Four years after her Daddy's passing, Aenea woke from a dream of him, realizing her body was tingling all over. At first, she was scared she had acquired his affliction, but quickly realized that wasn't possible, as it only hit middle-aged men, and he never felt any pain or other sensation. Somehow, though, she knew it was connected to her beloved Daddy.
Feeling confident all was fine, she began her day, the tingling sensation reducing itself to subtle background noise. There was no discomfort, but she knew it was there; she knew he was there. Aenea needed to get going, as she had an assignment for today.
Aenea's uncanny ability to read people was well known. Though many companies sought her out after she graduated with her master's degree, Aenea passed on most of the offers. One offer did attract her interest, though. A philanthropic organization wanted someone to screen people and agencies, helping them weed out the ones who weren't truly in it to help others. It was known as "The Foundation." When Aenea started working, she knew this was the place for her. After only working there for a year, the organization was so impressed with her results, they promoted her and created her own department, including providing a full staff.
Lately, she had been researching an organization called Caring Hands. It was unique, as it never sought money, only goods to be used to help others. In her research, Aenea discovered this organization always seemed to have enough unsolicited money to run their small operation. The company flew under the radar, not being attracted to the glitz and glamour most non-profits used to entice donations. It was a simple operation, but appeared very efficient. This organization was helping victims of the recent wildfire, and she planned to show up and observe.
After arriving at the site Caring Hands took over for this operation, Aenea was determined to observe as unobtrusively as possible. Throughout the day, she wandered the warehouse, surprised by what she saw. The staff was organized and caring. Nothing was rushed, while everything was tended to. Though the warehouse was large, she continued to see a particular man, wherever she went. He was plain to look at, and didn't draw attention to himself, but he was hard to miss. She saw him take off his jacket and hand it to an elderly man who was shirtless. She observed him playing with kids, to boost their spirits. She saw him comforting and reassuring some senior citizens. She even saw him sprawled out on the floor reading kiddy books to preschoolers. She recognized this man from her research, as she had seen a picture of him. He was the 28-year old CEO of the organization, David Summers.
After watching the CEO serve lunch to the needy, she approached him. "Hi David, my name is Aenea."
"I know," he responded matter-of-factly, yet respectfully, "but just call me Dave."
"You know?" Aenea questioned.
"Being in this line of work, it's hard not to know of "The Foundation," and your reputation has preceded you."
Blushing, Aenea said, "I'm not sure what is preceding me, but I hope it's not anything bad."
"Aenea, you'll always hear complaints from the ones who didn't get what they felt entitled to, but I've heard you are very fair." He didn't bother to mention the scores of guys who were drawn to her magnetism, yet never allowed to enter beyond friendship. No one could see her simple beauty and not be drawn in. He heard she was a very caring, kind person, yet not open to relationships. He wouldn't allow the magnetism, which was also working on him, to divert his attention, leading him to another devastating experience. He learned enough from his past attempts at relationships to keep himself buried in his work and stay away from temptation, as it always led him to frustration and pain.
"Dave, I've been observing your operation and am very pleased by what I see. Tell me what your needs are."
"We're mainly short on blankets and clothing; that's our primary need."
Aenea took his hand and placed a card in it. He was surprised when he looked down and saw a debit card. "We can't use your debit card," he said.
"It's not mine. Look a little closer." In looking closer, Dave noticed the card was issued in the name of Caring Hands.
"Do you always carry around debit cards issued to the organizations you are observing?"
"Actually, I do. Sometimes the need is immediate, so we plan in advance. Rarely, do I actually give them out, and we do have the ability to limit the available funds."
"So, what's the limit on this card?" asked Dave.
"None," responded Aenea.
"You mean there is no money attached to this account?" he queried.
"No, there is no limit," she responded.
"But you don't know me. How can you trust me with unlimited funds?" Dave asked hesitantly and confusedly.
"Dave, you say my reputation has preceded me. What one word stands out when you think of my reputation?"
"Intuition," Dave responded, but he wasn't quite sure where she was going with this train of thought.
"Then trust my intuition as I've learned to trust it. Now, how about dinner?" Aenea asked.
"Aenea, we appreciate your generosity, but we have more than enough food.
"That's not exactly what I was offering. I was thinking just you and me."
"You want me to join you for dinner?" he asked with a quizzical look on his face. Somehow, this didn't mesh with anything he had heard about Aenea, and he wasn't sure exactly what it meant or what to do. When she nodded in the affirmative, he quickly added, "As you can see, we are very busy today, so, though I appreciate the offer, I can't take you up on it."
"I'm sure things will be very calm by Saturday, so how would it be if I promise to spend today helping you, as long as you promise to join me for dinner on Saturday? Just realize, promises are never to be broken."
Not knowing how to delicately reject her offer, he agreed.
"Now, where can you use assistance?" asked Aenea.
"Most everything is already covered, but we could use someone to coordinate activities to keep the kids' focus off the disaster. Are you OK with kids?"
"Love them," Aenea responded with a smile, as she skipped off in the direction of the play area.
The rest of that day, Dave found himself constantly wandering by the play area. He heard Aenea's laughter and saw her smiling face. She was amazing with the kids. People kept coming up to him and telling him, "Hold onto this one; she's a keeper." He knew they meant she was a great addition to their staff, but something else was rumbling inside of him. He kept telling himself to protect himself, stay away and not get involved; yet he kept finding himself drawn back toward the play area. He fully understood the feelings of her past suitors, yet couldn't pull himself away. Something more powerful than him was preventing him from doing what he knew he had to do ... keep his distance.
At 8pm, Aenea bounced up to Dave and said, "I haven't enjoyed myself so much, in ages. Thank you for letting me help. I'd stay longer, but I have a lot of work facing me at my office, tomorrow, so I'd better head home and get some sleep. Just don't think allowing me to have so much fun has gotten you off the hook for Saturday. I'll expect you to show up at 5 o'clock sharp," handing him her card, with the name, address and phone number of a beachfront restaurant handwritten on the back. "Thanks again," she said with a smile, as she hurried out. Not till after she left did he realize she was the one saying thanks, yet his organization was the recipient of a very generous donation from her foundation. He felt disappointed in himself.
Unable to come up with a legitimate excuse to cancel the date, Dave showed up sharply at 5pm. Standing in front of the restaurant was Aenea. She smiled broadly when she saw him. There seemed to be a glow to her.
Once they sat down at their table, Aenea said, "OK, Dave, tell me the truth. What do people say about me?"
Unable to stop himself, the truth came out. "You've been accurately described as fair, kind and caring ... yet a heartbreaker."
"A heartbreaker?" she perplexingly questioned.
"For someone as intuitive as you, how could you not know?"
"But I never led anyone on or promised more than I was willing to follow through on," Aenea responded.
"Maybe you are very intuitive of others, but that doesn't mean you clearly see yourself. You have a magnetic quality guys would have difficulty denying, or even protecting themselves from."
"Dave, I've never wanted to hurt anyone. I've always known when the right guy came along I'd just know it, and no one in my past has triggered that feeling in me."
"I hear you've left a lot of disappointed guys in your wake, even if it was unintentional on your part. I know what devastation feels like, and I've had to protect myself from experiencing it, again. I believe the pain these guys felt was not a product of your doing, but it was very real, nonetheless."
"Dave, I don't know what to do. As you say, this wasn't due to something I have done, so how do I prevent it from continuing?"
"Aenea, that's like asking how you can prevent a puppy from being cute. Unfortunately, the only solution that pops into my head is it will stop when you are no longer available, and I don't see you getting attached to someone just to make yourself unavailable. Hopefully, you're not limited to either seeing others in pain or putting that pain on yourself. That cute puppy will just have to somehow learn to accept its cuteness."
Unable to see this particular conversation getting resolved, she chose to change the subject. She decided to learn as much as she could about Dave, and Dave was very open to her. The evening went by smoothly and comfortably. They hadn't realized how much time had passed, till they saw the restaurant's employees closing up for the night. "I'm sorry I monopolized you for so long," Aenea said with embarrassment.
"Time seems to disappear in your presence," Dave responded.
Aenea blushed, but Dave didn't feel it his place to acknowledge something so personal. Diverting the focus, he said, "Let's go outside and let the employees finish closing up."
Outside, they could hear the crash of the surf. They walked out on a deck and gazed at the waves. Dave looked down and noticed Aenea's hand in his. It was so small and gentle he more sensed its presence than felt it. Suddenly, a huge meteor flashed across the sky, leaving a luminous glow behind. "Wow!" said Dave, "that was definitely impressive." He looked down at Aenea and realized tears were flowing down her cheeks. "Aenea," he softly said. She just held his hand tighter. "Was it something I said?"
"No, I was just thinking about my Daddy."
"You lost him?" he questioned.
"He passed 4 years ago, but I never lost him. He will always be a major part of me, and he holds a special place in my heart."
"You're feeling sad, right now?"
"No, I'm actually feeling very happy, right now. I don't know how he did it, but he kept his promise. Dave, I know what I'm going to ask of you may sound crazy, so feel free to say no, but I need to ask it anyway."
"Feel free to ask. If it's within my power, I'd be more than happy to comply."
"Dave, kiss me."
A little hesitant and cautious, he bent down and placed a little peck on her cheek.
"No Dave ... KISS me."
He stood in front of her, looked deeply into her eyes, put his hands on her shoulders before sliding them around her back, drew her to his body and placed the most amazing kiss she could ever imagine on her lips. "Thank you, Daddy," was all she could whisper through her tears. Hugging Dave, she didn't want to ever let go of him.
Aenea and Dave's love grew rapidly over the following year, culminating in a wedding that probably resulted in just as many disappointed men as there were disappointed girls when Elvis married. Mom, Mommy and both of Dave's parents beamed at the happy occasion. It was a perfect day, other than her Daddy not being present. Dave whispered in Aenea's ear as they danced their first wedded dance together, "I'm so sorry your Daddy couldn't see my beautiful bride and proudly lead her on her first dance."
"But he did see me and our beautiful ceremony. Remember, I never lost him, and I'll never lose you either, my love. Kiss me again."
Stopping, right in the middle of the dance floor, they looked into each other's eyes and then gave each other a very loving, sensual kiss. "Ahhh" was unanimously expressed by all their guests and loved ones.
Five years plus one happy baby later...
"Aenea, it sure was nice, watching Grandmommy play with Laney, today. Grandmom and Grandmommy seem to have such a special connection with our little girl. After watching them in action, I can imagine how unique your childhood was. I regret my Mom and your Daddy aren't here to enjoy our precious and precocious little 2-year-old."
"But, Dave, she still has Grandmom, Grandmommy and Grandpa. Remember what my Daddy taught me about making the most of what is rather than focusing on what could or should be? I've internalized his lessons and choose to enjoy my life rather than be unhappy it isn't different. Do you believe Laney is unhappy things aren't different?"
"Of course not. She never met Granddaddy, and she was too young to remember my Mom. How can you miss something you never knew? I only wish I had your ability to let go of things I have known."
"Dave, I'm not saying to forget about your Mom. You know I can't forget about my Daddy. I just love you so much and don't want you to miss out on the joy that already exists while you focus on what you wanted to exist. When you apply your glorious talent in making love to me, do you think, for one instant, I am thinking, 'He's kissing me here, but he could be kissing me there?' Dream on!! When you get intimate with me, I am only aware of what is happening at that moment, losing myself in the here and now. Would you prefer I think, 'He could be Elvis, ' the next time you love me?"
"Aenea, you keep talking like this, and all I'll be able to focus on is taking you to bed and enjoying your all-encompassing sensuality."
"Good, I'd hate for you to forget about that," teased Aenea.
"OK, if we are to deal with the reality of the present, what are we to do with my Dad? He hasn't been the same, since Mom died. He seems to have no direction, motivation or energy."
"Well, I think the answer is simple, if you and he are willing to go along with it."
"Aenea how is it every answer is simple for you?"
"I guess it has to do with my upbringing. Once you learn to see the big picture, all the pieces just seem to fall into place. For instance, you remember we wanted two kids no more than 3 years apart from each other. If I recall correctly, I carried Laney for 9 long months. And how old is she, now? I wonder when someone is going to remember elementary school math and realize 2 + 2 = 4, not 3."
"Is that an invitation, my love?"
"Dave, do you really need an invitation? But let's get back to the subject at hand. Call your Dad and invite him over for dinner tonight."
"Hi Kids, how's my favorite grandchild?" was Grandpa's greeting, as he entered their home.
"Don't you mean 'only' grandchild? Hint, hint" in Dave's direction.
"Welcome, Dad," said Dave. "How have you been?"
"Same old, same old," he replied.
"And that's why we brought you here, tonight," said Aenea.
"Shucks, I thought I was going to get food," said Grandpa.
"See, he hasn't totally lost his sense of humor," said Dave. "I'll play with Aenea, while you see if you can soften his thick skull."
"OK, kiddo, what's up?" asked Grandpa.
"Well, Grandmommy was here today, and we enjoyed watching her play with Laney, but it made us think it's been a long time since you seemed to enjoy playing with your granddaughter," started Aenea.
"I still play with her," said Grandpa, defensively.
"That's true, Grandpa, but not with the same enthusiasm you used to have," continued Aenea.
"But Grandmom and Grandmommy are happy; they have each other. I have no one anymore."
"So what do you feel is the reason Grandmom and Grandmommy have each other?" asked Aenea.
"What are you talking about? They've always been together, so they just continue to be together," answered Grandpa.
"Is that what you feel relationships are all about? Just an everlasting merry-go-round ride?" asked Aenea.
"Well, yeah, but my merry-go-round ride stopped."
"Let me tell you something. Grandmom and Grandmommy have never been on a merry-go-round ride; they have been on a journey. They are constantly exploring and discovering, and those discoveries energize them. That's what keeps them young and alive. They don't need to take this journey together; they could do it alone. They choose to travel together, just like you choose to be lonely and depressed."
"But no one would want an old codger like me," Grandpa added.
"Grandmom and Grandmommy could choose to be old and grumpy, too, but they choose to be happy and alive. They choose and you choose. Everyone has choices. We just need to ask ourselves our reasons for making the choices we make. Do they work for us? Do they take us where we want to go? Do they allow us to feel what we want to feel? What if you chose to enjoy life with them?"
"But they already have each other."
"Now, I'm confused," said Aenea. "If having each other is all they need to satisfy themselves, what's the reason they seem to enjoy coming over here, spending time with us and playing with Laney?
"I guess you've got a point there, but what interest would they have in me? Aren't they lesbians?"
"What leads you to believe they're lesbians? They were both very devoted to my Daddy."
"But don't they sleep together?" asked Grandpa.
"Sometimes, Laney and I sleep together; does that make us lesbians?"
"You know what I mean, have sex with each other. Doesn't that make them lesbians?"
"No Grandpa, they're not lesbians; they're lovers."
"What's the difference?"
"Lesbians choose to only make love with women, while lovers choose to make love with the ones they love. Grandmom and Grandmommy choose to make themselves lovable, which opens them up to being loved, and they both love to be loved."
"Are you suggesting I have sex with your mothers?"
"No, I'm suggesting you take time to get to know them and allow them to get to know you. I can't say what will happen after that, but I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it more than the life you presently choose to live."
"Have you talked to them about this?" queried Grandpa.
"No, I figured your stubbornness would be more of an obstacle than anything they might bring up. I don't actually believe I need to bring it up to them, if you just reach out to them on your own. I know you can be lovable, and I just want you to give yourself the opportunity to be happy and maybe even loved."
"Well, I've got other issues in that area. What would be their reasons to choose me, when they could find a guy who's actually capable of loving them?"
"And what makes you think you're not capable of loving?"
"That's just part of being a guy and getting old. I'm 10 years older than them. You just can't get it up like you used to, when you get to be that age."
"Oh, no, I'd better call Grandmom and Grandmommy right now and tell them to stop loving each other, because I don't think either of them have the ability to 'get it up.'"
"OK, I get you, Aenea. You had a pretty sharp daddy. Unfortunately, I never had a good teacher, and who would be interested in teaching me now?"
"Do you think you may be learning something from me?" Aenea questioned.
"Sure, I always learn things from you."
"And who do you think taught me?"
"Your daddy taught you."
"Yes, that's right. Daddy and Mommy and Mom patiently taught me. They were all eager to share knowledge with me, as I am eager to share knowledge with you. They love to share knowledge with people who are interested in learning. Show some interest, and see what comes of it."
"OK, Aenea. I know you were named after a teacher in a book, but there always has to be someone who teaches the teacher, so maybe it can't hurt to go to the source. I do enjoy learning from you, and I admit I feel better after our talks. I guess the ball is now in my court. Let me go spend time with my granddaughter, so you and Dave can get some food on. I'm starving. Hey, Dave, where are you hiding with my Laney?" Grandpa shouted.
"Well?" Dave asked, as he entered the room.
"I do believe there's a glimmer of hope for that old man," Aenea laughed. "Let's get dinner on, before he turns grumpy, again."
"I'll help, if I get to choose my dessert."
"Are you going back there, again?" Aenea laughed.
, "Where's that?" he innocently replied. "I was just thinking about tender muffins with sweet juice to wash them down. I love going down ... I mean I love when they go down."
"Keep your head there, and you may be sleep deprived again," smiled Aenea.
"Hi Angie, this is George. I heard a new section of the arboretum is scheduled to open today. It's such a lovely day, I thought I'd like to go, but it probably would be more enjoyable if I could share it with company."
"Anyone you had in mind?" questioned Angie.
"Well, since I don't have any family other than the kids and Laney, and the two of you don't have any family other than the kids and Laney, I asked myself, 'who could I relate to the most?' I would be honored if you and Lynn join me, today."
"Why, that sounds lovely," said Angie. "Let me quickly run it by Lynn and see if she knows of any plans that have slipped my mind. Hold on, and I'll be right back ... She's all for it. Since we have the larger car, how about us picking you up? Does 10:30 work for you?"
"That would be perfect, Angie. Thank you."
When they arrived at George's home, Angie slid to the center and George joined them in the front seat. On the drive to the arboretum, Lynn said, "George, I've been looking forward to seeing this new section at the arboretum, but I know you don't garden, so tell us what this is really about."
"OK, you caught me. I'll tell you the truth. I've been having some very enlightening conversations with Aenea. She is quite a teacher. She's helped me realize, though I was married for 40 years, I truly know nothing about relationships. What she has taught me makes perfect sense. I can't believe I had always thought complicated solutions were the best, but she showed me how the simplest ones actually work better. I've got plenty of time on my hands to learn, but I don't want to monopolize Aenea's time. She has better things to do than baby-sit a lonely old man. I sense she and Dave have some plans of their own brewing, also, and I want to give them their privacy. After all, I'm the wrong person to direct anything that has to do with relationships. I questioned where I could turn to continue my education, and I thought who better to learn from than a teacher, but the teacher's teachers. That's when I decided to give you two a call."
Angie said, "George, that is a perfectly lovely story, but we know Aenea better than you. We have no doubt she was the one who planted the seed. That's not a problem, though. As you mentioned, we all love our kids and our granddaughter and want what's best for them. If we can help you understand what love really is, our loved ones will end up being loved that much more. Everyone wins. George, we would love to be your teachers, and we would love to be your friends."