By Joan Larsen
A true story, a cautionary story for all women is about to unfold. My beautiful young friend in her 40s was about to experience the downside of life in a way that many of us discover in that decade. Caring for dying parents, one after the other, drains you and often brings you down as the months turn into years. Choices were few here. . . and those of us who have gone through like circumstances find our hearts go out to others. But marriages suffer in the interim. These days – more than ever before – divorces follow. And so it was for Diane – and the many Dianes around the country. Children in college, she found herself bereft.
She needed someone to talk to. Slowly, I became her substitute mother, sharing her inner thoughts. Older now, she longed for companionship as well as romantic love. I told her it would come in time, probably when she least expected it.
And then an e-mail arrived which we shared. Obviously, word of her divorce had gotten around. Friends were concerned. And a friend-of-a-long distance friend had asked if he could share her e-mail address with a widower “who wanted a recommendation rather than using a dating site”. The widower’s notes and letters were so promising that she shared them with me. The widower – from Los Angeles – took it slow. And – over weeks and into months – so did she. They slowly told of their lives. His understanding and caring over the dying months of her parents was real. And kind as well . . . the caring you don’t often see from men.
Diane blossomed as the months went on. Photos were exchanged as well as several phone calls. She didn’t have to tell me that she was in love. He seemed to feel the same. He would fly in to meet her, he said, staying at a downtown hotel. But he felt that he should also meet her friends and her family and her children for a good reason: if they didn’t like him, he felt that this relationship was not going to work. Even I thought this was very smart (and too seldom done!) He felt confident enough though to do this in a proper fashion and have them check him out. (Even I was impressed!!)
Diane has allowed me to share short pieces of his first long love letter that had taken months to come. (Know that all of it was beautiful!):
I will search inside of me and let the words just flow. . . I believe there is nothing as important in a relationship as loyalty, commitment, devotion and communication . . . Love and affection grows with every passing second. My love for you grows with each heart beat . . . I want to be the one to love and protect you til the end of time. You are everything I have hoped for in a woman and more . . . I have prayed in my heart to find one woman who will need, want and deserve all the love I have inside of me.
I have been lucky in life to have what I have today . . . I have enough saved for a lifetime. I started out as a lucky young man with a background better than average, earning more than many of my peers. . . and have been lucky from beginning as an employee to becoming an employer. . .
I have been lucky but like you . . . I miss one thing that is more important than all of these . . . one thing that would actually complete me. . . My life misses the presence of a love, a friend, and a companion all in one . . . but you came along!! What did I do right? Where have you been til now? My heart skips a beat at the thought of you . . . I walk around with a smile. . . Life is perfect for me now. . . I guess God decided to answer my prayers and he sent me an angel – one I will cherish forever.
(Now – paragraphs later as much is left out): Everything I do now will be decided by both of us. . . it’s us now, not just me or just you. . . Tell me, what do you think about marriage. . . do you think you would like to walk down the aisle again? Or would you rather just live with the man you love? I’m just curious because I have always had dreams of a wedding, but whatever you want as long as I have you in my life.
The letter, written from the heart – or so it seemed, went on like this for two pages., small print. Who writes love letters this well, I thought, as I read it for the third time???
She melted. But it seemed that every girl she knew had been taken by what she called “a scam” of one sort or other. This romance too seemed too good to be true, she said. The company he worked for seemed to check out. But she had to ask and ask to get a name. He did not tell her his street address, though the several phone numbers he had were his. At my suggestion, she tested him on his knowledge of Capetown, South Africa, where his occupation was sending him – and he passed with flying colors on my knowledgeable questions.
She had felt he was “the one.” It was just the niggling little questions that he wiggled out of answering that disturbed her. The computer should be showing up more as all our lives are an open book now – or so it seems. She could find nothing about him. The widower seemed like a dream. But questions remained carefully unanswered. “For now,” he said.
The two of them related so well. The letters back and forth were never sleazy. He set a very high tone. To me, it almost felt as if he were from another nicer time. What we did notice is that every once in a while he misspelled words. I tended to excuse it, saying that to write such long letters after work, he probably didn’t go back and proofread. Diane said though that someone that educated should know how to spell better.
Diane decided to confide in her eldest sister. The sister had not read any of the notes and letters, but she did not buy this at all. “Forget the man. This is a scam. . . and this is how it works. He will call and write from Capetown when he arrives, looking forward to his return trip, stopping in your city on your upcoming birthday. But then, he will tell you that -in Capetown – his money and credit cards were stolen. He will ask you to wire him some money that he will repay you as soon as he gets there for your birthday. He knows you are “in love” and “caught” into the scenario of meeting for the first time on your birthday.
WHAT??? Knowing that her sister was sophisticated and got around, Diane half believed her. I did not want to. I so wanted this to be the man she deserved.
Sure enough, in his next e-mail after he arrived in Capetown, he wrote this robbery story exactly as her sister had predicted — almost like it was “a form for scammers.”
After we got over the hurt of it all, Diane and I decided to pretend she fell for this line of baloney, egging him on. Thinking she was hooked but wanting to make sure, he played the “love angle”, telling her where to send the $3000 he would need until he saw her. (As you can see, we were now in the driver’s seat and he didn’t know it).
For Diane, it was sadness. Tears. But it was also a determination to milk the situation for all it was worth, pay him back. She asked questions, made him divulge more, and got him more than a bit worried that the money was not going to arrive. Diane was getting good; she was now in the driver’s seat and played this like it was a game she was going to win.
The scammer was good – very good. But Diane was better in leading him on as he waited for the money. The end now was in sight. He was constantly texting – all the time, wondering where the money was. Her answers were clever and leading enough for a great book. They drove him crazy.
But then, enough was enough. Diane wrote: “Don’t you just hate it when you are so sure everything is going your way, and it turns out that someone is smarter than you are. Sucks, huh? Have a good day!” The frantic texting from his end continued over and over, asking what she meant.
And then she finished him off: “I can spot you scammers so easily. An educated man in your position knows how to spell!!” He was offline faster than she could imagine.
And so what looked to be “a match” in all the ways you might dream has ended. Any trust in men in general he had generated is gone. However, Diane has her eyes opened wide now and knows first hand what the word SCAM means.
Time will have to pass . . . but hopefully, she will actually meet the right man face-to-face this next time. Whoever he is, whenever it will be, the man will have found the prettiest, loveliest, and brightest woman who will have the ability to make their lives a dream. No one can be better partner than Diane.
As Barbra Streisand sings: “There’s a time for us, a time and a place for us . . .” Now, we will wait and see. The next chapter is yet to come.
“There appeared upon the scene… a certain man, who made love to Miss Havisham…. he was a showy man, and the kind of man for the purpose… Well! This man pursued Miss Havisham closely, and professed to be devoted to her…. There is no doubt that she perfectly idolized him. He practised on her affection in that systematic way, that he got great sums of money from her… [My father] warned her that she was doing too much for this man, and was placing herself too unreservedly in his power. She took the first opportunity of angrily ordering my father out of the house…. The marriage day was fixed, the wedding dresses were bought, the wedding tour was planned out, the wedding guests were invited. The day came, but not the bridegroom….”
– Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861)
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”