Getting To Know You

On our way to the beach, we decided to stop for an early supper at the San Mateo Seafood Restaurant in East Palatka. It would take a half hour from there to the beach, through small towns named Hastings and Spuds, an appropriate name for a region that depends on potato growing and beautiful gladioli. Gordon timed it so we wouldn't miss the 6 pm sunset at Crescent Beach. The high temperature that day was a perfect 67 degrees, just right for a barefoot walk on the beach. The night's low was predicted at 34 degrees, below my comfort zone. The new flannel nightgown I had bought for the occasion would keep me warm enough.
I laugh now, looking back. Ever since I first lived alone, I had slept in my birthday suit. As I packed my overnight bag I suddenly realized I didn't have anything suitable to sleep in, in case I had to get up to go to the bathroom during the night. A quick trip to Penney's at the Oaks Mall solved that. I still can't believe I bought a pink flannel nightgown with a high neck and long sleeves. I guess I thought it would send an obvious message of "No" if necessary.

After the sky treated us to a breathtaking display of clouds painted orange, then pink and purple, we stayed out on the condo balcony to watched the stars appear brightly into view, thanks to a waxing crescent moon. We talked for hours and hours as it got colder and colder. It was that essential getting-to-know-you talk. We shared our likes and dislikes, wishes and dreams, places we wanted to visit, and the fact that the next night there would be a New Moon. Walter was right, we had a lot in common.

Sunset at Crescent

I was more aware of what we didn't say and the obvious way we stared so deeply into each other's eyes as we attempted to hear the authentic conversations running around in both of our heads. I knew intuitively Gordon was doing the same thing I was, neither of us offering to admit it. So much more was being said beyond the mere words as we tiptoed around each other gently, carefully choosing our spoken words so as not to scare the other away.

I like real people

We were on the fast track to deciding where this comfortable, brand new friendship was going and I'm sure we were on the same page when it came right down to it. I wasn't about to initiate anything. I had done my part by phoning him first and agreeing to spend this supposedly platonic weekend with him. I was the one who heard a loud male voice in my head the first time I saw him, telling me I was going to marry this man! I was the one who saw a picture in my mind's eye of five teenage boys dressed in wedding tuxedos. And I was the one with the tightly locked heart that I had decided to unlock just the tiniest bit in case something much bigger than myself was really trying to tell me something.

I had experienced a spiritual awakening a year or so before that night and had accepted the validity of some messages coming from invisible sources. I didn't share any of these things with Gordon that night. I didn't want my words to influence him in any way.  He was going to have to risk taking a chance on his own and move the next chess piece to wherever he chose. I was beginning to hope he would allow his King to capture my opposing White Queen. Only then would I respond. I was getting that lightheaded feeling again and didn't know if I was hungry or beginning to like him too much.

Chess King and Queen

Neither of us was a kiss-and-tell kind of person, so I'll skip ahead and just say two things to clear the air. The new pink nightgown never made it out of my overnight bag that was still sitting on top of the unused bed the next morning.

When writing the story
                      of your life...

I thought about the poem I had written some time ago that began with the words, magnetic attraction, irreversible force draws me to you. It mirrored what I was feeling. I don't know if "smitten" is still a word people say, but I'll say it, we were both smitten with each other and we knew it. We finally took a chance and talked about it. We made the rest of the weekend so much fun as we relaxed into each other and stopped trying to figure out what was really happening between us at an alarming speed. We both chalked it up to infatuation and I tucked that thought away in the back of my mind so I could just enjoy the rest of the time we had together. We squeezed a lot of fun into that time -  two new restaurants to try, another walk on the beach picking up seashells, watching another intoxicating sunset followed by a moonless night. The next afternoon we had a very quiet and thoughtful two-hour drive home, barely speaking but lots of wondering about what, if anything, would happen when we got back to reality.

When we arrived in Gainesville, we were still about 15 minutes away from my house in Hague. Gordon said he didn't want the weekend to be over and didn't want to take me home. He asked me if I would stay at his place. It was an easy "yes" for me. In just one weekend with him, the tiny opening I had carved in my locked up heart had expanded and a lot of self-inflicted fears had escaped. I didn't sleep at my house again for weeks until Gordon's parents were coming to see him and Gordon wasn't prepared to tell them I lived there. That lasted one night and the next day he told them about his new girlfriend and I officially moved in with Gordon and his two teenage sons, Richard and Donald. Their older brother, Joe, had decided to get his own apartment near the University after their parents divorced.

Joe showed up often, and always on Sunday when Gordon took time to cook a special meal. I was impressed the first Sunday I lived there that a busy man like Gordon was willing to take that much time to cook a big meal like that for his kids. I was about a year into a healthy diet and had joined an animal rights group called PETA back then. I was at the stage of buying my carrots in bags I could barely lift for juicing in my new Champion Juicer that I bought at the Hogtown Granary Co-op on University Avenue.

I had never seen so many simple carbohydrates on a plate at once. Besides roasting a chicken or two, Gordon had cooked noodles and mashed potatoes and gravy and served store-bought rolls. I don't remember any green edible anywhere but I could be wrong. I've forgotten what kind of dessert ended the meal, too. I picked at all the foods I had given up when I ventured into vegetarianism. I recalled what Ram Dass answered when someone asked him what he would do if he was invited for supper at someone's house and the host served hamburgers. He said, and I paraphrase, the highest and most spiritual act would be to eat the hamburgers and not let my ego trap me into a holier-than-thou discussion about why I didn't eat meat! The boys loved eating that way and missed their Mom's cooking, and their Mom. Gordon seemed pleased with himself being able to cook a nice meal once a week. I actually enjoyed eating what I had turned into forbidden foods. Well, except for the chicken. I could only go so far back then. What I enjoyed most was witnessing  the nurturing side of Gordon which touched my heart. Gordon had three sons and I had two. The picture in my mind showed 5 young men in black wedding tuxedos. I couldn't help wondering . . .

Every day after work, Gordon and I would drive to my house to feed Krishna cat and play with him for a half hour or so. I was unconsolable when I had to admit that he was no longer a happy cat anymore. After awhile he started acting out and behaving in ways he hadn't exhibited before. For one thing, he was aloof and didn't seem happy to see me at all. Eventually, the time came to make a choice between Gordon and my cat. I was heartbroken. We talked about the possibility of having Krishna live at the condo, but he really wasn't a house cat and only came in the house when I got home from work. He spent all his days outside, happily doing what cats do when we're not watching.

Gainesville had a leash law and even if  we took Krishna home to live with us, we would only be allowed to take him outside if he was on a leash. The rest of the time he would be stuck in the upstairs condo all alone in the daytime while we worked and the boys went to school. I couldn't imagine putting my beautiful, independent cat on a leash and denying him the freedom he was used to.
What to do was one of the most agonizing decisions of my entire life, but my son Randall had a plan. He loved Krishna and offered to take him home to live with him in a place near the woods where he could continue to run free. He would also get lots of attention from Randall who has always loved and worked with animals, domestic and exotic.

I admit I am a cat person, partially because I admire their independence. I couldn't imagine having a needy animal or a needy human around at that time of my life, especially one who was not potty-trained. I also love dogs and had three of my own over the years when I was growing up. I named each one Lady. In my first marriage we had two dogs for awhile, Frisky and Thor, and before them, when Kimberli was still an only child, we had a boxer she named Karen Kay. I'm just more in tune with independent cats. One thing I know for sure, if I ever get another pet, it shall be an older, short-haired, rescued cat that doesn't shed or scratch furniture or people, and who still knows how to get in and out of a cat door. Others need not apply.

When I thought about how Krishna immediately liked Gordon the first time they met, I wondered if it was because Gordon's behavior was more like a cat's than a dog's. I never told him that. He was quiet, independent, fearless, and empathic and didn't require constant attention to be happy, and neither did I.
Gordon and Priscilla a
                      few months after they met

I don't know why we took this Olan Mills photo
a few months after we met but I'm glad we did.

Cats can be also be very affectionate and can sense when their human needs some attention and purring to feel better. For instance, I was once crying over the loss of my dear Dad and was missing him terribly. Krishna was way out in the back woods and the next thing I knew that intuitive cat had run home, let himself in, bolted up the stairs to my bedroom and got in bed with me to do some serious purring that let me know I was not alone. Cats also don't seem to have a problem letting their human know when they need some loving. I appreciated that authenticity from my Krishna, and my man.

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