I was a college student by night and a professional-in-training by day. It was spring and my identical twin daughters were finishing Kindergarten. I wasn’t really into dating and it’s been my experience that once the kid factor was mentioned: date fail. So, I had set out to raise my girls as one of those single moms. We had lived in a condo, but I decided it was time to find a house with a backyard for the girls to play in while I kept my nose in a book. That search didn’t take long; our new house was a small ranch in a suburb. I was learning a lot about growing up while figuring becoming a good parent. So we grew quite comfortable in our little home getting to know new neighbors and enjoyed summer playing in the court.
We had a lot of fun with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had managed to make our first fire in the wood burning fireplace and baked Christmas cookies. We would soon be able to hang these memories our bare walls. But, one cold Friday night that winter my childhood friend, Danielle, came over to enjoy a few glasses of wine. We had some catching up to do on the missing years. I learned she had married an Army officer, Kris, whom was deployed at the time. She curiously asked me, “Well, since you don’t go out and date, what if I brought the date to you? I replied with a bit of choppy sarcasm, “Only if he wore a uniform and was disciplined!” I thought she was kidding. Oh contrary to my plan, her husband happened to know of a fellow officer who was newly single. Go figure, right? As my backwards luck would have it, my Mr. Right was a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army. We had had friends that previously associated but we never crossed each other’s path. She chuckled, “Just wait, you’ll see.” She headed home late that night and much to my surprise, she decided to play matchmaker.
As technology and e-dating had joined forces this century, my Mr. Right created a Facebook page. He viewed my profile and inquired about me to Kris. I, impatiently, looked him up and sent him the first message. He messaged me back. Oh boy! I was nervous and thought I was an idiot. This is either a scam or short-lived fantasy and it won’t last. So, we messaged back and forth. I continued thinking he was either crazy or desperate. Then I tried diligently to scare him off with our first phone call that lasted about three hours. I rattled to him, “I am going to recap my life and hold nothing back. If you hang up, I understand.” After my lengthy and uneasy rant to him, my Mr. Right was….still…. on the phone. I asked him, “Um, why didn’t you hang up?” He said, “There isn’t a reason to.” I was shocked and I intrigued, so I questioned further, “Do you do drugs? Are you drunk?” Mr. Right responded, “No, no and you haven’t said anything worth running from. When can we meet up?” I was quiet and lost for words and was curious how Disney missed this movie by a long shot. So I fumbled my words with,” Um, I don’t know. I wasn’t prepared for this. Let’s see how a Saturday lunch goes and then maybe you’ll have a reality check and change your mind.”
We met for lunch on my least favorite holiday: Valentine’s Day. Ugh, could this get any more Hallmark or Hollywood? Well, it did. We had originally planned to meet at a sit down restaurant, but my schedule changed. So I called my Mr. Right, last minute, and asked to change restaurants to my one of my favorite and quick cafes: Panera. Although I caught him off guard, he said,” Ok.” The other slight hiccup was my profile photo was outdated. I used to have a lot of blond highlights, but had gone back to my natural dark brunette. At least it explained the look on his face when we met in the parking lot and he tilted his head asking, “Who are you?” We enjoyed lunch and laughed. I couldn’t believe we were having a great time talking about our past journeys and future goals. We were complete opposites in a lot of ways, but seemed to have enough in common to make it worth trying. When we had finished, he walked me to his truck and handed a single silk red rose. He asked,” When can I see you again?” I smiled and without thinking, I asked, “Do you have any plans later tonight?” He tilted his head toward me and softly answered,” Not yet.” We agreed he could come over after the girls had gone to bed and watch a movie. My stomach was in pure butterfly mode, my mind was racing. What did I miss?” He leaned in and kissed my cheek.
I was trying to hide the clutter when he pulled in the driveway. We forgot about the movie and just talked well past midnight. I was enjoying his company, but I had started to wonder what we were really getting ourselves into. This was a first lunch date after all. He was easy to talk to and really understanding. I even asked him, “Are you gay?” He looked at me and strongly said, “No, I am just a good guy.” I regrettably apologized, “Sorry.” He didn’t ask to spend the night, instead he suggested he come over more often and get to know me and the girls. We talked and texted every day and he drove over every night after the girls went to bed. I told him he reminded me of a boomerang, I’d send him on his way in the morning and he just kept coming back for more at night. My neighbors started getting curious. I questioned him, “Why haven’t you just run away or admitted that you aren’t interested?” He said, “Like I said before, there is no reason to. I really like you.”
A couple weeks later, he informed me, “I’m getting deployed and going to war in Afghanistan.” I remember my body and mind just froze. There were no thoughts or words. I was emotionally blank. I was confused, concerned and suddenly insecure like a really bad daytime soap opera that needed a script rewrite. The last few weeks had been a great change and things were going really well. I bluntly asked, “This is the deal breaker?” I didn’t even know how else to respond to him. I was glad he hadn’t met the girls. This was the missing piece in Danielle’s matchmaking game. I could see the doubt written all over his face. He did not want to lie to me, but he really didn’t want to have to tell me. He pulled me to him and reluctantly whispered, “I don’t want to hurt you and I didn’t know when, what or how to tell you about my deployment. You have filled a hole in my heart and I haven’t even met the girls yet. I want a family more than anything and a place to call home. So, there we sat on my couch. The only thing we were sure of was we thought this might just be true love. It happened so quickly. We both wanted to try and make it work. He was handsome and looked really good in a military uniform. We both needed to sleep on this one.
Well, we continued to see each other and first week of March, he asked me, “Can I meet the girls?” I knew it was a huge risk, but cautioned him, “This may not go well. They may or may not like you.” He showed up with pizza and of course, they hit it off. They called him, “The pizza man!” It was great except the part they didn’t know about; he has to leave for a little while. They excitedly asked me, “Is he our new dad?” My heart sank and my mind went full of doubt. I didn’t really know, but my Mr. Right chuckled out, “As soon as I convince your mom.” We went on bike rides and he worked through homework with them while I did my own. This was a dream come true for any single mom. He not only swept me off my feet, but was wooing the girls. These weeks were utter bliss with a dreaded upcoming and temporary good-bye. This is downside that would turn this dream into a vivid nightmare.
We were like a happy family until deployment day. Unfortunately, two days before my birthday. I drove him to the airport after the girls left for school. We had told them he had to go away for work and they could talk to him on the phone and Skype. He was dressed in full camouflage backpacking his rucksack. This was what seemed like my longest walk in an airport. We reached his gate and I tried fighting back tears, but they flowed down my cheek. That moment we got lost, again, in each other’s eyes. We were an emotional mess and completely unsure of what had happened these past few weeks or what our journey ahead would reveal. Everything was so different now. I reluctantly asked him, “Why should we wait for you? How do I know you’ll come back or want to come home to us?” After all it was literally on the other side of the world. We weren’t crazy, we were nuts! He whispers in my ear,” When I come home, I want to marry you.” I was stunned, “Is he proposing?” I was not even remotely thinking marriage at the moment. I could tell he had been fighting back tears, his glasses were fogged over. “What am I supposed to say?” I asked him. I went neutral, again. I loved everything about him. I kept wondering where the crystal or magic eight ball is. Some form of future insight would help for this one. I was a mess and muffled, “What?” I pulled myself together asked the cliché question, “So are we changing our Facebook status to ‘engaged’?” He nodded yes. He wasn’t on one knee and there was no ring, but something just felt right at that moment and I joined him with a yes. We had never talked about fate or destiny, but kind of knew this all had to have happened for a reason. He wiped my cheeks and I softly asked, “Why on earth do you want to marry me?" He lowered his head down a little more and grinned, “Everyday will be an adventure.”
He boarded the plane and I dragged myself through my workday. He called or messaged me as he stopped at each destination. We worked out a schedule so he could talk with and get to know the girls better. We talked more and more about making a life together. We decided we would elope at the court house while he was home on leave. I chose to move his belongings into what became our house. At least we had his really nice big green truck that dominated the garage while he was away. Then, it hit me! I am going to have to share my closet and bedroom. Good thing I had it to myself a bit longer.
He requested his leave time early on and found out he would be home a few months later, the last week of May through the second week of June. The girls and I picked him up. I knew he hadn’t driven a vehicle in a couple months, but I handed him my car keys anyway. I assumed he would have wanted to go home to shower and nap. Nope, he had his own agenda. He designed a custom ring for me before he left. He took us to that local, family jewelry store. He was originally going to surprise with me an airport proposal, but that plan fell through. So, we went into the store where he discreetly received the freshly polished ring. Then, in camouflaged uniform, he kneeled on one knee while holding my hand, looked up and formally asked, “Will you marry me?” I just grinned as my eyes teared up. I blurted out, “Duh, yes!” I wish someone would have had a camera for that.
His leave time worked out nicely. We surprised his sister for her wedding in Springfield over the Memorial Day weekend. We used the travel time to talk. We made it to our hotel and settled in for the night. The next morning, he knocked on her door and she cried, “What, how did you get here?” She needed a make-up redo. It was so worth it. It was a great time with a quick meet and greet with his family. We had also let them in on our little secret of eloping at the courthouse three days later. His mom wasn’t thrilled. We had only invited a few friends to witness our civil ceremony and convinced our parents to sign the marriage certificate. After all, we only needed two witnesses and a judge. We stood in the middle of the courtroom with the judge and did our thing. My Mr. Right and I stood there, with eyes locked on each other. In just a few minutes, we became Mr. & Mrs. Right. Instead of a reception or honeymoon, we had a luncheon to celebrate. We were happy and the girls were ecstatic to finally have a dad. Then we headed home and worked in the yard. He started rearranging everything. I admit, organization isn’t a strong point for me. The time we had during his leave was short and sweet, to say the least.
When I dropped him off at the airport the second time, it wasn’t as hard. It was different. We were married. That made some things easier, but others harder. We still really didn’t know what our journey would entail. It didn’t really matter anymore. We had unexpectedly found each other and are now six years into it.