Seriously: You’ve Got Mail

Charlene & Amoeba

7pm, June 2006, last day of school,:

I trudged out of my classroom, having scrubbed it and put everything away for the summer. Exhausted, I cruised through a fast-food drive-thru on my way home. Too tired to pay attention, I climbed the steps to my front door, then tumbled backward off the top step.

After a trip to urgent care and the pharmacy, I spent my first full day of summer break with my leg up and iced. Doc said my knee was badly sprained and I needed to baby it for about 6 weeks. Basically all of summer vacation.

I spent the first morning watching daytime TV. That hurt worse than my knee. I decided to entertain myself by catching up on a homebound friend’s blog. She’d started blogging as a social outlet.

Why couldn’t I?

Before lunchtime the second day, I had my own blog up. Almost immediately I received my first addicting comment.

That single first comment led me to an entire community of bloggers, many of whom are still my friends. In fact, I met Ph.D. Amoeba (my beloved) almost instantly, but at the time I thought he was a pompous jerk. (It’s okay, his opinion of me wasn’t much better.)

By the time my knee healed and school started, I was ensconced in the community. One of the political bloggers in our group asked me to write an opinion piece on No Child Left Behind. At the time there was a hot debate over whether or not the laws were fair and enforceable. I wrote what I considered to be a measured response. I cited each controversial point, explaining why I thought the law did or didn’t work. Unlike most teachers, I supported quite a bit of NCLB; however, there were a couple of points that simply weren’t enforceable or statistically measurable. I called them out.

Another blogger in our community — let’s call him Major Pain, (MP) — took exception to my (very few) negative opinions and wrote a scathing response. He didn’t offer or defend counter opinions. He attacked my character, called me names, and detailed the horrible death he hoped I’d suffer. I wanted to respond in kind.

Instead, I turned off my computer and cleaned my home to within an inch of its life.

Hours later, thinking I was in a good enough headspace to respond rationally, I rebooted my computer and discovered I wasn’t alone in my indignation. Many of my blogger friends had already came to my defense.

The most eloquent person to defend me was Ph.D. Amoeba. He said everything I wanted said, and did so without once stooping to MP’s level. Amoeba was scathingly articulate in a wonderfully calm, cool, dignified, and factual manner. [Swoon. Sarcasm is my love language.]

I immediately wrote Amoeba a gushing thank you letter … but I couldn’t send it. I thought: This is Ph.D. Amoeba; Mr. Pompous and Righteous. He didn’t respond to MP in my defense. He responded in defense of logic, fair play, and First Amendment rights.

As I moved my finger to delete my ‘thank-you’ note, my little AOL icon lit up: You’ve got mail. It was from Amoeba, apologizing for overstepping polite boundaries. He said he knew I was capable of defending myself and it wasn’t his intention to take that away from me.

Still half afraid that Amoeba would realize what an unsophisticated, emotional mess I was, I pressed the send button on my thank you note.

Amoeba responded, thanking me for thanking him.

I responded.

He responded.

I responded.

We stayed up all night talking to each other; he in his office in Maine, me in my kitchen in Nevada. When we finally had to say good-bye, we did so reluctantly.

It didn’t take long for us to progress from email to chatboxes to telephone calls (pre-smart phones, pre-easy-texting). And then came the day Amoeba said he had to meet me. He had a business conference in Hawaii and planned a layover in Las Vegas.

“Come to the airport,” he’d said. “Meet me for lunch. If you decide you don’t like me, then we’ll have a nice meal and say good-bye. If you do like me, I’ll come back after the conference and spend a few days before flying home. You decide. I want you to feel safe.”

Meet him at the airport?

I don’t remember my response, but I remember my terror.

When Amoeba and I started talking, neither of us expected romance. It was just conversation, yet over the months we’d corresponded, he came to mean a lot to me. I couldn’t say the word love out loud, but it was there in my heart.

Realizing I had a decision to make, I talked to my friends and family. Half of them thought he was an ax murderer. The others were all swoony over the romance.

I remember exactly how I felt. I wanted him to like me. I was terrified I wouldn’t like him. We already had something special. Would meeting in person screw it up?

But what if it could be more? Could I even hope for that?

We’d agreed to meet at baggage claim. I waited, wondering who would spot whom first. As I scanned the crowd, this dude in an enormous, down-filled coat bounded forward, his head swathed in a thick wool toque.

Nanook of the North.

He smothered me in a bear hug.

I have no idea what I said, but he peeled out of the hat and coat so I could identify him. We’d exchanged photos, but he hadn’t been dressed like that in any of them.

We made our way to the restaurant. I enjoyed his company but was too nervous to eat. Apparently unaffected, he ate his burrito and half of mine, too.

But maybe he liked me some because he returned after the conference and stayed for a few days.

He even accompanied me to church and submitted to the scrutiny of my family and friends. Plus, he returned to Vegas twice more that year. Then he told me he’d accepted a job in Hawaii and asked me to throw over my tenured and secure position and start a whole new life with him.

I said yes.

This year — 2020 — I can say that was the best single-decision I have ever made. This April, after 12+ years of happy co-existence, my mammogram revealed breast cancer.

Amoeba has been my rock. He’s attended doctor’s appointments, bandaged my wounds, bathed me, dressed me, shaved my armpits and my legs — and held steadfast through my tears and my anger.

For years now I have called him my beloved, but I really didn’t realize how wonderful he truly is until adversity hit and he didn’t flinch.

I am blessed to be so loved.