| This May 5th we will
celebrate our 22nd anniversary! Here's how it all started:
I was a single mother trying to make ends meet by working at a local vaccine lab in the nearby city. I had been married to my high school sweetheart for almost eleven years. I hadn't had many dates since my divorce two years earlier. Unfortunately every one I had been on was a disaster, one way or another. I discovered that one really nice man who owned his own business was so nice and we always had fun together. Until I found out that at his house, his recreation was smoking pot! Then there was the guy that never told me he had six small children! So I made up my mind to worry about raising my son and paying my bills...period. Life was pretty much the same every day; get up, go to work, come home, go to bed and do it all over again the next day. There was the exception of stopping a couple days a week at the grocery store after work . No matter what, there was always this really sweet, nice looking young man that almost always sacked and carried my groceries out to my car. I'd say he was there almost 90% of the time. He always stood and talked for a while after he loaded the groceries in my car. He was so interesting. He was going to aircraft school at our local community college. He had worked on RF-4C Phantoms in the Air Force but had to have a Federal license as a civilian to work on planes. I found myself hoping he'd sack my groceries every time. I really liked him. He was so different from all the men that were my age. He wanted to be something and he had a passion for what he wanted to do in life. He was very connected to his family, even though he hardly ever saw them. (He was from the middle of the state). He was making it on his own and never asked for help from his parents. He had his money from the G.I. bill to pay for school. He was using the money from the store job to pay his share of rent. The manager at the store gave him outdated pizza's to eat., otherwise he ate a lot of baked potatoes and peanut butter. I found talking to him brightened my day. And without realizing it, I was learning about him. And when he wasn't at the store I found myself "missing" him. Of course he had told me he was moving to Maryland just as soon as he got out of school. He had a job at a little local airport there and he was going to live with his sister and family until he got settled. My best friend had shopped with me and told me she thought he was interested in me. I thought she was crazy. He looked so much younger than me. Why would someone YOUNGER than myself be interested in ME? Well, he was. And he did ask me out. I figured, "What the heck. What's one more disastrous date!" So I said yes. Where were we going? To a Def Leppard concert! Now, I love rock & roll but I had never heard much of this group. I figured it would be another experience to remember in my old age! I came home and told my 12 year old son I was going on a date with a fella that had long hair and was a little younger than myself. Corey was cool about it. He had said I needed to get out once in a while and to have fun. Well, Rick came to get me wearing gray drawstring chinos and a Heineken T-shirt and carrying a huge bouquet of gladiolas! Corey looked out the window and said, "My gosh mom, he looks like he's a teenager! Is he MY age?!" I remember my exact words back: "It's just a date. It's not like I'm going to marry him!"
We saw each other a few more times before he left for Maryland. And then he left. I found myself thinking about him a lot and really wishing he hadn't left. But, that's the way my life was going so I needed to get past it. Then I started getting postcards. A lot of postcards. They all started out "Hello Pretty Lady"! My great Uncle Paul always got my mail for me. (The post office was always closed by the time I got home from work). When I would stop to get my mail he would always smile, hand me the mail and say to me, "Hello pretty lady". I knew immediately that I had gotten a postcard and that he had read it! Finally one day I got a long distance call from Rick. He said he was coming back to Iowa. He said he hated it in Maryland. He knew there was something back here for him and he wanted to find out if it was me. He came back a couple months after that and we started dating again. That's when he told me he had "stalked" me when he worked at the grocery store. He would have the checkers watching for me to enter. When I did, they would call for a "Price check Rick-O (his nickname). Funny how I never heard that or paid attention to it. So that explains how he could manage to carry my groceries for me so much of the time! If that were to happen today, I'd probably be calling the police to report him!
A few months later I decided to ask him to move in. I wasn't thinking anything long term. It was just so nice to have a man around. He and Corey got along great and I was happy Corey had someone other than myself to talk to. On one of our "alone week ends" (when Corey was at his Dad's) he popped the question. He says I started to shake when he asked me. I just said I had to think about it. And I kept saying that every time he asked me. And he asked me a lot. Finally one day he told me that he wasn't going to wait forever. Now you have to realize that I had been married to my high school sweetheart for years and had thought it was the (almost) perfect marriage. That, of course, was blown to bits when he found a girlfriend! For me to love someone else came easy. It was "trust" that I had a problem with. How do you let yourself be vulnerable enough to trust again? And what if I get hurt again? I just found that step to be a hard one. I did a lot of "soul searching" and talking with my best friend. I knew I'd have to make a decision and soon.
Meanwhile Rick and I went to see another concert. We both loved STYX and he had seen them and wanted me to see what a great show they put on. We got tickets and went to the concert. I listened to the music and knew that a couple of the songs pertained to "us" or just me. I found myself not listening anymore and thinking about getting married. How could I possibly let this wonderful man get away? He was so kind and sensitive and caring. I'd be totally stupid to not say YES! As we were leaving the concert he asked me if I wanted a T-shirt. I really did but knew they were expensive and we were pinching our pennies. I said, " Thanks, but no." He knew I really wanted one so as we were walking to the parking lot, he asked me again. I just kept walking and replied very casually to him, "You need to save your money for that engagement ring you're going to have to buy". I just kept walking , but he stopped dead in his tracks. I remember looking back at him and smiling, waiting for my words to sink in. I know that probably wasn't a very nice way for me to say "yes", but it was the most memorable! (Oh, and fifteen years later we went to another STYX concert and I finally got my T-shirt).