Thursday, October 4, 2007

31 for 21: The story: 10 years ago today

10 years ago today I met my husband for the first time in person. Ok, so he wasn't my husband at the time, but you get the point. Right about this time of the morning we were sitting at Denny's in Rolla, Missouri. He had grilled cheese, but I don't remember what I had. Let me back up a little... you might want to grab a drink and something to snack on.

6 weeks earlier
I was housesitting for some friends who were out of town, and they had the internet. In their house! That was a rare thing back in late 1997 in small town Missouri...hard to believe, isn't it? Anyway, I had never really been online, even all the way through college as we didn't have it on campus. They showed me how to turn on the modem, connect with the right phone number, and I thought the crazy noise it made as it was connecting was just funny. Zhhhhhhhhh, bedong, bedong. So I connected one night, clicked on something that said Search, and just started throwing words in there to see what would happen. Then I remembered some people talking of chat rooms, so I thought I'd try that. But I was a bit scared of what I'd find, as I'd heard the horror stories (?) so I typed in "Christian chat room" thinking that would surely be a safer option. There was a return on the search of several things, but I just randomly chose one.

I came to this chat room that I can't any longer remember the name of, except I keep thinking there was an Eric involved or something. There was a place to put in a name and an email, which I didn't have, but it was optional. I called myself Wish, as that was what the last four numbers of my phone number spelled. I can't remember why I knew that.... So in I went. It took me a bit to read over the little buttons and such to figure out what to do, but it was set up where you would type a statement, question, response, whatever and click on Post, I think. Then the page would reload and you'd see what everyone else had done since it last loaded. When I logged on, it automatically put up a post that said "Wish has entered the room." Then to see if anyone responded, you had to click Reload. Reload. Reload. There was alot of that. And with the old dial-up, you can imagine how speedy this was not.

To the left of the page it listed who was in there. There were maybe 10 or 12 as I remember, and they all seemed to know each other by the way they were talking. They must come here often, I thought. As for the screen names, there was South, Muncher, Isa4031, Mrs.M, and I think a Cherokee or something like that. Over the next few moments, some of them said hello and welcome and such. I returned the conversation, one at a time, answering questions about where I was, male or female, age, whatever I wanted to share. I remember little about what they said, except for Muncher... he told me he was 41, from Montana, with 3 kids. I said, "Nice to meet you," and that was it. I didn't stay too long that night, but it was interesting.

Over the next few weeks, I would pop in there occasionally, when I'd go by the little public library to see if their one internet-capable computer was available. One of my students at the high school had hooked me up with a Hotmail account, and I thought I was cutting edge. In that time somewhere, my dad had upgraded to having the internet at his office at the church, so I would go by there after I got off work at 11 pm to check my email and see who was in the room. (I was teaching school during the day and working at an after-hours medical clinic in the evening.) I began to get to know South a little, Mrs. M was there some, and I liked Isa4031. I saw Muncher in there a few times, but we didn't talk really. He and South were kind of like the funny, cute guys that teased the girls...it was obvious they were well-liked.

The last week of September, I was spending more time in this chat room. It was fun to see people talk to each other about nothing, or sometimes they'd have a particular topic that was being discussed. One night, there was a guy named John who was kind of being a cyber bully in the room, demanding that all of us in there agree with his view on something Bible- or God-related, although I don't remember what it was. I was always up for a theological discussion or debate back then, so I had engaged him and was eventually caught in an impossible spot as he was irrational. Muncher was in there at the time and sent me a private note, called a whisper, to see if I wanted to go to a private room to escape, which I didn't know about really. He told me how to do it, and off we went. Everyone had done the same to various rooms and left John to yell at himself, basically.

We talked the cyber small talk for a bit. He introduced himself again as from Montana, but when I asked about the kids, he came clean about that little fib. Apparently, the females would come in, think he was witty, and then pester him or something. So he started warding them off with this fib about a family. And he was 23, same as me. And he was a PK (preacher's kid) like me. We talked for about an hour or so that night, posting and reloading like crazy. He told me of how he had a job where he sat in front of a computer the whole time just chatting between the rare customer interruption...and I thought that was cool. It didn't seem like alot of important things were said, but now to look back it's interesting. In that first conversation, I learned that he planned to name his daughter Nebraska, that he thought/knew that a man can truly believe that his wife is the most beautiful woman on the planet, no matter what she looks like to others (this one was a big deal to me), and that he was very careful not to mix chatting online with romance due to old mistakes. Those are three things that would come to be life-changing in more than one way. That night I also told him that he was never to show up on my doorstep without calling first...as a joke, since he didn't know where I lived. It was nice conversation, and we said goodbye. Simple enough.

The next night I went back to the church after work and logged on. There he was, Muncher was in the room again. We started talking right away, all in a group, as I was getting to know "the gang" who were the regulars. Then we ended up off by ourselves to talk again, posting and reloading for the next 4 hours. (Yeah, I got off work at 11 pm remember...) He was charming, very smart, really funny, and quite engaging. We talked about tons of stuff: work, family, world things, stupid people, and the problems with churches. We eventually said we had to go and logged off. The third night, we chatted for a couple hours, and he started asking for my phone number. I was SO not going to give it to him. He could be a psycho! I hadn't told him what city I was in, only the state of Missouri. I wasn't going to give him my phone number...he might be able to get my address from directory assistance! I debated giving him the church number, but decided against that too. But I did kind of want to talk to him...it was exciting and scary. I refused to give him the number, so he gave me his and begged me to call. I told him I didn't think I could do that, and thought it was time to go home. He kept asking where the midpoint was between Montana and Missouri so we could meet up. Is he crazy?? I'm not meeting up with this guy, even though I like to talk to him... that's just nuts. I said I'd talk to him later and logged off. I went home and just sat there... I had the number in my hands, but I couldn't do it. I got ready for bed and just sprawled out on my bed in the dark, eyes wide open, debating in my head if I'd do it.

Finally, I gave in. I had to dial probably 4 times to get all the way through. Then it was ringing, just once and there was a voice. I knew he lived alone, so it had to be him. I paused just one second and said quietly, "I think it's in South Dakota somewhere...the midpoint." He laughed and I could feel the smile from ear to ear through the phone. We talked that night for about 2 hours and finally went to bed.

The fourth and fifth days in this saga were full of emails, as I had shared my email address and vice versa. I managed to get to a computer to check them a few times through the day, and there was at least one every time, usually closer to 8 or 9. In the evenings, we'd chat for just a bit while I was checking email, but then we'd talk on the phone for close to 4 hours each of those nights. He kept telling me I was causing him to break his rule...the internet/romance one. At the end of day 5, he kept saying we "just had to" meet. He got so adamant that I got mad and quickly ended the conversation. I wasn't ready for that...On day 4, I'd mailed him a picture of me with some friends, snail mail style, and he had sent me one on email. On day 6, he received the picture and called me right away. I hadn't told him which one I was, but somehow he knew immediately, and he was right. That night, we talked again, although not for long. He said he hadn't meant to be so forward about meeting, but he just felt like he had to meet me, even if I sent him right back to Montana. I said he was crazy and left it at that. He told me he was not feeling very good, so he better get off the phone.

The next day, day 7, I sent him emails to see how he was feeling. He didn't respond. I tried to call him at home and he didn't answer. I tried to call him at work, and his boss said he'd requested a few days off. I started to get nervous, but thought it was nuts...he was in Montana for Heaven's sake. He must just have been really sick. That evening, after not hearing from him all day, I logged into the room to see if he was there, but he wasn't. Mrs. M posted a hello to me, and then asked, "Is your company there yet?" I practically fainted as I realized what she meant. She knew he was on his way, and I was terrified. I logged off immediately, and called my little sister to meet me at my house. How had he figured out where I lived? I was careful not to give my address. Maybe I'd mentioned the town, but I couldn't remember. I thought I had described what car I drove, which was unique in that my music academy logo was on my back window for all to see....so I couldn't be in it. My sister and I put my car in my garage and went to look around town in her car. I knew what he drove, he'd told me, and his name was on his license plate, so we could spot him. It was like a very covert operation, and I was panicked!

We drove around for a few hours, not knowing when he'd left Montana or how long it would take. We returned to my house to see if he'd called. There was no message. Soon after, though, he called. He was in Columbia and was calling to fulfill the not-showing-up-at-my-doorstep-without-calling requirement. He was so proud of himself, all giddy and happy and anxious to see me. I was livid. I chewed him out and would have cussed him out if I'd have used such language. I told him he was not coming to my town and that he'd better just forget that. He was about two hours away, and it was already about 11:30 pm. After some charming and my calming down, I agreed to meet him the next morning in Rolla, the town close by. He said if I would only let him see me in person and if he could touch my cheek, he'd go right back to Montana a happy man even if I wouldn't let him stay or didn't want to see him further. I caved. I gave him directions to the Drury Inn, called the hotel to pay for the room since he didn't have any money (yeah...I scratch my head still too. I don't even pretend this was rational.), and went to bed. We planned to meet at 10 am the next morning, Saturday, October 4, 1997.

I woke up, debated forever about what to wear, got ready to go, and headed out. He was supposed to be waiting in the room, and I'd ask at the front desk which one...since my name was on it anyway. I got to the hotel parking lot at about 9:55 am, thinking I would compose myself, straighten my clothes and double check my make-up before going in. But as I drove into the lot, there he was. Leaning on the back of his car in the parking lot, waiting so blatantly eager that he almost appeared to burst and instantly retract when he saw me. I parked two spots away, even though there was no car between us, just to give myself a bit of space. I got out, took a couple steps, said hello, and he did the same. We hugged and then just looked at each other. He just kept smiling so big. We have since shared, of course, what we first thought... he thought I had too much make-up and jewelry and I thought he looked nothing like his picture at all.

We kind of stumbled around with small talk for a moment, then I asked if he'd like to get some breakfast. He said he'd do whatever I wanted, and I needed something to help keep us busy, so we went just across the way to Denny's. As we ate and talked, he took great joy in making me uncomfortable, just smiling and sitting kind of close, obviously proud of himself. Then it was time to decide if I was going to let him stay or send him back... I guess you probably know how that decision went. He followed me back to town, first to my house where we just talked and hung out for a while, then we went to my parents' house to meet them and the kids. (My parents knew I was meeting him and thought I was nuts, for good reason.)

I don't remember much about what happened the rest of the day til that night. I do remember that while we drove about town here and there, he delighted in "making the car small," as we still call it...leaning on the console kind of close, bumping in to me as I shifted gears, etc. Seems so silly and cutsie. Then we were back at my house, and I was preparing to take some things over to my parents' house to stay while he stayed at my house for the night. We talked about what a wild day it had been, how we couldn't believe he'd actually driven the 28 hours uninvited just to see me. Then as I started out the door, there was the kiss.... and the "I love you." (Two days later as he was heading back, there was the first proposal too, which I declined...a big weekend.)

***Three years of dating long distance, although only 3 hours instead of 28, then this... the rest of the story will have to follow later.***

Yep... it was a big day...a really big day. 10 years ago today.

5 comments:

  1. Wow! I was right there with you feeling intense and nervous! You were brave!!! :)

    And I love the "making the car small" line. So cute!

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  2. You're right; we thought you were crazy. I learned a lot from this post. Did you know I first met your dad on Oct. 5, 1969? He moved pretty fast, too...

    Love you!!
    MOM

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  3. What an amazing story - it's so romantic!

    I like the "making the car small" too
    :)

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  4. Great to read the story.. and to know that my little ol' 486 in the church office was so important! ;o)

    Fun to read! May the romance continue!

    Love,
    Papa beagle

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  5. Ok...so I am waiting for the rest of the story.... Of course, I know you are married and have the little girl named Nebraksa...but come on!!!

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