Welcome To The 90’s

OK, here’s my dilemma. I caught one of my closest friends in a lie. Wait, not only did he lie to me, he also betrayed my confidences, sought to besmirch my reputation, and then “no showed” a Passover Seder that I hosted last week without so much as a phone call.

If this had happened twenty years ago, the cad would, once confronted, hang his head in shame and beg for forgiveness. Mutual friends, aware of the transgressions, would rush to intervene or mediate. The issue would be resolved quickly.

But today is March 30, 1994. Mutual friends run from the risk of involvement and the establishment of guilt. There are no consequences in the post-Reagan 90’s. There is no shame. Remorse? Hell, he feels wronged! He claims to be a victim of the high standards I set for his behavior. I owe him an apology.

Welcome to the 90’s, a time where being wrong is OK and being right can get you a law suit. Oh, it’s just not this. This failure to accept responsibility for one’s behavior has become all too common.

There is a teacher shortage in Cleveland. I have been substituting at an afternoon Hebrew School. It was a lot of fun teaching fifth, sixth, and seventh graders Bible and Prayer. Some of the children even learned something in my classes. Of course there were behavior problems. Most of the kids didn’t want to tangle with someone 6’4”/220 pounds. They tested. I made it clear where the lines were. They behaved. But, each class had one or two that would not. Why? These children had learned that they were “untouchables.” Let me till you about two sixth graders.

The first is a fat, obnoxious child that has yet to have an original thought. He disrupts the class by copying the bad behavior of others, but doesn’t do it until after everyone else has stopped. His major problem is that he is also a terrible liar. When he handed in his homework, I noticed that half was done by him (all caps, misspelled words and sloppy) and half was done by someone else (properly spelled and neat). I started laughing when he claimed that he had done it all. Do you want to guess who his mother is? That’s right, a teacher in the same school. His mother claims that the differences are because he did some of the work in the car.

Our second little boy is the youngest of several demons. Loud and out of control, his mother claims that he is simply bored. I’ll never forget the day that he brought Chicken Nuggets to class! Non-Kosher food in a Conservative Synagogue. His mother? After years of terrorizing the Synagogue’s School Director, the mother is about to become an officer of the Synagogue.

There are no consequences for these children’s misbehavior. As long as Mom or Dad can bail them out, or make a big enough fuss, these children will continue to disrupt every class they are in and making learning almost impossible for the other students.

Where does it end? One day they will cross a line and their employer, the government, their spouse, their friend or whoever it is that they have hurt or offended will have had enough. There will be no quick forgiveness. There will be no easy escape. There will be punishment and retribution. It will probably be awhile till that day dawns for the two sixth graders. But its 12 noon for my friend.

Service / Disservice

Six o’clock. The construction on Mayfield had taken an additional twenty minutes of my time. I had an hour and a half left to get dinner for Jenny and I, set up her new TV/VCR, and make the final preparations for an invasion of nine thirteen year olds coming for a sleepover party. I was standing in line at the Dairy Queen waiting to pick up a cake.

The clerk brought over the cake, verified that it was properly decorated and asked me for $11.25. I reached into my pocket and realized that I only had seven dollars on me. No sweat. I’ll write a check.

Dairy Queen doesn’t take checks. Dairy Queen doesn’t accept Visa or for that matter, any other plastic. Crap. I figured that I would have to run to the bank and fight the construction again. No, the clerk told me to take the cake and drop off payment at my convenience. I was shocked. “You’d rather give me the cake and hope for payment then accept my check?”

“Yes”
“We have too many checks bounce” another clerk added. “People come back.”

I grabbed the box and left. Neither clerk’s name tag identified them as part of the management team, yet they were empowered to make decisions involving service and money. I was impressed.

On Saturday afternoon we dropped off the money at Dairy Queen on our way to Sun TV. One of Jenny’s friends had generously given her a radio/cassette player. The problem was that Jenny already owned one just like it and also had another one that even plays C.D.’S. We had planned to exchange the gift for a couple of C.D.’S.

I have purchased several things from Sun in the last year or so. A T.V. A boom box/CD player for Phillip. A vacuum. Some phones. You get the idea. My office partner, Bill, and I have even shopped at Sun for our new computers. I know the stores well.

Since the radio was a gift, we did not have a receipt. The box had never been opened and a portion of the price tag was clearly visible showing that this had come from Sun T.V.

The assistant manager checked the box carefully. He told us that he would have to pay for the radio if there was anything missing. The tone of his voice implied that it had happened before.

Jennifer searched for the two C.D.’S she wanted while I handled the paperwork. Only one was available. No problem. The radio was twenty-seven dollars. The C.D. thirteen. We’d take the one Sun had and run to the mall for Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams”. Well, I thought it would be no problem.

The service desk clerk informed me that I would have to accept a due bill for the fourteen dollars. A due bill for $14? I asked for the manager. Twenty minutes later the manager finally decided to come to the desk.

The manager didn’t care that the radio/cassette player had been a gift. He didn’t care that it didn’t make any sense to give a thirteen year old girl a $14 due bill to an appliance store. He told me that it wasn’t his decision. It’s not his decision? The manager of a Sun T.V. store can’t make a $14 decision.

The way I see it, if you can’t trust your manager to make a $14 decision, you should hire better people. And if he had the authority and simply screwed this up, you really should hire better people.

After an extensive search we found an acceptable alternate C.D. and left the store. Jennifer, completely aggravated, asked me why we had been hassled like that. Why didn’t he just give her her fourteen dollars?

“I guess the problem,” I told her “is that Dairy Queen doesn’t sell boom boxes.”

Of Mice and Men

I quit smoking in the fall of 1981. About six weeks later my employees, some of the cheapest (and unfortunately laziest) people I have ever known, purchased a fancy cigarette case and lighter for me. They spent almost one hundred dollars. I guess that I had become a real bear and they decided that the only way to get back their old boss was to get me to start smoking again. I wasn’t ready to quit smoking and it showed.

Jerry, my friend David’s step-father, was admitted into the hospital in December of 1883. The doctors thought that he had pneumonia. That was Monday. On Tuesday the x-rays revealed that his lungs were gone. He died of cancer that Saturday. That was enough for me. I quit smoking January 1, 1984. Two packs a day, cigars, and my pipe…to nothing. Cold Turkey. It wasn’t easy. But once I was ready, it was doable.

In the summer of 1991 I wrote a column for this paper dealing with my decision to give up my last remaining vice, matrimony. The article was The Tides. In a couple of hundred words I detailed my most recent marriage and proclaimed my resolve to remain single.

One year later I experienced an unfortunate episode of backsliding. You may have read about it. (If At First You Don’t Succeed Aug 92) NOW I’M READY!

Goodness the last six months have been unbelievably awful. There was absolutely no reason for this marriage to succeed. None.

Those of you familiar with the gory details may have an opinion as to what, specifically, killed this relationship. Some of you may point to the twelve year old step-daughter, her faked kidnapping, suicide threats, and depression. Some of you may point to the fact that I traveled, like Jacob, to a far away place thinking that I was marrying Rachel, only to find that I was wed to Leah. Some of you may point to the fact that Anna and I failed to communicate on the same level and never understood what the other thought to be important. And others…well everyone has a guess as to why this marriage was doomed from the start. I, however, know the real reason.

The truth is that I am incapable of choosing a woman to marry that I can be happy with permanently. The truth is that many of the very qualities that I find attractive in the women I date I find to be annoying in the women once I have married them. And the truth, as I wrote a year ago, is that I can’t seem to see the entire woman when I am dating. Failing to see the flaws, I tragically wed women that are totally incompatible with me.

I am not alone at this. Yes, it is shocking to discover at 30.000 feet that your co-pilot has never flown before and is afraid of heights. But why is she there in the first place?

You don’t get married in a vacuum. These women all knew what I am like and what I expected of them. Yet, they still keep telling me what I want to hear. They still keep volunteering to walk down the aisle. And they still keep looking shocked when I tell them that enough is enough.

And we are not alone. Many of you, my faithful readers, have called or written with similar stories. Is there something in our water? Or, do we simply expect more than our parents and grandparents did from marriage? I can’t answer that and I promised my parents that I would leave them out of this column.

The bottom line is that I really think that I am ready to quit this time. Phillip, Jennifer, and I will get along just fine, thank you. No twelve step programs. No fancy clinics. No hassle. You just have to be ready.

A View Of The Rooms

The ice storms have passed and the temperature has reached forty. Let the thaw begin! The gutters frozen and clogged are of little use. The water has to go someplace. Why not under the shingles? Water drips from the ceiling of my bedroom. The glass light fixture had to be emptied twice. The front windows are fogged up the way my car windows used to get when I was in high school. I didn’t mind then.

When my house really frustrates me I try to think of the things that make it my home. The following is a view of the rooms.

I

Lot’s of people have collections. Phillip has baseball cards. Stamps and coins are popular items. My twelve year old has started to collect towels. There is no larceny involved in this. She isn’t taking the towels from the hotels and motels we visit. No, these are the towels Jennifer uses when she showers.

I have eight bath towels for the two kids. I noticed that the linen closet was empty and ran downstairs to do a load. There were only three in the hamper. Up in Jen’s room I waded through dirty socks and clean turtlenecks strewn upon her floor. The five missing towels were forming a pyramid by her papasan chair. One solution would be to buy more towels, but I don’t know how many her room could hold.

II

Peace had descended upon the living room. Jen was playing Nintendo in the basement. Phil had yet to return from his youth group overnight. Alissa’s children, R.J. and Meredith, were with their father. Adult time.

I poured two large mugs of cinnamon flavored coffee and lowered the volume to “Sunday Morning on CBS.” She curled up next to me on the couch as we finished our breakfast of lox and cream cheese on bagels. After Charles Kuralt ended his show with the sound of Norwegian birds perched in trees above the Olympic crowds, I put on some music. I was reading the editorials. Alissa had the Metro section.

It is hard to read with your eyes closed, your arms wrapped around the woman you love. Hours were spent on the same page. Kenny Loggins’ C D, Leap of Faith, played all the way through four times.

I have faith. I am ready to leap.

III

Jennifer lit the Sabbath candles. Phillip led us in the blessing over the wine and recited the Kiddush. We were having a traditional Friday evening dinner. It was not unusual for us to celebrate the Sabbath. It just seemed so odd because it was the first time in over a week that Phil, Jen and I were eating dinner together.

We used to eat dinner together every night. But Phillip is in a play at Brush, and Jennifer has flute and babysitting, and I have meetings and appointments, so now…

Sometimes I make three different dinners at three different times. Sometimes they are my children. Sometimes they are my two red-headed roommates.

I am ready for them to grow up. I just wasn’t ready for the dining room to be so empty.

Post Mortem

We begin with the end
Hot tea, warm bookstore
Shake hands, part friends
I never promised
Neither did I
And yet I wanted so badly to make it work

The symbols all dance
The flowers, the card
The first kiss, your breasts
It all meant something
But not enough
And yet I wanted so badly to make it work

So we end with beginnings
New partners, new places
New memories, new dreams
Shuffle the deck
Deal ‘em right
And yet I wanted so badly to make it work.

David L. Cunix
1/12/94

Damn, it was like being seventeen again. The doubt. The signals. Mixed signals. He had owned a 1965 Buick Century back when he was seventeen. Sometimes it ran. Sometimes it didn’t. He never knew each morning when he turned the key whether that Buick would start or not. He never knew when he telephoned Carol whether this would be his last call, or not. He was definitely too old for this, but she was special, and he wasn’t ready to give up.

The good news was that they had only recently begun seeing each other. Three weeks. When the end came, as if something that never really started could have an end, it came painlessly. She was honest. She was positive that she could never love Jim. And since love was the only thing Jim wanted from Carol, there was little point in continuing.

Jim and I had breakfast the next morning. Over toasted cinnamon raisin bagels and cream cheese at Broadway Bagels he told me how he had kept the doors open. He didn’t love Carol. Never lost emotional control. Nagging doubts had held him back. But he was so close. Closer than he knew.

Their first kiss had been at the stroke of midnight at a New Year’s Eve Party. Their second was a few hours later when he confessed that he didn’t want to wait a year to kiss her again. He was romantic. Carol was receptive. Jim brought her flowers. She had forgotten how nice it was to have someone truly care.

But there was something wrong. Jim was not the most sensitive guy in Cleveland and yet he could tell, he could feel, that Carol was holding back. Maybe she wasn’t ready? Perhaps there were issues? No chemistry? Who knows? She wasn’t prepared to show her cards, so I had told Jim to hang in and be himself.

Jim and I are salesmen. We live to hear the word “Yes”. We die little deaths with every “No”. But the word that hurts us the most is “Maybe”. Maybe means that if you try a little harder and work a little more we will succeed. Jim, a black or white – yes or no kind of guy, hated the indecision Carol was feeling. Moments of passion followed by days of indifference were taking a toll on him.

The end came quietly. A soft voice admitting that there was no future. Half expected, Jim was able to choose his words carefully. No anger. Surprisingly, no pain. But Jim was disappointed. He really had liked her. He really did think she was beautiful. He really had wanted badly to make it work.

A Shot In The Dark

And she said “we must get together”
But I knew it’d never be arranged
And she hands me $20 for a two-fifty fare
And she said “Harry keep the change”
Well another man might have been angry
And another man might have been hurt
But another man never would have let her go
I stashed the bill in my shirt.
-Harry Chapin

It has been over twenty years since I first heard those words. I remember where I was. It was the night of the big dance and my long awaited date with Rabbi Goren’s daughter, Fern. She wore a short, electric blue dress. She was beautiful. But the most memorable part of that cold November evening was hearing Harry Chapin for the first time and how we stayed in the car, silently, until the song ended.

Regular readers of this column know that I have great respect and appreciation for strong emotions painted with words. And yes I do enjoy reading all of the usual suspects, but it is the intense joy, or sorrow, or pain found unexpectedly that has the most impact on me.

Cleveland has been blessed with many great writers and, more importantly, many writers who have done great work. I grab the FREE TIMES each week, just as I had the CLEVELAND EDITION, to read Doug Clarke. Telling us who won and who lost is easy. Mr. Clarke knows why we care. Dick Feagler’s tirades would be easy to dismiss were it not for his ability to grab us with the simple honesty of his emotions. You may disagree with him, but you don’t question his motives.

This column marks my fourth anniversary with Ohio’s Finest Singles. Originally a ten month experiment, A Shot In The Dark has now appeared 44 times. I never expected this to be so much fun. A special thanks to Joyce and Kelly and the rest of the O.F.S. family,

The best part of writing this column has been you, the readers. I thoroughly enjoy your letters and phone calls. I think it is great to have complete strangers stop me on the street or in an office building to discuss a particular column. It can’t get much better than that.

I wanted to publish the first four year’s of A Shot IN The Dark a book titled If YOU Won’t Leave Me, I’ll Find Someone Who Will. The truth is that I’m not a self-help expert (real or imagined) and I sincerely doubt that I could land a book deal. This column has been my take on my life, the people around me, and the major issues of the day. It is cathartic for me and therapeutic for many of you.

So the Hell with the book. By the time the publisher and everyone else took their cut it would cost $20 and even I wouldn’t buy it. And yet, I do get a lot of requests for back columns, especially The Tides and Comfortably Numb. I have a solution. For $5 I will send you a complete set of copies of all forty-four articles. The price includes postage. Such a deal!

I don’t believe that twenty years from now any of you will remember where you were when you read one of my columns (any of them, even this one). But your letters talk of clipping and saving these articles. I just want you to have good copies.

The Other Me

And I know that she is the only girl for me.
And you know that if I could split in two
The other me would hold you tight.
The other me would stay all night.
The other me would be
The only one for you.
Joe Jackson

Her love dangled before him like a piñata. The choice was Frank’s. Strike it with a bat, or embrace it, and her, forever. Armed with a decision. Armed and dangerous.

Frank was so comfortable with Joan. His feelings for her were a mile wide and three inches deep. It was a river he could not cross, but in whose waters he could not drown. And he wanted to. Well, he at least wanted to get more than his ankles wet.

They had met at a party at Bill’s house. Bill and Joan were wrapping up a six month relationship. Neither knew it at the time, but they had only one week left as a couple. Frank did not spare any of the gory details as he spent the evening describing his current debacle with Sally, his soon to be ex-wife. The rest of us, veterans of Frank’s performances, quickly tired of the show. But Joan, a relative newcomer to the group, was enthralled. She listened intently, first with her head, but quickly also with her heart.

Joan’s phone call to Frank at his office really surprised him. The break-up with Bill had caught her off guard and it had taken her a week or so to even think of anyone else. But now she was ready to force herself to look outward and one of the first things that had come to her mind was Frank and his situation. She was concerned. She wanted to know how he was doing. She had no agenda. She just wanted to focus on someone else’s pain so that she could forget her own for awhile.

It was all so innocent. He bitched. She listened. He wallowed in self-pity. She agreed with his perceptions of his situation and then offered solutions and hope. He was so preoccupied with his problems that he never had any time for hers. And thus she could avoid talking or dealing with all of them. He needed her and she loved to be needed.

They quickly became a couple. Shoulders to cry on are easily converted to shoulders to kiss. And in this day of instant gratification, emotional intimacy and physical intimacy are as close as wood burning fireplace, a comfortable chair and a CD of soft music.

There was only one small problem. Sally. Sally, who had thrown Frank out of their home; who had made Frank happier than any other woman and hurt him in ways that he didn’t think possible; who had been in and out of his life for the last ten years; wanted him back. Sally was not above using their daughter, Mindy, as bait. Casting visitation time in front of him, she reeled Frank in for a family dinner. Once alone it was only a matter of time before the old feelings and warmth surfaced. Frank had breakfast with Mindy the next morning.

And now Frank was forced to make a decision. He knew that a life with Joan would be comfortable and easy. But there was no fire, and he missed the intensity that Sally had to offer. Sally was a terror, but she was his terror. Ten years of fighting and loving had given him an appreciation for the passion of their relationship. He wished he could have the oasis of calm Joan provided. He wanted to delay his choice.

We can never complain about the time we are given to make such decisions. We should just consider ourselves lucky when the choice is ours.

Traveling

I spent this summer on the road. Some of my trips, like my visit to the Ann Arbor Artfest with Darcy, were wonderful. Some of my trips were to places I would just as soon not visit again. But you never know what, or who you’ll see when you leave your home. The following are short takes on how I spent my summer vacation.

I

Of all the people sentenced to spend their final years at Unhappy Acres, Barbara and Scott were the hardest to visit.

Call me a glutton for punishment. Call me a masochist. It doesn’t matter. Two, three, sometimes four times a year I pop into “The Home” and visit some people who used to live in the neighborhood. The last week-end in July was one such journey.

It is funny the way character flaws are magnified with age. A middle-aged complainer becomes a world class whiner at 67. Someone who is merely over-solicitous in his fifties can be a real nudge at 75. I, for one, will be an overly judgmental S.O.B. if I live to be 70.

II

The fog lifted at about eight o’clock, one hour into the trip. Nine hours left. Just me and the ghosts driving to Massachusetts.

Phil and Jen were visiting my parents. I was making the long drive to pick them up. Thankfully I wasn’t alone. H.M., A.O., S.S., and even M.S. of my most recent past filled the car with memories of what was and the thoughts of what could have been, but won’t. Good thing I’ve got a Caravan. We all couldn’t have fit in my old Honda.

I’m not complaining. The ghosts are good traveling companions. They never ask me to stop the car for food or rest rooms. They let me drive as fast as I like. But, there is a price for their company.

What could I have done differently? What could we have changed? What should we have not done at all? One by one, each takes her turn in the front seat to discuss her era.

Who gets to be first? M.S. pushes her way to the front. She usually does. She is young and impulsive and in her shy, soft-spoken way always succeeded at demanding my attention. Normally I try to make her wait her turn. Procrastinating, I want to deal with the most painful last. But today’s journey is over five hundred miles, long enough to give her all the time she is due.

III

The insurance business has given me the opportunity to meet, and become friends with, many artists. Over the years I have come to know musicians of every style, writers, sculptors, and painters. I found Greg, a master with watercolors, to be the most expressive. The depth and honesty of Greg’s painting is arresting. I remember the first time I entered his home/studio. I stopped and stared at the canvas leaning against the wall. We discussed that picture for over fifteen minutes. One of my prized possessions is the book from a Butler American Museum of Art show that he gave me that day. That was three years ago. I remember that day for one other reason. That was the day I met Kyra, the woman who was soon to be his bride.

Darcy and I were walking along State Street. We were determined to view every single booth at this year’s Ann Arbor Artfest. The street was packed. I didn’t see the artist’s name until we were already in the booth and out of the hot sun. There was Kyra holding a cold drink. It was Greg’s unit. Greg made us feel welcome and we looked around. I hadn’t seen his new work. Not really. Not enough in one place so that I could really gauge how marriage had changed him. We talked, but a painter’s true emotions are only displayed by his brush.

Greg’s style was unchanged. The colors were still strong. His whole approach was confident. The honesty was apparent. But the subject matter was different. The darkness was gone. Yes, he had told me over the last three years how happy he was and how much he loved his wife. It took a trip to Michigan, however, to see the truth in those words.

If You Won’t Leave Me, Ill Find Someone Who Will

I’d like to leave you with something positive, but I can’t think of anything. Will you accept two negatives?
Woody Allen

I had been mourning the abrupt death of a brief, but intense, relationship for about two weeks. I had gone through all the stages; shock, grief, the uncontrollable urge to write an article… You know, the whole process. It was time to get on with my life.

There are people who do nothing but sit and kvetch (bitch). They never take the time or make the effort to analyze their situation or to create a plan to solve their plight. They expend all of their energy complaining. Not me.

It was the end of May. As I’m watching the Today Show I realize that there are three movies coming out this summer that I really want to see. Dave, Much Ado About Nothing, and Sleepless In Seattle all sounded great. All three are well crafted romantic comedies. I then realized that I didn’t have a clue as to who I would take to see any of them.

It is one thing to go to an intense movie like The Crying Game alone or with a friend, but a romantic comedy should be a shared experience. Kenneth Branaugh’s production of Much Ado wouldn’t be the same viewed with my kids or by myself.

So I jumped into action. It only took one Saturday night alone with the laundry to convince me that I needed to expand my options. I answered a personal ad from the back of this paper.

Ok, I admit it. The first one was a unique experience. We never met. We talked twice over the phone and exchanged letters over a four week period. Nice girl. Not my type, but nice girl. More importantly, once I made the initial phone call, I was ready to fully participate.

I answered several ads. I placed ads in two publications. I developed a game plan. In other words, I stopped waiting for someone to find me and began the earnest search to find someone. And not just anyone. The task at hand was to find someone more compatible, someone I would more likely want to be with five, ten, twenty years from now. (Note to regular readers: notice that I said nothing about marriage.)

Within two weeks I received several responses to my ads and had talked to a few of the women who had placed ads. My first reaction was surprise. I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t the wonderfully educated, intelligent, articulate women I found. I was truly surprised by the number of health care professionals, attorneys, and educators. These were genuinely interesting people. The task now became to check for true compatibility.

One by one we met at Borders, Arabica, and the Art Walk. Neutral territory. Non-threatening. The first week I met with four different women. They were lovely, wonderful women who, for whatever reason, were meant for someone else.

I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I had no plans for Saturday night. I had been out a lot that week and though the results weren’t great the process was working.

Saturday’s mail brought two responses. The one that really caught my eye was written on mauve stationary. The tone was friendly. The words and writing revealed someone who was both confident and intelligent. I called. We met that night at Arabica. We have been seeing each other since.

By the time this column appears I hope we will have had the opportunity to have seen all three of those movies. And maybe, just maybe, we will have established some new goals for the months ahead.

Blood On The Alter

Hello ruby in the dust
Has your band begun to rust
After all the sin we had
I was hoping that we’d turn bad
Neil Young

Ok, it wasn’t the perfect relationship. Sometimes he expected more openness than she was ready to reveal. But he was intense, and loving, and when he talked to her she could hear the way his voice changed and softened. And when he kissed her shoulders, her knees still buckled the same way as they had that first time…

No, it wasn’t the perfect relationship, but it was damn good. They had crossed the first big hurdle with surprising ease. Shayna wanted to wait for her wedding night to share that most intimate of experiences with Gato. Was she really that pure? He didn’t need to know. He loved and respected her. This was important to Shayna. That made it important to Gato.

But it was over now. Ambushed just as their love was about to take flight, Shayna and Gato stood next to her Ford Escort in the mall parking lot and held each other one last time. He couldn’t believe that he was willingly walking away from the most exciting woman he had ever known. She never expected it to end this way.

Both Shayna and Gato had grown up in the shadow of the Catholic Church. While Shayna had strayed over the years, Gato had completely abandoned the faith. His first marriage, an unfortunate experience for all involved, ended in divorce. His second…well even his closest friends don’t know all the details of that mess. Now, at the age of thirty-six, he found himself dueling with the Church and a parent for the love of a beautiful woman. He was not prepared.

Shayna’s mother, condemned to a loveless marriage, had devoutly dedicated her life to the Church. She couldn’t tolerate her daughter married to a divorced man. Wielding Father Lisinski like a blunt instrument, she pummeled her daughter with a faith whose core was LOVE. The choice was clear. Gato and HELL or her home, her faith, her family and salvation.

Shayna and Gato met in their usual booth in the Arby’s in the mall. Slowly she explained her dilemma to Gato. She was torn. She couldn’t decide. He could hear her say that she wanted to choose him while her eyes revealed her terror of losing her family and her Church. Gato wanted her to have it all. He spoke of peaceful coexistence. But after what her mother and the Priest had said, Shayna couldn’t believe that she could keep the Church, her mother, and Gato.

And now it was time to go. Gato knew that she could not make this choice. No matter what Shayna did, she lost. He told her that some people say “I love you” with flowers. Some recite poetry. But he, Gato, would show her today that he really loved her with all of his heart and soul. He would do this by saying “good-bye”. He drew her close, kissed her on the forehead, then the lips. And then he turned to find his car. He fought back the tears and the urge to return to his beloved.

So it hadn’t been a perfect relationship. But it had been a long time since they were perfect.