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The Cost of the Call (Part 4b):Why Did I Say “Yes”?

This Week’s Sunday Scribbling’s Prompt: Puzzled

Let’s talk about a past love. Tell us about your first love. What did you learn about yourself from that relationship/experience? What kind of life do you think he/she is living today?

The Sunday Scribblings prompts have dovetailed perfectly for me to tell this story. Must be a message from the cosmic forces of the universe, urging me to write this, even though I have put off doing it for so long.

As I explained in Part 4a, this is the story of yet another aspect of my life upon which the hand of God can be seen. It is also an example of what I talked about in my initial post about my six-year journey litigating Conservatorship of Wendland: When you are truly called, you have no choice but to answer. No matter what the cost.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5

Why did I say “yes”?

I was completely puzzled by my own behavior, but the answer would be many years in coming to me.

Eventually, the plan for my life was revealed to me. Had things worked out between us, I would be a completely different person today. My first big crush was (and I presume is) a traditionalist who would expect a traditional wife. I used to refer to myself as a “radical feminist” but over the course of time, I came to think of myself as a “radical humanist” because I believe in egalitarianism and equality, and the term “feminist” elevates, in my mind, the feminine over the masculine.

More simply, my best friend teases me that I would have been content for a good while, but experience a profound “mid-life crisis” after growing weary of being a dutiful, traditional wife. She knows me very well.

There were several other “near-misses” for us. As to each instance, it was entirely my fault that things never worked out between us. My behavior — fueled by my fear, insecurities and naivete — prohibited me from opening up and allowing a relationship to take root and flourish, even though, for a few years, that was the one thing that I wanted most in my life. Each time that my big crush began to get closer to me, I pushed him away. I was puzzled and frustrated by my own actions, but completely unable to stop myself no matter how hard I tried.

Before I knew it, seven years had passed since the last such “near-miss” and I found myself at Chuck E. Cheese with a very handsome, attentive gentleman who was genuinely interested in the “authentic” me.

From that blind date on, BigBob and I were inseparable. I jokingly tell people, “Well, he just never went home, so I figured I’d better marry him.” We met in April, he started talking about marriage in late May, we got officially engaged in July and eloped on November 2.

Life was the proverbial whirlwind: #1 son was born, my father struggled with his health for many years, I decided to go back to school to complete my Bachelor’s degree, then I got the wild idea of going on to law school, Matthew’s arrival surprised us, my father died two months later . . . sometimes we look back and ask ourselves how we managed all of it, but the reality is that we did it the way everybody does — one step at a time.

From time to time I would see an old high school classmate, hear a song or remember an event that would make me pause to wonder how my big crush was doing and puzzle yet again about why I said “yes” when the truthful answer was an emphatic “no.”

But it wasn’t until late 2000 that the answer was finally, fully revealed to me.

I had been practicing law for seven years and the Wendland case was pending in the appellate court. After I secured a victory for my clients in the trial court, the opposing side appealed the ruling and everyone knew that the case was going to go from the appellate court to the California Supreme Court. Although the Court hears only a minuscule percentage of the total cases in which review is requested (around 4 per cent), that it would agree to hear this case was pretty much assured. I was performing all work on the case pro bono. That meant that I worked a full week (for an attorney in private practice, that can be 60 or more hours) and handled the appeals at home, free of charge, during my “spare” time. For several years, I tripped over boxes and boxes of documents stacked in my bedroom. (I still have a good number of them in the garage.)

Between all of that work, keeping up with my kids, continuing to make music, etc., I didn’t have time to puzzle over things that had happened years before or wonder what might have been.

But in late October 2000, I had a very brief encounter with my first big love. BigBob and I were checking into a hotel. As we entered the lobby, I glanced at the man behind the desk, but I did not recognize him. Then, as I was looking down at the registration card I was filling out, I heard a voice I would recognize anywhere, no matter how many years elapsed, say, “How have you been, Jane?”

I froze. Nobody had called me that name in nearly 30 years. Nobody who expected me to answer, anyway.

Yes, I was born with that name, but hated it passionately. As soon as I was old enough, I changed it and never looked back. No one that I have met since my early college days has ever known me by any name except “Janie.” But throughout high school, knowing how much I hated to be called “Jane,” my first love had insisted upon calling me that for the sole purpose of annoying and irritating me. He had a special way of elongating the “a” that made me want to chew on a box of nails.

And there in that hotel lobby, 22 years after the last time we had seen each other in person, I once again heard that voice say “Jane.” (I shudder, remembering it as I type this.)

In response, I mumbled something brilliant like, “Busy.” I was in such a state of shock at seeing him there, I did not want to linger and have to engage in real conversation, so I took the room key, thanked him, turned to BigBob, and said, “Let’s go!”

BigBob was completely baffled because he had never heard anyone call me “Jane” except a couple of former teachers and, occasionally, when they’d forget and slip into an old habit, my parents. So on the way to our room, he guessed that my big crush was one of my high school teachers! (We had many laughs about it that night.)

Had my big crush and I ended up together, I am convinced that I would have had children at a much earlier age. I am absolutely certain that I would never have completed my education. I just can’t imagine my first big crush encouraging his wife as she drove off to law school classes three or four nights per week, leaving him at home for several hours to care for two small children. But that’s what BigBob did. He was right there for all the milestones, grinning proudly when I was in the “Final Four” Moot Court Competition (oral argument in front of real Supreme Court justices from three states — Montana, New Mexico and Illinois — who served as guest judges of the competition), graduating, being sworn into the Bar, in courtrooms . . . #1Son, an eighth-grader at the time, proudly accompanied him to watch me argue before the California Supreme Court.

I really can’t picture my first big crush driving his wife to her Evidence class just a little over 48 hours after she gave birth. (To be fair . . . Matthew was in the NICU with aspiration pneumonia and well taken care of. Finals were in less than two weeks. I told BigBob I was perfectly capable of getting to class by myself, but he insisted on driving me.)

I can’t imagine that my big crush would have reacted as well as BigBob did when he came home from work and I announced, “Hey, I’m going to St. Louis tomorrow to appear on Sally Jessy Raphael and talk about my nightmare experiences as a stepmother to your daughter, and you have to take me to the airport.” (I still chuckle when I remember the look on his face!)

Or how about this one? “I’m helping plan Clint Ritchie’s fan club luncheon . . . did I mention that it’s in New York City?”

And then there was the day that I came home with a flute and he just stared at me in disbelief. A year-and-a-half later I was off to San Diego, the site of that year’s National Flute Association Convention to shop for a new professional model. In just a little over a week, I’m going to be performing at Carnegie Hall.

Yes, poor BigBob has learned over the years to roll with whatever crazy idea I throw at him. But he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s never bored! After he gets over the shock, he just laughs and gives me his trademark impression of Ricky Ricardo: “Luuuuuuucccyyyyy, what are you a-scheming now?”

This much is certain: Had my big crush and I ended up together, I would never have developed the self-esteem or self-confidence that I possess today. I believe that I would have remained that geeky, unsure-of-herself woman, totally dependent upon my first big crush to define and complete me.

The Holy Spirit knew, of course, that I was destined to stand before the highest court in this state with media representatives from around the world assembled in one section of the courtroom. It knew that I had been called to argue the highest-profile case concerning end-of-life decision-making up to that point. Had things worked out the way I wanted them to, however, I would never have developed the sheer, unmitigated chutzpah to see the case through to completion.

I gradually came to see why every time we came close to embarking upon a new chapter in our relationship, the Holy Spirit intervened: I had to develop my own voice, rather than be an extension of someone else’s. I was doing just that which is why I was so puzzled by my own behavior for so long. But, you see, it wasn’t actually my behavior that was the determining factor, after all. It was, quite literally, “divine intervention” that kept me on the path I was meant to travel so that I would be positioned to be called into the managing partner’s office in 1995 and told, “Here’s your new case.”

A high price? Indisputably.

The only price? Not by a long shot.

The right price? You can’t argue with the Holy Spirit, can you?

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