Chapter 30 – Rebooting

She worked for one of the local vets and lived on a makeshift farm of sorts out east. She would come to my house to take care of me, my aquarium fish, my home, just about everything, with the one notable exception of my children. When my children came to dad’s house, they were always the focus of my attention. My ex was living with another man. Any chance of reconciliation was over. I was so medicated I was a just short of being a walking zombie. The surgeons had tried many times, but the arteries in my heart and around my body were failing faster than they could be repaired. My health was again deteriorating quickly and the medication that was meant to keep me safe had so many side effects I was in constant pain and tired all the time.

She was cute, shy and down to earth, a real country girl. She flirted with me every time she came to clean, organize, or help with the laundry and maintenance. I was so weak and limited I couldn’t do it myself without painkillers and I hated the way they made me feel. Often I would just lie there in bed, trying to not have a heart attack. Just walking, in the cold, from my front door to my car was life threatening. I resigned from my friend’s software company in Northport and started working for a much larger software company near Penn Station, on eighth-avenue. Getting out of my house and into the city was nearly impossible, but they were paying me a shit- load of money. Taxis and trains became my way of getting around. I walked as much as possible every day, but always with pain radiating throughout my entire body. I would go about twenty yards and then have to rest and catch my breath. She started coming more often than she was being paid to. I wasn’t paying her very much at all. She seemed to love my plethora of pets from my dog and cats, to my salt-water aquarium fish. When she was around I was much less sad. It was easier when she was with me on the days my children were at their mom’s house. No matter how badly I felt, she would make me laugh. She wore very conservative baggy sweat pants and sweatshirts every time she came to my home and although she was very pretty she hid her body quite well.

One night I invited her to stay for dinner. She accepted and then left for a few hours, which seemed strange. A few hours later she returned, all decked out. It was as if she was another woman . She was gorgeous. It was obvious she was looking at my dinner invite as a real date, as opposed to a casual dinner invitation from a friend. It had been quite a while since my divorce. I still saw my former wife even though I would have preferred not to. We had to see each other as we shared custody of our two children. At this point we rarely argued or even spoke other than a polite hello, or to discuss matters concerning our children. There was not even a hint of love, affection, or emotion from her. Frankly, I became a happier man without her. Maybe she realized long before I did that we were not really meant for each other, or that our chapter of love was over. I have since learned and share with everyone who is hurting, that chapters of love have an organic beginning and an organic end. There is no way to change it, no matter how much you love a person.

I prepared a gourmet dinner for my nanny dinner date, as I did for most of my family and children as often as I could. We had a candlelight dinner in front of the fireplace. After dinner and a few drinks, we laid on the floor facing each other and started to talk about relationships and sex. She was also hurting from a recently ended relationship. That was why she was coming to see me so often. It was not because she was being charitable and felt sorry for me, but because she was escaping her own heartbreak and found it easier to get through it with me in her life.

It did not take long for us to start kissing. It was a very gentle and rather quick love affair. We held each other all night. I could not help but think about my wife and all the times we made love in front of that same fireplace. Shortly after what was a very heartfelt, but for me a kind of sad interaction, we fell asleep. When we woke the next morning, my ex was dropping off our children. Again, she must have known that I was with someone, as she came into the house for the first time since our divorce. My pet-sitter/friend was very embarrassed and bolted out the side door. That was the last time I was to see her for years. I had no idea why she disappeared. I called her often, but she was missing in action. She was the first real chapter of love after my divorce and although it was short, it was healing. She gave me hope that over time, I myself might heal as well.

I believe her friendship and love saved my life. Several years later, when my dog ran off and was brought to the pound, I saw her again. She was working there. She was long over her breakup. I was in a better place too, so we hooked-up right there at the pound, to the sound of dogs howling. By the way, she recognized my dog when he was brought in, but waited until I showed up to say anything. More or less I truly believe she was extremely excited to see me.

A few months later I could tell she was getting very attached to me. I made it clear that I would never get married again. I told her I was dedicating my life to my children. I did not have the heart to tell her that I was so sick I couldn’t work any longer and was on disability, literally waiting to die. I thought when we hooked-up I was going to have a heart attack right there. She not only rebooted my heart the first time but did it again, in a moment of passion. I don’t know what came over us. It was just one of those moments. I left with my dog and went back home, hoping that somehow, some doctor would find a way to make the pain go away. It would be many years before I had a chance for a medical breakthrough. I knew I had to walk every day no matter how painful and lonely my walks were. I did them many times a day, one step at a time and one photograph at a time. It was lonely and so very boring. My children were my constant inspiration. I was so grateful to have them.

I was on disability for six months and was ready to shoot myself. It was one of the most dangerous, yet boring, times of my life. To top it off, I was having negative reactions to the massive dosages of statins I had been taking for years. I was having short-term memory loss. No one knew if it was from the long-term use of painkillers, the actual pain, or the statins themselves. I was simply not able to function in a corporate environment anymore. I knew things were coming to an end when I blacked out during a boardroom presentation. Momentarily, I lost my sight and hearing. I had no idea where I was. I was told later it might have been the meds I took to perform better in bed or a micro stroke. I was in Syracuse when it happened. I flew back to NYC and resigned. I told my boss I couldn’t concentrate and that the cause was something much worse than my broken heart. Something was wrong with my memory. As it turned out the ringing in my ears and dizziness was just the beginning. Months later I went in for another life and death surgery. It was moderately successful, giving me back more functionality than I had in years, but I was still in pain.

While walking, I was taking photographs again, of most anyone I saw. Especially, when I was walking in the city. There were so many interesting people and so much great architecture. I was fortunate to be alive. I started my new chapter of health by taking myself off disability, against the doctors and surgeons recommendations. I went to work as an event photographer at one of the largest studios in the Northeast. I was back to working in the arts. Photography started to change my life, as it did when I was a teenager. I started photographing events anonymously for one of the largest and most expensive photo studios in the country. The owner of the company was injured. He needed someone with real talent to justify his ten-thousand dollars per day rate. After a while, I was photographing all the events he had booked himself for. Since we were both John, no one knew better. My photographs were highly praised and my life rebooted. For the first time since my divorce, I was happy, even though I was still hurting.

I put myself on an online dating service. It was as if the floodgates opened. Older women, younger women and very beautiful single moms, started messaging me. I was shocked that women would be so forward as to ask me out, but they did. Although my health had improved, I was still very ill. But, if I had my painkillers, I could get by. My first online match was a very beautiful woman from Queens. She drove to my house to have dinner with me on our first date. This was NOT something I would recommend to anyone for a first, singles site, date.

I was not into going out much as my life still focused on being a Mr. Mom. Every time I shot an event, it was like being at a party, despite the grueling physical challenges, which was enough entertainment for anyone. Her name was Patty. I will never forget her. We had a romantic dinner. Before I knew it, we were in my bedroom. We were all over each other. It had been many years since I was with another woman other than my nanny. With all the meds I was on, I was lucky to be able to get it up. But this was different. I was temporarily in a much better place, both emotionally and physically, despite my constant memory problems. The painkillers were helping me walk and do much more. We went at it all night and into the next morning.

When my ex-wife dropped off my children, they were very surprised to see that I had a girl at the house. We all went to the beach and played baseball, a sport I rarely if ever played, other than when I was a kid. She just happened to have her bat and glove in the car. For those few hours, we were a family. I could tell that my children were happy to see me happy and with someone. They immediately got attached to her, but I didn’t want to complicate their lives with another woman. After a few dates, I pulled the plug on the relationship, but not because of them. My health was too unstable and I didn’t want to put another woman through what ultimately made my former wife have a nervous breakdown.

I was still very confused, but my heart had rebooted. Later that day we said our goodbyes. After a while we stopped seeing each other. I continued to shoot events for almost a year, until I started to get dizzy again and faint at events. I knew that despite the short period of “fantasy-health,” I was no better off than when I went on disability. I was relying on painkillers to get through the day. Rebooted or not, I had to find a way to get better. I survived so many life and death moments and I wanted more life. So, I resigned from the studio and started walking again, all day and night, trying desperately to grow new arteries. I reopened my photography studio and shot one wedding a month. The rest of my time was spent walking, or with my children, or photographing everything in my path. As I had years before, I had to give up everything I worked for to continue to ensure I would be here for my children. It was lonely and painful to walk alone the entire day. I started to feel as if I was walking even when I was not, as if my life had become a never-ending treadmill of things just passing me by one at a time, over and over. Without photography, I don’t think I would have been able to go on. But I did and even volunteered at every charitable event I could, so I would have people to photograph and I could pay it forward to charitable causes. I had rebooted again, but at the same time was still living with significant risk.