Larry is in his seventies but his eyes are young.
He had a major hand in creating the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, a thriving tourist destination for Athens County and his energy seems to be endless. He’ll never acknowledge his age with words or by his actions and I find this amazing and inspiring.
We’ve just wrapped up a meeting and now we’re saying our good byes in the doorway to the Athens County Visitors Bureau. The Bureau is my refuge and my savior. My home town, I feel, is cradling me – rocking me back to health and in turn I am enlightening thousands of tourists to pay us a visit.
Larry is lingering.
“So have you found a nice guy yet?” he asks.
Every time I meet a WWII vet like Larry I immediately conjure up images of men like Gregory Peck and Spencer Tracy on battle lines or at fancy dinner tables puffing on cigarettes, he is no exception.
“No, not yet. There aren’t any around or something, or maybe I just don’t know where to look or maybe I’m not ready,” my voice cracks a bit.
The tears have been coming easily lately.
It’s been nine months of single motherhood and I have yet to see a glimmer of hope, even though I’ve been dating not one man has shown promise of being something.
I want to hear words of wisdom from Larry, so I stop, look down at my shuffling feet and then I listen.
“Don’t you worry, Beautiful. One of these days a man is going to find you and he’s going to sweep you off your feet. You won’t even know what hit ya.”
“Really? A man can do that? I’m not sure if that’s possible,” I’m looking up at him now wondering how I must appear, as a damsel in distress with the flowered skirt to match.
But even though I look the damsel, someone who could potentially be swept up into a romantic whirlwind, I am a single mother. I have a one-year-old at home who I can’t stop thinking about, not even if I try. Can a man ever really understand that or fit into my life?
The reality of it all smacks into me like a wave and I start shaking my head before he can even answer.
“No, Larry, it’s not possible… not unless he can change diapers and be woken up in the middle of the night – every night.”
“Oh it is, sweet heart – trust me on this one, it definitely is. Just you wait.”
Larry was right. I just had to be patient and stop looking.
The Bear leaves me at the bar for a second to use the bathroom.
I trace my fingers across the rim of the glass holding my beer. The men across the bar are there, starring. I can see them but they are just a blur, a wash of people.
Typically I would meet their eyes if even for a fleeting moment just to see if I could catch that spark, that thing I had been dreaming of for so many years, that feeling I had yet to experience. But now, I keep my eyes down and a slight smile creeps across my face and then it grows wider.
I can’t contain it anymore, not even in a bar filled with men.
I’m being swept.
He’s completely endearing, fascinatingly intelligent, funny as hell and totally adorable. He also has drive, passion and a humor for life. He’s all of these things but there’s something else… he cares.
Suddenly an entirely new feeling slips over me.
It’s the feeling of having a warm blanket wrapped around your shoulders, the feeling of being absolutely satisfied, filled up, rested, cared for, loved… whatever it is, I like it and I sink into my bar stool and just exhale. And then he’s there, his arm wraps around my shoulder and he says, “you okay?”
“Definitely,” I smile.
“Oh, I know that look,” he says, “that’s a look I like.”
After a few more Raspberry Wheats, the Bear and I find ourselves in the center of the small but empty dance floor. He wraps his arms around my waist and we start swaying to the blue grass music floating in the air. Then he leans in and kisses my neck, then my cheek and then my lips.
“Stop,” I say, “what about all of the others, I feel bad – they don’t have this – and I don’t want to be that couple.”
“Screw them,” he says, “it’s our turn now. It’s our turn to be happy.”
Potential, people, this Bear fellow has potential. <pinch pinch>
Back up reading:
- Want a man? Stop looking for one.
- How did the Bear get his name? You’d have to ask the Lion and the Tiger.
- How we met.
- Our first date.
- A video of the Bear.