In this Month of Valentines, I thought it would be fun to tell the story of the first time I met my boyfriend/husband and invite him to share his side of the story. Please welcome my guest blogger, BF.
She Says; He Says
Debi: I was 10 months a widow and sliding into the acceptance stage of grief. I’d spent way too much time in the anger phase and was pretty much sick of myself. It was time to move on. I had begun to envision a distant future for myself, living contently alone in Ashwood Condominiums and maybe sharing symphony tickets with a friend. I was open to a special friend that happened to be a man, but I would forever remain free from romantic entanglements. I so wanted to be strong and independent, and it was extremely important to present myself as such. My girlfriends, who were an integral part of my support system during that time, were convinced I was lonely. They knew a guy. I was determined that the fixing of me was, under no circumstances, to be about a guy.
BF: I was post-divorce. A place where I would never have imagined I would be. I was in therapy and engaged in intense introspection. I was searching, expanding, and vulnerable. I was determined to recreate my life. I wanted to laugh again. Have fun, trust, and share. I longed for simplicity, forgiveness, and acceptance. I wanted to heal. I was too fearful to say it, but I wanted to love and be loved again. Through a friend, I had heard of a teacher at my daughter’s school who had lost her spouse. This mutual friend urged me to reach out, saying she really thought I’d like this woman. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I looked Debi up in my daughter’s yearbook.
Debi: I was teaching English to freshmen and seniors at Center Grove High School. My part-time schedule allowed me to arrive at 8:30 A.M. while my peers were well into first period. I unlocked my door, dropped my bag of “to be graded papers,” that still weren’t graded, and hit the speaker button on Voicemail.
BF: Determined to start over, redo my life, and practice the new skills of living life as the person I was meant to be, I picked up the phone that Tuesday morning in September of 2022, and called Center Grove High School and asked for Debi’s voicemail. I left a message identifying our mutual friend and invited her to the upcoming Sunday afternoon Colts game. I added something about “no pressure” and left my phone number.
Debi: It was a man’s voice. An incredibly warm, smooth, kind voice that was inviting me to go to the Colts game on Sunday. It was a Tuesday. I was furious at my friend, who obviously did not listen when I said, “No! I am not interested in a date with your friend, the therapist.” I freaked. Like the freshman-girl-excited-panic freak I witnessed daily in my classroom.
BF: I had done it. Whatever happened, happened. I could have a date to the Colts game or maybe I could have a new football friend.
Debi: I stomped next door to the classroom of my friend who was deep into his first math lesson of the day. I motioned frantically for him to join me in the hallway. Now, the math and social studies teachers who co-taught on my team had been a tremendous help to me throughout the initial steps of sudden widowhood. They mowed my grass, took my kids to the movies, helped me move Jessica into her freshman dorm at DePauw, etc. But when I interrupted my teacher friend’s math lesson to report this Voicemail, he just couldn’t join me in the arena of monumental crisis. It was as if he didn’t even think the situation was worthy of interrupting his class.
BF: I told no one I had called her. I was determined not to bring our mutual friend into this. Whatever happened, I was on my own.
Debi: The bell rang and I needed to focus on the tale of Miss Havisham. I taught my two, 90-minute blocks and returned to the crisis at hand. I decided it was best to call this man back and just tell him I wasn’t ready to date. I was surprised when he answered his phone. He was calm and very kind, as I remember. I don’t know if it was the luring kindness in his voice or the fact that I hadn’t yet developed muscle memory for using my own voice, but a bunch of words tumbled out of my mouth, and I volunteered to meet him at Arby’s on 135 where he was about to grab lunch.
BF: I was headed back to my office from the detention center where I’d facilitated a group for residential youth. I was driving north on US 31 when my cell phone rang. The voice on the other end was abrupt and matter of fact. This woman was using her “teacher voice” to give me instructions. She said, “I’m not dating.” I braced my ego for rejection and assured her I understood, which I did, and we could just go to the game together for fun. It would not be a date. She continued, asking me where I was and what I was doing. I told her I was pulling into Arby’s to grab a sandwich before heading back to the office. She just said, “I’ll meet you there.” It was such an odd, chaotic phone call.
Debi: I somehow knew I would need to see him in person before I could make a decision about this “not a date” thing. I told him I’d be right there, locked my classroom, and left. Without my bag of “to be graded” papers.
BF: I had to admit I was at an advantage having looked at her picture in the yearbook and figured she need to see what I looked like. I also understood she was recently widowed, and this might be too soon for her. I also wondered what I had gotten myself into but was excited about the unknown and determined to be myself. Be real. Authentic. Quite frankly, she was coming across as a little bossy.
Debi: This Sunday outing definitely piqued my interest, and no, I was not a football enthusiast. I will forever contend that I was not merely checking him out; I needed to see what it felt like to be in a man’s presence in “that way.”
Not Exactly Love at First Sight
BF: Not sure whether she would show up and being on a time schedule, I ordered my Market Fresh turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, and fries. I was eating my sandwich when she walked in. I stood up to greet her. We shook hands. I asked if I could buy her a sandwich or something to drink, but she said no. She sat across from me and fidgeted while I focused on not getting ketchup on my face or clothes.
Debi: I quickly scanned Arby’s and a man stood from his booth and extended his hand. He appeared calm, but his pleasant face looked as if all the blood had just drained from it. He looked a little scared. And why wouldn’t he be? I had just charged in to “see him.”
We talked for almost an hour while I bounced one folded leg on my side of the booth, and he carefully and deliberately folded each French fry in half before dipping it in ketchup and eating it. I kept wondering why he was doing that. I was, however, taken aback by his listening skills and compassion.
When it was time to go, he offered a comfortable solution. I was to think it over until Thursday and then let him know if I wanted to go on the not-a-date. He assured me I was fully within my rights to cancel right up until it was time to go, and even if I did decide to go, if I wanted him to, he’d bring me home at any time.
I said goodbye and hurried out the door while he fiddled with the trash can lid. I sat in my car and watched him leave.
On Thursday, I accepted.