Chasing Rainbows with Pete'66
|Pete - in Tairua, Coromandel Peninsula|
I've been chasing rainbows – literally- in New Zealand with a Kiwi called Pete'66. His name doesn't actually include numbers, but his online dating profile did. "66" is Pete's birth year – it was a way to distinguish himself from other Petes on the Find Someone website (New Zealand is chock-a-block with blokes named Pete. I've met about a dozen so far). When Pete and I started texting each other in March, I programmed his name into my phone as "Pete'66." My flatmate, Amy, often refers to Pete by this name, too, sometimes calling him "66" (only when he's not around). You never know what'll stick. And yes, we're all glad Pete wasn't born 3 years later.
Other than Pete's old online dating moniker, what else do you want to know? Here's the usual demographic low down: He's 44 years old (we already covered that in the "66" explanation, didn't we?), has never married (been engaged twice); has no kids and is a flight instructor for a local airfield, while pursuing a career in commercial aviation. That's the resume stuff. I could probably send you his CV if you're interested.
I'm not looking to hire a pilot, but I was looking for a date. Here's what caught my attention: Pete's cute, with a boyish face and grin that could melt a block of Tasty (Kiwi for cheddar) cheese. He's funny and quick-witted. Makes me laugh unreservedly and often. He listens. Really pays attention. It's as if someone told him he'd face a pop quiz about his date, so he made a point to study his subject and retain what she'd told him. It reminds me of something I heard in church last weekend (the "rock band" church, not to be confused with the traditional-Anglican-liturgy-church): The guest speaker, in her sermon, encouraged us to "cultivate the art of listening with the desire to hear the other...reflect what the other says, like a mirror." That kind of listening is a gift. It can also be a nifty way to pick up chicks.
|Whangamata Harbor, Coromandel Peninsula|
From the start, Pete was easy to talk to. Our first "real" date – at Amphora restaurant in downtown Mt. Maunganui – became a 3-course eat and talk-fest. Somewhere between, "How you going?" the wine, salmon and apple crumble, 3 hours had slipped like sand between our fingers. I didn't realize the time until Pete said, "They're starting to clean up. Maybe we should go."
We met face-to-face for the first time March 17th- St. Patrick's Day. We skipped green beer in favor of coffee at a Mount beachfront cafe. I've saved our online messages leading to that day (because writers save stuff – sounds like a warning, doesn't it?) Pete and I started by chatting about a concert I planned to attend (Lionel Richie, in Napier, NZ).
Pete '66 1:55pm Mon14Mar:
I would love to go to that concert, he has such good music. I even
remember the Commodores where he started. (showing my age haha)
I grew up in Hawkes Bay and go back there every couple of months
at least. Went down to the Simply Red concert not so long ago,
which was good.
I have a few things on this week but maybe you would like to
have coffee at the Mount sometime?
|Mtmaunganewbie 5:09pm Mon14Mar: |
I would've loved to have seen Simply Red! Takes me back to the 80's.
I'd love to meet for coffee. Your schedule must be tighter than mine,
so pick times between 9-3 (except tomorrow and Friday, when I run
with the Joggers in the mornings) and we'll try to find a time
|Pete'66 6:51pm Mon14Mar:|
|Hi Dawn, yeah it was Simply Red's farewell tour and i had missed |
them 3 times, so i wasnt going to miss it.
How does Thursday sound to you for coffee? I know its St Paddy's
day but im sure we wont break any rules by drinking coffee and
not guiness :) Anytime that suits you is good with me.
Just cooked dinner so thinking of taking short walk on the beach.
Hope you have had a great day!
|Thursday sounds good. I'd nearly forgotten about St. Patty's Day! |
Funny, since my background's Irish.
How about 11 a.m. at the Mount? Do you have a favorite place?
|Great! Thursday it is, 11.00am perfect. I remember St Paddy's |
because my its my sister birthday ( my brothers is on valentines
and mum's is queen's birthday) so i dont have any excuses
to forget haha
I like Sidetrack but happy to try something different if you like?
You could say I started getting "sidetracked," at the cafe bearing that name. It's where I learned Pete and I had heaps in common: He'd lost his dad when he was 6, the same age as Fiona when Sean died. Pete's Mum moved the family from their native Scotland to New Zealand 2 years later. Pete told me during that first cafe meeting he had a Kiwi love for the outdoors combined with European manners. He speaks with a Kiwi accent, but can slide on his former Scottish brogue like an old shoe. It's hilarious in a real Mike Myers kind of way, and nearly makes me snort with laughter (okay, maybe I have snorted, once or twice – I can stop anytime I want, okay?).
What struck me most about Pete initially was the uncanny, almost unnerving sense I'd met him before. "Don't I know you already?" I thought. "Wait a minute. Don't tell me. I know your type. Not to get weird on you, but I'm getting a real kindness vibe. A guy-who'd-give-the-shirt-off-his-back-vibe. An easy-like-Sunday-morning vibe. Oh, shit. I married your type. I didn't think I had a type. My next type is supposed to be tall, dark, rich and play for the NBA (yes, I watch too much "Khloe & Lamar"). I am sooo not dating someone who reminds me of Sean. Forget it. Forget it. Oh, shit. Forget it. 'Do you want to go for a walk around the Mount some time?'"
I didn't actually say any of that last part, except the question about the Mount. Between seeing Pete again for a walk, coffee and Quiz Night, I met 3 other guys through the dating website: 2 tall, 1 short, another Peter, a Mike, and a dick named Craig (see the "Find Someone" post for more about that: http://pickendawn.blogspot.com/2011/05/find-someone.html ). No one clicked. Except Pete. Eventually, I caved to the click and suggested a "real date." That was the aforementioned dinner that started with "How you going?" and ended with a first kiss. It was the first time I'd kissed anyone in a romantic way since Sean died. I'd forgotten about butterflies and skipped heart beats and twitterpation (which, by the way, has nothing to do with social networking, unless you consider the way messages sent via Facebook stir and whirr infatuation like berries in a blender). I'd discounted the idea of coming unhinged and losing my mind. Maybe these lovelies existed in the universe, but not in my universe. Until now.
Want to know what type of bloke Pete is? The kind who reads my blog and makes me a mix CD of the "Songs Heard Round the World," during the first few weeks we dated. The kind who takes me to a posh spa in Rotorua for a plunge in a private pool and a massage. The kind who orders graham crackers from an American store in Auckland because I mentioned I couldn't find them in New Zealand. The kind who rolls toy trucks in the driveway for a half hour with Fiona and Finley while I run on the beach. The kind who scales a rubbish bin to retrieve Finley's ball on the roof of the house. I could go on, but I'll stop. It's getting late.
Despite my intention to stall, stall, stall the "L" word escaping my lips, I came out last week and admitted to Pete I was a lesbian. That's a joke (although after a year-and-a-half mostly in the company of women, I started to wonder if maybe....nah...not that there's anything wrong with that).
Fact is, too many "I really, really like you's" were walking around. They started feeling like old gum against the roof of my mouth. I didn't want to keep chomping gum when I was hungry for a real meal. So, I said it. And I confessed to Pete that before him, 50% of the men I'd loved had died. "How many men is that?" he asked. "Just one," I told him. "I was only ever in love with 2 other men in my life." Statistically, it's not a large sample, but shouldn't 50% serve as a cautionary tale? Tangle with me, and your odds are grim.
Pete must enjoy living dangerously. He's still around. He even braved New Zealand's small, windy motorways with me, driving the hour-and-a-half to the Coromandel Peninsula. 2 weeks ago, we stayed at a small town called Whangamata, for 48 hours of child-free bliss (a MASSIVE "thank you" goes to my flatmate for watching the kids during that time).. I booked a local's converted garage that served as a wee holiday retreat. Just for Pete and me. Just sunshine and rain, walks on the beach in Whanga, Onemana, Tairua. We chased rainbows and ate Thai food, lemon-sized feijoas, and s'mores with genuine American graham crackers. We watched "The Simpsons," and "So, I married an Axe Murderer." Listened to Earth, Wind and Fire's "September," "Got to Get You into My Life;" Level 42's "Something About You," and the Commodores, "Easy Like Sunday Morning," to name a few.
|At the bach in Whangamata|
I'm searching for ways to explain my new found 17-year-old behavior. I Googled a 2008 Time magazine article called, "The Science of Romance: Why We Love," that seeks to outline why – biologically and psychologically - anyone, even a 40-year-old globe-trotting widowed mum with 2 small fries would succumb to Love's charms:
"...There's the transcendent sense of tenderness you feel toward a person who sparks your interest. There's the sublime feeling of relief and reward when that interest is returned. There are the flowers you buy and the poetry you write and the impulsive trip you make to the other side of the world just so you can spend 48 hours in the presence of a lover who's far away..."
...Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and something of the Queen Mum of romance research [said people:] "...live for love, die for love, kill for love. It can be stronger than the drive to stay alive."
Stronger than common sense. Stronger than reason. Or, as Sade sang, Stronger than Pride. All the above.
I've read we love people not so much for who they are, but for how they make us feel about ourselves. Think about that. Does your partner (if you have one) make you feel like the cleverest, most beautiful, funniest person on the planet? I've been lucky to find a couple men who've done just that. Pete's one of them.
My best friend from high school, Shelly, told me shortly after Sean's memorial service over coffee at Lindaman's in Spokane that I would, indeed, find love again. "When it's time," she said, "Sean will bring that to you." I can't help but think Shelly was right. I know Pete is not Sean. I don't want him to be (thank God for the Kiwi accent, and did I mention the tattoo?). I refuse to inhabit the past. I'm not confused. Just bemused. And relieved to be in Pete's presence. It's like a rush of oxygen bursts into the room with him. I throw my arms around him and silently pray, "It's you. It's you. Thank God, it's you." Not Sean, who I loved and lost, but Pete - whose heart I can hear beating, beating, beating....
It's still early days. Fiona caught Pete and me sneaking (we thought) a kiss and she later asked, "Are you going to marry Pete?" I told her, "No, honey. We've only known each other a couple months, and you really need to date someone at least a year before you REALLY know them..." I stopped there and decided I'd already imparted too much information to a 7-year-old. I only know I'm living more in the moment than I ever have before. If I thought too much about the future, I'd never have dated anyone in New Zealand. Don't mind me. Just passing through. I wanted male companionship, a coffee date, lunch, maybe dinner. I didn't expect to flip, or fall, for anyone. I wrote on Facebook in September 2009, when Sean was in the hospital in the Intensive Care Unit that I was "falling..." into the ICU's abyss. It was my 7th circle of hell. A year-and-a-half-later, I'm falling – floating, really - unsubtley and unmistakably in love. My 7th heaven.
And so 17. Only I had more sense, at 17, when I lived in Luxembourg as an exchange student, than to fall in love. After all, I'd have to return to my home country. Who am I kidding? I didn't date anyone in Luxembourg but Petit Beurre and Cote d'Or (names of popular biscuits and chocolate). I was rotund when I lived in Europe. I wore a chastity belt of fat – 12 extra kilos' worth. It did a fine job of repelling international love affairs.
I've banished the body baggage but have amassed other pieces from the Life's Luggage Collection: a husband's ghost (available in a roller bag) guilt, skepticism and 2 small children (available in 2 volumes – loud, and louder). Sometimes, the pieces re-shuffle themselves and tumble from the luggage cart. It's more than I can carry alone. Fortunately, I'm blessed with heaps of Sherpa friends willing to help shoulder the load while dispensing wisdom. I've received lovely messages and a few hints of caution, like this missive from a smart, funny friend in Spokane:
Enjoy with abandon, but do be a little careful with your heart--- a lot is riding on this first one or two relationships--- You will process your marriage now (the good and the bad) not just your grief…. Make your “attachments” as deliberately as you can (ha ha that’s funny) by stopping and observing when you are “attaching” rather than just living, loving and enjoying. Also do please be slow and cautious about Finn and Fiona’s exposure and attachment ---Psychologists say they will pretty much think that this person is their new father if you integrate him fully into your inner circle and they will have to lose another father if you allow the assumptions to form and then things don’t work out. EEKS how’s that for a buzz kill?
|Omokoroa, Bay of Plenty|
Heady stuff for my 17-year-old's brain to process. And while, selfishly, I prefer to spend time alone with Pete, as a widowed parent, I can't help but bring him into our family's circle. I have no ex parenting the kids on alternate weekends. I have to admit, it's touching to watch how Pete interacts with Fiona and Finley. I don't get the sense he's showing off for me so much as the sense he's being himself. By all accounts, his own nieces adore him. After so many months as a Party of 3, I get a rush when I step outside myself and watch our Party of 4. The laughter, the playing, even the scolding (mine) assumes a different tone. Even if it's just for the occasional afternoon, these moments are precious -snapshots of a time when someone I loved was enjoying my children with me.
I don't yet have the full story about this relationship. I can't write the ending. Hell, at this point, I can't even write the middle. We're still at the start – a beautiful, step-by-step-by-kissing-by-storytelling-by-embracing start. I'll let time do its sorting, peeling back each half of this love - "His," and "Hers," like layers of an onion. Time will decide if this thing is thin like onion skin - superficial-or thick as its core – substantial. Do we have a short-term slice of Kiwi nirvana, or something to cling to for a lifetime?
Keep in mind, a lifetime in my experience is fairly short – just over a decade. I've started thinking about "getting a man" the same way you might think about getting a dog. You know the Golden Retriever's gonna die some time either side of 10 years, so you decide whether to risk your heart, or buy a hamster, instead. Those 3 little words are the gateway phrase: First, comes "I love you," then comes the ICU and brushing your loved one's teeth. I told myself I would never brush another adult's teeth. Ever. ("Sorry, sweetie, I don't do oral. Care. Not gonna go there."). For some, love conjures images of wine, kisses and chocolate cake. I've had all 3 this time around, but can't shake the sight of IV drips, the smell of rubbing alcohol and the feel of weak hand squeezes. Love leads to consent forms, decisions, ultimate responsibility and ultimate heartache. You either agree to separate from your love, or one of you dies. Wherefore art thou, Shakespeare?
|The picture-taker's making me laugh|
One of the gifts of having been happily married is the sense I've nothing to prove. Another widow said as much in her message to me:
"...I always felt that if I find someone again great, but if I don't, I'm ok. Because I had had it already. I felt I didn't need to settle. I would rather be alone and content instead of being like some of my friends who are in relationships and complain all the time...."
I've been content alone. I do alone really well. But I'm not satisfied playing solo when this particular duet, at this particular time and place, sounds and feels even better.
|Rainbow in Whangamata|
I've tentatively extended our stay in New Zealand (barring illness or a budget-busting event) through 2011 so the kids can finish the school year in mid-December. It means, presumably, I'll have time to chase more rainbows and peel more onion layers with Pete'66. My hope: we can enjoy the unfolding of this story, instead of trying, prematurely, to write its ending.