“I’m not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you.” – George Benard Shaw
For a year after the divorce, I continued doing my personal work, spending time with my children and close friends, and handling my busy law and mediation practice. One day Joe, the man who schedules my mediations at the court program, sent me an email .
“Do you think you are ready to meet a guy?”
Yikes! Was I ready to meet a man? Although I was not searching for romance, I knew it was probably a good idea to start meeting people outside my cocoon. I said “yes” to Joe’s inquiry and he set up a dinner on the patio of a local restaurant to introduce me to Cal. Joe and his wife agreed to accompany us because I was a nervous wreck.
When I walked up to the table, Cal stood, introducing himself and extending his hand. I immediately felt at ease and sensed a gentle energy. He pulled my chair out so I could be seated. “Would you like something to eat?” he asked as Joe ordered up a round of beers for all of us. Cal and I began that awkward chitchat when you first meet someone, only with Cal it was easy and fun. We continued to chat after Joe and his wife left and agreed to meet the following week.
Cal was a professor at the local medical school, and had been single for years after having been once divorced. He was very dedicated to his work as an anatomist. “You have such a lovely clavicle” he’d commented when I wore a strapless dress to a party we attended after we began to spend time together. Spoken like a true anatomist.
Cal was my medicine. He admitted that in his heart he was stuck in the 1940’s. Although neither of us were born in that era, I realized that the men back then were quite amazing. He was incredibly solicitous of my every need, “Can I get you something dear?” and he was respectful and sweet and genuinely kind.
I could call Cal when I’d had a stressful day and say “Shall we go out to dinner?”
“Of course dear, where would you like to go?” I would pick a spot where we’d sip cocktails and share the day’s events. He loved to listen to my lawyer stories and he felt confident being around a lady lawyer, an intimidating situation for some men. We’d drive on warm evenings after dinner with my Eos convertible top down, listening to the 1940’s station on satellite radio.
Counselor Paul had made it clear that once I started to heal I would start living “on a different plane”, and I would meet different kinds of people. My friend Jean calls this personal growth and spiritual development “gaining altitude”. I felt like Cal was the first person I’d met on this “way up”.
I began to refer to Cal as “Prof” and our friendship was joyful. Prof is brilliant. I could ask him a question about anything under the sun and he knew something about it. We both worked late hours and sometimes during the week we would go to Barnes and Noble and look at books after work. We’d divide and conquer, he would be in History and I would be in Self Help and we’d convene at a table to share our discoveries and discuss them.
Prof loves art, having been raised by two artists. When we went to the art center he would give me a tour expounding on every piece of art, having me look at it from various angles. I had never really been “into” art but seeing it through Prof’s eyes opened up a whole new world for me.
Prof and I developed an easiness in each other’s company. He was introverted and there were days I didn’t see or hear from him. He didn’t watch television and enjoyed solitude. I told him he was a hobbit, which made him chuckle. I consider myself an extrovert. Prof liked to hear about my adventures in salsa dancing, hiking in Arizona, or mastering a difficult yoga pose. He told me I had a “youthful beauty” which made me feel beautiful, and which I knew he meant sincerely and not as a line.
My relationship with my ex FP was one in which I’d jumped into the middle of the lake only to discover I couldn’t swim. With Prof I was wading into the water on a sunny day, in a leisurely manner. I loved spending time with Prof, but I also loved my own time.I looked back in my marriage and realized I spent most of my time with FP at his insistence. He would complain when I needed “alone” time. Because I loved his attention I never questioned it. It never dawned on me that my life was actually more of an appendage to his. The healthy ebb and flow of my time with Prof felt wonderful. I learned that taking things slowly and building on a foundation with a man with true integrity was an amazing step in the understanding of “healthy” relationships.
Once when I had a very bad day I called Prof and he invited me to come over to his apartment. I walked in with a grumpy attitude and he suggested I make myself comfortable on the living room couch. When I did he sat across the room playing the piano for me for a very long time, both of us saying nothing. I learned that day to let the music soothe me and that sometimes you don’t need to talk but to just be still.
Prof became a dear friend. I felt free to be the authentic self I was becoming, without putting on airs or masquerading. Prof helped me see some that everyone I had let into my inner circle did not have my best interest at heart. He challenged me to see one woman in particular who he felt was insincere. Months later he would prove right when she withdrew from our friendship as I continued to gain altitude. It was hurtful when it happened but Prof’s discernment was an eye opener for me.
Even my children loved Prof, a circumstance that had not been true of FP. My daughter anointed him her “honorary Godfather”. My girlfriends also adored him. He would sometimes join us for dinner, doing simple things like helping them on and off with their coats when they arrived. Often he would remark that one of them reminded him of a particular 1940s actress that we had never heard of. We’d rally around the iphone and pull up the photo of the actress only to find she was a dead ringer for my friend.
A year into our friendship Prof informed me that he had accepted a new job at a medical school in Northern California and he moved there a few months later. I was sad and knew that I would miss him, but that I would be fine on my own. By that time I was beginning to have a strong self, enhanced by the version Prof saw of me through his tender and loving heart. I was amazed and grateful that God had put the perfect man into my life at the perfect time.
“When the student is ready the teacher will come”. In my case the teacher was a professor.