Fred Warburton is not bitter. Being bitter will drive the ladies away faster than a broom on a cat’s backside.
Is he needy? He wouldn’t say it that way, but a woman might fear he is.
Craving? No, that sounds grabby. Why don’t we settle on yearning? That’s more romantic and closer to how he says he feels.
“I’m looking for a partner to share the rest of my and her life. That will include emotional, intellectual and physical intimacy. I want to hold her hand, hug her, touch her, talk to her, walk with her, sleep with her and make love with her.”
Warburton, 68, has impressive creds: Naval Academy graduate, retired Navy officer, comfortably pensioned, perennial president of his Tierrasanta condo board and diligent volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Those are all “yes” checks on the eligibility chart for any prospecting woman. What’s not to like?
The cane. That damned cane.
Warburton is a big man who will tell you he’s lugging around 30 pounds he’d happily give to anyone who needs them. He’s had two marriages that ended mainly for reasons some Navy marriages do: Months at sea do not the bed keep warm.
From marriage, though, he has three grown children who are good citizens and grandchildren who are making him proud. He’s been single since 1988, and he speaks well of his exes. That’s a good sign.
All that’s missing now is that lady to share his life. And that brings us right back to the cane.
In 2006, Warburton began to have difficulty chasing the ball during tennis matches. Months and many tests later, he got the bad news — multiple sclerosis.
MS gradually diminishes the body, but it does not diminish the desire to have someone with whom to enjoy laughter, tenderness and — fond hope — love.
Warburton felt the first splash of cold water on his lust for life and women when, soon after his diagnosis, a longtime lady friend said to him, “This is not working for me anymore,” and then the door closed behind her.
Even now he speaks of her sadly. “I had a long relationship with her. I loved her enormously. We had great fun together.”
Thus, at age 60, Warburton found himself on the market again, hoping to meet a receptive woman between 60 and 70. But because of his MS, it had become a buyer’s market, and he was a seller.
However, thanks to the Internet, people seeking mates no longer have to go to a bar and dig for gold in a lead mine. Computerized dating services make it possible for him to appear on Match.com or eHarmony.com to sell his wares, which, of course, is himself. The problem with those sites is the only thing a mate-shopper gets is a resume, and every HR screener knows the reliability of those.
Warburton admits to being a resume-stretcher. He confesses to having doctored his profile by tiptoeing past his infirmity. His obvious hope was that once women got to know him, they would overlook the white lies about MS.
“I didn’t use to expose (my condition) in my profiles. Then I found out I was explaining and apologizing to too many women who felt misled. When I would meet women for coffee, their eyes would shift to the cane, and they would say, ‘What’s with the cane?’ and you could see the turn-off. Anyway, I now say on the website, ‘I’m limited. I’m probably not going to be your dance partner.’ ”
But you still don’t say you have MS?
“No. I just say that I’m not as mobile as I used to be. Even so, the responses I now get are from a lot of people who are less desirable. They tend to be people that I would not ordinarily be interested in.”
With one woman, it got as far as an introductory dinner. However, when the modest check came, he suggested they split it.
“She got furious. She got up and left. I took care of the check and went home and never heard from her again. Women are not as liberated as some would have you think.”
Warburton says he’s not particularly intimidated by the wish-list qualities women say they want in a man, because those men as described probably don’t exist.
“I find a lot of women in their profiles say what they’re looking for is a guy who can dance, ski, dive, surf, cook, ride a horse and travel and do all kinds of things. They want all the things they didn’t get in their first part of their life, maybe.”
His MS gives him fits in several ways: He is acutely heat-sensitive. He can walk one block, but two might require a midway rest. He fatigues easily, and his bladder is unreasonably demanding. There might also be a wheelchair in his future.
On the plus side, his vision and thought processes are not affected. He also needs no help managing day-to-day living.
Warburton says he has a pretty good upside. He has Padres season tickets and would love to have a companion for opening day. He plans to be at an upcoming performance of the Rolling Stones, and later this year the Beach Boys. For both, he wants to fill the seat next to his. He also enjoys driving trips.
Serious travel is out. If a woman wants to see the world, she’ll have to do it without him. He also is wary that some older women tend to invest too much of their lives (and potentially his) on small dogs and grandchildren.
He is a casino habitué, but says he keeps his losses affordable. It might also be that no one looks twice at his cane around the blackjack table, and time passes unnoticed in the embrace of those windowless, clockless walls.
What makes Warburton’s dilemma pertinent today is that our aging population causes an abundance of people traveling life’s path with shuffles, limps, wheelchairs and other incapacities.
Men tend to leave behind widows who suddenly are cast loose from being caretakers, and have no intention of returning. Mortality statistics come draped in black for men.
All that sociology simply reminds Warburton of what he has learned up close and personal.
Some relationships are kept on the “dinner, movie and I’ll call you” level, but those tend to be like plants — they grow or they wither. Warburton might settle for that, but what he really wants is someone to care about and to care about him. But that word “care” is where the proposition becomes a double entendre.
The question intuitively asked about every potential relationship is: How much am I willing to give for what I get? And the older people get, the more serious the question becomes. Through no fault of his, Warburton is now a little lean on the “give,” which negatively impacts his “get.”
Loneliness is not what you would call a pain. It’s more of a generalized ache, a want. It’s a darkening of the spirit. Some people adjust well to loneliness and rename it independence. Warburton is not one of them. He wants a hands-on woman to love.
Before this man turns out the light tonight, he will look over at the pillow next to him, untouched in an unwrinkled pillowcase. He will then turn his back and try to sleep, knowing that in the morning it’ll be coffee for one again.
Fred Warburton lies alone in his bed, but he is not alone in his dilemma.
Fred Dickey’s home page is freddickey.net
His email is firstname.lastname@example.org