Dating A Pirate and Changing My Course

imageWhen I began this blog, I was leaving my Miami tourism marketing job of 12 years. My plan for Pack-and-Go-Now was to travel the world, to grab my passport and do my own post-divorce version of Eat, Love, Pray. I wanted to roam the back alleys of Cairo, eat my way through India, hike to Machu Picchu, parboil myself in the hot springs of Iceland and let go of the pain and stress of the divorce. It was ME time; time to reassess my life, my goals, my future. Time for the healing balm that travel has always been for me.

Of course, as the saying goes, when you make plans, God laughs. Clearly my dream of international gallivanting was not part of His plan. To make a long story short, my first romance after my divorce was with someone I had known since childhood. Danny was a gentle soul with devastating wit, surfer good looks and the bad boy mien that had first enthralled me back when I was a college freshman.

He still carried a torch for me more than 20 years since we had sporadically dated, going to Miami Hurricane football games together and even taking a madcap trip to Southern California to attend the wedding of my college chum. Like me, Danny was a cancer survivor. He had never married. Best of all, he had many, many pirate tales to share with me. Miami in the late 70s and 80s was a very different place, and, for a time, Danny had been part of the drug smuggling scene. He’d also been a chauffeur for a Miami Beach hotel. He’d driven Truman Capote, George Plimpton and Mother Theresa around the Magic City at various times. He had met and driven various White House officials around too, mainly during the Bush Senior era. Oh, Danny had enough stories to fill several books. He was a true pirate.

I started to hang out at his house every night after work. It was a sanctuary for me. I drank goblets of red wine, bitched about my ex and all of the legal mumbo jumbo I was still sorting through. We stayed up late and watched movies. We filled each other in on people we hadn’t seen for years. We laughed at how surviving cancer had changed us. We didn’t sweat the small stuff. We were survivors, tough as nails in so many ways.

Danny was a great listener. He gave me the encouragement I needed to begin healing, put the past behind me, and get back on my own horse, so to speak. We had 10 lovely months together when he died suddenly. He fell and broke his neck in the shower in the middle of the night.

As awful as it was, it was not surprising. He had balance issues from a neck surgery he had needed during his long journey through throat cancer. He also had a tracheotomy, which complicated his life in many ways. I rushed over to his house, arriving while the police were still there.

The policeman sized me up, realizing that I needed closure on Danny’s sudden death and that I was tough enough to go view the body. Which I did, saying a prayer that thanked God for sparing him any pain and for not letting him die in a hospital — which I knew was Danny’s worst fear. He had suffered enough.

Still mourning my marriage, I now found myself spiraling even further downward to a very sad place. I had just lost a dear friend, a confidante, and the one person who’d been able to make me laugh and smile after the dark days that followed the end of a 20 year marriage.

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Contemplating Fifty

It’s coming fast. My 50th birthday. This is one birthday I can’t just ignore. I’m one of those shrinking violets when it comes to celebrating my own birthday. I’m not sure why, exactly. Over the years, I’ve planned surprise parties for friends and family. I’ve taken pleasure in the details, aimed my camera to capture the startled looks from the birthday boy or girl, relished the excitement of pulling off a big surprise.

For me, hitting the half century mark represents a new start. A throwing off of chains; a celebration of the new life I had to carve out for myself after a very painful divorce. This new life is still very much a work in progress. Some days I embrace it eagerly. Other days, I struggle to find my rhythm.

My head has been spinning with ideas about how to celebrate this upcoming milestone. A cruise with my mother. An island getaway with my boyfriend. A solo journey to a faraway place. Or perhaps, a vow to do 50 cool things over the course of the coming year. Reality rears its head in the form of the very real need to save money for my daughter’s high school band trip and the art camp she wants to attend this summer.

I’m blessed to live in Vacationland, aka Miami Beach, where snowbirds flock to escape winter’s chill. I’ve got the beach in my backyard, orchids blooming in February, blue sky and palm trees. What I long for are hills and mountains, rivers and streams, and big showy rock formations. The list of great places to hike in Miami is rather small, unless you count shopping malls. I’m bouncing back and forth to web sites in Utah, Wyoming and California, taking pleasure in the fact that eventually I will find the perfect place, and design my perfect 50th birthday trip.