Some time ago I was given a book by Richard Bach titled ‘The Bridge Across Forever’ by the least likely of people, an over the road truck driver who happened to have a PhD in English literature.  Many wonder why he was driving a truck and the answer was simple, he wanted to escape the rat race, to hide in the morass of the moving and seemingly unidentified.  He gave me the book in the wake of my breakup with California girl which shortly preceded my meeting him.  It is an interesting book, at least from the perspective of relationships, a bit ethereal as well, but something in which I once again found solace when Diane, my first real relationship I following my divorce, ended.  The book is about finding a soulmate.

Diane came into my life through the online dating site in a very interesting, perhaps novel way.  Diane also came to my life during the initial phases of my diagnosis, when I was first learning of my cancer and had not yet fully understood the extent of the threat it posed to me.  Unlike the typical, Diane did not subscribe to the service so the email I received from her appeared to have come from a 20-30 something individual with whom I found not much in common.  My initial reaction was to dismiss the email, but then I began to read it and it, in many ways, captivated me.  For the uninitiated, most emails from this venue are superficial, often stating the obvious, sometimes being cute in an awkward sort of way.  Diane’s email was different in many ways, it was honest, real, somewhat baring in its message and attempt to gain my attention, which it did in a big way.

The initial email began with an explanation that she was using the account of a friend with whom she started looking at profiles.  It went on to explain something of herself, that she worked at a technology company and some other things, but did so in a manner different from others.  There were no photos, nothing but her words from which I could picture her, but that did not matter because in reading the words I recognized someone of substance, someone, if nothing more came of it, was worth the attempt to get to know.  The note compelled my response and that was the beginning of a series of email exchanges, the beginning the process of learning about each other.

We continued to exchange emails, each with additional depth, a little more revealed, all interesting and each waited for with anticipation. The communications offered a variety of information, but the one thing entrenching my interest was her response to my answer to a question she asked, something about what I did, where I lived or what kind of car I drove.  My response was typical for me, offbeat and in a way, a test of her true interest.  I told her I drove an old car, painted multiple colors and quite challenging to keep operational.  I’ve done this on several occasions and of all the times I did, Diane was the only who did not summarily dismiss me, but rather chose to explore further, to deepen her knowledge of me.  It was refreshing, welcome and for the record, I did come clean on the joking about the car.  My perception was she possessed the capability to ‘get me’.  I remained engaged, wanting to learn more, I was drawn to Diane.

Our email exchanges continued with many being somewhat flirtatious, others being very grounded.  In one exchange she sent some photos, she had already saw those of me on my profile, which was quite fun.  She was inquisitive, asking me what I thought with my responding I hadn’t looked, not true of course, but what I said.  I think the response confused her, caught her off balance in some way, something revealed in her words.  After several exchanges on the same night, I did admit I looked at the photos.  Our exchanges continued, sharing various things and on one occasion she mentioned the church she attended, the same one I attended when I was so moved.  Our emails revealed a lot about us, about her acrimonious divorce, not that many are not, but I think a bit more so than normal in her case.

Interestingly, one day in church, I saw Diane sitting two rows in front of me, something I mentioned in a correspondence later that day.  I think it took her back a bit, surprised her and in a playful way she questioned why I didn’t approach her.  The answer was simply I wasn’t sure, positive it was her, positive she wished to even meet.  The result was we met the next day, in the rose garden of the community enter and talked, for hours.  For me, Diane was everything I had envisioned, all I sensed her to be in mind and spirit.  Following the meeting we began talking while continuing our email exchanges.  One time after church we took a long walk on a local trail where she looked at me and said she wished I was five years younger for if that were the case she felt this could be really more.  I concede I felt some disappointment, but as I said initially, I felt if nothing more this was  a person whom I thought would be a good friend, someone whom I would like to know.

I began then to treat Diane more like all my plutonic lady friends, talking about people in my life and discussing other women, to a lesser extent.  On one occasion I mentioned how my friend Missy was ‘hot’ and it was clear from Diane’s response this was new to her, that a man would say such a thing to another woman.  For me, I felt Diane had been clear, we would be plutonic and as such I began travelling on that road, a road from which we exited shortly after the Missy comment.  It was at that point when we moved toward a relationship.

I think in describing this evolution I would be remiss if not discussing my cancer, the things I had learned and that which I shared.  For the most part, in the early phases of my disease discovery I tended to be quite up front about my disease, mostly after the exchanges reached the point of talking on the telephone.  It was this way with Diane as well.  I was, early on, up front about my disease, I shared it and tried to make her feel safe about asking any questions she had regarding the malady.  The exchanges were good, admittedly sometimes I felt threatened, but generally I think very healthy for me and for her.  I found that in these exchanges  saw something more, something deeper in this person that made me want to learn more about her.

We began dating and in the process I think I learned a lot about myself from Diane.  It was clear that while still nascent, I was falling in love with her, that being with her and around her enhanced my happiness.  Strange as it may seem, Diane offered me that previously absent in my life, that I felt unattainable, she offered a certain level of respect, a certain level of understanding of who I am, both things I never had in past relationships, least of all with my former wife.   I started to grow close to her and felt comfortable with her presence, I think she began to feel the same way.

So with time I felt closer to Diane, I think she with me, but I also recognized the toxins in our respective lives, those things that many call baggage.  For me I had the cancer and an ex-wife who constantly threatened to take my son from me, I had him full-time.  For Diane, it was similar things, the focal point being her divorce from a man whose behaviors seemed incomprehensible to me.  I think, that for all the closeness we felt, I think these toxins began poisoning the patient, began giving rise to those lesions which would ultimately kill.  For me, I began to harbor several uncertainties.  In all relationships there are challenges, challenges with all the so-called normal stuff, but in our case we were plagued by more.  For my part, and to a lesser extent, I felt threatened by the age difference, compounded by the challenges over my son, whom I fought so hard to keep.  But more importantly, likely the most toxic of all was the cancer for it, and it alone truly altered my perspective.  I can not say I fully recognized it at the time, but in the wake of things, in looking back, it was clear I became increasingly uncertain, uncertain about myself, uncertain about my self-worth and more importantly, uncertain about the value  brought to any relationship.  I think ultimately, and sadly, it was Diane’s early acceptance of my cancer that fortified my confidence and in the end, I allowed my cancer to erode my self-confidence and self-worth.  In te end, I feel my cancer allowed us to come together, and in the end, it drove us apart.

I will always look back fondly upon my time with Diane, she was, she is, an amazing person.  As I said, I learned so much about myself while with her and in the aftermath; most importantly, I learned I could love again.   In the parlance of Richard Bach, I think, I feel, that if ever I encountered one who could rank as a soulmate, it was Diane.  Thank you Diane, for all you were to me and, as I said once in the past, I hope the happiness you seek finds you, always.

Happy reading, happy thoughts and happy trails.

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