5 years ago today, I flew halfway across the country to spend the weekend with a man I had never before seen in person.
Wanna hear more? Well, I feel like dishing, so here's the story:
I was teaching Kindergarten at a private church school in Las Vegas, about to begin my 7th year. Another teacher (one of 7 or 8--small school, remember?) was one of my closest friends.
W and me
W had been pestering me for several months about her single brother-in-law. I was in Nevada, he was in Iowa, I was sorta dating someone, he was just out of a serious, long-term relationship, I wasn't interested. One day she looked at me and said, "You're not happy. You need to do something about it. Make some changes in your life!" We all need friends like that, don't we?
I told W that her brother-in-law, Gary, could have my email address, not my phone number.
(Since then, I've learned that W's husband, my now-husband's brother, felt really awkward making that phone call! And Gary kinda rolled his eyes and agreed to email me only to get W to stop bothering him! Ha!)
A day or two later, I got an email from Gary. It was basically, hi-my-name-is-Gary-and-this-is-weird, tell-me-about-yourself. Still feeling the need to fulfill my agreement with W to at least get to know Gary a little bit, I replied. And he replied. And about that time, the angels started singing and everything started looking all shiny and rainbow-colored.
The emails continued through the first week, then we started instant messaging which lead to a real phone call (for HOURS) which lead to Gary buying a cell phone package with the same provider as I had so we could have anytime minutes.
16 days from our first awkward email, he was in his truck driving south to St. Louis and I was in a plane flying east.
An Allegiant airliner with The Strip and Mt. Charleston.
Ok, let me add a couple details that might make you feel a little better. (Hi Mom!) First of all, I had known W for several years and trusted her implicitly. We weren't just work friends. She had been part of Gary's extended family for 15 years and had spent many holidays with him. I had seen the family albums, heard the family drama, read the family Christmas letter. Second, we all belong to the same church. Not a specific building, but an organized Christian denomination with churches around the world. It's a sub-culture. Families have similar goals, individuals have similar morals, people have similar backgrounds, etc. Third, Gary and I had logged countless hours on emails and phone calls. I really felt like I knew him. Fourth, we had separate rooms, thank you. So yeah, it could have the potential to be dangerous, but I guess I was willing to take the risk. All in the name of love. Or glittery rainbows.
Waiting to board that plane was about the scariest thing I've ever done! Right next to walking off the plane and looking for a man I'd never seen in person. The worst part was the fear of "us" not working out! What if he walked funny and had weird mannerisms? What if he had chronic halitosis? What if we just didn't click?
Well, my wobbly- kneed, sweaty-palmed, thundering-hearted self made it to the main section of the airport (post 9-11, so he couldn't come to the gate). And there was Gary with roses and a huge grin. We fell into each other's arms and walked into the sunset.
That first evening was AWKWARD. We were nervous and ill-at-ease, me far worse than him. I was having the hardest time matching the person with the emailing/phone-calling voice I knew. We started and stopped random topics. We would bring something up and realize that the stranger walking beside you already knew that story! Strange!
The next day was much better. We got out of the hotel and saw some sights. Finally got comfortable enough to talk! We had our first real date that night--dressing up, reservations, linens, candles, fancy courses... It was amazing. Then we went up in the Gateway Arch!
And then we walked into the sunset!
Well, kinda. :) But that's where I'm ending the story for now!