By Tom Eck
In the song Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin lamented, I’d trade all of my tomorrows/For one single yesterday/Holdin’ Bobby’s body next to mine.”
At that time, I thought very little about my yesterdays, believing I had an infinite number of tomorrows. But as years passed by, my tomorrows dwindled, and, as with many of us, yesterdays seemed to loom larger and larger.
One of those yesterdays was named Lenor. I first saw her in San Diego as I walked by a restaurant near the courthouse in which I had just finished a week-long trial. There she was, a beautiful blonde, with full lips, soft brown eyes and a generous countenance, sitting by herself at a table near the window. Without hesitation, I turned around, walked through the door, and pointed to the table where she was sitting, as if she were expecting me. The maître d’ motioned me through.
“Hello, my name is Tom. I was just walking by, saw you eating by yourself, and was hoping I could join you…unless you are expecting someone else.”
She looked startled, but then smiled. “Of course, have a seat.”
I learned that she had arrived from Portugal just weeks earlier and resided at a convent until she could find suitable housing. She spoke five languages, worked as a court interpreter, and was studying for her CPA license.
“How about a movie? Amadeus is playing. We can take a cab,” I suggested.
“As long as I am back by ten. The nuns lock the doors then.”
I paid little attention to the movie. Her sweet fragrance and the silhouette of her face highlighted by the screen were seductive and hypnotic. As we drove back, she touched my hand. I had never felt such a jolt of pleasure from just a simple touch. I silently cursed the convent and its rules.
I dropped her off and gave her a hug, and we decided to spend the next day together in Balboa Park. At the end of that next day, she did not return to the convent.
About midnight, I received a call in my hotel room.
“Do you mind if I join you? The girl in your room sounds like she is having too much fun for just one guy. I’m in the room next door.” I hung up and we toned it down at bit.
The next years were magical. Lenor loved tennis, sex and, surprisingly, my companionship. But because we both had private professional practices, we remained 494 air miles apart, trading weekends in Reno and San Diego. It worked for us.
Although she had never been married, she had a son who lived in Oporto. She wanted to visit him, but without a Green Card, had immigration issues. So, of course, I accommodated her and we were married in Laguna Beach, California. In spite of our living arrangements, she got her Green Card without an interview. In a way, I felt cheated, because I knew which side of the bed she slept on, the color of her tooth brush and most of the other answers to the inane questions asked by INS.
About one year after our marriage. I received a call. Lenor was crying.
“Tom, I have bad news. I have been diagnosed with spinal cancer. I have less than a year to live.”
I was stunned. How could someone so alive now be facing death?
I spent the next few months with Lenor, suffering as I never had, watching her writhe in pain so intense that morphine became useless. The one woman who had been a true gift was now being ripped from my life, and in such cruel fashion.
But my sorrow was no measure for Lenor’s mother, who, nine months earlier, had buried her 36-year-old daughter, a medical doctor, and a victim of breast cancer. Now, she was about to bury her only remaining child…one who would not reach her 40th birthday. I flew to Oporto to bury Lenor, reminiscing about our wonderful times together and damning those last few painful months of her life.
In June of 2017, I will return to Oporto. I will not visit Lenor’s grave.
Rather, it will be to continue to celebrate my tomorrows with someone who now makes my yesterdays irrelevant. I am among the most fortunate to have jettisoned the sadness of the past with the help of a woman who is the happiest, dearest and sweetest of human beings. She is someone who embraces life and love without hesitation. She is someone who brings home the advice of Will Rogers, “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”
We will pilot a small cabin cruiser up the Douro River to the Spanish border, grateful for each day we share together, anticipating the wonders of tomorrow, tucking away yesterdays into small boxes in the attic of our minds. Hopefully, there will be many more tomorrows, and I will be thankful for each one that unfolds.
No Janis Joplin, I am a lucky one. My yesterdays are eclipsed by the promise of my tomorrows. And I would not trade a thousand of those yesterdays for a single tomorrow, when I hold Margarita’s body close to mine.