She agreed to a coffee date, and then another, until she realized something about their relationship had changed.
- Posted on Sep 27, 2019
“There’s something I want you to listen to,” John said.
“Okay.” I could see that he was unaware of the panic I was feeling as he led me through his house. I didn’t want to hurt John’s feelings, but I didn’t want to lead him on, either. Throughout dinner I’d waited for an opening—the right time to let him down gently. But my chance never came. Now he was giving me a tour of his place. I took a deep breath and rehearsed in my mind what I would say: “John, I’m set in my ways. I’m 74 years old.”
I’d met John and his wife seven years ago when I moved to a suburb of Oklahoma City shortly after my husband’s death. John’s wife befriended me as a newcomer to their church. She had a vibrant personality, despite struggling with Parkinson’s disease. Simple things—things I took for granted, like walking—were a challenge for her. But John was devoted. When they’d walk slowly down the church aisle and he’d gently hold her elbow to steady her, I sensed a deep love between them, an intimacy. Like they were soul mates.
The first time I saw John in church alone after her funeral, he looked so lost and empty. I knew how he felt. Over the next few months, that became the basis for a friendship. That was all. We were good friends. Until recently…
It started with a chance meeting in the parking lot of our church. “Do you ever have coffee with anyone?” he asked. What did that mean? What did he want? What did I want? Good Scott, Carolyn! People go for coffee all the time—it doesn’t have to mean anything! I was much too old for dating. Still I found myself double-checking my reflection in the mirror before John picked me up for coffee.
Over the next hour we talked about our deceased spouses. Romantic? Certainly not! But then he asked me out for coffee again. And again. And again. In those hours spent hunched over our steaming mugs of joe, we talked about all the things casual acquaintances aren’t supposed to—politics, faith, our hopes and fears. I enjoyed his company, his friendship.
Then John took the next step: He asked me to dinner. I could always justify coffee as something casual and platonic, but tonight, with John giving me the grand tour of the home he had shared with his wife, was different. He opened doors for me, pulled out my chair at the restaurant and refused my offer to split the check.
This was definitely a date. I didn’t think of John romantically. I didn’t think romantically, period. I was perfectly content living my own life my own way. I had some close friends who were also widows. My daughter and her family lived next door. I did what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t have to cook or clean for anyone. In fact, I was satisfied eating a bowl of cereal for dinner a few nights a week. My life was exactly how I wanted it.
The last thing I needed was a relationship. And the last thing John needed was me.
I’d developed eye problems over the last couple of years. I’d lost partial sight in one eye. The doctor said there was a chance I could go blind. I didn’t want anyone to shoulder the burden of caring for me, especially John. You have to end this, I thought as I followed John into his home office. Whatever “this” is.
“What did you want me to listen to?” I asked.
“A song,” he said. “It reminds me of you.” He punched a button on the entertainment center and music began to play. I recognized the tune. Bobby Vinton’s voice wafted through the room: “You are my special angel, sent from up above. The Lord smiled down on me and sent an angel to love.”
John’s eyes radiated sincerity. I felt my heart drop. What was I going to do now?
I dug down deep for some courage. “John,” I finally said, “I’ve lived on my own for seven years. I’m set in my ways. What if one of us gets sick? What if my eyes get worse? I don’t want you to have to care for me.”
John was silent for a moment.
“Carolyn,” he said, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I trust that God does. I considered it a divine privilege to care for my wife. I’d consider it an honor to care for you too.”
I smiled weakly, his response hanging in the air. John was a prince, but I was no princess. Certainly no one’s special angel. John drove me home without pushing the issue, a true gentleman. Once inside my house, I peeked through the curtains to watch his taillights disappear into the darkness.
We continued having dinner several times a week. Neither of us mentioned that night at his house, but it kept playing over and over in my head.
I was relieved when John left for three weeks to vacation with his kids and grandkids in Colorado. I knew he’d be busy and didn’t expect him to call. I thought time apart would be good for us. So why did I catch myself thinking about him so much? Truth be told, I missed him something awful.
One evening after work, I poured myself a bowl of cereal for dinner. I pushed the Cheerios around with my spoon, feeling oddly empty. I missed sharing meals with John. No, it was more than that. I missed his gentle manner, his laughter, the way he looked at me. I dropped my spoon, splattering milk all over the kitchen table. Good Scott! I’ve fallen in love!
The idea both excited and terrified me. I couldn’t help but think of everything that could go wrong. Did I really want to complicate my life at this stage? Could I trust another person—even John—enough to allow him in? Did I trust God enough to embrace his plan for me?
With that, I screwed up my courage, pulled out my cell phone and opened our text thread. My thumbs flew across the screen: “I feel as if half of me is here and the other half is in Colorado.” Before I could second-guess myself, I took a deep breath and pressed “send.”
I stared at my screen, waiting for a response. Moments later, the text bubble formed. “That’s the most special thing I’ve ever heard.” John proposed a few months after he returned from Colorado. I finally let go of my plans for my life in order to receive the plan God had for me—a plan for love, marriage and romance. Yes, even at my age.
Now every time I hear Bobby Vinton sing “My Special Angel,” I smile, not because I’m that special angel for John, but because John is that special angel for me.
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