Yes, I know that today is actually "Valentine's Day" but John and I will have our own reason to celebrate tomorrow because it will be exactly three years since our first date.
Three years ago, I was newly single, having finally surrendered my hope of "saving" a man who was hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol. I had been married for four years, eleven months and twenty-one days. I had seen my first "husband" through 4 mental hospitalizations, three stints in residential rehab, 2 incarcerations, multiple court appearances and arrests, 2 DUIs, one "hit and run", and 3 months on life-support at Grady Memorial - all of which didn't serve to turn his life around like you might think. Three years ago, I had decided that I might not ever have the family I dreamed of, that I might be "DIVORCED" and unwanted for good. Three years ago, I bought myself flowers and candy and determined that I was okay just being alone in a small house with a sweet dog and fat cat, Law and Order reruns, and a purposeful career. But you see, three years ago, I had been talking online to a blue-eyed man in Dahlonega whom I had yet to meet in person. He had an easy laugh when we talked on the phone, and I could tell he loved his children, but he seemed so busy that I thought we would never meet. But that Valentine's Day in 2008, John mentioned that, he too was alone for the holiday of sweethearts. He had worked that night, and had gone home to eat a simple dinner and watch television. He asked me if I might want to have dinner with him the next day- February 15. I agreed that it was time for us to meet. We had talked online and on the phone for quite awhile, we had talked about our first "marriages" and about seeing our exes decline into instability and recklessness. We had laughed into the phone about funny videos we had seen, or about the crazy children in our lives. He had grown up just around the corner from my grandparent's house in Stone Mountain. He had vacationed on the same little spot of deserted beach in Florida all his life, just like me. We had worked at the same mall all through high school, he was on the same trip to Washington DC that I took at 16 years old, and we had literally missed each other by inches all of our lives.
So John invited me to dinner on the Friday night after Valentine's Day. I drove to his house, where he had cooked pot roast and green beans. He had burned a few canned biscuits, and had bought me a diet coke, having learned it was my favorite. After dinner we bowled on his children's Wii and played with his two dogs. We tried to replace the awkwardness of a first date with interesting conversation, and found ourselves talking about politics. He read different books than me - had experienced life in different ways than me - had three brothers while I had two sisters - was a Presbyterian at a tiny little church and for Heaven's sake- a Democrat! But the longer we talked, the more I realized that the things I once thought were so important in a partner were really minor issues compared to the compatibility of finding someone who loves the same Lord that you do, and lives a life of integrity, trying to be an example for his children.
When our "date" was over, I said goodbye to John and he walked me outside. I wondered if he was still interested in me, and what would happen next. He didn't kiss me or try to hold my hand, he just gave me a gentle hug and told me to drive safely. I drove home, and thought about our date as I fell asleep. The next day, John called so say "I had fun last night."
"Me too," I replied, "Let's do it again sometime."
"How about tonight?" He asked. And we ended up seeing each other on February 16th, when I made homemade chicken and dumplings and he brought me peach roses. And again on February 17th. And again the next weekend. And the weekend after that . . . .
And eight months later, we married in a simple outdoor wedding at my Great Aunt's house in Covington. Amanda stood with me, and Georgia stood with John. The boys wore matching sweaters, and after the ceremony, John and I took 3 nights for a honeymoon in Dillard. And after this humble beginning, I moved into that house in Dahlonega where we shared our first meal together. I brought my household full of "stuff", my sweet dog, fat cat, and a whole lot of hope for the future.
And every day since then has been another day with the love of my life, my partner in this world . . . my best friend. Happy Valentine's Day, Bunky! I love you so much!