I haven't a clue why she agreed to the date. She was busy with a new and politically unpopular job that would demand all of her considerable skill and winsomeness. That, and she was weary of "relationships" from which she had only recently disentangled herself. She was strong, independent, stepping onto the playing field for which she had spent a lifetime preparing. Her plate was full.
But this friend kept pushing her.
And this guy kept calling her.
I wasn't trying to be pushy. In fact, I had my own practical and emotional resistance -- teenage kids, a consuming job of my own, and relational baggage. For perhaps the first time in my life I was beginning to live on my own with some sense of peace and stable center of gravity -- becoming a "self" in a way that I hadn't before understood the need for, with much more work to do.
But I, too, had this friend pushing me. The same mutual friend who worked with her, and that friend's husband who worked with me. And so I called, if for no other reason than to satisfy the obligation. But she never answered. I tried multiple days, at multiple times but without success. Eventually, I left a timidly flimsy message with a call-back number I had every reason to believe she would never use, and turned my thoughts to other things.
And then the phone rang.
We had a nice chat. We made an obligatory date for dinner after mutually and forthrightly -- and quite verbally -- reducing the expectations to zero. The day eventually arrived and I rang her doorbell -- exactly 19 years ago today. August 31. I haven't a single recollection about the food, but it was a good dinner; one that would prove transformative. I remember calling my brother the next day and confessing with cautious dread , "I've had a better date than I really wanted to be having at this point in my life."
The rest, as often noted, is history. We now share a doorbell -- and almost 18 years of marriage. We have matured, moved to one house and now a farm; we have aged a little, and grown. The best part, of course, is that we have grown together, into each others keeping. We flesh out mutual values, nurture shared dreams, and supportively encourage respective ones. We laugh a lot, dab occasional tears, sooth frustrations and sort out challenges as best we can. We don't always get it right, but determinedly carve out the space to repair what goes wrong. We talk. We listen. We roll up our sleeves and work up a sweat, doing what we can to feed and flex the things that make for life.
And tonight we will return to that same restaurant as we have through the years, and I will gaze into those same sparkling eyes and feel giddy all over again. Like I do everyday. Lovesick, proud and humbled all at the same time. And it will strike me all over again how grateful I am to those persistent friends for nudging me into becoming the most fortunate guy on the planet.
Happy First Date Anniversary, Sweetheart. I have loved these years; love even more the prospect of those to come.
But before dinner, don't we have some weeding to do in the garden?