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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chapter 3, Musings on Love, Life , Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved. A work of fiction in process.
Caveat emptor: The names in this tale have been changed to protect the innocent and titillate the guilty.

Summer 2005

“I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still . . . a doo run run, a doo run run . ”

Love is a mysterious emotion, appearing when one least expects it in ways that make no sense and ending without seeming explanation. You can find it lurking everywhere – even on a street corner on a cool foggy summer morning in Oakland, California. When love is looking for you, it claims you without reason.

At sixty and substracting I had given up the idea of looking for a desirable eligible man with whom I could share some meaningful companionship or even a good laugh. I had tried all the usual venues for a woman of my age and station in life.

In the eighties my girlfriends and I barhopped the finest establishments in San Francisco. I could spot a desirable man at one hundred paces, and often did, being wined and dined by the successful and the famous from time to time. I once placed an ad in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, stating that I was looking for my Rhett Butler. My respondent sounded great on the telephone and we agreed to meet in the bar at Jeremiah Tower's very elegant and popular Stars Restaurant in San Francisco where he would be the man with the pink roses. Entering through the side entrance, I took note of a little straggly haired nebbish whose feet barely touched the floor – of course, he had the roses -- and fled as quickly as I had entered, never to repeat that mistake ever again and felt disgusted with myself in the process.

I've attended an endless circuit of fancy charity events where handsome, well-coifed, well-heeled professional men chatted me up while looking over my shoulder for someone younger or richer or prettier or slimmer or sexier. I became a privileged member of Para Livermore's elite singles 'Red and White Ball circuit where the richest finest single men and most eligtible beautiful women in San Francisco can be found. I looked good, smelled good, and knew how to behave . . . alas it was futile. Why, darlin', I could be living in the south of France with a young Adonis at my side for all the money I wasted on those bad boys and all those parties.

I tried internet dating, eventually meeting four delightful men, none of whom lived within spitting distance of my home. One of the four is best described as drop dead handsome. I had both the best and the worst sex in my entire life with him. I veritably swooned when we met one another in the Dulles International Airport in Washington, D. C. Intelligent and handsome in an English general's kind of way, he possessed a brilliant gift with words that he had parlayed his talents into a successful career as a White House correspondent, newsman, and public relations consultant. Why he even wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan. Like most of my romantic affairs, this one proved to be adventurous, fleeting, provocative, and fun for a time. I treasured, and still do, hearing the sound of his voice over the telephone. We managed to salvage a friendship and an occasional conjugal visit with one another from time to time. This unusual Republican was at the end of a list of thirty years of short-lived, less than fulfilling romances in my life. I should have stuck with the Democrats.

On my own in the world of love and war, let's face it, I was a dismal failure --- though still optimistic. Hence I decided to turn my dating life over to a higher power. If God wanted me to have a man, he would just have to present him to me up front and center. Meanwhile I would just go on about my life, drinking tea and coffee in the neighborhood cafes, having dinners with friends, finding ways to fill my time when I wasn’t being the good grandmother, mother, or mother-in-law. God has a great sense of humor and timing when she decides to answer our prayers. No sooner than my words leapt from my lips to God's ears, love appeared.

As usual after saying my prayers, I headed to College Avenue for my morning refreshment at any one of a number of Rockridge district cafes where I engaged myself in doing the daily crossword puzzles, and adding my two cents in the political conversations. Observing the lack of seating outside as I came through the door of Cole Coffee with my Earl Grey tea in hand, I could not help but notice a well-formed tanned bald head glistening in the sunlight, attached to an interesting looking man who was sitting alone at a metal table outside a Rockridge District neighborhood café, one empty chair across from him. He flashed an inviting smile and large perfectly straight white teeth at me. Politely I smiled back and inquired, “Hi, may I share your table?” I wouldn't find out till later that God had a most unusual sense of humor.

Unlike any other man I’ve ever met in Oakland or Berkeley, he, jumped up, pulled out the chair, and responded in a deep clear English accent. “Hi, I’d be delighted. I’m Trevor Fincham” as he extended his hand. “I’ve seen you around the neighborhood and think you are absolutely beautiful. I hoped we would meet one day. If I weren’t married, I’d ask you out.” He grinned, again flashing his perfect straight white teeth.

I responded with a nervous laugh as he firmly grasped my hand in his, “Hi, I’m Morgan Stewart” pausing with a warm smile, “and if you weren’t married, I’d accept.”

Believe you me, I would not have hesitated for a New York minute. I felt an immediate aliveness and reawakening, and very happy in that moment. It had been a very long time between compliments. And as we like to say in the South, “He was easy on the eyes.” ANd probably easier on other things if you get my drift.

Trevor confided that he was a scientist and professor at a nearby prestigious university. His very official business card, quickly presented to me, proved the point. Well educated with a PhD from the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of London, he had achieved a degree of success in the academic community and world of engineering. He lived nearby in a well-manicured if modest home. He proudly shared that he was the father of three sons whom he’d raised on his own and in the telling I noted a gentle, humble side of this clearly complex man. So far he was batting a thousand with his direct conversation, gentle reflections and quiet hints of a few regrets in his journey through life . . . except, of course, for the all too obvious masculine hand-wrought platinum wedding ring on his finger. All too quickly Trevor was waving good-bye and smiling at me as he pulled out of the Safeway parking lot in his shiny black high-powered Corvette convertible with the top down and off to the university to his laboratory where he had projects to develop, students to advise, inventions to pursue, and dreams to dream.

I shared that I too had raised a family on my own, Vietnam and all that sadness and that I served the community as a mediator and owned a small B & B. He listened intently, taking it all in with his huge blue eyes. He seemed touched, empathetic, caring. I instantly liked him and secretly wished there wasn’t a Mrs. Fincham, whoever this lucky woman was, lurking around in the bushes. I noted the sameness in our lives – the age, the common history, the shared life experiences. We resonated with one another. And besides he thought I was beautiful . . . and interesting . . . and . . . and . . . even though I had a few extra pounds on my tall frame and had essentially lost that loving feeling that fades with menopause and a dearth of serious male attention.

That’s how our friendship began, innocently enough on a clear crisp sunny California day. But then again this is a story in progress.

The truth is that we’d both been observing one another from afar since the prior summer and unknowingly circling one another’s wagons for too many years. My earliest remembrance of a live sighting of Trevor Fincham etched clearly in my mind, occurred many months before that first innocent conversation on that beautiful spring morning in 2005. A tall, fit, bald scantily clad man with perspiration gleaming from his nearly bare shoulders caught my attention while I was standing in long line at the very popular Peaberry’s Coffee at Market Hall on College Avenue and staring out at the chaotic social whirl of the café. Perhaps it was the oversized trendy tank top that he wore over his very brief white running shorts, or his long tanned runner’s legs, or that he reeked masculinity, or his innate aliveness. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Beside him stood a thin, pale-faced young woman with poofy mousy brown bobbed hair askew. She picked uncomfortably at her face and shifted back on forth in her running shoes and baggy shorts while he animatedly chatted with his friends. She looked unhappy, disinterested and bored, staring into the nothingness of life. I thought to myself, “How nice that he’s out running with his daughter.” His eyes met mine and a momentary connection was made. It was as if I had known him my entire life. I wondered who he was, where he had come from, where he was going. And, why was his daughter so melancholic?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chapter 2, Musings on Love, Life etc

June 26, 2007 Oakland, California
A Work of Historical Fiction in Process Please let Brenda know what you think.

Trevor Fincham fidgeted back and forth in the Adirondack lawn chair, his long legs crossing and uncrossing as I sat patiently waiting for him to speak. Up until today I had not seen this amazingly intelligent yet remarkably insensitive man whom I deeply loved since March. I had missed him terribly. For the moment I was consumed with the image of Jane Verna Frank-Fincham pushing a baby stroller down College Avenue and the impact of what this could mean for Trevor, for me, for all of us.

I struggled to remember the laughter and tender moments we had shared. I was dumb struck witnessing his lies and half-truths, his withholding. Had any of the sweet moments we shared together meant anything to him? Did I know him at all? Did I truly lack discernment about the men in my life? Or was I just another notch on his very proper English black leather belt?

I truly could not comprehend his obsession with youth and why he constantly referred to as his “young wife” as if that is all she meant to him – as if she could offer him an elixir of life or a veritable fountain of youth. From my seat on the sidelines, Trevor Fincham was not growing older either gracefully or graciously. He was trying much too hard, looking in the wrong places, underestimating his own gifts and talents, diminishing his own value as an accomplished, sophisticated man.

I loved Trevor, but I did not know what to do with that love in this moment.

Tight lipped and firmly I broke the intense silence of my garden. “You need to tell me the truth. Is there anything new in your life . . . in your home? I need to know now!”

Trevor met my plea with stark withholding silence as he held his tanned shaved head in his large artisan’s hands.

“Let me rephrase. Is there . . . anyone new . . . in your household?”

His angular jaw tightened as fear gripped him. He sat mute. Stunned. His large eyes flickering like a hummingbird flapping its delicate wings.

“You need to tell me the truth and do it now. If I have to,. I will ferret out the truth and you will not like the outcome.”

His basso voice responded so quietly I could barely hear his words: “We adopted a baby.” He paused, adding “In May. . . . that’s why I was away.” His voice reflected no happiness in his voice, no pride, only sadness.

His words cut through my heart as I choked back my tears. I refused to let the one man still living on this earth that I truly cared about see me cry, no matter what. I had my pride if nothing else.

In a controlled even voice I expressed my dismay. “You adopted a baby! From where? Were you going to let me run into you at Safeway . . . what do you think would have happened . . . why didn’t you tell me? Why?”

Reluctantly and awkwardly he added, “An eight-month old little girl . . from Hanoi . . . you know . . . Vietnam . . . we started the process in March.”

“Whatever were you thinking?”

Searching for an answer he struggled to say, “I was trying to move forward. I thought it was the right thing to do.”

Looking horrified I responded, “Oh, my God! Vietnam, of course, I know all about Vietnam . . . more than you can ever know . . . ever fathom . . . ever imagine”

He sat mute, almost visibly shrinking before my very eyes. My tall handsome prince had turned into what
I chided, “You don’t get a baby like you buy a suit . . surely you’ve known this for some time.”

“No, no . . . we just started the process in March.”

The insult to my intelligence proved to be overwhelming. It took every ounce of strength within me to not stand up, walk the two feet to where he sat, and slap the downcast face of a man who was not only a coward but so clearly did not know me nor understand the depth of emotions going through me.

My mind struggled to absorb it .all . . . a baby . . . a sweet little girl . . . Vietnam . . . Hanoi . . . a baby girl from Hanoi . . . so many memories . . . my dear sweet Eddie’s shrapnel riddled body . . . his flag draped casket . . . the endless search for the truth . . the N.V.A. regiment who had fired the artillery shells from across the Mekong River at the French Fort . . . . everything shattered . . . another little baby girl – mine -- who never knew her father. . . who never danced with her Dad. Eddie never had the opportunity to twirl our precious girl around the yard . . . or fish in the river with his son. So many missed events . . . so much lost love.

The hurt was immense. Everything that had impacted my life stemmed from a war or the aftermath of a war. For me Vietnam was clearly the gift that would keep on giving no matter what I did or didn’t do. And I had never dreamed that Trevor Fincham would be the man who would bring such pain back into my life, wittingly or unwittingly.

Though sitting in front of me, suddenly my Trevor Fincham seemed nearly dead to me. Possibly in many ways he was dead to himself . . . trapped, a hamster on a wheel in a cage. He knew it. I knew it. Jane Verna Frank-Fincham had won the battle but possibly not the Fincham-Frank war. She was living to fight another day, but would he? Trevor’s life was over as he once knew it. His dreams of freedom and true happiness, dashed on the rocks of the adoption of an innocent child who deserved a better family than she had gotten.

Trevor’s tanned face paled in the realization of what he had wrought. His eyes widened. His shoulders visibly slumped as he held his head in his hands and grieved, “Oh, God, what have I done. What a disaster!"

As he rose from his chair and stretched his legs, he suggested we have lunch some day in the future. He gave me a weak dispassionate hug, while saying,
“I’m sorry. I am . . . so very sorry.”

Mostly I was sad. Sad for him. Sad for his baby girl. Sad for myself . . . for everyone.

He stayed three hours, struggling with his inner and outer demons, trying to tear himself away from the comfort of my home. He bore the mark of defeat as he raced down the front stairs and hopped into his manly black Corvette convertible, visibly donning the contorted mask of a devoted loving husband and new father. Then my Trevor Fincham disappeared into the illusion of his life, his secrets, hopes, and dreams locked within the recesses of his heart.

From the privacy of my front porch and with tears rolling down my cheeks, I watched him pull away, possible for the last time, and attempted to understand why the ghosts of war continued to haunt and shape my life and whether or not I would ever find true happiness or truly be whole in this lifetime.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Musings on Mad Dogs, Englishmen, Love and Life -- Chapter One: Tuesday, July 26th, 2007, Rockridge, Oakland, California


A Work of Historical Fiction in Process

Please let Brenda know what you think.

Caveat Emptor --- The names in this tale of the past and the present have been changed to shield the guilty and titillate innocent bystanders.

Gently wakening as the birds chirped in the cool morning air over the Oakland hills, I glanced at the beautiful peonies on my nightstand and the photo of a smiling handsome sixty-year old man, wondering how he was, what he was doing, and praying that his English God was watching over him, perhaps bringing him back to me, sooner rather than later. We had not talked or communicated since my birthday on April 28th, an email, a birthday wish. My eyes moved across my large sunny bedroom to another photo, a smiling soldier in combat jungle fatigues holding an M-14, another time, another life, so far away, so long ago, almost forgotten, but never forgotten. I pushed aside the memories and said another prayer summoning my God and his most noble angels to continue watching over him, and giving me the strength to continue on in my own way.

I quickly showered and donned my favorite jeans, assessing my reasonably fit middle-aged five-foot ten body, praising myself for continuing my regimen of daily workouts and watching my diet. I grabbed my newspaper and sunglasses and hopped into my new silver Mercedes 350E and headed off to enjoy my day, wondering if my Englishman would magically reappear.

It was a gentle time. Tea and poached eggs with hot sauce at Cole Coffee on College Avenue. The sun on my face. Two morning crossword puzzles completed, chatting with friends, shopping at La Farine Bakery, admiring the voluptuous bright red strawberries at Yasai Market, longing to have a chocolate from Lulu Rae.

The object of my affections did not make an appearance on College Avenue that fine fair morning. He had essentially been missing in action since early in March when we agreed to take a hiatus from one another while he sorted himself out – all those visits to his shrink, her shrink, and their shrink – reading all those psychological Alan Watts’ treatises on therapy, sex, and relationships. From my perspective any relationship that required three therapists was already sinking like the Titanic -- call me when the ship goes down. For a while it was better to love him from afar, let him sort himself out, and offer up a daily prayer of hope that he would soon come to his senses.

At precisely 10 o’clock while driving south through lower Rockridge with its quaint craftsman houses and well-tended gardens near the home of my son and his family, I spotted a tired looking young woman mousy hair askew, pushing a clunky lime green baby stroller down the sidewalk at a pristine house surrounded by an English wrought-iron fence. His house. I gasped nearly colliding with several parked cars to my right, quickly making a u-turn and driving back up the street to get a second look. Yes, his house! Her. His wife! With a baby! Whose baby? They weren’t pregnant. He had said he loved me. His marriage was on shaky ground. Where had this baby come from? What hasn’t he told me? What is he thinking?

My mind raced as I quickly punched in the numbers to his cell phone. A message in a mechanical voice answered. I hesitated then left a message, “This is Morgan. It’s important that we speak. Please call me when you get this.” I then dialed his university office, another voicemail only in his clear, deep resonant English accent. My voice quivered as I left the same message. I went home and waited . . . and wondered.

His return call came all too quickly, that same day, but not so quickly that I hadn’t destroyed my manicure by seriously biting my nails, a habit most unbecoming for a sixty-year old woman, who looks to be fifty. Before I could hang up the phone he was bounding up my front stairs into my home, barely giving me time to run a brush through my blonde hair.

Looking deeply concerned, he queried: “What’s wrong? You seem very upset. Are you all right?”

Shaking in my sandals I grasped for my southern manners and politely offered him a glass of lemonade. We retreated to my back patio, lined with peace roses and blooming blue lilies of the Nile, a gentle breeze kissing the leaves of a large oak tree. He nervously arranged himself in an Adirondack chair, immediately knocking over his cool drink. He grabbed at the ice cubes as I returned to the kitchen, calling out with an uneasy laugh “You didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t laced with Viagra.”

Returning with another glass and placing it firmly in his hand, I looked directly into his eyes and inquired, “So is there anything new” pausing momentarily, “in your household, in your life?”

He stared back at me as my aging faithful companion, a golden retriever named Freya, sat staring at him with her huge brown eyes. He leaned over and gave her a gentle pat on the head. She stared back with knowing eyes.

“Everything’s very hectic. At home and work. Very busy. Very hectic. Lot’s going on.” he emphasized. “I canceled all my afternoon appointments.” With worry in his voice he continued, “What’s happened? Why are you so very upset?”

Again I queried, “Why don’t you tell me! Anything new in your life? Your household?” Pausing, waiting, then emphasizing, “Anyone new?”

His large blues eyes nervously darted about as he shifted back and forth in his chair – crossing and uncrossing his long legs, clutching his large hands together. Ever elusive – ever evasive – ever fearful – ever withholding. Freya put her head on my lap and looked at Trevor with large sad eyes. I sat quietly, staring with wide eyes, and waited.