True Love...For Real
We met in a dingy, smoky bar in a small town where the largest employer was the military base. The clichés don’t end there. I was going through divorce number two and so was he. I had four kids to raise on my own with a teacher’s salary and enough baggage to fill a small airport. No man in his right mind would want anything to do with me and I had convinced myself that was okay. Real love didn’t exist in my world anyway and that was proven after two very difficult marriages. My four kiddos were my only proof of the goodness in the world and that was enough. It had to be.
He walked in after riding up on his Harley motorcycle. I promised this was a cliché festival; just hang in there! I wouldn’t say that he swaggered into the room and the music screeched to a halt with every head turning to face him, but he did command a quiet respect with his disarming smile that extended into his warm, brown eyes and just a twinkle of mischief. Although I had lived in this Navy town for over a decade, I could fit my personal knowledge of it in the bottom of my cup. I had no idea he was from the base, but he walked right up to me and introduced himself.
His subtle confidence was disarmingly sweet and we hit it off immediately. Despite my attempts to quickly scare him away, he was not to be deterred. After exchanging in basic pleasantries and information, he told me he was a door gunner on a helicopter and he was moving back to Virginia, leaving in six weeks for his next duty station. Perfect, I thought! That will keep this from being anything complicated. We enjoyed the remainder of the evening in each other’s company, talking like childhood friends. We even shared a cab back to where my car was parked and I had high hopes of a goodnight kiss. It was my birthday after all and what would be a better present than a kiss from a handsome Navy man. An awkward hug after exchanging phone numbers knocked me back into reality with a sharp reminder that I was not the main character in a love story. True love didn’t exist in my world.
Before parting, he invited me to go on a motorcycle ride. Something in me said I could trust him and I accepted. The following day, however, he had to reschedule and I, once again, convinced myself that I wouldn’t hear from him again. I wasn’t going to allow myself to care either way.
Two days after meeting my military man, he confirmed a time to pick me up and our first official date was about to happen in just hours! Suddenly I was so nervous I couldn’t sit still and cared tremendously about what he thought. Who was this guy that was creating these foreign feelings? I didn’t even know him, so I did everything I could to push those feelings as deep down as I could. I felt a surge of happiness when he finally knocked on my door to pick me up. He had planned a scenic ride up to a small, mountain town about an hour away. It was a beautiful, warm day late in May in the desert and this seemed like a great plan. With a lightweight sweatshirt packed just in case, we took off on his Harley.
The ride there was very nice and relaxing, nonetheless I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about where to put my hands and how far away to keep my helmet from his. Do I hold his waist or not? Am I supposed to lean into him or stay straight up? Why does his helmet look so cool and mine makes me look like a bobble head? We made it there in the late afternoon and decided to get some coffee because the weather was cooling off quicker than I had expected. I was freezing but didn’t want to appear to be that high maintenance girl so I reassured him that I was fine and didn’t need to wear his jacket. One long hour ride later, I was regretting that decision.
Something clicked in my head after spending the day with this man. He appeared to be like every other normal guy I had ever encountered, but he was something special. Never in my life had I felt more extraordinary and appreciated than I did when I was with him. True love certainly hadn’t existed in my world, but suddenly I was face-to-face with this unique concept. He was amazing with not only me, but with my kids as well. Our six weeks together was unimaginable and something out of a fairy tale. He was heaven sent and we were about to live over 2500 miles apart. How were we going to make that work?
Looking back, I don’t know how we did it, but it never was a question of if. We just did because we both had waited 37 years to meet each other. We were and are soul mates and being together is the easiest thing we have ever done. Multiple deployments, running two households on opposite sides of the country and making the distance work was just part of the journey. It wasn’t an easy one but we had each other and that was the ultimate prize.