The first time it happened, I was on the couch in my family’s living room. My boyfriend of three years handed me a teddy bear with a ring tied to the red ribbon around its neck. I don’t recall David asking the big question, but he must have. The only thing I can recall is the heart palpitations. How did I let this happen? I didn’t want to get married! I feigned enthusiasm and showed the ring to the family. They seemed happy for me, but I’m quite sure that their enthusiasm was feigned, as well. After all, I was only 19, and although David was very nice, he was a smooth talker, overly impressed with furs, jewels and fancy cars. Surely this was not a good idea. They were nice enough to keep that thought to themselves.
I didn’t tell anyone else besides my family. My co-workers noticed my ring and made quite a fuss, which did not make me happy. I had no motivation to do any planning for the big day- I knew there would be no big day. I don’t think I even bought a single Bride’s magazine, which is one of the main perks of being engaged-you can buy all the cool magazines. My only focus was finding a way out of this dilemma, which is not easy at a young age when you don’t know how to say the tough, big, honest truths that all adults have to learn to say. My biggest concern was not hurting someone’s feelings. I didn’t know that the truth always comes out, and the longer it takes, the harder it hits.
I would have that same dilemma 10 years later. Ron and I had been dating for 3 years and were living together. We had a good relationship and got along well, but for me it was like being best friends. I just wasn’t into it romantically and I again found myself trying to find a way out. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Life has a way of forcing you to learn your lessons.
One evening Ron and I watched a news story on TV about a plane that went down in a farm. The reporter was interviewing the elderly farmer, who wore coveralls and a traditional farmer’s hat. Apparently his wife thought it was rude for her husband to wear a hat on TV, because out of the side of the screen, we watched her hand reach across and take it off his head. The man didn’t miss a beat-he kept on with his plane story. This woman had probably been doing things like that for years. Ron and I thought it was hilarious and adorable.
Not long after the plane story, we were in Ron’s truck and he started driving downtown. I asked where he was going, and he wouldn’t tell me. I knew there was only one secret he could have from me, and I panicked. I kept saying, “Ron, please don’t do this, please stop.” He said the wheels were already in motion. “I have to do it while I have the courage.” I knew I was in trouble. He took me to the top of a parking deck in downtown Athens. He handed me a rose and the Athens Daily Banner, with the page opened to the classifieds. I searched among the lost pet ads until I saw it. The ad read, “Will you take off my hat for the cameras when I am old? I have another question for you.” He gave me a ring and asked it- the big question.
In that moment on the roof, I was not able to be brave and honest. I lied to him and to myself, saying yes to his question, and reassuring myself with the thought that it was the right thing to do. We told our families; my feigned enthusiasm was even more forced than the first time. I tried to get into the role of fiancé. I bought the fun magazines, I looked at the dresses. I would never set a date though. Inside my heart I knew it wasn’t right. We broke up six months later, an ugly breakup of the sort that leaves you cringing when you think about them.
I moved to Augusta and my subsequent boyfriends did to me what I had done to David and Ron: they didn’t have reciprocal affection, and were not honest about their feelings. I wrote it off to bad karma. In 2007 I reached a point where I felt I deserved more. I was convinced that the slate was clean, I had paid my dues and I could start fresh with someone new, someone I would choose for myself.
Kevin was the person that I chose. I had heard he was recently single, and because we had gotten along well as co-workers in the past, I thought he would be someone fun to date. So I asked him out. At first he turned me down. His heart was broken from the dissolution of a long marriage, and he still harbored hopes of reconciliation. I had to pursue him for many months. He finally started to see that since his ex-wife had long since moved on, it was time for him to do likewise. After an awkward first date spent mostly talking about her, we started on a path of taking it slow. Before long we were in full-blown dating mode. Both of us were making up for lost time by jamming in as much fun as we could think of. We had some amazing times during the courtship phase- trips, tattoos, parties, galas, racecar driving, wine tastings, concerts, margaritas and more. (Refer to: Facebook photo album called Kevin: Year One)
One year later I was sitting in an airport restaurant in Missouri, eating my lunch and looking out at the tarmac and the planes. I thought about all of my past relationships and the things I learned about myself. I saw this amazing person in front of me, who was kind and funny and smart and sexy. I had just met his family in a small town called Wellsville. There I had watched Kevin at the kitchen table, laughing and at ease, confident. And now, in the airport, I had a moment of clarity. If I had met Kevin in my youth, I could not have been the girlfriend to him then that I was able to be now. Each of the men who had touched my life had brought me to this point, so that I could not only recognize and appreciate the wonder of Kevin, but that I could have something cool to offer him in return. I mentioned this briefly to him, but we were still young in our relationship, and it was mostly just me sitting there with my memories and thoughts. I knew that Kevin was the best person for me, and that he was with me at the best time. My whole life, I had passionately wanted the most true, intense and honest love that the world had to offer, and I realized I actually had found it and –most importantly-accepted it graciously.
As a young adult, I had always said I would rather be alone than to get married to someone who wasn’t right for me. I had panic-filled thoughts in my youth, visions of waking up next to someone and not wanting to be there. It took me decades of breaking hearts and getting my heart broken to reach a relationship that was healthy, fun, exciting and supportive. I had found a person who was exactly what I wanted and needed, and being with him made me want to be the best version of myself. I was finally at a place where getting married sounded more fun than scary, but if I didn’t get married, that was ok too. I just wanted to be with him.
In 2009 Kevin and I bought a house together without using the “m” word. We knew we loved each other and wanted to be together. We had a running joke that we were on the 10-20 year plan. We had the most incredible relationship: we never fought, always had fun, and always encouraged one another. One night I told him I was going to up the ante to the 20-30 year plan. I wanted him to know I wasn’t going anywhere. A few weeks later, I came home from a movie with the girls, and we were sitting at the dining room table. He had the most intense and serious look on his face. He put a green box on the table and said he was going to see my bet of 20-30 and raise it to Forever. I knew in that moment how it is supposed to feel when someone proposes. I was ecstatic, and there was not a doubt in my mind that we were on the right path together. I wanted to be married to Kevin and spoil him for the rest of my life.
I believe that Kevin’s marriage heartbreak and my rocky relationship path have been tremendous blessings to our relationship, for they have allowed us both to appreciate what we have together. We may not say “I love you” every day, but we do say “I appreciate you”, constantly throughout the day. My friend Crystal jokes about our excessive affection for each other. “You know Kevin and Angela; they have to sit together so they can touch each other!” Forrest sees our touching and jokes with Kevin, “It’s not a rap video, Dad!” I waited my whole life to find Kevin, and I am never going to take him for granted, or let one moment pass if I can let him know how much he means to me.
So I am now buying all of the bridal magazines I can get my hands on, and planning what I know will be an incredible day on October 8th. I am pleased to report that the fun from our courtship has not abated in the least. (Refer to: Facebook photo albums called Kevin: Year Two, Kevin: Year Three and Kevin: Year Four) I am confident that we are just getting started. Stay tuned to future notes and Facebook photo albums, and watch the fun continue to unfold!