Biographical Non-Fiction posted November 20, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
How I ended up in the suburbs of Copenhagen

Meeting the Wolf-Man

by H. Rebecca

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
Give me a pool and a deliriously hot day. Not only do I become a fish in water, but I'm also able to walk with its help. I lived in a land of hay balers and lawn mowers ... and with a neighbor who had the aforementioned pool. After college, I tried my hand at being a teacher's assistant for a while, well aware that the job was mine probably because I had a strong connection with my old school system.

Life's direction can change instantly. For me, one of those pivotal points came while sitting in front of a computer screen in December 1997. For the purposes of chatting, I was the face behind "Starlet". "Lupaerian" was just one of the names in the right-hand column of the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) window. It intrigued me. I inferred that the person behind the nick was intelligent and thoughtful; knowing that lupus is latin for wolf. If the nickname was "Dick4U", I wouldn't have touched the guy with a ten foot pole. We struck up a daily conversation over the next two weeks and, with each passing day, possibility bloomed. In the days before webcams, the written word was all we had to rely on. Even so, it wasn't long before anybody who would've called the house between three and five o'clock knew that it was just impossible to get through. The modem tied up the line and, in my own state of hormone induced bliss, I made no apologies.

There were hurdles to be jumped from the start, but I didn't mind as I usually ate them on a hotdog with relish. After two weeks with a constant smile plastered on my face, I told him in a carefully constructed e-mail about the biggest of those hurdles, hoping that he wouldn't run the other direction. Instead of asking the usual litany of questions, to which I have scripted answers (after a lifetime dealing with them), he took the name of the handicap and did some independent research before getting back to me. All this did was give him serious brownie points.

"Does Cerebral Palsy get worse over time?"

This was an unusual one. "No, it doesn't... I mean, it's not degenerative..." Physical therapy helps me retain function that may be lost if I don't do stretching and weight bearing exercise.

He already knew from research that there are different degrees of CP. "Where are you on the spectrum?"

It was obvious that I typed slowly. Maybe he assumed I was multi-tasking while we chatted."I need help to stand and walk."

As a security measure in those early days, I used a light interrogation technique. Asking the same questions in different ways, and getting the same answer over several days, assured me that he was in fact a decent guy. Even so, my palms glistened and my heart skipped a beat when he asked if he could send a small gift in the mail. For a response to this, I sought counsel with my elders.

"Don't give him this address. Have him send it to me at work." This sage advice didn't bother me at all and, if the possibility of sending something to my mother bothered him, the reaction would be a blaring red stoplight. About ten days later, a beautiful crystalline wolf, only large enough to fit in the palm of my hand, took the last leg of her journey. The note that traveled with her explained that wolves mate for life. He bought two and kept her mate. An unidentifiable scent enveloped the whole package.

Spring 1998 came. Some may say he was late for our first date. Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn't stand for this, but he had no control over the plane's schedule. It was at least 1 A.M. before he came through the door of the arrival hall; three or so hours after the plane's scheduled landing time. I had given up on holding the sign over my head. Only nervous energy kept me awake. A voice came over my left shoulder; the same scent greeted my nose. "Hey there." We had talked on the phone and these simple first words confirmed that I'm a girl who likes the Danish accent. My mother led the way as we found our "limo" which, to our guest's visible relief, was actually a Honda Accord. Clammy hand held clammy hand as we returned. My husky dog took his job very seriously, leaping across the backseat to greet the newcomer when we pulled into the garage.

I made the trip across the pond "for coffee" in 1999. It's a miracle I even got on the plane. The night before, my stomach churned like an internal hurricane. I had been to the USSR at the age of sixteen with forty-nine other Americans. In that case, if I felt uncomfortable, I could lean back on cultural similarities shared with forty-nine other people. I knew that most of the people I would meet could understand, if not speak English in Denmark. Lupaerian would step in as translator, in the rare case that I needed it. Everything rode on my ability to make a decent first impression. I just hoped that it would go more smoothly than the wind buffeted landing. Copenhagen's first question to me: "Why are you visiting Denmark in December?" It came as the inquirers lifted me out of the metal tube.

"What do you think of Denmark?" The same aroma that permeated Lupaerian's jacket now filled the car. A brand that forever after will be identified with that first face-to-face meeting -- the smell of his mother's hand-rolled cigarettes. I was just glad that the person sitting next to me didn't care for the habit. One of my immovable rules still held true: I was never going to kiss an ash tray but, if I couldn't suspend the 'don't smoke around me' rule, that first impression would have gone six feet under. It was my turn to be open-minded.

"It's flat as a pancake."

A flat country isn't a bad idea for someone primarily on wheels. Lupaerian and I married in the States, but moved here after September 11. Recently, a taxi driver asked us how we met. The question isn't a usual one for us these days. After over ten years of marriage, I don't think of the distance we endured; the daily e-mails that were exchanged for fear of losing contact or even my husband's nickname. It is only when somebody thinks to ask how we met that these memories come flooding back.

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