Her heart was his. Then came a phantom phone call

Monday, 29 May 2017, 11:08:20 AM. She couldn't shake thoughts of late husband, then he called

“Russ, I have something to talk to you about," Lisa said, looking me in the eyes.  

In the nearly two years we've been dating, I've learned this was the opening statement of serious talk time. Usually, serious talk time is a result of me screwing something up or causing Lisa grief.   My stomach started to swirl.

Lisa and I met online.  I was freshly out of a divorce and she was entering the dating scene after a long marriage that ended with the death of her husband, Tim, after a five-year battle with cancer.

Her life and spirit were crushed. Lisa went into a major depression and often spent days curled up in a ball on the floor of her closet. If it hadn't been for the love and support of family and friends, Lisa would never have left the security of her home. Gradually, she eased back into the world and back into daily life. Life was OK, just different.

One day a friend suggested Lisa try online dating to meet new people. She was unsure if she was ready but eventually relented and set up an online profile.  It was on the site I first saw the stunning photo of a woman with a mesmerizing smile. 

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A look back at 2016 highlights from Vivid Sydney

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The national monument, about 70 miles from San Luis Obispo, is ablaze with color

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Andrew Paulson, left, and husband Sean Dougall collaborate on weavings, furnishings and ceramics at their live-work studio in Watts.

Andrew Paulson, left, and husband Sean Dougall collaborate on weavings, furnishings and ceramics at their live-work studio in Watts.

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Getting your pots ready for spring planting.

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Isla Holbox is a flat, sandy, increasingly popular island off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Why is business booming? Because and a great place to see whale sharks.

I sent Lisa a hello note, and she responded. We went back and forth, exchanging minor information, and were getting along well and getting to know each other.

After a week of corresponding, I sent her my usual daily note. A day passed without a reply. No reply the next day? Or the next?

I was confused by the lack of response, as I thought we were getting along great. But I also know this is the way of online dating, and I assumed Lisa had gotten a better offer.

"Too bad," I thought. "She seemed nice."

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A week later I was checking the dating site and clicked the button "who looked at my profile." Lo and behold, I saw Lisa had checked my profile. I sent her a quick note and asked her why she hadn't written back?  She instantly replied that she had taken her daughters on a trip to Ireland. She said she was disappointed when she couldn’t seem to find a message from me.

Not wanting to miss this opportunity again, I immediately suggested we meet in person. Lisa agreed and we met two days later after work. The plan was to meet for a quick drink and see how things went. 

When I entered the restaurant, I saw the magnificent smile I had first seen in her profile looking right at me. We sat and talked for hours. The time went by quickly and I walked away skipping. 

We texted each day and met again for dinner a week later. It went as well as the first date. We talked about Tim and her love for him, even as she coordinated his treatment plans with their two daughters away at college.

I heard horror stories of his treatment and ultimate death, I could tell Lisa was trying to live a normal life, but at times struggled.  

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Our relationship has progressed to a very intimate, close level. Our favorite places are Knott’s Berry Farm, Long Beach Aquarium and the Hollywood Bowl.  We have traveled and done things I could never have imagined. 

 We always take time for each other and to say I love you coming and going. We are planning on living together soon and are making long-term plans. 

Lisa told me she didn't believe in ghosts or the dead having the ability to contact the living. She said she knew if Tim could, he would have contacted her to let her know he was alright.

That’s when she sat me down for a serious chat.

"I need to talk with you," Lisa said.

She told me she had done her daily walk, and her mind drifted to Tim. "Why don't you ever contact me?" daydreamed Lisa as she thought of her late husband. "Other people see signs, why not me?"

At that moment, her cellphone rang. When she looked at the number on the display, it was Tim's old office number. "How did that dial?" thought Lisa, trying to come up with an explanation.

Since Tim's death, Lisa had never called his office number and had forgotten it was still on her phone. "Had I butt-dialed him?" speculated Lisa. "Or had he butt-dialed me?" Lisa used this call as a sign that Tim was well and watching over her and his daughters.   

Here’s my take on this complicated turn: I am the luckiest guy in the world to have her love. That love is different from the love she had for Tim, but I never doubt the depth of her love. I'd like Tim to know Lisa is loved and in good hands. Just different hands.

Moore works in San Diego law enforcement. He teaches criminal justice classes at several local colleges and is looking forward to retirement soon with Lisa.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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