunate incident with my co-worker at the winery. It was also that incident that got me to pick up the phone and call John.
I knew I wanted to tell him and get his support and I’ll admit, even a hug. Which is exactly what I got.
Over the next three weeks we talked almost every day. We played tennis and hiked and went to coffee and dinners together. Just like we used to.
He was still busy driving back and forth to the valley to get his house ready for the new tenant. But most days we were doing something together. Continue reading
After John’s flat-out, in my face, “NO, I don’t ever see us in a relationship” statement, I was a bit numb. I had to come to grips with the fact that not only did I had a bad picker, but my instincts were off.
You know what having a bad picker means right?
Yep, that was me, the president of the “can’t pick the right guy club”. And my instincts couldn’t have been more skewed if I was looking at the world upside down.
Most of all, I was mad. Continue reading