My Amazing Love Story – A Commitment Begun in Church
Call this the prequel to my amazing love story. The forward, the exposition, the “so~you~know~where~I’m~coming~from” before we get to the really good part, the boy meets the girl part.
Before This Amazing Love Story Began
So let me give you a little background. I was one of those girls who believes in romance and knights~in~shining~armor and in happily ever after. And when happily ever after rode off into the sunset, I was a semi~basket case. I was sad for my children, scared what our financial future would be, and just plain embarrassed that this was happening to me. I was afraid that friends would not be friends anymore. (Thank God, I underestimated the support and love of my friends because they were my rock.)
I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to support my kids and keep them in their schools. I was determined that if their home situation was breaking apart, I sure as heck wasn’t going to disrupt the support and loving environment that their private schools provided. Again, somehow things worked out. I was so fortunate to have a really well~paying job and some scholarship assistance helped me keep them all in their schools.
The divorce was a long, drawn~out ordeal. Do you know the saying? Marriage is about love and divorce is about money? Well, it’s true. It took over 18 months to sort out all the details. I had to fight for every penny of child support and my legal share of retirement funds and the right to stay in our house (I paid the entire mortgage myself.) But finally, it was finalized. We had settled into a routine, the kids had survived, and I was ready to move forward.
The Amazing Love Story Begins
About 1 month after my divorce was final, our church offered a divorce recovery program ~ it’s like 8 weeks of grief recovery because as I learned, divorce is like a death and you have to go through a grief period. After some internal debate and a “you really should go to it” push from my Bible study group, I decided to attend.
Early on a Sunday evening in April 1996, I walked into a large room and looked around and didn’t recognize anyone. Everyone (about 30-40 people) sat in a big circle as our senior pastor opened with prayer and the coordinators explained how the program would work, Then we divided into 3 groups.
Over the next 3 or 4 weeks, I got to know the other men and women in my group. Some were members of our church and some were not. Some (the women) were dealing with worse situations than I was. Surprisingly, to me, some of the men were devastated by their separations.
Everyone was concerned about how the divorce would impact their children. But we all had stories to share. I can tell you that there were lots of hugs and tears shed. But mostly, we just listened to each other.
In the fourth week of the course, all 3 groups came together for dinner in the church’s dining room. As I was standing, waiting to sit at a table, I felt someone at my elbow. I turned and there was a guy I didn’t recognize. He said, hi, do you want to sit at this table? I said O.K. We got in line for the buffet dinner, found our way back to the table and sat down for dinner.
As our senior pastor said grace and everyone at the tables joined hands, he took my hand and we bowed our heads. Little did we know at that moment that that would be the first of a thousand times of holding hands, bowing our heads and saying grace together.
At this point, he turned to me and said, “My name is Sweet Shark”. No, of course, he didn’t say that; he told me his name and I told him mine. His name has always been one of my very favorite guy names. With the others at our table, we passed the meal in pleasant conversation. Afterward, everyone broke into our 3 groups and we went our separate ways. For the next few weeks, I didn’t see him, as we went straight to our individual rooms.
Then on the 7th week, instead of meeting at church, we all met at our pastor’s house for a wonderful dinner and just socializing. I was hoping I might see Mr. “I love your name” for a few minutes.
As it turned out, as soon as I arrived he was there and we talked and ate dinner together and even sat out by the pool for a few minutes. Our conversation was light~hearted, nothing serious, but just an enjoyable talk ~ to tell you the truth, today I have no idea what we talked about, but I just remember that the conversation was easy and fun. Then he said he had to leave because he had to pick up his son at this ex’s house. Well, now I knew that he had a child and he shared custody.
The having a child part was good because I did have a couple of dates with a guy who did not have kids and who told me on the 2nd date that I was too invested in my kids. No more dates with him.
The next Sunday was the last week of Divorce Recovery. As the entire group met together for final words and prayer, he came up to me and told me that several people wanted to keep meeting and did I want to be included. Well, by this time school was out for the summer and I decided I could be more flexible with my kids’ schedules, so I said yes.
The next few weeks proceeded along, getting to hear more of his story (10~year marriage, 8 year~old~son he adored, owns his own home, independent businessman, great sense of humor). Then in the middle of July, as we walked out of the church to the parking lot, there were only 2 cars there, mine and his. And we talked and talked.
O.K. here’s where I felt it was O.K. to start liking this guy. At this time, my kids were 17, 15, and 10. Because his son was now only 9 and he looks really young, I was afraid that he was much younger than I was. But as we talked, I discovered that he grew up in a suburb of Dallas. I told him where I went to high school. I held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t ask me when.
But he said he had a fraternity brother Steve who went to my high school. I knew Steve, he was a year ahead of me, but his little sister graduated with me. And then he said that Steve was a year ahead of him. I could barely get out the words, so when did you graduate? He told me and my heart skipped a beat; we had graduated the same year! Thank you, Lord. (As it turns out, Sweet Shark’s birthday is in October and mine is in June, so he’s actually 8 months older than me.)
With our ages out of the way, I could start thinking differently. We sat together in church a couple of times and I met his son one Sunday. Then as August approached, I had a decision to make. My company was having a big pool party in a couple of weeks and I agonized over whether I should ask him. Everyone in my office told me to ask him. Do you know how nerve~wracking it is to ask a guy out on a date? When you haven’t done that since college. I was so nervous.
Finally, I got up the courage and called him. I hemmed and hawed around and finally burst out, trying to make it sound like it wasn’t anything special; then he said he needed to check on his son’s schedule (I already knew my kids’ schedules) and could he call me back. 10 minutes later, he called and said yes, he would love to go (He didn’t say it like that, but it was a yes and I almost dropped the phone. So it was set. The party was 10 days away and I was like a schoolgirl, worrying about what to wear.
On the Thursday afternoon before the (Saturday) party, I got a call at my office. Everyone in the office knew what was going on and listened as I took the call. It was Sweet Shark, asking if I’d like to meet for drinks that night ~ kind of a let’s actually meet up before we have a date. I asked where and what time, and then immediately wondered if my work suit was O.K. My 2 younger kids were at their dad’s that night, so I called my oldest and asked her if it was O.K. if I met some girlfriends after dinner. Yes, I asked my 17~year~old I could go out!
So Sweet Shark and I met at 6:00 at Del Frisco’s right across the street from his office, which was less than 5 minutes from my office. He was already there and we sat at the bar and talked and talked until 10:00. ( I was starving but didn’t want to ask him to feed me ~ now, I don’t hesitate to tell him if I’m hungry.) I said I thought it was time to go home, Friday was a workday. He walked me to my car, opened the car door for me and gave me a little kiss on the cheek. Very sweet.
Saturday night he picked me up at my house, brought me flowers, and met all my kids. To say that we had a great time at the company party is an understatement. My friends loved him. And when he took me home that night, we had our first proper kiss ~ the first of thousands.
And the rest of the Amazing Love Story
From that day on we’ve never been apart. Fourteen months later we married on a beautiful October afternoon in our church chapel with friends and family around us. All the kids were members of our wedding party.
In October we’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary. Every year we go to Del Frisco’s to celebrate our first date. We’ve often said that the angels were clapping and high fiving when we met and fell in love. It’s like they had been waiting for us to follow the plan that God had set in motion.
I can’t tell you that this marriage journey has been all wine and roses ~ what marriage ever is? But blending families (Brady Bunch aside) is especially challenging. When we met, I had 2 teenagers and 1 in elementary school. If you’ve had teenagers, you know raising them is a stressful time. Imagine trying to help raise ones that aren’t your own.
By the time the older two were in college, we had to go through the teenage years all over again with the two younger ones, my younger daughter and my step~son.
Sleepless nights, tears, heartfelt talks and talks that turned into arguments and hurt feelings. There were challenging times having to deal with ex’s who made our relationship even more stressful. Partners of ex’s who made our kids’ lives very unhappy and that, of course, affected us.
We constantly had to remind ourselves that we were in this for the long haul. We could be going along with everything just fine, and then a kid would have an issue and things would blow up again. As parents, we get defensive about our kids.
Second marriages do not always have a good track record of success, primarily because of kids. As the kids got older, our relationship with them changed. They went to college. They grew up. They moved out on their own. We could talk to them more like adults. All our kids have now known our marriage far longer than they knew their parents’ marriages.
Today Sweet Shark loves my kids like his own and I feel the same about my step~son.
It’s funny, but the kids have always gotten along. For my step~son, he gained two older sisters and a brother. My younger daughter got a brother who’s closer to her in age. Because 3 of them don’t live in Dallas, it’s rare that all 4 get together, but there are times when the boys (at 36 and 30, they are young men) are here at the same time. They talk, they text and follow each other on social media. It’s the way these kids keep in touch.
Over the past 21 years, we have attended 4 high school graduations and 4 college graduations. We’ve had to move two parents into assisted living and say our forever goodbyes to 3 parents. (My mom passed away in 1987.)
We’ve remodeled 2 homes (and had a blast doing it), lived in an apartment for 1 year in between saying good~bye to the home that the kids knew for 13 years and the home that they will never live in, but come to visit as adults.
We’ve seen two kids go through drug rehab (and are so thankful that they are still clean and sober) and struggled with emotionally supporting a daughter who is a single mom. I can truly say that our lives are amazing because all our kids are healthy, they support themselves, have careers, and are each amazing people.
We have now added an amazing son~in~law and 3 awesome grandkids to the family. And one day we hope there are more. And it all started with a meeting at church.
What Makes This Amazing Love Story Work
In many marriages, the couple loves each other, but can’t make the relationship work. During our 21st first date celebration this past week at Del Frisco’s (Yes, we now do have dinner.), Sweet Shark and I talked about why we are still together and why we plan to always be together. Beyond love is commitment. We are committed to making our marriage last, to being there for each other, to not letting petty differences (and there are some) pull us apart. We cherish our time together. We respect each other.
And most important, God is always in our home. We hold hands and say grace at meals. We sit together almost every Sunday in church together (unless we’re ushering or being greeters). One day when we are in the old folks home napping in our rocking chairs, my most precious memory will be of every Sunday when it comes time for the Lord’s Prayer, we reach over and take each other’s hand.
And, of course, there’s dancing in the kitchen on Saturday nights.
It’s not often that I share such a personal view into my private life. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s O.K. to share because we all have issues, we all have challenges. But somehow I’ve been so blessed with an amazing partner who has given me an amazing gift ~ the gift of love.
That’s why I know I have an amazing love story. I think the angels were pushing me and Sweet Shark to meet. If it hadn’t been at that time and place, it would have been another time and place. But meet we did. And it has been so close to amazing.
I asked Sweet Shark to read this post before publishing it (He’s always my proofreader.). He had a big smile on his face and said it really “got to him”. I knew it would ~ because he is so close to amazing.