The faint echo of loneliness, an autobiographical account of online dating.

I am 73, and hard of hearing. I limp from a stroke, my balance is precarious, and I live alone, divorced. And I am happy and content! Perhaps I shouldn’t be, perhaps I should make this autobiographical account of looking for companionship on the Internet a tear jerker, a “poor me” story. That would be impossible, because I am so blessed: blessed to be a son of the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ; blessed to have three wonderful daughters and to be friends with their mother, my former wife; blessed to be a citizen of the 🇺🇸; blessed to be the kind of person who is comfortable with my own company, who is not subject to the whipsaw of emotional extremes. I didn’t include among my blessings being a white male; while that circumstance of birth has made some parts of my life easier, ease does not develop character or initiative. The blessings were the result of my actions and decisions, though the call of Christ unto salvation is irresistible and ordained. Even being an American citizen was a decision: I fled to Canada after quitting Army Officer candidate school, knowing that my next step was Vietnam, but decided to return and complete my duty, despite my opposition to that war.

After having been married for 29 years, living alone was actually a kind of relief. Doing what I wanted when I wanted, without being accountable to anyone (though my daughters and I text and email and visit regularly), was like a vacation, at first. When I saw a notice that four 1970’s vintage British Prog Rock groups were doing a tour together, and appearing at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California, 1,000 miles away, I immediately bought a ticket without checking with anyone, and decided to drive, because the route through rural Oregon was one of the few I had not driven before—I have visited every National Park in Washington, Oregon and California and many state parks. Okay, back to looking for love. When I got back from Cali, I discovered that my former wife had found new love on the Internet, and was planning to get married next year. Hmm, maybe I could be successful in the same way. Or not, since getting married again was not on my radar.

I enrolled in three dating sites, and made certain things very clear in my profile: age, creative writing, background, importance of my Christian Faith, political attitudes, central beliefs, quirky offbeat sense of humor and that I was not looking for marriage, rather companionship that could develop into something more. Here are the takeaways, my personal lessons about Internet “dating” or searching: few women use their real name, and most reveal very little about themselves but a lot about what they are looking for; the “dating pool” for someone like me—very self revealing, creative, highly educated and articulate, clearly not inclined to marriage, expecting a similar level of those traits—was small to non-existent, at least within 60 miles of Spokane, Washington. But, on the last day of my membership on the sites, someone sent me a message that she was intrigued by my profile and wanted to correspond. Yay? Maybe?

Since my membership was going to expire the next day, I wrote that we should consider exchanging personal emails and correspond that way. So we did. She wanted to see my writing, so I sent her some blog posts. I have to admit, her enthusiasm and careful reading of them gave me an ego boost, and in her second email she admitted that she was not using her real name in either our correspondence or her email address. That’s understandable, even prudent, for a woman trying to connect with unknown men. As my theme meme says, “anything can be polished online.” However, one theme that she kept emphasizing was, “I’m so glad to connect with a man who embraces true Christianity, there are so many lukewarm pseudo Christians out there.” While I agreed with her, the vociferousness with which she expressed that opinion gave me a little pause. Why? I have found that there is often none, or a negative correlation, between how strongly someone condemns something, and how diligently they practice the opposite of what they condemn. If she criticized people for being lukewarm in their own faith, the odds favor that she is no better. Righteous people don’t talk about righteousness, they practice it. Another cause for pause was all the questions she had for me, while answering virtually none of mine.

Anyway, before deciding to meet, I wanted her to know exactly how my health was, so she could decide if my balance and walking issues were a dealbreaker. Then, the day after I sent that email, I received a diagnosis of cancer, specifically, Merkel Cell Carcinoma, the 6th rarest cancer. My prognosis was good, it was caught very early. After this information, she wrote back that she would take a few days to decide whether she wanted to pursue this relationship, or end it. I was fine with that. In fact, as I thought about the feasibility of developing a close relationship with a woman ten years younger, and healthier and more active than me, I became very self conscious about my walking and energy level. So much so, that I began hoping that she would decide to break it off. Her “few days” became weeks, and now, a month later, I have not heard from her. The “ball is in her court”, so to speak, and every day that passes without her “giving me an answer” makes it less likely she ever will. If our situations were reversed, I would quickly let her know that either I wanted to continue, or not. That is, in my world, the right thing, the courageous thing. Simply not communicating, after giving me her word that she would, is a dealbreaker for me. So why do I still hope to hear back?