I thought it was a love story with a happy ending. The joy and laughter we shared was so rich every day that I just knew that nothing could stop us from spending our lives together. He declared his love for me each day, something he knew that I needed to defeat my insecurities. Even our friends could see that we were perfect together, and they were happy for me, as I had been the original unlucky in love.
Valentine’s Day came and I wanted to give him gifts suitable for a king. I bought him several presents, and I could not wait to see his face as he unwrapped them. He walked in my house with a small bag for me, just a little trinket for me, something that he had made for me. I went into the bedroom and brought out three or four packages for him. He looked overwhelmed, but still he smiled and laughed as we enjoyed a wonderful dinner. Then, he left to go home. As always I said, “Call me when you get home, so I know you got there safely.” He said that he would, and he always did, until that night.
He left at around 10:00 in the evening, and he only lived about a 20-minutes drive away, so by 11:00, I was worried, but that’s who I am still today, so easily anxious about nothing. I tend to fight imaginary dragons. Knowing that about myself, I reminded myself that there were many reasons why he had not called yet, such as stopping at the store or getting ready for work the next day before a long conversation, for our calls never lasted less than one hour.
By 1:00 in the morning, I was getting frantic, for he had never failed to call when he reached home, so something bad must have happened to him. By 3:00, I decided that he just forgot to call, and that something must have needed his attention. It was silly to worry, so I went to bed and went to sleep.
The next day, I did not receive the usual morning call, so I started checking for accidents the night before, calling hospitals to see if they had a patient by his name, checking with mutual friends to see if they had heard from him. Nothing! It was like he had just disappeared from the earth, as though aliens had abducted him and were, and at that very moment, conducting body scans on him to discover earth’s greatest secrets. It seemed that he had fallen into a black hole and was unable to find his way out of it.
For three days, he never answered the phone or called me back. After five days, I knew that he was not going to call ever again. What happened, I wondered? What did I do that made him just walk out of my life without even saying goodbye? I left him messages saying, “You don’t need to come back, but tell me what I did, so that I do not cause anyone else to leave me.” But, no dice! He was done with me, completely and irreversibly.
The hurt of rejection stings for a long time, and it leaves an invisible scar on our hearts, minds, and spirits that fuels a lifetime of fear of losing someone we love. It calls into question our value and worth, and seems to say to us that we are disposable people, expendable and replaceable at a moment’s notice, because there is nothing worthwhile about us to engenders fidelity and long-lasting love. For a couple of years afterwards, I was scared to even date, especially because I tend to “fall” in love so easily, a vestige of being an unloved child.
But, finally one day I saw him again, at a Toastmasters’ meeting. I wanted to act all cool and not say anything to him, but I lack that character trait, so I found him alone and I asked simply, “Why?” He told me that I scared him with the number of gifts that I bought him, for it spoke of a burden of neediness that he was not willing to bear. It also reminded him that he earned a lot less than me, and that I could do things for him that he could not reciprocate, which made him feel small as a man.
I listened, and I agreed that yes, I had the tendency to exude desperation in my relationships, buying love in all the wrong places, but I told him that nothing justified choosing to disappear without even letting me know that he was alright. I told him that the humane thing to have done was call me and end it, rather than th cowardly act of leaving me so worried and scared for three days that I could not work or hardly think.
That was so unfair to me as a fellow human being. He apologized, and I accepted the apology, recognizing that I was so caught up in the romance of the relationship that I blinded myself to the things that I saw that I disliked about him, especially his unwillingness to deal with problems. I learned from his disappearing act that I needed to stop and take a break from constantly trying to find the “right” one. I prayed to God to heal the little girl inside of me that was so needy and desperate for love that she was nearly selling her soul to the devil.
For nearly two years, I did not date, as I worked to complete my PhD and put my focus on my children and grandchildren. It is funny that when having a boyfriend or finding a husband became the least important element of my life, God in His infinite wisdom determined that I was ready to love and be loved. Along came Douglas on the Internet, changing my ideas about who we should love and what characteristics are important in a life’s mate. I still thank God daily for the gift of Douglas, the gift that truly keeps on giving.
But, that little girl who was so afraid to marry someone she truly loved, because she wanted to not feel so much pain if they rejected or abandoned her, still exists inside of me. She still fears losing someone so precious to her. So, I have said to Douglas, “If you decide not to be married to me any more or just want to leave, please tell me. Don’t ever just disappear with no way for me to get in touch with you and know that you are okay.”
Over the years, I had to learn to put fear of abandonment and rejection aside, for it will eat away at your spirit. I love Douglas, but I know that I will survive if he choose ever to leave. I learned to take my trust and hope from human beings and put my trust and hope in God alone, so that I could have peace and live each day with joy. Isaiah 41:10 states, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my right hand.” And Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
When Douglas would go to Atlanta alone to visit his children and grandchildren, I always told him to call me when he arrived, but, bless his senior heart and mind, he forgot sometimes, just as I do when I travel alone. It’s so easy to get caught up with family and time slips away. I used to get frantic and call his daughter’s phone and learn that he was there and had not left me. But, now, I put everything in God’s hands and I am at peace. He eventually calls, usually when that 10-year-old boy inside him that wants to play with the grandkids finally lets the grown man have control again. No disappearing act!