In the Beginning

1999:  I had a sworn decision to focus on my kids and myself after a tumultuous relationship and stuck with it for a year.  Getting a new job, and even being able to buy a house, on my own, which we moved into in September.  At the end of November, while working for a home health agency, I had to call EMS for a patient I was seeing at a large personal care home that located at our offices.  The Medic that showed up was handsome, and extremely full of himself.  I sat quietly in the room as they did their assessment and as they were getting ready to leave he turned around and smugly said… “do you have anything to add?”  I laughed and said, “no, looks like you’ve got it”.  Two weeks later, I had to call EMS again.  Different patient, same place.  Same Medic, same scenario… except this time he jokingly asked what I was doing to these people.  I replied, “the holidays are coming, you know how that goes.”  This time he seemed more interested in what my assessment was, and agreed after we discussed it. As I was leaving the facility, I stopped at the front desk to chat with the receptionist there.  She said, “I see you met Dan.”  I gave her my brief assessment of what I thought, but did concede that he was cute.  She immediately said she should fix me up with him, to which I instantly said, “that is the last thing I need right now.” and politely declined.

That evening I received a phone call from an unknown number, and there h was… telling me he had gotten my phone number from the receptionist.  He immediately sensed my confusion and went directly into a story about how there had been a complaint about the EMS service that day and that we should meet to discuss this further.  I assured him I had no complaint and thought maybe he was calling the wrong person.  He insisted he had the right person and that maybe we should meet for lunch to discuss this further.  I knew then that the receptionist had disregarded my statements of denial and set us both up, he later revealed that she told him I thought he was cute and wanted him to call me, but he was quick on his feet – and very charming about it.  I declined meeting him at this time.

A week later he called me again and asked if we could meet.  At the insistence of a few friends “what could it hurt”…  and I said yes.  His original thought was to take me to an EMS party that night but I said I wasn’t comfortable going a party with a bunch of people I didn’t know, including him.  So, on December 18th he came to my house to pick me up, for dinner.  He was an hour late though, blaming it on a late EMS call.  Having just moved into my new house, a good friend of mine, Kenny, had come over that day to split firewood for me for the winter, and he was still there cutting wood by his headlights in the back yard.  Dan later told me thought, ‘this can’t be good, no girl drives a big blue Dodge truck’, but he braved the knock on the door anyways, and as he came in Kenny said “You’re late.”  This memory makes me smile.  After 45 minutes of small talk it was too late for dinner and he had no plan.  Not being familiar with the area he asked me what I would like to do.  I gave him the option of music and dancing or quiet.  He chose quiet so we could talk, so I directed him to a quaint little (at the time ‘hole in the wall’) bar/diner.  After talking a while, he admitted that he was surprised by my choice as in his experience, nurses wanted something a little more fancy.  I assured him I’m as low maintenance as they come. Then came his phone call.  The obligatory “get out of jail free” call, and when he returned I told him it was okay if he needed to go.  He asked what meant, and I told him I knew he had someone call to give him an ‘out’ if he needed it.  He shook his head and laughed saying “you are definitely different than most.”  He then suggested moving to the other place because he wanted to dance with me.

At the end of the evening, when he kissed me, I knew I was in trouble… it was good.  He tried to convince me to let him stay, but I pushed him out the door with a very firm No.  I did not need any entanglements in my life right now.  I half hoped I wouldn’t hear from him again, that maybe he was the kind of man that wouldn’t call back if a girl wouldn’t sleep with him.  Turned out it was the opposite.  He called three days later and asked if I could meet him to talk.  Innocent enough.  We met at a local restaurant and he put his name in for a table while we waited at the bar.  He was clearly nervous and he said he didn’t want to hurt me, but he just wasn’t looking for a relationship at this time, even though he thought about me every day since our date.  I started laughing and said, “Thank God, neither am I, we’re good.  If you want to hang out sometime just as friends that would be fine.”  He was relieved, yet perplexed (his words).  A kiss at the end of the evening and another definite ‘no’ your not coming back to my house… ‘we’re friends, remember’, and off he went. 

I didn’t hear from him for a week, but then he paged me on my work pager (that he also apparently got from our receptionist friend) a ‘joke of the day’.  He did that every day for  week and then asked me to stop by his work.  I stopped.  They had had a pretty bad call earlier that week and were planning a ‘decompression’ party that night, would I like to go…as friends.  I agreed.  Now, let’s just say that EMS parties are in an entire dimension of their own!  Did you know they have ‘groupies’?  I consider myself extremely open-minded, but I told him had this been our first date there probably wouldn’t have been another.  We always laughed at that over the next 18 years.  A little crazy yes, but what a Great bunch of people!  He later told me that one of his friends asked him what he was doing when showed up with him, he said “I’m intrigued”.  His friend laughed and jokingly said, “no good is going to come from this”. 

We began seeing each other more frequently at this point, but I continued to avoid intimacy.  You see, Dan had a prosthetic leg (and NO this is not the reason).  I knew about it, partly due to his gait, but also thanks to the receptionist friend.  However, Dan himself had not yet had this conversation with me yet.  If he wasn’t ready to trust me enough with this, then we certainly weren’t ready to go there.  That, and I was not yet ready to introduce him into my kids lives.  He pushed that issue though by showing up one Sunday evening after they had gone to bed, slightly intoxicated, stating he drank a 6 pack from leaving work until he showed up.  I relented to him sleeping on my couch for safety reasons, but told him if he had to drink a six pack before coming to see me, not to come… bad calls or not.  He apologized and promised it wouldn’t happen again. 

Six months of dating and becoming closer, my kids now like him.  Their own dad not in the picture much, they looked to him more and more.  Mostly as a friend, but he became much more over the years.  Dan ended up getting a flare up of a chronic infection in his knee and had to have surgery.  He wouldn’t be able to wear his prosthetic for a few weeks and asked if he could stay at my house for his recovery, as my shower was easier to maneuver than the one at his parents house where he had been staying, as his ex-wife and 18 month old daughter were staying at his house after moving back from Ohio.  I didn’t see a problem with him staying at my house, but his mom didn’t feel the same, not really knowing me, and feeling that I “didn’t know what I was getting myself into”.  Interesting statement?  The day of surgery I went to the hospital with him and his mom to wait. In walks his ex-wife and when the doctor came out she went up to him stating that she was his wife.  His mom said nothing.  I backed away and walked out into the hallway.  What was happening?  My head spinning, I went up to his room and left a note in his backpack regarding what transpired and why I left.  I had no idea what to think… could I possibly be this stupid?

Dan called me later that afternoon, upset that I wasn’t there.  I told him I left the note, he said it wasn’t there.  (later he claimed that allegedly his ex saw me put it in his bag and took it).  Me not being there brought up a lot of bad memories of his first wife (this ex was his 2nd) who he said never wanted him to have his amputation in the first place, frequently called him a cripple, would have a fit if he limped in public, and even took his prosthetic once so he couldn’t leave the house.  She told him that she just wanted a normal husband/life, and then he caught her cheating on the act.  He, and his mom, assured me that he was no longer with his ex and would I please come back.  His mom was still reluctant in him coming to stay with me, but he came anyway.  I got him settled in and went to pick up his prescriptions (including 30 Vicodan 7.5)  I made sure he had everything he needed before leaving at 7:30am to see a few patients.  I was home by 2pm and there were only 4 Vicodan left.  I was dumbfounded, he said he was in that much pain…he was perfectly functional… I didn’t sign up for this.  What if something happened?  What if something happened and my boys were the first ones home?  I closed myself in my closet and called his mom.  She said she was afraid this would happen and sent his dad and his brother to come pick him up.  He called it the time I threw him out in the snow with nowhere to go…it was May.  My problem…I was already in love with him.

Once he was healed there were no more pain meds (that I was aware of), and he eventually did move in, so I believed this to be true.  He left his job to come work in our area, helping to make big, positive changes to our EMS.  His boss always said Dan could sell ice to eskimos, and he became a respected member of our community.  I learned more and more about his previous marriages.  He couldn’t say or even hear his first wifes name, his family was forbidden to discuss her.  He even went as far as “renaming” a friend of ours ‘Natasha’, and calling my niece by her middle name ‘Denise’.  He began having night terrors (unless he drank), waking up angry with me, because in his dream I was the one he was seeing in the cheating scenario instead of his first wife.  I begged him at first, and then threatened, that if he didn’t go to therapy we wouldn’t last.  I wasn’t her, and would never treat him the way she did.  The first therapist lasted 3 weeks, the next a few months.  He was hypnotized and at one point was able to begin talking about her, the dreams became less frequent.   And then another infection, another surgery, more pain pills…. back to square one.  While he is in the hospital I decide to wash the sock on his prosthetic.  Upon removing it I find a small baggie with white powder.  A friend confirms it is cocaine.  I tell him he isn’t coming back to my house… he apologizes again and again, says it was just to help him get through the long hours at work, that he wouldn’t do it again.  Pain management is being ordered this time, there would be regular testing…  I believe this will work, it has to, as it was becoming more and more apparent he was medicating his emotional pain as well as his physical.  I loved him and I was determined to show him that love doesn’t have to hurt.  Is this when I became complacent?  An enabler?  I told him the only disability he had was in his head…not letting go.

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