Getting off of the ship a couple of days later was a long, nerve-racking ordeal, what with passports, luggage, and getting a flight back to Chicago. I couldn’t wait to be back in my own apartment—I couldn’t wait to spend some time alone and to resume working.
Surprisingly enough, my older man, Patrick, did not act outraged or hurt by my flat-out refusal to get married on the cruise. We really didn’t speak much about what happened that evening. By nature, he was a warm, kind, and fun-loving man who was not prone to mood swings or the silent treatment. I learned to really admire that about him.
When we arrived back in Chicago, his driver was already waiting near the international baggage claim area to pick us up. Patrick wanted me to come to his place, but I told him that I really wanted to sleep in my own bed that night. When I got home, he helped me carry my luggage inside and didn’t leave until I came out of my den, where I had ducked into to listen to my voicemails. One of those voicemails was devastating news. A friend and former coworker of mine had committed suicide. Her boyfriend left the message for me. She had had a long history of depression with several unsuccessful suicide attempts. This time she had gotten her way.
I was glad Patrick was with me, and he consoled me with great compassion. He listened to my stories about my friend and how I had tried to help her, but couldn’t do much because she was 200 miles away. He listened while I questioned whether or not there was anything I could have done to prevent her death.
Patrick stayed with me for several hours until I told him I’d be ok. He left around 9 o’clock at night and when I went to bed, I could feel his absence. After all, we had been together all day every day for over a week. My need to be alone was shifting and I realized how much I just liked the company of this man who was so interesting and so interested in me.
I didn’t go so far as to examine whether this was turning into what I thought was love. Before Patrick, I lost the one man I had loved in the truest, deepest and most intense way possible. And I had truly suffered over that breakup. The memories were still fresh, as was the pain whenever I thought about my ex.
Patrick felt about me the way I had felt about that younger man. It was role reversal with an older man. It was ironic, but it also made me realize that I would never want to hurt anyone the way I had been hurt. And that made my decision clear—right then and there—that I needed to make sure I didn’t use Patrick, break his trust, or abuse his feelings. I didn’t want him as a “sugar daddy.” He was so much more, and I was learning many lessons from this May-December relationship.
I fell asleep with a heavy heart for my girlfriend, who was now gone, and I prayed for her. At the same time, my heart was filled with gratitude that someone had come into my life for a real purpose—to help me heal. Perhaps we could both learn from each other.