Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine's look back at how it all began

I was a quiet, shy 14-year-old high school freshman when I met Paul. My best friend, Jenny, was dating Paul's best friend, Todd, and they introduced us. I met him briefly in March of 1987 when we were all together at a park. Being the shy girl I was, I barely looked his way. I don't think I said a single word to him. A month later, Jenny and Todd invited me to hang out and Paul joined, too. The thing to do at that time if you had a car was to head out to B.A. (a dirty beach in an industrial area on Lake Michigan, which became known as Beercan Alley) and drink or make out or both. We went out to B.A. where the two of us sat on a rock in the cold air. We talked a little. He was a big jokester. I was sure he wouldn't be interested in me. He was a high school senior. Still I sat next to him hoping maybe he'd kiss me. He didn't.

Here's us around 1989

And 2013

The following Friday night was April 10. This time Jenny and Todd were setting us up on a double date. According to Jenny, he really did like me. When we went to pick him up that night, he wasn't home. Being in the days before cell phones, we had no clue where he was. I was sure I'd been ditched and stood up. We stopped back a couple more times and he wasn't there. I was so disappointed. I wondered where he was.

Before heading home, we made one more stop at Paul's and he was there. It turned out that his sister had a baby that day and he'd become an uncle for the first time. He'd been at the hospital the whole evening. We had a fun time hanging out. The night ended with a little game of "Truth or Dare" in the car in the Denny's parking lot. On a dare, I finally got my kiss. After that we were inseparable.

When I was 16, he proposed to me in a downtown restaurant in front of his sister and grandmother and took me on a carriage ride. I spent the next two years hiding that engagement ring and putting it on my finger as soon as I was out of the house.

Once I graduated high school, we started making wedding plans. He was four years older and by then had a good job and had saved up enough to pay for our wedding, our honeymoon and a down payment on our first home.

So, here we's been almost 26 years since we first met. We've been married for 21 years. We have five children. And it all started with a funny guy trying to make a shy girl laugh.

Over the years we've been through a lot. We continue to grow and learn more about eachother. We continue to fall more in love.

I cherish many things that have occurred over the years, like some of things he says that are so meaningful. One that comes to mind is when I was fretting over people not liking me and that all the writing I was doing was a waste of time. He told me "You don't know how many secret admirers you have. I meet people all the time who see my last name and tell me they love reading your column in the paper." He said that just when I really needed to hear it.

There have been some valentine's days that really stick out. One was before we had kids and I was in college. I'd worked all day and gone straight to classes and didn't see him that day for Valentine's Day. When I got into my car after class, there was a box of candy and a card. I loved that he took time out to go find my car in the parking lot and leave that for me. Another time was when he hid presents for me all over the house and left notes with each one to give clues on where to find the next. It was a fun and well-thought-out scavenger hunt. And another Valentine's I'll never forget was my first as a new mom. He took over baby duty, doing the feeding and bathing and changing of the baby and putting him to bed and filling a bathtub for me with bubbles and rose petals floating on top, surrounded by candles.

After so many years together, I can still get butterflies in my stomach when he looks at me. I miss him so much when we are apart. With over two decades under our belt, it often feels like we're still on our honeymoon. And I hope that feeling never goes away.

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