Monday, April 4, 2011

The 10-Day First Date

Six years ago today, I fell in love. Truly, madly, and deeply and long before Savage Garden spewed it all over the radio. I had written epic emails to a Soldier in the middle of the desert. I had agreed to a first meeting in the Heathrow Airport on 1 R&R for him, a moment of truth for me. I had received my first phone call on Christmas Eve. And I had ignored every warning, criticism, and side-eye because my heart told me it was right and that it would all be OK.

We already knew so much about each other...favorite movies, music, food. We knew one another's family as if we had been Christmasing together for years. And I could assemble Neal's ideal care package with my eyes closed...something spicy, something sweet, and a card, sealed with a kiss. A face-to-face meeting was in the cards and it filled everyone with dread...except for me and Neal.

I packed 4 suitcases, 2 for me and 2 for him. I boarded a plane before the sun rose over Cincinnati and landed in London late that night. I nervously re-applied my make-up in the airplane bathroom and tried to breathe. Not breathe deeply...just breathe. I cursed Customs and the 3 agents on nightshift. Hurry UP, already!! And when I emerged from the world's longest hallway, with a cart in tow threatening to topple all of the Samsonite that had been haphazardly tossed aboard, there he was. Waving. Smiling. Looking just as nervous as me. And I smiled back.

We hugged. I felt the pounding of both of our hearts. He was shorter than I had expected. I was sweating profusely. I finger-combed my hair and rubbed my lips together while he hailed a taxi. Tiny moments when he wasn't looking and I could try to pull myself together. As our driver raced down boulevards with grandiose names, he snapped this picture.
And that was the beginning of our lives together. We had 10 days planned...seeing the sights, eating as much Indian food as Neal could digest in a week and a half, and learning how to be with each other...outside of the confines of an inbox.

I landed on a Saturday night. April Fool's Day. We talked until 3 AM...about the flight, the war, why we had 2 twin beds that had been screwed into a single headboard. We retired to our respective sides and thought about rolling toward the center.
 The next day, he let me sleep until my eyes sprang open and my brain cranked...wondering if I was actually in the Waldorf Hotel in London, England, with the most handsome man I had ever known...or in my apartment with a cat on each side of my head. We had breakfast and crappy coffee and went to hear the St. Paul's Cathedral choir sing. He took pictures of me taking pictures of the that I didn't see until I was back home, missing him and wondering what our future held.
That night, we walked to the bar where we were to meet the Party Bus. We had 2 tickets to ride and drink all night long. We never made it onto the bus. We had drinks while we waited on the bus. Then we danced. Then we kissed. Then it was 3 AM. We had missed the bus. I would argue that it's the first time I actually got on the right bus (figuratively, of course. Stop blushing, Mama Virgo). We came back and crashed...and rolled to the center.
When I awoke on Monday morning, I was in love. And I knew that if we didn't get married, my heart would end up smashed and left to rot. was the risk I was willing to take. The next 8 days told me that I would leave the United Kingdom with a heart so full of love, respect, and laughter that only the remaining days of a deployment could keep us from being together.

I think when I wasn't looking, he fell in love with me, too...

Happy 6th Us Day, handsome. What I am most acutely aware of as I read Katie's blog is that everyday I have with you is a gift and we should never take it for granted. It's OK to talk a little longer, hold a little tighter, kiss a little more passionately because someday you could lose all of it forever. And what you're left with is photos, memories, and wishes tossed in a fountain. Just as when we lost Shepherd and, consequently, all of our friends clung more tightly to their own children, Katie has shown us that it could all end in a blink of an eye. I am not spending our Us Day the way I want to, but please know that I am thinking of you constantly and counting my wake-ups until we can once again roll toward the center.


  1. Happy Anniversary! That was a delightful story to read. So sorry that you have to be apart this year. You make a perfect couple. :)

  2. thank you for sharing your story & love for Neal.

    i met my husband 15 summers ago, at church camp...and i had that same overwhelming feeling...knowing that from that point on, he would be in my life forever.
    i love hearing stories like yours...proving that love, romance and appreciation for each other does not have to fade as time goes by. thank you!

  3. How sweet! What a great story!!! :) If you dont mind me asking, how did the two of you meet?

  4. What the huh???
    What an awesome awesome awesome post!!!

  5. That was one awesome and adventuresome first date! All the best to you both, and happy anniversary.

  6. What a wonderful story. You have guts, Girl, but we knew that, too. And, if your makeup looks that good after a quick re-do in the ladies room... well, I'm gonna smack you.

    Sorry about our 'cats, but they did hang in there.

  7. I never get tired of your "us" story :-) I know what you mean about Katie making us appriciate each other more. Congratulations on 6 years of "us"...BTW, I've said it before & I'll say it need to be a a paid have an amazing way with words..."roll towards the center" sweet!

  8. What a beautiful love letter to Neal.
    Happy Anniversary to the both of you - may you never spend another one apart.

  9. Love love love it.... You two are way too cute.

  10. What a fantastic story... that's one of the best "how we first met"s I've ever heard! What a brave couple you were and are!

  11. wonderful, wonderful, wonderful

    I loved that he was taking pictures of you when you were not looking...

    I hope to meet my future love of my life this way.

    But I would not have a clue how you found him via should tell that story!!

    that is all


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