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.
As I stood on the deck holding my left hand, I could feel the void and knew what had happened. I also knew I couldn’t look at it. I just stood there trying to breathe through the burning pain I felt in my left thumb.
With my eyes squeezed shut, I kept saying out loud, “It burns! It burns”! Within seconds John was at my side talking to me and leading me into the house.
Grabbing a towel from the kitchen, he told me to turn away so he could see the extent of the injury. Talking in quiet, hushed tones, he assured me everything would be okay; but I had a hard time believing him in that moment.
John wrapped my hand with the towel and put an ice pack on it and told me he’d be right back. What was probably just a few minutes felt like an eternity; so I called out to John asking where he was. He came back into the house and said, “Looking for your thumb, honey.”
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.
A few days after breaking up with John he called to see how I was doing. I think he was surprised to hear I was fine. I was sad our romantic relationship had ended, but we had grown a strong friendship over the past year that neither of us could easily give up.
I told John I had some things of his and asked if he’d like to meet for coffee.
Starbucks seemed an appropriate place to meet up since that was where the seeds of our friendship had first sprouted. It would be good to see him and to return his personal things.
The summer of 2012 was filled with so many highs and lows I honestly don’t even like recalling it, and the ratio of highs to lows was unbalanced in the wrong direction. John and I not only had to deal with the snail’s pace of the legal system, but also the uncertainty of love.
John had told me he loved me one night back in April, but
after the accident failed to remember he’d said it or that he even felt it. He
spent the entire summer wondering if he’d let ‘the right one’ get away.
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 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
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.
When John finally asked me to be his girlfriend in March 2012, I thought everything would be so much smoother for us from then on. After the last eight months of just friends to quasi dating I was sure things would settle down.
And they did, for a while.
The very first thing he did was to introduce me to his family. John wanted me to meet his Mom. She lived just 25 miles from the little town where I was born, and had never been back to since leaving with my family at age two.
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
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