But as I embark upon telling this story, it will take some time to do it properly, to set the mood, to provide what I think is some necessary history, and to convey the message that was delivered to me. It's a meandering tale, but an important one ... and one I've been trying to write for 2 months, which finally crystallized in honor of today's 100th post. So let me begin ....
On Friday night, June 25, I was visited by an angel.
As those who've been following along for awhile know, in mid-May my boyfriend Tom had asked me to take "a break" -- whatever that was -- after some significant life situations that required some peace and privacy to sort out and recover from. No visits, no email, no nothin'??? Sure sounds like a break-UP to me. I cried, I mourned ... but that was difficult with no body to confirm the death. I moved on because I had no choice but to do so; and one of the ways in which I did that was by committing fully to this blog.
I signed up for the NaBloPoMo to provide a daily distraction to myself, something to focus upon that was fun and which utilized my talents -- it brought me amusement and a bit of a boost to my shattered self-esteem. So many of you responded to my daily blathering about food and whatnot -- sharing a laugh with me, supporting me, encouraging me, complimenting me, inviting me into your lives while following along with mine .... Truly, with abundant gratitude, I thank each and every one of you for helping to restore me and for becoming my friends.
And then, on June 18 -- and remember, the number 18 has significant import in Judaism as it represents "life" -- I received an email from Tom. He had been sitting at his desk, cleaning up icons and other peripheral nonsense on his computer. He looked down the list of his "favorites" and found Food Floozie. He hadn't checked my blog prior to that, feeling it was an intrusion upon my privacy ... but he clicked on it that day, just because.
Interestingly, given that I usually put my posts up a little bit after midnight, this didn't open up the Friday post "L'Chaim -- To Life!" It opened up "Thursday Thirteen -- 13 First Dates" ... hmmmm. He scrolled down to see what vile retribution I may have spewed about him, only to find that I had been very fair ... and also to see that there had been no resolution between us. Because of very confused circumstances, he'd felt our relationship was over; his memory of events was incomplete, and he hadn't realized that there was so much still to be said.
So he emailed me and asked if we could talk. And we did, the very next day, sitting on the grass on a gorgeous sunny evening
Full disclosure, though it may seem odd to others: we were sitting at the gravesite of my beloved friend Wendy's daughter Julia, whom I consider to be an intercessor and thus whose "home" is a place where I seek comfort. Tom had asked where I'd like to meet, and that was the one place that kept calling to me ... Julia kept calling to me. I believe she was watching over us, guiding us -- our process was remarkably smooth despite delving into extraordinarily painful realms.
After several hours of explanation and illustration and sorrow and comprehension and tears, it was as though the proverbial cloud had lifted. Tom and I started to relax, to joke, to behave with each other more as we had in the past, though there was still some tension and there were still some boundaries. He asked if he could give me a hug before we left, and that solidified our reunion.
Tom and I got together several times that week, after Jeremy and I returned home from Chicago. His daughter had a 2-hour layover in Detroit that Friday night, the 25th, as she was on her way to Seattle; so Tom picked up some sandwiches from Ann Arbor's famous Zingerman's Deli, I finally got to meet Cassidy (she lives in Philly), and we had a lovely picnic at a local park. (FYI: Tom ordered "Mary's Commute" with chicken salad and applewood-smoked bacon, so I reciprocated by ordering "Tom's New Job" with turkey and Swiss and cole slaw ... awwww.) We dropped Cassidy off for her connecting flight and decided to enjoy a gorgeous evening by the waterfront in Detroit ... hoping, perhaps, to find some ice cream along the way. So we drove on down to the big city for an adventure.
A radio station was sponsoring a concert at Campus Martius Park featuring a local band, the sun was shining intensely, the weather was neither hot nor chilly ... it was a fabulous beginning to the weekend.
We happily found a small ice cream shop on a side street, and one which wasn't a chain but rather one which was locally owned. One of the gentlemen behind the counter was wearing dress pants, a button-down shirt and a tie; presumably, he'd come from his day job to work at his own shop in the evening. And the other gentleman, who was more chatty, helped me with my usual brain paralysis to settle upon just one flavor of ice cream when they all sounded luscious. (I later found out that the shop is called Happy Cream Ice Cream and Deli. I was too giddy and infatuated to be in my usual blogger mode and take notes and photographs, so I had to do some hunting.)
Now here's the only food connection other than the sandwiches, so pay attention or it will fly on by! Tom ordered chocolate ice cream while I -- with the aforementioned assistance -- ordered a sublime Banana Pudding ice cream that came complete with vanilla wafer cookies in it ... sigh.
The ice cream was fabulous, the value was tremendous (huge servings for very reasonable prices), Michael Jackson songs were being played all day long in tribute on the anniversary of his death (yahrzeit [YAHRT-site] in Yiddish), and we will definitely go back again.
We walked across the street to sit down -- across the wide avenue from the band so that we could carry on a conversation, but close enough to feel a part of things right outside the Compuware Building. We relished our ice cream, we talked, we kissed, we combined ice creams to create an equivalent to my chocolate banana pudding (a recipe I still need to share with all of you, because it is divine!). Once we had finished, Tom and I took each other's hands, just sitting quietly together and holding on tightly ... very tightly, as our heads bowed towards each other.
And then an older African-American man walked up to us from a few feet away. He was short, dressed in a bright blue t-shirt and dark pants, sporting dreadlocks that came to his jawline. He didn't look scruffy, per se, but he clearly was someone who lives a difficult existence. His manner wasn't aggressive, and he stated without hesitation that he wasn't seeking money from us despite holding the ubiquitous red plastic cup that sadly identifies both beggars and alcoholics. His eyes showed that alcohol might sing a Siren song to him at times, but there was no odor of it on him when he spoke to us. He was polite, deferential and -- as he shook our hands -- profusely apologetic for interrupting.
"I don't know if you two were praying together, but it looks like you were. And you look like you're very much in love." We smiled broadly and nodded, affirming our love for each other. I cannot replicate this man's speech pattern -- Tom has wished we had a transcript of our interaction with him, and it would be really helpful right now. He spoke quickly and in a staccato fashion, and repeated himself frequently ... it was as though he's accustomed to being dismissed by society, accustomed to not being heard or listened to. (And he punctuated many of his statements by offering an Obama-style "fist bump," seeking consensus, too.) But what he was saying was important enough that he needed to keep reiterating it.
He mentioned that "she" -- we presumed his wife, but he told us that he's been trying to get her to marry him and she keeps refusing -- was inside ... the only thing open in the Compuware Building on a Friday night, besides the lobby with the pretty-colored mobiles pictured above, is a bar. He loved her very much, and they'd been through a lot together, but he just didn't feel that they were a team. To hear this man tell his story, he was doing the necessary work in the relationship and the woman he loved was taking it for granted. He didn't feel loved or appreciated in return for who he was, despite any complications in his life.
This man wanted more for us. He could see that we were in love, that we were clinging to each other's hands as though we might lose each other again and couldn't bear that thought. He kept talking to Tom, mostly -- apologizing to me in the process, but explaining that men needed each other and had to do some bonding periodically, sharing on their own spiritual level. He was partly sharing his sorrow at not having the fulfilling relationship he dreamt of and partly bemoaning the complexities of women and partly celebrating the joys of love.
"You've gotta try." Over and over, he reiterated that statement -- "You've gotta try." Life is hard, and there are all sorts of problems from health to money to children to work that can drag a person and a relationship down. This man had recently been released from jail, and he'd spent some time without a home, as well. But you've gotta try -- you have to talk, to share, to trust, to confide, to work at it. The relationship sometimes has to take precedence over the individual. You've gotta try. This man felt as though he was trying very, very hard ... sadly, though, the woman he was trying for didn't seem to be returning his devotion and his efforts.
After a significant amount of time listening intently to this man's story and remarking on his earnestness and sincerity, I asked if I might interrupt for a moment. Politely he nodded and extended an invitation to me.
"This may sound odd, but I believe that God sends angels to deliver messages that we need to hear. You said that you could tell that my boyfriend and I are very much in love, which we are. But we've only just gotten back together after some difficult experiences. We're trying very, very hard to get past the hurt and the pain, trying very hard to make things work this time. And then here you are, coming up to us on a Friday night and reminding us of the very lesson we need to hear, to remember -- that we need to try."
The man smiled broadly and nodded vigorously ... but I'm not sure he realized that I believe HE was an angel -- "our" angel, as Tom and I have taken to calling him. He absolutely agreed with the notion that messengers are sent, but I think it is abundantly clear that he, himself, had been sent to us on that Friday evening. He brought a message of hope, of reassurance, of insistence. Try. As the adage states: "Progress, not perfection." Try. At least make the effort. The person you love is worth trying for.
A few minutes later our angel then walked away, leaving us to contemplate having been visited by someone so unlike us, someone who is accustomed to being at the periphery of society and yet who felt comfortable approaching us when we were so immersed in our togetherness. He came up to us seeking nothing at all, not asking for money or cigarettes or anything else. Instead, he had been sent precisely to give us something -- to deliver a message of significant import to two people who not only needed to hear it but who would listen to it, to him.
Tom felt bad afterwards for not having asked for the man's name, and I agreed that it would be nice to know it; after all, a name provides an identity rather than leaving someone to be relegated to anonymity and not making any impact upon others or upon the universe. But in some ways, a name would have made the interaction more ordinary; being known as "Our Angel" bestows a grandeur beyond the mere human, I think. He's not just "Mike" or "John," but that rarified entity that most people dismiss or ignore -- an angel, sent specifically to us. A gift from God.
And so, in the past 2 months Tom and I have tried despite a flare-up of illness and despite some stressors and despite some issues that still require a bit of processing now and then. We have put "us" above everything. We remind ourselves that "Our Angel" told us we need to try.
I know that this very lengthy saga was only vaguely related to food, despite being the 100th post from someone whose very existence revolves around cooking food, eating food, photographing food, shopping for food, baking food, smelling food, writing about food, reading about food, talking about food, thinking about food, dreaming about food. I did, for the record, mention both sandwiches and ice cream! But this story was too important to leave as a draft, as it has been since June. It was fitting for an important occasion like today.
Try. You've gotta try. An angel was sent to convey this -- an unassuming-looking angel whom most people would either walk past without even noticing or actively try to avoid for fear of being solicited. But he was "Our Angel" -- I believe that with all my heart. He chose us, and we paid attention. And now it is my turn to share his message ....