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Sometimes difficult times can strengthen a relationship

Tom Blake took this photo of Tina and Chris this past Sunday in Dana Point Harbor. Chris sure doesn't look like he had open-heart surgery four weeks ago.
Tom Blake took this photo of Tina and Chris this past Sunday in Dana Point Harbor. Chris sure doesn’t look like he had open-heart surgery four weeks ago.

By Tom Blake

Chris Anastasio of San Clemente, formerly of Dana Point, is one of the most interesting men I have ever met. After a divorce several years ago, he decided to enjoy life and became a dance host on cruise ships.

In that role, Chris got to travel the world courtesy of cruise lines and in exchange spent his nights at sea dancing with single women who were on the cruises. He was not allowed to date the women he met at sea, at least not while they were cruising. He was away from Dana Point for about 150 days a year. I’ve always admired his zest for life.

When not traveling, Chris volunteers at the San Clemente Villas by the Sea, a senior retirement facility, by dancing with the women there. For years, he’s also volunteered as Santa Claus for the young children who visit their relatives at the Villas and at St. Edwards preschool in Dana Point.

Eleven years ago this Christmas, while on a cruise, he met a woman named Tina who lives in England. After the ship docked, they started perhaps the world’s longest, long-distance relationship.

Chris said, “Talk about being geographically undesirable, I have a picture on the wall in my office that Tina gave me last year for our 10th anniversary. It is a map with a line between Southern California and Buckingham, England, where she lives and says, ‘Chris and Tina, 5,419 miles.’”

My partner Greta and I had the pleasure of meeting Tina when she was visiting Chris three years ago.

Chris said, “Tina is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.”

Even though Chris and Tina live far apart, they are together either here or in England about eight months each year.

On Aug. 28, I received an email from Chris with a subject line that read, “Day Six.” The email read, “Today is the sixth day since I got home from the hospital. My recovery is going to take much longer than I thought. Sometime in the not too distant future I will be dancing and traveling again.”

Greta and I were shocked at Chris’ news and emailed him that we were unaware that he had been in the hospital. He wrote back that he had been hospitalized for triple-bypass and open-heart surgery. He added, “Thank God for Tina who flew in from England as soon as she heard I was going for surgery and has been by my side ever since.”

On Sept. 12, Chris sent an update on his condition: “Before I went into the hospital, I figured I would be up dancing and running around a couple weeks after I got home. But, that operation really slowed me down. Maybe it’s because I’m 80 now. I went to the San Clemente Villas a couple of times to visit my ladies and the residents. That is always uplifting for me.”

He said, “To show you how positive I am about becoming the old Chris again, I’ve booked a flight to England for the 28th of December. Tina and I are taking an 11-day cruise in January starting in Singapore. We are living our lives to the fullest and after this scare with my heart, we are determined to squeeze every joy we can out of it.”

To comment, email Tom at tompblake@gmail.com.

Tom Blake is a Dana Point business owner and San Clemente resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at www.findingloveafter50.com.

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