In October 2004, when I turned 24 and after having a disappointing end to a long-distance quasi-dating relationship with someone, I came to the realization that I probably wouldn’t meet the man for me until after I was 30…until after I stopped looking at every man that I met as a potential husband.
In November 2004, the same teacher friend of mine was invited to a wedding. She was high school friends with the groom and she invited me to go as her guest. I was happy to attend, as I was looking forward to a night of fun and celebration. Little did I know what attending that wedding would mean for me and my future. My friend and I entered the church, and were greeted by two men: one that I recognized and Jon, who happened to be home on leave from Key West, where he was serving in the Coast Guard, and was able to attend his high school friend’s wedding. We chatted for a couple minutes, as my friend knew both men, and then found seats in the church. Unbeknownst to be, Jon made a point to sit next to me in the pew during the wedding ceremony. I later learned from Jon that when I walked into the church he said to himself, “That’s the quiet girl from the party. What’s her name?” While Jon was trying to remember who I was, I thought I was meeting him for the first time. Throughout the course of the night, Jon made a point to be near me, though the pleasantries were short-lived. Between the ceremony and the reception the three of us (my friend, Jon and I) stopped at a local McDonald’s. During that time, Jon thought it would be a good thing to tell me about how mean he was to his geometry teacher. Seeing as how I was a math teacher, those stories didn’t go over very well and I stopped talking to him, in jest, for the duration of our time at McDonald’s. During the reception he asked me to dance and I obliged, thinking, “What will it hurt to dance with him? I’ll never see him again.” At the end of one dance, after he asked for another, I told him that I wouldn’t dance with him until he danced with my friend—the one that invited me to the wedding in the first place. According to Jon, he ran to my friend, grabbed her up from the chair and told her that she needed to dance with him. By the end of the night, when my friend and I needed to leave Jon and I had jokingly planned our wedding, given him a kiss on the cheek and held hands (I thought I was humoring a man who’d had a little too much to drink). At the very end of the night, Jon asked if I would walk with him back to his hotel room (he was staying at the hotel attached to the reception hall that night) to grab his coat. Since it was just a few steps away I went with him. While in the room, Jon asked for my phone number. I gave it to him with the full expectation that he would NEVER call once he was 100% sober. To my surprise, he then asked if he could have a kiss. I told him that he could have one on the cheek. I cupped his head in my hands, turned his face and kissed him on the cheek. I later found out that if I hadn’t done that, Jon would have tried to steal a kiss from me!
Much to my surprise, Jon did call me the next week and almost every day after. During that first week of phone calls we made plans to meet the day after Thanksgiving at his mom’s house so that he could cook me dinner. Some thought I was crazy to meet this man I had just met. What was intended to be a dinner and movie turned into a 27-hour first date. We ate, we talked, we watched a movie, we talked some more, I met two of his friends, he showed me where he made memories with his grandpa, I met his mother and I said good-bye. A few days after that night, Jon’s leave ended and he returned to Key West.
Between Thanksgiving and February 2005, Jon and I spoke every day for at least two hours. There were some weekends where we would need to end our conversation simply to recharge phone batteries. Fortunately for us, Cingular had free mobile-to-mobile minutes, so we were able to speak as often and as long as we wanted. We were so appreciative to Cingular that we actually invited a representative to our wedding. We talked about everything from childhood memories to views on abortion to politics to what we would do if we won a bazillion dollars and everything in between.
In February 2005, Jon came to visit me while he was on leave. We had a wonderful week that was filled with dinners, face-to-face conversation, a dinner theater and a humorous night in what could have passed for a pimp room from the 1980’s. At the end of that visit, we had already decided that I would travel down to Florida for my spring break the next month.
In March 2005, I boarded an airplane…alone…and flew to Miami. Since my mom and step-dad spend four months a year in Florida, the plan was that Jon would drive up from Key West, pick me up at the airport, and then we would drive across the state to Anna Maria Island to stay with my parents. I landed in Miami and Jon and I waited in baggage claim for my suitcase. When my bag finally came through, Jon led me to his car, loaded my suitcase, escorted me to the passenger side of the Jeep Wrangler, opened the door helped me in, squatted down (he was parked in a parking ramp), and proposed to me. While my subconscious should have expected the proposal, my conscious-self did not, so I hit Jon and told him to get in the jeep. He was shocked, as he was really hoping for a yes. He took a moment to gather himself, before pulling the ring out of the box, dropping it in the jeep, where he feared that he would lose the ring if it fell through and open drain hole in the floor of the Jeep, and stated, “Fuck.” My response: “Not until we’re married.” Jon found the ring, picked it up, we got it on my finger, he DID get in the Jeep and we began our trek across Florida.
It was an amazing week. We spent time with two of my parents, we visited local attractions, we were able to announce that we were newly engaged and we began to plan our wedding, which was to occur not quite 5 months later. At the end of the week, we drove back to Miami, Jon dropped me off at the airport and I flew home…leaving a part of my heart in Florida, while carrying part of Jon’s with me back to Wisconsin.
In May 2005, Jon finally received his discharge orders. He packed up everything he owned into his Jeep Wrangler and drove from Key West to Wisconsin as quickly and as safely as he could. Over the next 3.5 months we planned our wedding and tried to get settled to begin our new life together.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since our courtship began, and it’s amazing to think of all that we’ve been through since then. We’ve been through unemployment, huge blows to each of our self-esteems, relocations, house purchasing, family conflicts, stupid fights and resolutions between ourselves, working together on my diabetes, infertility, losing our children, bringing a child home, raising our children and trying to keep our relationship alive all at the same time. Jon and I have had many ups and many downs. We each have moments in our relationship that we’re not proud of, but we work together to move beyond those and make ourselves stronger. He believes in me, holds me when I don’t believe in myself, supports me to become a better me and makes me want to be a better wife and mother. Jon is, and has always been my soul mate.