"Sometimes I feel like Job"
"I lost everything, only to have it repaid beyond my wildest dreams”: A true story
A few weeks ago, I sent you a letter on the subject of grown-up love, and how to get better at it.
As usual, I asked to hear your own stories.
And the following letter came back.
I almost hesitate to share it with you (which I do with permission) for fear that you’ll think you need a story this wondrous, in order to write to me. I assure you that this is not the case. I love all your letters. And most of us don’t have stories like this.
But I think you’ll love this one as much as I do. And if you’re going through any Job-like moments of your own, I hope that this story will give you inspiration and hope.
So I’m devoting the entire newsletter to it. Enjoy!
You asked for it…my grown-up love story. It may sound incredible, but it’s true.
In 1982, I met a beautiful girl at college - she was an immigrant from Greece. Her name was Eleni. We fell in love. I was 19, and she was 18. We were together for one year. She moved to Houston, and we separated. Life moved on. I graduated from university and decided I wanted to be a Catholic priest. I entered a monastery, but left after a year. I moved to Arizona, married a woman much older than me, and we had two children. I began a career in IT. The marriage was unhappy from early on, but, mirroring my parent’s loveless marriage, I stayed long past the time I should have left. In my mid 30’s I was (mis-) diagnosed with bipolar disorder and doctors put me on a host of medications. As time went on, and medications took their toll, doctors diagnosed me with Parkinson’s disease. I eventually became unable to work, and went on disability. As my life grew more and more desperate, I became suicidal. Any love that was in the marriage was long gone. My children grew up, but they knew a father who was unable to do much of anything - dysfunctional, unstable, barely able to walk, not much of a presence in their lives.
When our children were grown, we divorced. I found my Greek college girlfriend on Facebook in 2014. My now ex and I divorced. In the divorce settlement I gave my ex-wife everything - what savings I had from my previous job, a house, cars - you name it. I moved to Houston with one carryon suitcase and the diagnosis of two incurable illnesses. But Eleni didn’t care about these - she had always loved me, and had never married. She held a torch for me for thirty-two years.
A month after arriving, we married in the county courthouse. She married me as is, no questions asked. A few weeks later I saw a new neurologist. He was one of the world’s leading researchers into movement disorders. She knew him because of her longtime work with an oncologist, who had been White House Medical Advisor under Presidents Bush and Clinton. The neurologist did a complete exam, and at the end of it, told my new wife, “I believe the cause of the Parkinson’s is the combined effect of the drugs he is taking. I think I can reverse it.” My wife burst into tears. She got me in to see a leading psychiatrist, who told me, “I don’t think you are bipolar. Let’s get you off all these medications.” More tears.
Over six months, I titrated off the drugs that defined who I was for seventeen years. I gradually became asymptomatic. I threw away the cane I had used for years, learned to eat and drink by myself, bathe myself without help, and even learned to ride a bike again. I had lost the ability to read, and Eleni taught me to read again. In every way possible, I was reborn. I had lost the ability to play the bagpipes - my passion in life - but I was able to start playing again. My father died a few months later, and I played Amazing Grace on bagpipes at his funeral.
In July of that year - 2015 - when she was 50 and I was 52 - we married in a small church in her village in Greece. She was the girl who had never married, but who had found her college boyfriend, so nearly the whole village showed up for the wedding.
When we returned to the States I tried in vain to find a job. A new friend offered to mentor me if I’d do the IT support for her TV show. The mentorship became a close friendship, and three years after starting my own production company, I won my first Award - the Bronze Medal at the Greek Event Awards. The next year, my first Emmy Award. A second Emmy followed a year later. I had always wanted to play the piano, so in 2017 she bought me piano as a Christmas gift and I took lessons. Five recitals and two years later, I played in a piano recital at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Apparently, I have a gift for playing music beyond the bagpipes. When I turned 60 last year, with her encouragement, I applied to graduate school. In two weeks I start a Master’s Degree program in ethnomusicology in the UK. I started to write poetry about my life, and finally got published. I saw the anthology on Amazon and had to pinch myself to believe it was true.
As I write this from the patio in our vacation home in Greece, she’s inside cooking breakfast for me. This afternoon, we’re going to the beach to swim in the Aegean for the thousandth time. Sometimes I feel like Job - I lost everything, only to have it repaid beyond my wildest dreams.
When I tell her she saved me, she replies, “You saved me right back.” I think I did. But I think that Love saved us both.
For today, my invitation is to send me your stories – any stories. Of love or loss, joy or sorrow, bitter or sweet.
You can share, just by hitting “Reply” to this e-mail. I’ll do my best to read as many of your replies as I can, and to answer some of them.
Btw: I treasure ALL your letters, and pick the ones I reply to at random. So, if you’ve written back but haven’t yet received a reply from me, please don’t take it personally!
If you’d like to share the Kindred Letters with friends or family, you can do that here:
I’m always very glad you’re here, and do not take it lightly,