They met at a hospital in the early ‘70s. Tom was a doctor and Connie just arrived as a new nurse. He asked a friend who she was and boasted that she’d be the girl he would eventually marry. Some mutual friends tricked them into running into each other at the bus stop, and he asked her out on a date. She immediately noticed the pack of cigarettes he had inside his breast pocket.
“No,” she said. “I don’t date smokers.”
Tom was a chain smoker who picked up the habit in medical school. At the time he had been smoking like a chimney, but he really wanted to go out with this girl. He told her he would quit. As a gesture, he threw away the Benson and Hedges and they started going out.
Six months later, Tom and Connie got married. They knew that they wanted to have lots of children since both came from large families – he with nine siblings, and she with seven. The birth of their son in 1974 was a complicated one, delivered through a Caesarian section and with a tremendous loss of blood. The doctors removed a small part of Connie’s uterus and told her that they should not try for any more kids. It was disheartening news, but they were happy to have had at least one and life moved on.
Seven years later, there was a recession in the Philippines and Tim was forced to look for work elsewhere. The country’s main export was the services of its people so it was not uncommon for the breadwinner to go abroad to earn money and send it back to a family at home. Tom was promised a teaching post in Libya. Gadhafi was already in power, but money is money, and that’s certainly better than receiving fruits, chickens and promises of favors from patients at home. When he got there, however, he ended up providing medical services in a desolate rural outpost.
After some time, a friend of Tom’s told him that the government was secretly planning to send him, a Philippine national with no actual ties to Libya besides this temporary medical post, to the front lines of battle in Chad. Having no military or combat experience (save the one-sided boxing matches he fought as a kid – he lost most of them, by the way), Tom high-tailed it back to the Philippine embassy the first chance he got and booked a one-way flight back to Manila.
Nine months later, Connie gave birth to a baby girl on Tom’s birthday. You might call my conception a mistake, or even an accident. But I like to think of it as a miracle. So something good did come out of Gadhafi being an asshole, but even that’s debatable.
Yes, they’re still together. And no, he hasn’t smoked since the day he asked her out on a first date.
3:30AM – sorry, it was 10 minutes longer than allowed.