Men Talk Articles - August/September 2014

A Second Chance--25 Years Later

– © 2014 Shepherd Bliss with Assumpta Ortiz

Couple of FishA "Second Chance," after 25 years of absence, was recently offered Shepherd by Assumpta in an email from Europe. We met in Barcelona in l988. I quickly answered her email with an abiding feeling of connection.

"Where are you staying?" this cinnamon-shaded woman had inquired in Spanish, after I presented at an international conference. "You could stay at my home." I appreciated her Catalan hospitality, but declined. I eventually moved in for a few days. Assumpta later visited me in Boston. When she moved to Montreal for graduate studies, I visited her. My "Making Love in Spanish Differs," appeared in two books.

Assumpta remembers our beginning as "an irrational, intuitive, impulsive, deep experience." She felt "an immediate affection when your eyes locked on mine. I was a free woman. I felt loved and understood in my whole person, alive and energetic." She describes the indispensable elements of love as "empathy, solidarity, communication, friendship, altruism, intimacy, respect, and reciprocity."

We discussed sharing a life together. She wanted a child; I did not. Many different things can be both/and. Having a child is either/or. I was afraid. Given my military genes--including the fort named after our family, Ft. Bliss, Texas--I was unwilling to take the risk. Having served in the Army during Vietnam, I did not want to sire another Bliss boy who might go to war and kill or be killed.

Assumpta eventually had a son; the relationship with his father dissolved. This year Assumpta again took the initiative to connect. I plan to return to Barcelona in July. This "golden opportunity" ignites me with energy. We email every day. We skype and look longingly at each other.

"Such dreams stimulate endorphins that positively influence the nervous system," says Assumpta. "In the midst of economic crises, senseless wars, earthquakes, and climate changes that accelerate the destruction of nature, it is possible to love deeply."
A year before Assumpta's return, I began to love another creature, who opened my heart. A 12-week-old puppy came toward me and jumped into my arms. "May I walk her around?" I asked her owners. I returned later. "She's adopted you," they said. "Oh, no, I'm not looking for a dog," I replied. "You should take her home." I did. Winnie has been the love of my life for slightly over a year--the midwife to my relationship with Assumpta. This four-footed helps heal me. Both Assumpta and Winnie are spontaneous and act with flair; they help connect me to the primitive.

On our reconnection's one-month anniversary, Assumpta sent me her "Love History." It began with her parents; he spent time in a concentration camp. My father fought during World War II. Neither spoke of their war experiences.

Assumpta and I have some important cultural and language differences. A salient similarity is fascism touched us both directly--she by the Spanish Civil War and myself by "the other 9/11," when the military toppled the democratic government of Chilean President Salvador Allende. It initiated a reign of terror throughout Latin America's Southern Cone, which took the lives of thousands, including my friends. We both carry what Assumpta describes as "the suffering and cruelty of war." We have the "genetic information of torture and isolation. The same capacity that makes us sensitive to pain can make us sensitive to love."
This second time around, we are experiencing what Assumpta describes as "a direct, spontaneous, and irrational experience unhindered by the repressive mind." She voices her "doubts and fears," writing that "we express our feelings continuously. We are compatible in mental, spiritual, and emotional levels. But we are on earth in a physical plane and yet have no physical contact." We need to "avoid idealization," she adds. She writes about what she describes as "mature love," which is what it feels that we are experiencing.

Fortunately, our goals are now compatible, which they were not in 1980's. We each want a life partner with whom we can "become who we are" and "express the self." Assumpta wants a man "to support my head resting on his shoulder." She "wants to feel a man's hand wrapped around my hand. I want to feel the gaze of a man penetrating my eyes." I also want that from this woman in our "Second Chance." We cry tears of joy often.

I hope that my friends and community might welcome Assumpta with open hearts when she comes to visit here. Having a village can help keep couples and families together.

Shepherd Bliss teaches at Dominican University, has operated a small farm in the Sebastopol countryside for 20 years, has contributed to two dozen books, and can be reached at 3sb@comcast.net.