My best and most memorable first was 15 years ago. I was single . . . still . . . and worried that I might never meet Mr. Right. When I was in my 40's the news and women's magazines were full of reports on studies about the reduced chances of women over 40 ever getting married. The reasons why were as diverse as the women on whom they were reporting. Some women did not want to be married. Some women had been married, but chose not to repeat the experience; and then, there were the women who, like me, had not been, but would like to be married. I was somewhat discouraged, but I tried to keep my eye on the prize, so to speak, and continued to look in all the logical places for a man who would be, as the saying goes, good husband material. The relationships I had up until then had not ended up with the kind of commitment I needed and wanted. I didn't let the well-meant remarks from friends and relatives influence me and keep me from pursuing my dream. Plenty of times, I heard that I should be happy just the way I was and accept the fact that perhaps it just might not be in the cards for me to find a husband, and so forth and so on. I always trusted that God had a plan for me and I believed it included marriage. I just wanted Him to put His plan into motion and, if possible, sometime soon!
I had other help, too. My hairdresser knew my desire to be married and he made sure that I had a good look when I left his shop. We joked about me heading down to the supermarket immediately after my appointment to look for a husband. I told him I really did follow his advice and that I went directly to the store each time and while I shopped, I looked over the fresh produce for Mr. Right. He laughed at me and said, "That's not where to look!" He advised me to change my course and head over to the aisle with all the instant and ready-made foods. So, I broadened my search to include those aisles. It was a wash, but while I was scoping out the men selecting their instant dinners, I discovered a few new grocery items for my cart.
My minister knew, too. She listened to my stories. We became friends and visited and had lunches together. She prayed for me. I used to meet another single lady friend after church for brunch and we would compare notes on our searches and dating experiences. Then, there was my dentist and her assistant. My dentist was a pretty young newlywed and her assistant was about my age, which at the time was my mid 40's. While I was in the chair, we would chat about all kinds of things. I had never had a female dentist before and it was refreshing to talk to her about "normal" things. I needed a series of appointments, so we all became well acquainted. Being very nervous about having dental work, I was probably very chatty . . . even more than usual . . . which can be a lot at times. The subject of my search for Mr. Right came up and I filled them in on my activities at every appointment. They were amused by some of my stories and also wanted to help. They began talking to each other over my head, while they were working on my teeth, and saying things like, "Oh, we should book so and so at the same time as her." I could tell they were half-joking and half-serious.
Internet dating was in its infancy in the early part of the new century; but after some consideration of my options, I dipped my toe in the water of the online scene. At first, I used a free site, but found it was not for me. The criteria were vague and the matches that came up in my search were all over the board. I chalked it up to a learning experience as I navigated the waters of talking online to men from all over the country and the world. I swam into deeper waters to a site that was more reputable and had a fee. Friends and family were worried about me using the Internet to find Mr. Right. They warned me to be careful and about the dangers lurking behind the computer screen. My reply was that I had already read all the "do's and dont's" of Internet dating. I was careful. I met some men who interested me and I dated a bit. Some dates were disasters, and some were fun and led to successive dates. But, there was just never that spark that I was looking for. I didn't want to settle. I was hopeful, not desperate. However, there were those dark and lonesome times in between the bright spots. I had a list. It was the kind of list I make when I need to make a big decision. It was my "what I want in a husband" list. It had three columns with the headings, Requirement, Plus, Deal Breaker. I wrote it around the year 2,000, I think; or maybe a few years before. I can't recall. I prayed over it and kept it in my desk. I fine-tuned it when necessary. It was what I referred to when I wrote my online profile for the Internet dating service I subscribed to. I had been on my search for more than two years when I hit bottom and started to wonder if my friends were right . . . that I should just accept my lot in life to be single forever and grow old alone.
On Labor Day weekend, I was at home and, as usual, by myself. I was mad, disappointed and scared. I felt cheated and abandoned. In tears, I went to my desk and took the list out of the drawer. As I tore it into shreds, I sobbed and said to God, "Please God, show me why I am here or just take me now. I am done." I cried myself to sleep. Three hours later, I awoke. I felt completely different than I had just three hours before. I felt new. I felt soothed. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me and I felt hurts and fears melt away and my body felt strong and shielded. It is hard to explain all that I felt. Nothing that I felt was sad, scary or negative. When I went to work on Tuesday, I told a woman I worked with about my experience and she said the Grace of God had washed over me. She was a former nun and she shared with me a similar experience she had in her life and also said that the duration of three hours was significant . . . the same number of hours that Jesus was on the cross. Little did I know that those three hours not only helped erase the hurts from my burdened soul, but more importantly, they prepared me for the most memorable first in my entire life.
I continued talking to men on the Internet dating site and dated a few after that weekend. But in November, everything changed. There was a man who appeared as a match in my search. I looked at his profile and saw that he was a widower (Plus column, right there!), was looking for someone 5'10" or over (Deal Breaker column, since I am 5' 3 3/4" tall!), and Christian (Requirement column, because I am a Christian, too). I didn't contact him, but since he appeared in my matches, the same thing happened on his screen and I appeared in his. He reached out to me and we started to chat. I liked him right away. He was kind, funny and thoughtful. He warned me to be careful of the men "out there". After a few weeks of chatting online, we eventually took our conversations a step further and agreed to talk on the phone. I gave him my phone number and he called me that evening at 10:30 P.M. We talked and talked and talked . . . until 7:30 A.M. the next day! That date will be forever etched in my mind. It was 15 years ago today . . . November 8th, 2002.
People have asked me how on earth we talked for 9 hours. I don't have a pat answer. We just did! After all, there was a lot of ground to cover with our two histories that spanned many decades! A week later we made a plan to meet and even though I felt secure in meeting my new Internet friend, I followed the rules I had established for myself and arranged for him to pick me up at my cousin's house about a half hour away from his home. He took me to dinner at a local restaurant and we both wished the night would not end. The next day was even more magical. He knew how much I like Impressionist art, so he picked me up in the morning and took me to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. I was in heaven! Being with such a wonderful companion and walking the halls of the museum was an extraordinary experience. I thought to myself, "this guy knows how to impress a girl"! After we left the museum, he took me to the Anchor Bar, which is the home of the Buffalo chicken wing. He was amused when I ate only 4 wings. I liked them, but they were kind of messy to eat on a date!
The weekend had to end, of course; and even though we had really just met, it was hard to say good-bye. I had a different kind of feeling about this man. He had many of the requirements and some of the plusses I had on my list and many others I had never even dreamed to include on it. I wondered if I had really found someone to spend the rest of my life with.
That winter was especially snowy; but we travelled the 100 miles between us just about every weekend and continued getting to know each other. We both thought the same thing . . . that we had found love. If felt so natural to be together. Our pasts were quite different, but there were many similarities too. Even something as simple as how he talked made a difference. He was from Western New York and because I had grown up there, I could hear it in his voice the first time he called me. It was comforting to hear that familiar regional dialect.
Souvenirs from our first year of dating.
We had fun getting acquainted and doing so many ordinary and special things . . .
from coffee dates, to seeing plays at Shea's Theater in Buffalo.
In the spring, he introduced me to his sons’ families and to his mother. This was a big step for him because he believed in only including someone in their lives if there was a reason to believe it would be a permanent relationship. I finally allowed myself to seriously think that this romance was going to lead to marriage. I wondered when he might pop the question and tried to be as ready as possible for something as unknown to me as a proposal.
But on August 7th, just short by one day of our nine-months-ago first phone call, he proposed to me. Excited and nervous, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. As much as I had been hoping and anticipating a proposal, I was surprised and even a little rattled. I looked down at my folded hands and had to ask myself if I was really hearing those precious words. My pause gave him concern. He wondered if my answer was going to be something he hadn't anticipated. For me, time seemed to stand still while I tried to soak it in and believe this was really happening. I slowly raised my head and looked at him and erased the worried look on his brow when I said yes.
Fifteen years is a long time. We never could have imagined when we started chatting on the Internet that we had each found true love. But we did. It all began for me when I pleaded for a sign from God. I wasn't challenging Him, but asking Him to intercede. He answered my prayers and led me down the path I had always hoped for. We were married on the first day of Spring the following year and our marriage has been a wonderful journey. There have been plenty of ups and downs, as there are in any marriage; but I always try to keep in mind how we got here. It was truly by the Grace of God and I am ever-grateful for the blessings He has shown me and us.