Richard – Pensioner

Don’t be ridiculous, I didn’t go on a date with someone 50 years my senior! I mean, I did but it wasn’t a date. It was a chance meeting with a complete stranger that happened at the right time in my life.

The fact I’m writing this post is difficult; heart breaking in fact because it means I’m no longer in my relationship. You’ll know from my previous post, written a long time ago, that I found someone. I was in a relationship for over a year and I thought I’d found the one. Turns out I was not his one. I fell in love. Whether he loved me back or not, I don’t think I’ll ever know but I loved him with every part of me. I still do so please bear with me because this is painful. I’ve decided not to write a detailed post about why the relationship ended because half of our story is not mine to tell. He is a good man and although I don’t agree with his reasons for breaking up with me, I do understand them. He met me to explain why he’d made his decision. He sat with me while I shouted, cried and even insulted him for what he was doing. He didn’t argue; instead just listened and let me get out my frustration and pain at what was happening. Bob Marley once said “the biggest coward of a man is to awaken the love of a woman without the intention of loving her”. That’s how I feel in this situation. My love was awakened but I will never know for sure whether the recipient ever had the intention of loving me back. His reasons for ending the relationship were cowardly, maybe, but by sitting and taking responsibility; listening to my pain; facing the consequences of initiating the break up; I can’t call him a coward. I imagine that could have been one of the hardest things he’ll ever have to do. Men in my life before him had never had the balls to actually explain real reasons for ending things, and none had done it to my face! I still don’t agree with the decision, but I’m trying to accept it.

You may be asking about the title of this post. The chance meeting with the stranger that came at the right time. The week after my relationship was ended (I use the word ‘was’ intentionally because it wasn’t my decision, nor was it ended by me) I was meant to be going away with my boyfriend, his family and for the weekend, his work mates and boss. Because of the last minute timing, I couldn’t give my annual leave back to work and there was no way I could sit at home crying all week. I had to find something else to do so I contacted my younger sister and booked last minute flights to France to visit her for a few days. I struggled with the trip, I was still feeling immense pain at the loss of my other half. But I needed to be away. Anyway, the flight home was where I met a man who showed me kindness. Kindness that I needed. The flight back to London was not busy at all. I was seated in the window seat while the two seats to my right remained unoccupied until towards the end of boarding when an older gentleman sat in the aisle seat. During take off, a wave of sadness came over me and tears started to roll down my cheeks. This was how it happened since being broken. The sadness hit me in waves, it still does. The rest of the time I feel numb, disinterested and in pain.

Once in the air, the man in the same row as me leant over and asked if I was ok. As I wiped away tears I gave a non committal answer about being fine, just that I had recently been through a painful break up. At this point the cabin crew stopped at us and asked if we wanted any drinks. I ordered a peppermint tea and the gentleman told the cabin crew he would like a tea and would pay for both. He then looked at me and said with such kindness in his eyes “Why don’t you tell me about it over a hot drink?” He introduced himself as Richard (he won’t mind me using his real name) and said he’d been in France visiting his son who lives there. After I had briefly told him about my boyfriend ending our relationship he went on to tell me about his own experiences of heartbreak. This may not be verbatim but it’s pretty damn close to what he did say.
“Georgie, I am 79 years old and I know what you’re feeling right now. I have been married twice. My first marriage lasted for 30 years and I thought we were happy. Then one day my wife left me and told me she wanted a divorce. She gave faintly similar reasons to your boyfriend and I felt the same way about it as you do now. I didn’t agree with them but I understood the reasons. I thought I’d never meet someone else as perfect for me as my first wife. Then years later when I was ready, I did. My second wife was even more perfect and we were married for 23 years in total before she passed away last year. Do you know which relationship ending hurt more?” Well I figured obviously his wife dying hurt more! His reply was calm, like he’d said it 100 times before. He was talking from experience. I have had to paraphrase it because I can’t remember exactly in detail everything he said. I’ve kept the parts that I do remember and that stuck with me
“My first wife leaving me hurt much more. I have mourned the end of two marriages. Just as you now need to mourn the end of your relationship. My wife passing away last year left me devastated, but I only look back on our time together with fondness and happiness. She didn’t choose to leave me and in death, still loved me just as I still love her. The reason my first wife hurt me so much was because she left me. She chose to leave… I fought with myself over it for years after because I didn’t want her to look back and only see the reasons she left me. I didn’t want her to look back and forget the good things we had together… She left me and it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough… As you grow older, you will meet someone else who will make you realise that you were always good enough, he just didn’t see it. Your next love will be the one who proves to you that you were always good enough and he will fight to show you that; the way your recent boyfriend did not fight for you. I promise, you will be ok. But take this time to cry when you need to, talk to strangers on planes if it helps, give yourself space.”

I barely had to speak because he already knew it all. Richard knew what I was feeling. I feel let down. Unanswered questions tornado in my mind. Was I not a good enough girlfriend even though I thought I was? Did I not support him enough even though I thought I did everything I could? Is there someone else that he feels is better than me and who he wants to be with instead? Somebody else who gets to benefit from the future I should have had with him? I feel like I invested everything into a relationship with someone who made me think he too was invested. He planned a future together with me. Yes, he planned it. It was what he wanted. Then to one day decide I wasn’t enough; the future he had promised wasn’t enough to fight for. I will have to live with it. I will have to live with the feeling that I was easy to walk away from. It was easy to just sweep me under the carpet and forget I ever happened. I wasn’t worth fighting for (story of my life). Whether that’s true or not, I’ll never fully know. But that’s certainly how it feels right now. My life has stopped still temporarily. His continues on. Now, I am sat on a plane with a 79 year old man who listened to me. Who let me get all of the pain out into the open. Who offered his own experiences freely; only to try and help ease some of my hurt. I can’t help but be reminded of the long list of people who have messaged me with words of comfort, support and advice for how they have dealt with their own heartbreaks. So many people, some I barely even know, who have offered me kind words proving the amount of good there is in this world. To those people, I thank you. I thank you with all of the love left in me (I’m afraid there’s not much left though since this).

I want to hate the man who is putting me through this. I want to lump him in with every other man who has hurt me. What makes it so difficult is that I can’t hate him. Nor can I compare him to previous frogs because he wasn’t like them. As I said, he is a good man. He’s an incredibly good person. Although he may have been careless with my heart he himself does have a good heart. I fear that even when he realises the mistake he’s made, I know he’s too stubborn to admit it. His fear will take priority over fighting for what we had. I’ve lost the man that I fell so much in love with. I’ve also lost his family that I fell in love with. His warm family who opened their arms to me and who I shared so much with. I’ve lost the friends that I made through him. I’ve lost the future we had together. The break up has made me lose pieces of myself too. I used to love being social, meeting new people and now? I’ve isolated myself from friends and family. I ignore messages from friends and cancel plans because I can’t face going into the outside world. I used to love food. Now, I can barely eat one full meal in each day because my appetite has disappeared from me. I’m not there yet; not ready to accept the loss just yet. But I will get there. In time, I will find the pieces of me that I’ve lost and I’ll put the puzzle back together. I will learn to accept that although this one maybe didn’t love me as much as I thought, there might be somebody else who can. Maybe I can learn to fall in love with somebody else, their family and friends just like I did with this one.

For now, while I still love him and it hurts so deeply to think of him with someone else. I do wish him happiness. He deserves it because even though he broke my heart, before that he taught me that I could experience what I’d never had. He taught me how to fall in love. He opened his family to me and trusted me with his vulnerabilities. He never once let me feel bad about myself (granted until now). He would tell me I’m beautiful. He supported me when I needed it just as I did for him. He was the other half of me who complimented me and knew how to ease my anxiety. He showed me that there are men out there who don’t play dating games and who can be honest. He taught me how to let my guard come down enough to let someone in. Most importantly, he taught me that someone can care about me just the way I am. Although I will feel great pain for a long time, I will always be grateful and look back on the good times we had. I just hope he will do the same.

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