The separation between Chw and I found me really transparent as I journeyed through that season. It is a time, in my life, that I will always be scarred by and forever altered. It’s ironic because we have been divorced before, but that time period was a cake walk compared to the heart-carnage of those seven months. Even now, there are days when I awake and am confronted with every single one of my worst nightmares become reality. On those days it takes everything in my power to get out of bed and function. I truly am but a shell of someone else…
A few days ago Gen and I were talking about love & marriage… She is fascinated by the fact that I knew I would marry her dad the second I met him, and then, decades later my older daughter met her now-husband and had the same certainty. Trying to explain to a dramatically romantic 17-year-old that this wasn’t something we dreamed up and willed to happen, is difficult. In both cases, mine and my daughter, I’m pretty sure weren’t fixating on anything, but instead just filled with a knowledge that this person was the one we’d marry.
In all honesty, it’s that very fact which made both my divorce and this separation hard to swallow. It’s an interesting story, to my daughter (and to me too) so I thought I’d share it with you…
When I was barely fifteen, I had a pretty traumatic break-up. It wasn’t that this boy was the love of my life as much as the fact that a relationship so intimate should not have occurred in the first place. I was young, I was damaged and this only served to wound me more. It was after the recovery began that I sat down and made a list. I simply prayed that God would show me the best features for my husband, because at that point I was beyond terrified of loving anyone else, for fear of the hurt…
My list included a lot of things that I found attractive or appealing. It also had a few things that I couldn’t quite explain, regarding their existence on my list. Time passed and I began dating someone whom inhabited very few of the things on my list, but I cared so deeply for him that I didn’t care. Looking back with this sort of adult reflection I realize this person was actually my first love. The first heartbreak had hurt, but it wasn’t about love as much as lust, codependency and an unhealthy need for someone to want me. This other relationship was love. It was that quintessential coming of age sort of experience that formed a vital part of me. The heartbreak eight months later was searing but bearable because I’d grown up some. I understood more. Also, my heart was being ripped to shreds in other ways so that goodbye took a back burner to life.
It was roughly two and a half months after that bus-station goodbye kiss that I found myself flooded with the knowledge that I was going to go to college in a few short weeks, where I would meet my husband. I was seventeen. Believe me when I say that, at my now 40 years of age (and the mother of a 17-year-old) this whole truth makes me a little nauseous. Also, the fact that I was not secretive about this sudden assurance and that every adult in my life responded with “that’s great!” really blows my mind…
During freshman orientation I scanned the new arrivals and sank upon the realization that my husband was not in the room. I just knew the second I saw him, that I would know. I already knew the majority of the upper class-men and knew he was none of them, so I volunteered to work the retreat weekend instead of camping with my school. What was the point of going if my husband wasn’t going to be there and I could earn a few bucks back in town.
I KNOW… I shake my head, as a parent, whenever this topic comes up.
So, Tuesday (post labor day camping as a college) I’m sitting with a friend in a chapel assembly. The speaker encouraged us to “mingle” with people around us, and that’s when this guy sitting directly in front of me turns around and smiles, says hi, compliments my necklace, says hi to my friend (as if they know each other!) and then goes back to his front facing seat. It all happened so fast that it took me a few seconds to comprehend the odd certainty rushing through me. That boy was my husband. I quickly ask my friend and she shares that they got to know each other AT THE RETREAT… I mean, what the heck?
After chapel I tap him on the shoulder, introduce myself and ask him why he missed orientation. He answers about being a late arrival and then tells me his name.
Let me take this moment to share a few fun facts leading up to this introduction…
- his foreign exchange student BFF had played baseball at the group home I lived in, AND I had talked to him.
- his girl BFF is someone I had met at camp and saw at all of the youth events where our youth groups both attended. We were cordial, but mostly I was pretty enamored by her because she was beautiful and friendly and I was a sheltered group home kid who didn’t see a lot of either. In fact at one event, at her church, I remember telling my own BFF “I bet her and I are roommates one day!”
- his ex-girlfriend was a couple of years ahead of me at the same college. her roommate, freshman year, was my very good friend. When I would sleep over, the ex-gf would go home and I would sleep in her bed, where the wall was plastered with pictures of her “ex that she still loved.” My husband…
- And this is Gen’s favorite detail: that spring we went to the same concert, and were in the SAME section.
Ok. So I get his name and immediately ask if he knows my recent ex, because they share the same last name. He didn’t, but it turns out that the majority of his paternal family (whom he had only recently met) lived in the same area my ex was from.
It was an instant friendship. (fun fact: His roommate ended up dating my roommate and they also married and are some of our dearest friends.) We palled around and did everything together. It wasn’t long into our friendship before I told him we were going to get married. This is where I have to point out a few things:
- I wasn’t attracted to him. I don’t know why, he is attractive. I wasn’t attracted to anyone.
- he was unlike anyone I had ever dated or been interested in.
- he could be really annoying.
- our sense of humors fell short of meeting in the middle, most of the time.
- we only had one thing in common, life/future vision wise: we both wanted to be a stable home and love for kids who needed that.
- he loved hip hop dancing and rap music, the two things I detested.
- he hated to read. (though not on my list, I had spent so much time reading with my ex that I believed my marriage would involve books significantly.)
- he did not enjoy debates, or deep discussions at all- something that I thrived on.
- He didn’t really have a family. I didn’t either and so I really ached for one.
- my long forgotten list was found 7 days after we met, and as time proved- he embodied every single attribute.
Though I didn’t, at first, understand why it was him, it didn’t take long for me to be so grateful it was. This girl who had been waiting for a family and completion eventually let the guard down and found it in him.
I don’t know why I knew, or how. I just know that there were dozens upon dozens of things, in those early days, that only confirmed it. And that vision we agreed on, that became our family. For twenty-three years we’ve been a home to many who needed one, but the best of these were our three kids.
(fun fact #2: His female BFF and I did end up living together for a short period of time. We never really became friends, though for a while I thought we had, but how I’d known that would happen I never quite knew.)