This task sounds rather vain doesn’t it? I mean everyone has, hopefully, at least one love story. Why would I think ours is special and in need of publication (even if it is just for my Dibbuns*?)
*explanation of the term Dibbun is given on post from July17th
According to statistics, approximately 107 billion people have existed on this earth, I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around how many potential love stories that may have created. Many of these stories are far more glamorous or touching. Also, from a global perspective, despite some difficulties, all in all my family lives a life of privilege. Why then, does this love story need to be heard? Perhaps it doesn’t, but maybe I just need to tell it. Probably more for myself than anyone else.
I have realized, as a long time journal-er, I really only recognize my true feelings when I read them back to myself. I have literally read back things I wrote and thought to myself, ‘who is that crazy bitch?’, or, ‘wow she is so confused’, and sometimes even, ‘way-to-go girl! You made it through that!’
Anyways, one of the lovely things about growing older is with age, a little selfish, eccentricity is to be expected, so thank you for indulging me and listening! If I can return the favor, by all means, give me a call, or better yet, write it out and send it to me. Wouldn’t it be lovely to spark a dialogue about love! I believe there exists a place in all of us that craves to be heard. To feel like our own unique voice may make a ripple in the water. That, just maybe, our story has shifted the patterns of the cosmos in some infinitesimal way.
I have not done extensive research on this; however, generally, I think the typical cherished love story follows a fairly predictable pattern. Two people meet, chemistry (either antagonistic or smoking hot) confusion, obstacles, blah, blah, blah, – cue the music – finally, admission of everlasting love! We feed (yes I’m talking to you Disney, you vermin) courtesan of happily ever after, these stories to our children from babies on. That’s fun, and it makes our hearts flutter but it’s not reality or deeply satisfying. As you guys all know, I am not a cynic, I’m quite the romantic and refuse resolutely, along with my friend Jeannene Ziegler, to take my rose-colored glasses off! Jeannene and I could be sitting in a pile of horse poop and she would say, “Well, I hear camel poop smells far worse!” However, if we are being truly honest, our souls long for a love that’s bigger, rooted, more substantial, more challenging, just more…. Lucky, lucky me, I found that gritty, messy, breathtaking love that makes your soul sing and pushes you farther than you thought you could ever go all at the same time.
Mine and Dennis’ love story has been magical, sweet and lovely, maddeningly unpredictable, downright heartbreaking at times, but mostly transformational. For my younger readers, perhaps, you will be awakened to the idea of love coming in a different package than you imagined. Relax, my young dibbuns, you will see the goal in life should not be happiness but purpose. Purpose is what brings real happiness. I recently read a great book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by by Mark Manson. He explains it this way, “Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives end up being the most formative and motivating.” To my more mature readers I’m hoping you will find companionship with me in our mutual struggles. I will take a bumpy road with companionship any day over a smooth road alone. So thank- you for listening to our small tale of love. The waters of love are rapid, breathtaking and unfathomably deep. When we choose to dive in everything is changed.
Once Upon a Time. in the real world…
On June, 17th 2004 Dennis and I were married in Jamaica. It was a beautiful day, there was a sparkling, aqua, blue ocean, and the scent of a thousand exotic flowers laced the warm air. We were also blessed to have great friends with us, all of whom apparently seem to have Indian blood in them! The plan was that we would wait until the end of our week in Jamaica to get married. I imagined that after 6 days in the tropical sun I would be a glistening bronze goddess! Ya, things didn’t quite turn out that way. Each day I added about 300 freckles and a pink tinge to my body that resembled the color of a soft shell crab. On the other hand, each day, my future husband and friends got darker and darker. I don’t want to start any rumors, but I think some of these people might want a DNA test!
Isn’t this a lovely picture of pasty me and my native Jamaican friends on our wedding day!
Anyways, bitterness aside about my Dutch genes, it was an amazing day. We promised each other that we were now sailing on the same boat, wherever the currents would take us, we were on our way with the wind behind us.
What you can’t notice in this picture is that Dennis has secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis. On the day we met, two years and change before this wedding picture was taken, Dennis drove his handicapped adapted van over to my house for a massage. I was fresh out of massage therapy school and quite nervous. He drove his wheelchair from his van to the door of my massage studio and darn it, if there wasn’t an 8 inch step, I had failed to notice.
No problem he said, “do you have a plastic patio chair?” (at this point Dennis could still walk a little with aide). I suggested we reschedule and I could have a small ramp built but Dennis was undeterred. Slowly and precariously, with much sweat and determination he dragged himself into my massage therapy room. It took him 45 minutes to make it. When he was finally laying down on my massage table and I put my hands on him I knew two things for certain. One, Dennis Conway is a very strong man, and two, I was in deep, deep trouble. At the time, I wouldn’t have said it was a “romantic” trouble but when I shook his hand for the first time, my intuition was screaming, ‘this is significant’. Now I have let my intuition down many, many times in my life but my intuition has never let me down. I did not, however, have the time or the energy to get involved with anyone in any way, shape or form. So go away tingly, buzzy feeling, I refuse to acknowledge you.
It had only been three short weeks earlier that I had become separated from my then husband. The arrival of a shocking package delivered by Fedex had blown my marriage of 12 years and two children to smithereens. The details are no longer important, so let’s just say mistakes were made and the marriage was no longer repairable. I was wounded and fragile and felt adrift in a sea of pain and confusion.
At that time, Dennis had been divorced for a few years, his wife had left soon after he lost his ability to walk. It had been a bad marriage from the get go and the stress of an incurable neurological disease was the final blow. Alone, fighting to see his children, Dennis’ disease began to progress rapidly. He was taking chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the progress of the MS, so he was 40 lbs lighter, weak and deeply depressed. He also had recently been forced to sell his beloved sporting goods store, his life long dream, as he no longer was capable of running it.
So there we were two very broken people. Completely unaware that our meeting had been orchestrated by something much bigger than ourselves, and that it would chart a completely new course for both of us.
One of the first things Dennis said to me, after he asked what part of Canada I was from (apparently I have a Canadian accent??) was, “You can go as hard as you want, you can’t hurt me!” In massage school we learn this is called Body Armoring. This term was coined by psychologist Wilhelm Reich and it means the armored person does not feel as much physically in an emotional defense to prolonged and intense pain, psychological and physical. So basically Dennis had so much emotional and physical pain he had withdrawn into denial and numbness. Oh boy, just what I needed, someone more messed up than me!
Over the next, months at weekly sessions, I worked very hard physically at loosening and stretching the twisted, tight muscles of his disease ravaged body. The harder work though was helping Dennis to emotionally relax. We talked about everything, marriage, kids, our native countries, jobs, cooking etc… but while he was having instant physical relief from pain I could sense his emotions were still completely bottled up. I finally declared a talking free session. Dennis is a charmer, and damn handsome. Dennis was using his verbal charm as a distraction from experiencing the emotional release that can come with physical touch. Also, I was well aware he had a crush on me and I thought silence would help me work better with less distracting small talk. Massage therapy is a dance of strokes, kneading, pressure and movement. Touch heals in such a profound way especially when the soul is too broken to use language. That day, in that quiet room in the basement of my house, something on a spiritual plane shifted between Dennis and I. Sometimes, words get in the way of what the soul is saying. In the silence I heard his heart.
A few days later he asked me on a date. I told him I don’t date my clients and he responded, “You’re fired, now can we go out?”. Well, that kind of backfired on me, there went my best customer! So we went on a date and then another and another, and soon we were a “thing”. It was a fun “thing” and a good distraction from the agonizing pain of dismantling a marriage but I was merely dipping my toe in the water, hovering over the surface not committing to get wet.
Journal Entry: November 4, 2002
Dennis is so much fun to be with but very, very scary! Incurable neurological disease, confused, damaged children, 13 years my senior…. He rattles my psyche to the core. I am afraid to watch his decline, afraid to hurt him, afraid to upset my children. Hell, I am afraid of getting hurt! Shit- ton scared, yup that’s me.
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with Dennis, but fall I did. I understand why we say we “fall” in love because that’s what if feels like. One moment you’re standing on firm, sensible ground and the next you feel weightless headed into an unknown destination. Everything looks different from your airborne perspective and you have no idea how far down the earth is! I can remember being in the staff room at Salon and Spa Vanessa with my friend Dina and I was talking about Dennis and she said, “Look at that smile on your face, you are in love.” I got straight up cold chills and was blushing like a priest at a strip club! Ridiculous, love is not on the menu today, no thank you ma’m! But…she was right! How royally inconvenient, ill-timed and terrifying.
We went on a cruise together in Spring and at dinner Dennis said to me “Leana, I love you and I want to marry you. I know you aren’t ready but when you are, just say the word. Until then I won’t say another word about it.” He then proceeded to ask me to marry him every day after that. You know when you are little and your Mom or Dad are in the water trying to coax you into jumping into their arms? That’s how I felt for many, many months. His eager, confident face urging me to jump and me not sure whether to jump or beat feet.
One evening after being home from our cruise, I was sad and depressed. I was now seeing my children less than I used to as they now had two homes. Two homes was something I just never expected my children to have to contend with. This fact causes me to feel like a failure more than anything else in my life. I asked Dennis to read to me from one of my favorite books, A Prayer For Owen Meany. Books are my panacea. I could tell this was way out of his comfort zone but he didn’t hesitate. I lay with my head on his lap and listened to his velvety, baritone voice. Dennis’ voice can melt your heart like butter on a hot biscuit (yes the south has rubbed off on me) and it just clicked, there it was, I was in love.
Dennis and I celebrated our 13th anniversary two months ago. When we met he was living on his own, driving, and eating and showering with no assistance. Today he can do none of those things. We are constantly battling pressure sores, muscle wasting, swollen feet, double vision and a host of other complications. Not to mention the 7 very scary hospital stays and the 11 medications it takes to make life bearable for him. I am the vessel that keeps him alive and I really do feel like I have two bodies to care for. I have no doubt if we were not together he would be in a nursing home instead of being busy coaching lacrosse, helping special education Sunday school, running for city council in Woodstock and most importantly, simply just being here for our kids as a cheerleader and an example. I also have no doubt if we were not together my life would be much, much poorer without all this lovely mess.
Please do not get me wrong, its not all Reese’s peanut butter cups and pink champagne over here at our house. Some days we feel exhausted and defeated. Nights are a wrestling match of limbs and pressure points with only small periods of peaceful rest. We also get on each others nerves sometimes because we are together literally 24/7 most days of the week. At times we are just plain pissed off at our situation and what can be a very, cold and indifferent world.
Journal Entry, May 19 2013
I write to push back the walls of our shrinking world.
The outside world is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.
My love, my Dennis is shrinking in his abilities, leaving behind the shoreline of capable living.
We are huddled together as we draw a chalk line around our remaining strength as we rage “NO YOU CAN TAKE NO MORE!!!!, WE CANNOT BEAR IT!”
And then more is taken and we do bear it. Once again we redraw the line around us, staking claim on our life together. Fiercely defending our life.
I feel as if I am trying to hold water in my hands.
It seeps through my fingers. Tiny drops evaporate or are blown away by the wind
All that seems left sometimes is a deep, calm, current pushing us together and keeping us afloat.
This all being said, I would marry Dennis again and quicker this time! I have struggled in the past to articulate why this marriage works and why I love Dennis so much. The term soulmate just doesn’t fit. One definition of soulmate is : ‘A person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs’, ya… not so much! Other words have seemed inadequate and underwhelming in trying to explain this unlikely connection.
It took a complete stranger, who was trying to help us get better prescription medication coverage, to hit the nail on the head, freaky right? We had been with her about 2 hours going over all our prescription stuff, chatting and such, when she stopped cold and said “you two are twin flames!”. Oh, Oh! perhaps the drug insurance lady has been dipping into her own stash of “medications”. I went home and looked it up. After some research I’m still not sure exactly where this concept originated but generally this is the idea. Unlike soul mates which are our perfect matches, twin flames are perfect mirrors! Think Ying-Yang. Twin flame relationships tend to be intensely passionate and sometimes intensely painful. Twin flames awaken us like nobody else and there purpose is to reveal who we really are. Well darn it all there ya go! Carol, the nice insurance lady, gave me the words I have been looking for, and a great prescription plan to boot! I know, I know, it’s kind of ” New Agey” and I am a Christian but I have a very fluid spirituality and I beleive the universe is unbelievably complex. I don’t even want to try and pretend I understand it all. All I know is Dennis and I fit 17 out of the 18 criteria for “twin flames”. I’m thinking we should start wearing matching twinny outfits, don’t you?!
Dennis and I are well aware that we have most likely only weathered some difficult smaller storm squalls and the real hurricane lies ahead. Yet, we are on this boat together. The opportunity to bail out is long gone and the shore is nowhere to be seen. Surprisingly, we are OK. This is good- hard, but good. Actually most of the time it’s really, really good.
So, that’s it Dibbuns. I’m not sure how many of you made it to the end of this epistle of long-winded musings, it’s OK if you didn’t. My will shall be adjusted accordingly. Just maybe some day when you are farther down the roads of your lives you will think, “Hey, Mum wrote all that stuff about her and Dennis and went on and on about her blog, and maybe I will read it again?” Maybe, or maybe Amanda will make good on her many threats to have me committed and this blog will vanish. She’s been telling me, for years, she has plenty of documentation to have me put somewhere where I am “no longer a danger to myself or anyone else”. There is one thing for sure though, diving in, I mean really leaping, with audacity, ignoring our reservations, for real love, is the game changer. Since the beginning of time has anyone won a swimming race with one foot still on land? So surrender and leap with love because LOVE changes everything. It literally keeps us breathing even when we are under water.
This story is dedicated to my children who came along on this journey with me, without being asked, and have never complained. My love for you is beyond words.