New York City has been a special place to me for almost 3 decades. That’s a number that’s almost too staggering for me to believe, but it’s so. Chris and I had years of riding the train to visit Metropolitan Museum of Art, the library, the Guggenheim, and many other great cultural centers. Central Park in the daylight was a favorite spot as well. We danced at Tavern on the Green, and saw as many Broadway shows as we could afford.
When he died last July, I couldn’t deal with the idea of visiting these places that were so special to the both of us. New York City was out of the question. I would simply cut it out of my life.
Children have a funny way of derailing plans. Abi, our third daughter, got it into her head that a summer intensive at Pratt Institute for Art would be the way to spend July. Pratt is in Brooklyn, and it completely unsettled me to think of her negotiating the mean streets by herself.
Two weeks ago I dropped her off, gave her a hug, and hoped for the best.
I went back to the hotel, and got dressed for a date!
Jack Huntington is a captain for United and a Navy reservist. He pilots enormous cargo planes for the Navy, and giant triple 7’s around the world commercially. We met through a friend about six months ago, and had a casual email relationship punctuated by the rare phone call.
Jack is bright, accomplished, and a world traveler, and his travel pictures and lighthearted approach to life gave me grins in times where none were to be had. Jack is also a genuine believer, and father to children about the same age as mine.
We met at Times Square, after a hilarious back-and-forth where Jack sent me photos and texts detailing where he was as he made his way through about a gazillion other New Yorkers.
He suggested pizza at a hole in the wall pizza joint. I simply love to find these family owned places in the city. (I try not to think too hard about things like kitchen inspection reports. ) “Umberto” showed us to a Formica table and the owner made us one of the best pizzas in the city.
What followed was one of the most memorable dates I’d had since Chris died. Not that I’ve had dozens since then, in fact I could count them on both hands, and that would include coffee with friends that just happened to be men.
Jack has been single for about a year too. His loss had to do with divorce rather than death. Equally painful, but in different ways. We sat and traded life stories, drank Pelligrino and watched the world go by for several hours. It was a remarkable experience.
I don’t have a lot of energy or patience for the traditional dating scene, I simply have too much to do. But making human connections with genuinely interesting people is such a gift. Jack is very much a man’s man. He’s a soldier, and flies giant scary planes into potentially frightening situations. A triathlete as well, physical fitness is high on Jack’s priority list. One might be intimidated.
But Jack is also a father, and talking about children is a universal constant among parents. Professional parenting is essentially what I do, and it is always fascinating to me to listen to other people’s journeys with their kids. Jack has the added mournfulness of not having complete access to his kids anymore, due to the divorce.
As I listened to him talk, I started to get lost in the present. This was New York, I was in one of my favorite cities, talking with someone who was rapidly becoming very endearing.
Jack and I left the pizza place and walked around Times Square. I am old enough to remember the pre-Guiliani days where Times Square was a lot more tense than it is now. Some people complain about it’s current sterility, but to me it’s alive. I took his arm and we watched several street artists, and window shopped paintings and odd people.
We walked back to my hotel, with me wishing the evening didn’t have to end. It was past midnight, and Jack was on call. This could start as early as 5 am, so Jack had to get some rest.
We chatted in the lobby, me resting in the knowledge that I was in the company of a gentleman and a believer. The evening ended with a warm hug and a chaste kiss on the cheek. I was completely enchanted. The moony seventeen year old inside floated up the elevator and to my room. Then the forty seven year old stepped out and shook some sense into the situation. My inner dialogue went something like this:
That was the best evening I’ve had since Chris got sick. Jack is a dazzling human being, totally gorgeous, and a Christian! Incredible!
He’s also human. Flawed, anxious, stubborn, pushy, opinionated. He needs to be constantly saved, just like everyone else. It takes two to tango, and he got divorced for a reason.
Ya, but I share most of those opinions! And I’m sure he’s learned from his mistakes!
Perhaps, even likely. Or perhaps not. It wasn’t a bed of roses with you and Chris, and Jack has been terribly wounded. You are old enough to have learned from your mistakes. What’s the best gift you can give a friend anyway? Jesus said to lay down your life, what does that mean here?
I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to.
That’s childish. Knock it off or go to your room.
If you are going to consider another partner, even in the most distant sense, understanding is the most precious part of love. Understand his mistakes, his own battles. Accept the way he is now, don’t judge him for anything, you aren’t in the position to do that. Your identity is with the Father and Son as your partners now. That’s where it needs to stay, even if you marry again.
Marriage! Who’s talking about marriage? I can’t even imagine!
Right. A little honesty here, blondie?
I had an afternoon flight the next day, so I walked around several other old haunts, jazzed as can be. The Met was still there, and wonderful. Central Park was full of Russian tourists singing old BeeGees hits. Eagles flew over the penthouses. I bought an italian ice from a street vendor and listened to park musicians.
When I got on the plane, I realized that my time had flown by. Life in the city hadn’t changed, it was still a wonderful place to visit. New York would always have decades of great memories, but from now on it is ‘mine’, instead of ‘ours’. That was actually OK.
Wonderful Christian men like Jack exist, Chris wasn’t the only one. The possibilities are endless. I rocketed back home, and realized that New York has been redeemed.