Sunday, December 9, 2007

Roots: Part III


"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you." ~Kendall Hailey, The Day I Became an Autodidact

(Confession: I found this quote this morning on Quote Garden. I had to Google Kendall Hailey. And I had no idea what the word autodidact meant until I located it on dictionary.com.)

I met Ocho on Match.com. Many of you probably have never had a Match date, so let me describe for you a few that I experienced:

Tom smelled myseriously of Clorox bleach and wore a fanny pack. I might have been able to handle the fumes (hey, it's a turn-on that a guy can clean his house, right?), but the strain of imagining what was in the fanny pack (Handi-wipes? Anti-bacterial gel? Latex gloves?) was more than I could bear.

Bob, who was as tall as a 4th grader, over the course of two hours and a plate of fettucine alfredo asked me 20 times if I was bothered by the fact that he was so short. Answer: No, but the Lilliputian attention span is killing me.

Joe, who lived in Morgan Hill, a good 90 minutes south, asked me if I thought I could handle a long-distance relationship. Answer: Maybe. With someone who doesn't live with his mother.

Fig, not his real name, but what he looked like. Small head, very large bottom. Took me to get Thai. Over lemon-grass soup, told me his entire life story from conception to the present. Questions he asked me? Zero. An hour later, he shot me a template email that said "no, thanks." And to think, I could have been Mrs. Fig.

Tim, from liberal Marin, was an artist who wore baggy blue jeans and a black beret over his silver hair. We went to the SFMOMA to see the Chuck Close exhibit, then went to get a cheeseburger and a beer at the First Amendment. Fun! The next morning I got this email:

Had a lovely time. So refreshing to go out with someone who hasn't had any "work" done and who doesn't have 12 cats, wear the color purple exclusively, and drone on endlessly and angrily about the fact that her husband left her for someone younger.

My response:

It is refreshing because I am half your age. And I applaud the crazy, purple, pissed-off cat ladies. Online dating for women in their '50s and '60s is brutal. The fact that they press on in such a hostile environment makes me incredibly proud of them. Go girls!

Tim, strangely, did not reply.

Naturally, I was delighted on that first date with Ocho in Half Moon Bay to find that he smelled like a guy, broke the 5' barrier, lived solo, and wasn't looking for someone who two years prior to signing up on Match had given her My Pretty Ponies to the Goodwill.

Four months later, and one month after my bilateral mastectomy, I met Ocho's family. I went to his house to celebrate his and his ex-wife's birthdays. The whole crew was there (his ex, his ex's husband, his stepdaughter and her husband and daughter, and his sister, brother-in-law and niece). They were sitting around a coffee table covered in newspaper and fresh dungeness crab, when I showed up with my new pre-chemo bob and a chest as flat as day-old 7-Up.

Usually, when I meet a crowd of people I try super-hard to impress. But when I walked through the door at Ocho's, I thought to myself, just be. I don't know if I'll be able to adequately articulate what I was feeling, but it was an odd and powerful combination of energy/fatigue, focus/detachment, peace/adrenaline. In fact, it was so unlike anything that I had ever felt, I had no choice but to just be still and observe.

And what I observed was this: an incredibly strong, supportive, kind, funny, close, loving family that had already embraced me. Ocho's sister, having never met me, had sent me a sweet card the week of my surgery to let me know she was thinking about me. As we were all heading outside to play croquet in the backyard, I stopped her on the stairs to thank her for the card. She got teary, Ocho got teary, I got teary. And I thought to myself, this is one cool and one real group of people. I felt like I was home.

Last Thanksgiving, Ocho's ex had us all down to her warm and cozy house in Santa Cruz. It was cool and crisp outside. Inside, the house was full of dogs, delicious smells, and warm, lively company. This Thanksgiving, I had the crew up here. And I can honestly say that other than the Thanksgiving where my Dad used baking soda instead of cornstarch to make the gravy (and gravy is the true reason for Thanksgiving), and we all piled in the car to go to the 7-11 to buy a can of Franco-American chicken gravy (it was incredibly fun), this past Thanksgiving is one that will forever hold a special place in my heart. That Ocho's family would abandon tradition to come to my house was beyond meaningful.

I am fortunate. I have three fabulous families: my own, my ex's and Ocho's. And while people joke about the "in-laws," I can honestly say that I'd rather be in their company than in just about anybody else's.

Finding love online is a rare thing (even if you don't have a houseful of cats and wear eggplant-colored pants). Finding someone online who has a family that you not only like but love is rarer still.

I tend to win things: The life-size Yoda from the local Blockbuster. The $500 gift certificate from the new toy store in town. The fake Kate Spade bag (my brother calls it the Kate Spud bag) at my friend's knock-off-purse party. But winning Ocho and his family? The jackpot.

Update on the 31-day plan: This feels fabulous! I feel as if I've left a big, heavy bag by the side of the road. And I may just leave it there...

20 comments:

bella said...

Amazing.
This was such excellent writing.
And then to get to the part about finding these people and being embraced and loved, it made me ache inside. It feels so good to have such a sense of family. And I got goosebumps when you got to the part about not impressing them at first meeting, about being able to just BE. I know that centered calm that is feeling everything and yet able to not get tangled up in any of it. And it is the the best sense of self love and groundedness.
May you continue to feel so fabulous and leave behind that which no longer serves you.

Jena Strong said...

Bella took the words out of my mouth. Your writing is so vivid; I felt like I was there with you meeting Ocho's family, getting teary together. You capture that feeling of being home. (Not to mention the fiascos of match men. I will not soon forget Fig!)

I am so glad to have discovered both of you and your blogs.

xo Jena

lahdeedah said...

Bella: Thank you. It's wonderful to be able to express these feelings of gratitude and get kind words from writers I admire. I hope you're enjoying Colorado. I'm off to read your new post now...

Jena: Thank you, too. I spent some time on your blog on Saturday and love how you write. It has good feng shui! I quickly read your "otherwise" post this a.m., and watched the "stuff" video while getting ready for work. Wow, to both. And, likewise, I'm happy to have discovered your blog.

KT said...

Hi Jill, isn't it funny/wild/wonderful how people come into our lives at just the right time? What a blessing to have such loving families! What would we do without them? Mine (and my husband's family) played a key role in getting me through my treatment. They took over just about everything so I could focus on me-me-me and getting better and healing and all that!

I always enjoy your posts. They are heartwarming and thought-provoking, good for the soul! Katie

Sherry said...

Brava!!! I love this..you made me laugh and you made me weep....this is beautiful.

Your voyage of discovery is like being on a cruise...and you are doing so well on the 31 day project...your writing is reflective of where you are on this discovery of "you"...without critique!!!

Online dating is difficult I would imagine..check out Cathy Bueti's blog (she's on my blogroll). She met her husband online after her surgery. I also have her book if you want to read it...let me know!

lahdeedah said...

Hey Katie,

It is very cool how people come into your life at the right time. Everything about my cancer, oddly, felt like the right place, the right people, the right time.

I'm so happy you're husband's family was supportive of you when you really needed it.

Hope you're feeling good, Katie, and enjoying the holidays!

And, thank you for the kind words. Having this blog and reading others is like getting good therapy ;)

Jenster said...

What a great post. Seriously one of my favorites ever.

I think I love Ocho. And his entire family.

Oh! And my parents honeymooned in Half Moon Bay!

You expressed yourself so clearly. You are truly blessed... but then you knew that!

lahdeedah said...

Sherry,

I must have missed your comment in my email...

You are so dang supportive. I just love it. Every time I read one of your comments I just beam. Thanks for being such a fabulous blog buddy. Hope to be "real" buddies one day :)

lahdeedah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lahdeedah said...

Jen,

I'll tell Ocho you think you love him. He's going to get such a big head.

So cool that your parents honeymooned in HMB. Tell them the coast here is still amazing.

I think we both dip our pens into a deep well of irreverence and kind-hearted sarcasm when we write. I think that's one of the many reasons I love your posts.

Jill

Jenster said...

I think we both dip our pens into a deep well of irreverence and kind-hearted sarcasm when we write. I think that's one of the many reasons I love your posts.

Right back atcha!

Dee said...

Gah, amazing. I really just want to hug you right now. How weird is that?

I hope not TOO weird. You deserve every single bit of happiness ever imaginable, and I really mean that.

Keep on keeping on and never let anybody ever stop you.

lahdeedah said...

Hey Dee,

Not weird at all :) Just love connecting with you! I hope you've been well and happy. Think of you often.

Jill

Sherry said...

Jill, I've left something for you on my Sage and Thyme blog today, December 20th. Hope you are well...miss you posting!!

lahdeedah said...

Sherry! Going now to Sage and Thyme. Also, thank you so much for the cards. I ordered one, not two :) And they're lovely. You're really talented.

I have been crazy busy and I miss my blogging buddies! Will try to connect soon...

Much love

Jill

Sherry said...

One was a gift my dear....
I'm glad you like them both...

You haven't been blogging for awhile but I hope you are reading...

Just wanted to with you and those you love -- family, friends...a most wonderful Christmas filled with joy, love and laughter...may magic abound. Best of everything and wonderful blessings for the coming year.

xo
Sherry

lahdeedah said...

Sherry, that was really unsurprisingly sweet of you :) Thank you. I haven't been blogging or reading...just headline gazing. I will dig in deep after the holidays!

Much love to you,

Jill

Jena Strong said...

Jill -

For making me laugh (and sometimes cry all at once), I have a little token of cyber-appreciation for you. Come on over...

xo Jena

Chloe said...

Hi Jill- I found you through Jena’s blog. I loved this post! I almost peed myself when I read about all the “gems” you met online. I’m intrigued to learn more of your story.

lahdeedah said...

Jena,
Thank you! I'm heading your way now...

Chloe,
The ultimate compliment...thank you, thank you! I'd like to learn more of your story, too.