Monday, May 17, 2010

Order Up! Single-Parents Dating Online E-Harmony. Yahoo Personals. J-Date.

Yup, I signed up for them all. I was a mama on a mission to find love online.

More sites, more options.

I had tried the club scene. Blaring music. Dim lights. Too much booze.

“Nice toes,” one guy had said, looking first at my feet and then straight at my chest.

Tall, dressed in black slacks, button-down blue shirt, full head of blonde hair. He certainly was attractive.

But way too young and way too interested in my breasts.

“Nice toes?” The white tips of my toenails peeked out from my three-inch-high red, strappy shoes. “You came over here to talk to me about my toes?”

I knew his type.

He swigged from his Corona bottle, laughing. “What’s your name?”

“I’m a widow.”

He leaned in closer, placing his hand on the hip of my jeans. “Willow?”

Clearly, he couldn’t hear me.

“No,” I shouted. “I’m a WIDOW.”

“Man, really?”

Did he just call me man?

I scanned the crowded room for my girlfriend and spoke with emphasis. “A widow with two babies.”

He smiled, but took a step back. No response.

That’s what I thought.

Pointing at the bright orange EXIT sign, I said, “You may want to run. Run as fast as you can.”

“I just wanted to talk.”

No doubt his idea of talking was much different than mine.

Before I had kids, it might have been fun to flirt with him, maybe even go out on a few dates.

Honestly, I was flattered. He couldn’t have been more than 22, and at a time when I felt like damaged goods, the attention reassured me at some level. Being a 29-year-old widow made me feel old. Undesirable.

But I needed a man who could handle my situation. And I wasn’t willing to settle for anything less than I had before.

So, I wrote, then rewrote my profile, which read, in part:

“There is a place where happiness overwhelms you, where you feel you might burst because it feels so good. I have been to that place. I have been there and tasted its richness and I know that I will return there once more. I have to believe that those capable of loving with such intensity, of living each moment completely, must deserve to love again.”

At night, I put my daughters, then 2-months-old and 21-months-old, in their cribs.

I didn’t have to deal with the bar scene. A few clicks on the computer and I could order up exactly what I wanted.

Religious preferences. Politics. Height. Wants kids. Willing to adopt. Willing to embrace a widow still snotting and crying from watching her 29-year-old husband drop dead of a heart attack on the kitchen floor. (Alright, there wasn’t a “still in grief” box to check, but my profile was very specific, so they knew what they were getting into when they contacted me.)

The best thing about online dating is that you have to force yourself to actually define what you want in a partner. That, to me, is the first step in getting everything you want out of a relationship.

If I liked their profile and had a good feeling about their photo, I’d get in touch via email. Then, after a few written exchanges, we’d talk on the phone. If I didn’t like the sound of a man’s voice, I knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life with him.

I did meet someone right away, and although that didn't work out, we’re still friends.

There were many more lunches, dates for coffee, drinks, and through each of them, I learned more about myself. Never did I once have a bad experience.

In fact, I’d say online-dating for this single-mama worked out pretty well.

Two years after the death of my late husband, I met my new husband on

He’s exactly what I ordered up . . . and more.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Defibrillator, Death, and Denial

For three hours, the grasshopper-like chirps call out from the defibrillator. Three hours.

This entire time, I continue to write sections of my memoir, Drop Dead Life, trying to pretend the beeping isn’t there.

If the beeping is there, that means we really own a defibrillator. That means I actually need to be ready to pull out the child-sized paddles and jump-start my daughters’ hearts.

It’s been a rough few weeks. We just visited the pediatric cardiologist at the Oakland Children’s Hospital and this was the first year in which my new husband, Evan, and I were completely honest with Tatiana, 8, and Keira, 6, about their chances of inheriting their birth daddy’s genetic heart condition.

Fifty percent. Each of the girls has a fifty percent chance of getting Brugada’s Syndrome.

“Mommy,” Tatiana said, as she wiggled on the crinkly exam table paper, “So, basically, we’re doing all these tests to make sure we don’t die?”

My late husband, Erik, died at 29 from a problem with the electrophysiology in his heart. I was seven months pregnant with Keira on that Easter Sunday when Erik’s heart flicked off like a switch.

It was unimaginable. All of it.

I did every type of therapy possible: Endless hours of Post Traumatic Stress therapy. Journaling. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Vigorous exercise. Hypnotherapy. Chakra work.

I figured the only way to get over Erik's death was to go straight through it, as painful as every step would be, and that the more time I spent healing, the sooner I would feel capable of being a good mother again, and eventually, a good partner to someone else.

And now, I do feel like I’m finally a good mother again. And a good wife. My life is happy, full.

But the beeping continues.

Tatiana and Keira’s cardiologist said, “In case there’s an episode, I’d keep the defibrillator in the house. Take it on vacations.”

So Evan ordered it immediately.  

Then, as soon as the box arrived, he read the manual, inspected each part, and said, “You ready to learn how this things works?”

“No.” I continued changing our new baby’s diaper.

“Does this mean you’re not ready now, or that you’re never going to be ready for me to show you?”

“I’m never going to be ready, but I know I have to be. It’s just that I can’t do it right now.”

“Alright, well we have to do it soon.”

I know I have to face it.

The defibrillator is the only thing that could have saved Erik, if we had been aware of his heart condition. If we had known that he would slide down our kitchen counter and drop dead on the cold, white-tiled floor, we would have owned one.

“I can’t explain this,” I said to Evan, “but every time we talk about the defibrillator, it’s like I can’t even breathe. I can’t go there.”

Evan gets it. He knows me.

He knows that I will always be affected by Erik’s death. He knows I will constantly fear the same thing happening to one of our kids, or even him.

What Evan doesn’t know is that he left the defibrillator on when he took everyone else out to breakfast so I could have some time to write.

And now, I must force myself to go downstairs and figure out how to stop the beeping.