The Thing about C....
God, you’d think having aged 50 years and survived more toxic relationships than I have fingers, I’d learn - right? Well, here goes another:
In the very early part of August, a picture on a dating site profile - me with my grand daughter - caught a pretty lady’s eye. Curious, she sent a message my way.
Online, C. seemed warm, loving, talkative to the extreme - but quick to assume things. She told me she was a drug and alcohol counsellor - retired due to illness. She was actively maintaining in recovery and had twenty-five years of sobriety to prove it. The fact I knew the lifestyle piqued her interest. What you see is what you get - and I liked the impression she made on me. When am I going to learn? It’s what you don’t see that sneaks in for the kill.
I was feeling my own stuff with the imminent death of my ex-wife - the mother of my children and “Gramma” to that little girl in the photograph.
I was wary. The net has been the source of a lot of heartache in me. Of fifteen starts with Internet ladies, few lived up to their promise. Though I have made some good friends, those who went beyond the first few dates all just fizzled out in the three-to-six month stretch. Masks, like rose-coloured glasses, come off when the honeymoon’s over. I didn’t think it would be easy for me to trust again. Not after so many short and hurtful relationships. There was something about C. that just felt right. We seemed like the perfect match - but all the same, red flags were there.
Assumed things - was it nerves, or a warning sign? Insanity is defined as doing all the same things and expecting different results. Was she different - or am I insane? Two days later, we met.
She was fashionably late. It happens. How could I know she’s late for everything?
When she breezed in, I swear that coffee shop brightened! Time stood still as we talked our way through several cups. God, how we talked.... She was every bit the woman impression led me to expect - and so much more. As the day wore on, we grew with it. Never have I been to an AA meeting on a date! The evening was young and we still wanted more. Really, I didn’t want this day to end. In this city, the only place for country karaoke is a seedy old bar. Though I felt it was risky, we went. Several times, a persistent woman tried for my attention. I was patient - and respectful to my lady. When C. sang, I heard the voice of an angel.
The date ended in conflict - over that drunken barfly! ...And we’d shared such a great day too.
I should have seen it in how many times she’d moved from one place to another. I should have seen it in the number of guys who have walked through her life - and it was always them in the wrong. I should have seen it when she told me their alcohol and drug abusing father had custody of her children. But most of all, I should have seen it in her eyes on that very first date when she stepped back like I was in danger close. I should have - but I didn’t.
In an e-mail, she wrote: “...I realized by meeting you that my healing isn’t finished enough to want to take a risk yet....” She wasn’t ready for a relationship. I knew what it was about. I wasn’t about to press her into anything. She’s a lady worth waiting for. Later, she spoke with some friends in the program, and heard things like that happen sometimes. It calmed her enough to get over the assumption she’d drawn.
It was just a few days later when we met again. She invited me in for supper. Our conversation grew deeper as the evening grew late. In tears as she related she’d been a child of 16 when her first husband took liberties with her naivete, I hugged her some comfort. Her reaction was more than a thank-you. I felt urgency much greater than my own - on our second date. We’re both mature - and I suppose lonely. Things moved into intimacy a lot faster than we really should have.
The very next day, her insecurity showed again. This time, it was when I made a comment about how the sun danced through a lady’s long white hair. Being artsy, I saw the artistic value - not the woman. C. saw it as something else and walked away angry. Maybe at that point, I should have just let her go. This was all new, and she was a different person. I felt I might be judging her by relationships past. It took a lot of explaining to outweigh the conclusion to which she’d leapt. At least, we could talk things out. That made all the difference in the world to me.
Though there were certain irritating things about her - like in how she interrupted and dominated in conversations, steered them off to other topics, or in her odd way of juggling the evidence to draw her own answers - I accepted her. Isn’t that just the way of a lady who’s playing it safe?
Our chats were interspersed with I miss you and I want you, hope and promise. I took a risk in asking her to be my guest at an event very special to me. She accepted. Her fibro flared up - on the day of my daughter’s wedding. She worried I’d be angry. It seemed to me she was more anxious than sore, but chronic pain is real and unpredictable. I’ve known the jitters too. It didn’t really matter. Just over a week into a new relationship is a bit early to meet the family en masse.
It’s amazing how quickly feelings like love take root. In a matter of days, we were inseparable. I was so comforted to have C.’s shoulder to cry on when my ex-wife lost her battle with cancer.
She laughed as easily as she cried. I liked her as she was. To find someone 49 years in age who still possessed unabashed emotion was a joy to me. Moods? We all have them. She was entitled to hers - and her opinions. Though seldom was there an apology if I proved she wasn’t right about something, she had the perfect end-all for every disagreement: Tears.
Inconsistency confuses me. Here was one very likable person, so warm and passionate, who could turn cold in a heartbeat. From the intense heights of love, she would plunge to the depths of fear and anger in just one instant of thoughtless spontaneity. What, to me, was a humorous comment about “killing” my indestructible plant when her foot touched it had her upset. She got some sort of idea I was angry with her. A playful moment where I clipped my own cheeks with her feet almost terrified her. The simple word “scold” brought on a wrath I just couldn’t understand. So many triggers!
A touch of jealous was cute - at first. I thought it was sort of flattering that she didn’t want to lose me. Okay - letters and pics on my computer from a previous girlfriend, I can understand. Given the opposite, I’d wonder too. For a while, there were legal reasons for keeping them. Only laziness left them there. It was when she started going through my computer - and finding that ex’s name on auto-fill-in forms and stuff I didn’t even know was there much less how to delete on a search engine I don’t use - my concerns were raised. C. did not easily accept explanations. Thing is - I had nothing to hide.
When she made it clear she would prefer it if she didn’t have to see my ex-wife’s husband - someone who’d grown to be a friend and had just lost his wife - I understood. His resemblance to the father of her kids made her uncomfortable and his pain could become a problem. Still, I wondered if C. wasn’t being just a bit controlling. It was when she forbade me from accepting calls from an old friend - a suicidal girl who only ever reached out when she was getting close to bottom - I was hurt. She’s a counsellor?
I almost broke it off with her after a great April Wine concert. That ex just happened to be there. My motives for avoiding contact were misjudged. Really, I still don’t know if she accepted the truth - or the version with which I was accused. I apologized - then forgave myself.
C. lived in the city - an hour’s drive from my place. I lived in an apartment over a small town grocery store. The neighbours were loud and the stairs were brutal - not a good thing for a lady who has trouble sleeping and walking. Where she lived, the neighbours were getting to be pests. Apparently, they were playing with drugs. They were always looking for something to enable them to carry on their activities. Some dangerous people were coming around, so it wasn’t a safe place for teen-aged kids to drop in when she wasn’t home.
We were practically living together - in both of our apartments. She joked we had a country house and a city house. Where problems rose was we were constantly stocking them and running the road between them. She didn’t like to be so far from the kids for too long - and I understood that. There was a lot of packing and travelling time involved. Neither are good for fibro or heart health. It wasn’t hard to guess that musical apartments could be the source of a lot of our stress. We were both feeling it, so she suggested we should move into one place together.
I felt it was too soon. She may have sensed some doubt when she wondered if I could I really love her as much as I said. I did, and I wanted to love her for a very long lifetime. I just wasn’t ready to make that leap yet.
There was just something about how she meddled in the kids lives. Sometimes, it seemed like she was trying to drive a rift between the kids and their parents. Maybe it was something still burned on my mind from the last relationship, but I had a gut feeling she still wanted to get her ex-husband back into her life. Her jealousy toward his eighteen-years-junior wife was obvious.
Regardless, for me, there was no getting comfortable with the feeling of being controlled. If I disagreed, would I lose her? She’s already told me she’s walked out on several relationships where she wasn’t happy, and her son’s words: “You’re the longest any guy has lasted with her” weighed heavily.
I made a lot of “excuses” - valid reasons, really - why I couldn’t move into her place: the lease; it was too small; there was no parking. My apartment seemed better - to me anyhow. It was my safe place. Really, it wasn’t so far that the kids couldn’t easily Greyhound it if need be.
I have to admit, it made me feel “warm ‘n’ fuzzy” while C. set about nesting in my house. I welcomed her! Her charm added an atmosphere to my life I have never felt before. She knew an uninhibited freedom that I loved. For a while, that small town place was quite the love nest, but she could be so demanding too. It didn’t take long before our cuddling time was replaced by her computer time. I didn’t welcome that. Why was I getting so many mixed messages?
She went through my space re-arranging things, tossing stuff out and making room for her own. Some of that “junk” had sentimental value, so naturally I objected. That brought on disagreements, accusations - and at least twice she threatened to end the relationship. Incredible how she thought it seemed so easy for me to let her go. I wouldn’t force her to stay, but I didn’t want to lose her.
Those arguments! They were over the silliest of things sometimes - what was on my computer, a picture in a book, stuff in the fridge, a bracelet, a stupid towel! So many times I felt she was a cat and I was the mouse. C. clung to whatever conclusion she’d jumped in any given situation.
One, in particular that should have taught me well happened in the aisles of a dollar store. She’d been looking for some red net stockings for an elf costume. I thought I found some. She turned to see me holding an opened thong in a classic pose. I was accused of doing it deliberately. I’d humiliated her in front of her daughter and she was embarrassed to be with me. There was no defending myself. Right in front of her kids, I had some very explicit names cast my way. That time, I did leave. The next day, I ended up being the one who apologized - again.
I know I have a stubborn streak. I’ll speak my truth - sometimes, loudly (without name-calling or intentional put-downs) but I will compromise. C. wouldn’t. It had to be her way. Silence for the sake of peace is uneasy peace. Still, there was a side to her I loved - a side that loved me. That made it all worthwhile. So, for the sake of peace, I couldn’t reach for her soul any more.
Divorce and distance deprived me of my kids. Injury took my ability to earn self esteem on a job. Heart meds mess with making love. Now, for her, I was giving up a vital part of me: Words....
She wanted me to do something about the noisy neighbours. She wanted me to complain about the faulty plumbing. She wanted to see her kids more. She noticed as my performance in bed fell off. God bless her, she asked about it. I was afraid to offend her. I didn’t dare tell her how I felt about the way I was being treated. I blamed it on the heart meds and suffered in silence.
She wanted a house and we weren’t in a financial position to buy or rent one. Places came available, and we turned them down for one reason or another. She even checked into tax-sale houses in her old home town in the hope of a spring move. Once, with her kids along for the trip, we went north to view a little house from her past. I truly believed she wanted us to share a life together. A great deal came up on a mobile home not far outside the city. Though I felt pushed, and I was leaving my safe place behind - I surrendered.
Her pretty green eyes glowed emeralds bright. C. practically danced in the car when she first saw it. She was so excited about it - our “Granny Clampett” place. “We’ll be those two old hippies at the end of the road.” Those prophetic words inspired me. I dropped my guard. I believed in this thing. Words are big healers to me....
This was one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” bargains - at a price even we could afford. We didn’t have immediate cash for a down payment, so she called her mother. Sadly, the same day we made our offer to purchase our “dream house”, she heard her brother was at death’s door in ICU. The magic of her “best day ever” died. There was no air of celebration on that trip north.
According to her, her mother is a controlling woman who uses money as a mechanism and favours her second family over her first (meaning two sons over three survivors from six) Mom said she misunderstood because only one-tenth the cash was on hand when we went to pick it up. She didn’t want those two sons to know. C.’s tears were enough to soften her. On the way home, she joked with her sister how it pays to be able to turn tears on and off at will.
Together, we cleaned, papered and prepared - in between trips to visit her gravely ill brother. In two weeks, the place was ready for us. I was cautioned about getting friendly with the neighbours. She wanted quiet and privacy. Stress didn’t fade with our reduced mileage. In what should have been time for us relax and refresh our relationship, the strain got worse.
Her fibro was flaring, but she pressed on with things we had the rest of our lives to do. There was bickering over what went where and why. She was so adamant about things being perfectly centred and straight - and hated disagreement. It really bothered me when she heard helpful hints and suggestions as criticism and personal attacks. Her short temper showed as she hung material on a wall. More than once I asked her if she needed a meeting. In a closet, I collided with her capacity for exaggerating the truth. I had too many clothes?
She stayed in touch with her kids online - always fretted about her son’s teen-age activity, the girl’s love life and obsessed about their father’s (her second ex-husband) drinking and drugging. When she lived in the city, her young teen-age daughter could come and go at will on the bus (ie: run away) whenever things “got tough” with her father and step-mother. Seems to me, she rather encouraged it. There were limits here - and C. knew that before we ever made our offer to purchase. The parents insisted it wasn’t their fault her mom decided to move so far out of town. C.’s moods grew darker. The smallest of things set her off now.
At the very beginning of this relationship C. got me to promise that I’d let her know if ever she was doing anything that annoyed me. So many times I tried. So many times I felt accused of criticizing her for doing just as she’d asked. At one time we could speak deeply about the most intimate of things. That was a large part of the attraction. Now, when we did talk, it was at a superficial level. Depth brought out the defences. It seemed like she was lurking - just waiting for me to say or do anything wrong. I felt terrible if my honesty hurt this woman who said she loved me, and worse when I appeased her. Her anger brought sorrow. Her tears brought shame.
Romance was gone. She complained if I touched her in that way when she was in pain - and worried when I didn’t touch her in that way when she wasn’t. Once you’re put off a few times.... Seldom did we make love in the way we used to. Many nights, we didn’t even sleep together. The computer had most of her attention. I believed her when she said the fibro was making her irritable - but she couldn’t understand why I was “getting crabby”. She even accused I’d lured her to my dating site profile under false pretences. That picture of me and my grand daughter had her believing my kids’ lives revolved around me and she would be a part of it.
Something had been haunting her for the last little while - ever since we made our commitment to share a life. Was it her kids? Was it her brother? I didn’t ask. I didn’t need the fight. A day or so before the end, she asked me why I loved her. For the first time, I couldn’t find an answer. I just did. That was the moment I knew we were at a crossroad.
All in all, we did a lot of things right. We were both willing to take a chance with each other. We shared dreams and let ourselves experience the powers of our love. Nothing’s a waste that makes memories, and she made some sweet ones in me. For them, I’m so glad there was C.
...But we did things wrong too. We moved too fast - from each others’ dreams to this life. Of that I’ve had regrets. In our haste, we let ‘us’ deteriorate to the point where there were a lot of uneasy silences and heated debates. My heart broke in every one of them. I know, just in my way of being honest and forthright - and as resent worked its way in, a bit too blunt and loud - she felt hurt. For that, I cry.
Sunday morning, the day before our pensions were to be consolidated, she woke up annoyed. All I said was we both do it (sleep noise) “What’s that supposed to mean?” There was no meaning. After she said it a second time, I pointed out it felt like she was looking for a fight - and got some names lobbed my way again. In frustration, I said: “Yes dear.” Apparently, it’s another trigger.
She stayed in the bedroom for most of the day. That evening, she said she was leaving. She told me she wanted us to start over. She wanted a place of her own. Her story was she’s too far from the kids out here. That’s a line I won’t dare cross. Though I could see there was a lot more to it, I only half-heartedly tried to reach her. What’s the use? She wanted - and I wasn’t happy with what stress was doing to me - and us. I guess it shows in more ways than just the obvious.
Monday, we went in to Disability. She’s made that first payment so I was sort of screwed for this month. Yes, I was upset - but more so devastated because I’m sure I lost a huge part of a dream come true - her. Her last look back - to my one last sad “I love you” - wasn’t through the eyes of a C. I’d ever met.
Money is only money. I got a partial cheque and a clinic doctor will script me for the medical requirement. I still have receipts from the move, so I can get a community start-up. It took a bit of humility and a few phone calls but arrangements are made to cover the bills. I won’t lose this place - but now I live in it alone.
Heart health and stress aren’t a good combination for me. As confusing as she can be, lonely is worse. Tuesday, I spoke to someone from the program, then a counsellor on the phone - and Thursday, I had a home visit from the crisis centre! Turns out he knows her....
He was good about it - kept it on me. We talked some stuff about how alcoholics’ minds work, and why they act the way they do. The saddest part was: it described our relationship in living colour. Chaos! She has twenty-five years of sobriety, yet without her Power, the behaviour drives her. Its inconsistency managed to push the right buttons and drill deep enough to touch anger.
We spoke quite a bit about my emotional state, the stress, and what was it doing to my health? He told me some places to get help, and I am looking into some anger management and grief counselling.
Friday night, C. called. She made sure I knew she was a lot happier now because everyone there agrees with her. I never was a “yes” person. We spoke again about starting over and moving slower when it’s not shaded by yesterdays. God, how I prayed we might do it. Yes, it could be difficult - but with some counsel.... Neither of us is perfect.
From my heart, I recounted things that have worn me down throughout the relationship - with a hope hers would hear. I heard another denial. It was put onto the fact I’d quit painkillers - then on yesterdays that were dealt with and resolved long ago. She made me aware, in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t have to do anything. The issues were all my own and if I expected to work things out, I was the one who had to change.
I promised I wasn’t going to give her a hard time when she came to get her stuff. I’d even offered to let her store it here. My word is solid. I keep it to the best of my ability. I told her someone said that I should change the locks, make her prove it’s hers and claim it was abandoned - and that I answered I want things to be on friendly terms so, no. I won’t do it to her.
It may as well have been bait - and she went for it. I’m real sorry for that - not for the trap, but for what I learned. I wish it could have been something in me, for now I know I can’t fix it. She stuck to the pattern and fixed on the bad. I tried to explain. It went unheard. The browbeating I just took about browbeatings I took came right apart in a threat she was coming out with proof, witnesses and cops. It proved what I saw all along and what the counsellor told me about a “dry drunk’s” behaviour. They are the same thing.
Saturday evening, she left a message stating that I had to bag or box anything I could and I had 24 hours to bring it to The House or she was coming out with the cops. I’m sorry it had to be this way too.
I called the shelter and told the lady on the other end about last night’s call - how C. heard the bad, shut me out, jumped to another conclusion, and that trait is the reason this relationship failed me. Then I called the police and told them they would be getting a call. “She left. She can come and get it herself.” The cop seemed to believe it was fair - as long as there wouldn’t be trouble.
I wasn’t going to that shelter. It would hurt too much to see her. This pain is too fresh and I still have big feelings for her. I should have let her come out with guns blazing, but I didn’t want her hatching ideas I’d ever be mean to her. I still love her. Why?
Sunday, I took some stuff to her sister’s. She wonders why I stayed with C., having seen the way I was treated a few times.
In a phone call with one of her long-time friends on the very day she left, I mentioned that C. is terribly insecure and can be very abusive. It came as no surprise. A lot of what I lived with her was confirmed in our talk. “She’s done things like that all her life.” I know she’s just walked out on other relationships too. I’d heard it from her and from several people very close to her - so it’s not just me. Common among all of them? “She’s a bit too sensitive”.
“I want us to be happy.” Those are C.’s own words. For there to be an ‘us’, we both need a voice. I needed to matter too. “What’s that supposed to mean?” or “You’re telling me....” I felt like I was being analyzed, interpreted, manipulated, lead to a witness stand confession and forced into another apology for something I didn’t really say or do. I heaped anger on me for feeling beaten down and damned to silence by the very person I wanted to spend a life with.
She said she loved me, but I felt treated like a threat. She was afraid I would leave her, but I felt her pushing me away. “When I want your opinions, I’ll ask for them.” That hurt me. I wonder what her feelings might be toward: “Children should be seen and not heard”. To me, it’s the same thing. Nothing was resolved. It was dismissed for the sake of peace. Why was I getting crabby? It kept happening. After a while, tension creates strain. Then, the cracks appear.
Don’t get the impression I was entirely the victim in this. The signs were there. C. may be a bit too aggressive, and I too easy-going, but I’m not blameless. I loved her. I didn’t want to lose her. I guess, in trying to make her happy, I let her run all over me. I should have been stronger in my resolve when I walked away that first time. I knew she wasn’t about to change her behaviour. I was the one who went back for more.
Though I never resorted to name-calling, I didn’t candy-coat the truth either. At times, frustration got the best of me and I shouted it. That makes me guilty of retaliation - and I hated myself for it every time. It wouldn’t be fair to pass blame onto C. for that.
Three weeks to the day after she left came one of those “eureka” things - in a very dark and tragic sort of way. I got the word from C.’s son when he called about her stuff. She’s in the hospital. Apparently she lost it, turned violent and the police got involved. Tears stung these eyes when I heard a shaky-voiced “I’m so sorry” from a young man who really shouldn’t have felt a need to apologize.
C.’s sister wants nothing more to do with her. From her, I heard things that might have disgusted me - considering morals to which C. made an appearance of living. They came from hurt and yesterdays. She has a long history of running away. I heard about deaths in her family that C. has never come to terms with. Come to think of it, C.’s “this is the best day of my life” ended when her brother came close to death. People in hiding are not easy people to deal with. It will be a long recovery, if only she’d accept the help. I made sure her son knows I’m here.
She had me believing I was a monster. Guess I have a lot to learn yet. I have stareted attending counselling - grief and anger management - and will be getting into Co-dependents Anonymous. My hope is I’ll learn how to stop falling in with that sort of lady (0 in 16 for me now) - or how not to tease her tail should it happen.
A month-plus-a-day after she left, C. showed up to collect most of her furniture. Her eyes lit up when she looked about what was to be our home. She smiled and I heard the song in her voice when she said: “I love this place.”
She held back in telling me anything specific, but she did spend a week in hospital - and was, as they tend to deem it, unco-operative. Apparently, she’d dumped her meds and made threats to sue if they put her on anything addictive.
She still wants to believe withdrawal from codeine was altering my mood. I can’t get her to understand that just because I had script doesn’t mean I used it. This province can’t accept pain without painkiller. I did 28 days in rehab to break free from the addiction. In the past 11 years, I’ve managed without them for all but the worst of pain. She even saw as I disposed of six months worth of unused painkillers, so how can she blame the codeine?
She asked if I’d been going to meetings. Yes - I do know the lifestyle. I respect it as something that may work for her and I would support her fully if only she’d have said: “let’s go.” Did she have to assume it was my life too?
I heard from one of her friends she’s saying I was abusive. There’s no denying I yelled. I won’t try to justify it. Losing control of me is my shame. I’m sorry it happened - and sorrier she’d even think that way. Guess if it’s what she needs....
In putting this “shield” together, there have been many opportunities to weigh out the ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ in this relationship. I know some self-centeredness is vital to the recovery process. Hers borders on narcissism - in just about every way. It’s pretty sad when the ‘goods’ are eclipsed by a total lack of communication. All I’m left with is pretty and good sex - against a mountain of heartache. I just don’t want to be steamrollered any more.
The next day, I took some of the stuff she’d left behind to her friend’s place - the friend who pulled strings to get her the apartment. She’d already noticed C. tends to make a story a lot bigger than it really is.
A couple of days later, C. called to thank me for bringing that stuff. She doesn’t know when she’ll be able to pick up the rest of it and she’ll talk with me when she’s dealt with her brother, her ex, her mom and had some time to get things resolved within her own mind. This isn’t easy on me. I wonder if I can trust her. I mean - she told people I abused her. What else could she pull to get attention?
Ten days later, C. called again. She still can’t get anyone to bring her out to pick up the rest of her stuff so would I mind bringing in more. That friend who got her the place is “off doing her own thing now” (avoiding her the way it sounded) and her sister still won’t have anything to do with her. Nobody wants to do something for nothing - not even for her. Her response just dead silence when I mentioned that coffee or ‘us’. I told her I going in on the 15th, so I’d take some in then. She gave me her number so I can let her know when I’m coming.
The next day, I was going in that way to get a tire fixed. I wouldn’t be more than twenty minutes from her place, and it was warm. I left a message offering to bring in her plants and a couple of boxes. She called back and said I could keep the plants but there was a bunch of stuff she “needed badly” - including half the canned goods in my kitchen! She already thinks she should have the freezer because she has kids (who don’t live with her) and her neighbours can use it too.
I know her greedy side. She’ll go into the Salvation Army or the Mission and take all but one loaf of bread, simply because it’s “free”.
Then she wanted to know how long I’d be. I didn’t know. How could I? It all depends on what the guy has to do and how many jobs he has ahead of him. She refused to wait until after her Al-Anon meeting because she “had to get some sleep” and demanded a time. That’s like asking me to predict the future. “I don’t know” wasn’t a good enough answer. She started to get angry. “Oh just forget about it. I’ll get some....” I wasn’t buying into it. Why was she pushing for a fight? I just ended the call.
Why is it my problem if her life’s not going the way she wants? She got more funds than I did when this thing died. I do have this too-soft heart though. I won’t see anyone go hungry, and started feeling bad about hanging up on her. I left another message that I’d come in today (Friday)
C. never called....
I still love her dearly - despite what I know - and I’m told she thought the world of me. I pray she knows just how truly sorry I am for my part in what happened to us. Forgiveness is such an easing thing to do. Sometime, if she wants to have talk over coffee, I’m here. Despite everything, she’s much too valuable a friend to lose. Who knows? We may have a life together - in time.
C.’s last words on that phone message were: “I’m going to do what I need to do to take care of myself.” I hope to you, God, she does....