Engagement-versary…

Me: “Honey, why did you want to marry me?”

My Fave: Deer in the headlights look and not a single word. When I pressed for a real answer, I got a sappy and sarcastic “Because I loved you and wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.”

This is our life and I would have it no other way.

My Fave and I met at work, a company owned by his older brother, on October 19, 1999; I’d been placed there as a temp executive assistant to his sister-in-law on October 4th. Prior to my placement, I was a bartender at a brewery in downtown Cincinnati. On my way to work on Labor Day weekend I was in a pretty serious car accident and the only thing that kept me from going through the windshield was my 4’11 (on a good day) stature. Injuries made being on my feet nearly impossible and there was rent to be paid, so returning to my bartender life, which my recently diagnosed but not fully medicated bipolar loved, was out and a temp agency it was.

October 23, 1999 marked our first date. The plan was to go to the wedding of high school friends, which looking back was a horrid idea for a first date; trying to get to know someone and the pressure of being surrounded by a ton of his friends, who I knew would be judging me to determine whether or not I was worthy of one of their only still-single friends. Worst idea ever, which is likely why our date turned out the way it did.

When we met, My Fave had been working in Dayton as the company considered opening an office there. (For non-Cincinnati folks, Dayton is about 45 minutes to an hour north). He was staying at his mom’s, almost an hour east of Cincinnati, until he knew if he would be calling Dayton or Cincinnati home permanently. For the 2 days prior to our date, he’d worked with nearly no sleep and when he got back to Cincinnati on the 23rd, he went to his other brother’s house to catch a bit of shut eye, with specific instructions to be woken up in time to get to his mom’s, change and pick me up at 5 p.m. Let’s just say the specific instructions did not include, “Wake me up at 6:30 p.m.” His suit was with him and Kmart happily provided a dress shirt, tie, belt and pleather dress shoes. He called his sister-in-law and brother asking if he should show up or just stand me up. Since I was pretty good at my job, “ditch” was not the suggested option. His attempts at calling me found him talking to a counselor at a halfway house up the street, whose line had been, unknown to me, switched with mine during some phone pole work earlier in the week. He was quite certain he was picking up some person in treatment for something but went ahead and showed up at my door at 7:30 p.m. For reasons I still don’t understand, I did not slam the door in his face for showing up 2 1/2 hours late and off to the wedding reception we went.

The reception was great. My first introduction was to his best friend, who happens to bleed the same color of Blue I do. Instant approval was granted to me and the rest of the night was in no way the terrible I had anticipated. The party was pretty much over by 1 a.m. or so and driving an hour east, on little sleep, at that hour sounded like an accident waiting to happen, so he asked if he could crash, promising he wouldn’t try anything but was certain he’d never make it home. I figured since he was my boss’ brother-in-law it was likely safe to say “yes”. We hung out all day on Sunday and on Sunday night he crashed at my place again. On Monday morning, I went to work and he went to work around noon. When I got home Monday night, there were 2 duffel bags against one of the walls of my studio apartment. It’s nearly 20 years later and I still have no idea why I began unpacking his bags, but I did. We went on our first date and he never left.

rhett119 years ago today, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. in our small two bedroom apartment, to the ring finger on my left hand feeling odd. When I realized what was happening, I flew out of bed and, with zero concern for the neighbors below us, jumped up and down over and over and over. My Fave’s dad died when he was three; his mom had given him her engagement ring to give to me and it was the most amazing piece of jewelry I had ever laid eyes on and he picked me to wear it. He had seen every bit of mess of me there was in those short ten months. Mania, depression, anxiety, panic, outbreaks of rage, eating issues, self-harm, self-hatred, med changes, the fallout from life prior to my diagnosis. All of the stuff that made me think I was completely unworthy of love and the “ick” that made me believe every bad boyfriend, who treated me like garbage, was exactly what I deserved, he saw all of it and stayed and said, “Yep, I am going to do life with her.”

He’d tell me later that he really wanted to propose at Christmas in 1999 but there were still a bunch of people who thought moving in on our first date was the dumbest idea ever, so getting engaged after two months likely wasn’t going to go over well. I know I would have said “Yes” if he’d asked. I knew, really knew, the day we met that My Fave was the person God intended for me to find. The road getting there sucked – SUCKED SUCKED SUCKED – but when people say the very best can come out of the worse of times, I believe My Fave and our life is what they mean. Neither of us was looking. Heck, I remember at 24 years old, standing in my mom’s kitchen and proclaiming that I would never, never, never have kids, let alone ever get married. Never say never, right?

Sometimes you just know and we just knew. Saying “Yes” to his proposal was the scariest and best decision I have ever made. Good, bad, rich, poor, sickness, health, laughing, crying, gain, loss – we’ve hit all the buckets of our marriage vows, many of them more than once. As crappy as the journey to find the guy who I could exchange those vows with was, I wouldn’t change a single thing because I wouldn’t have found the person who made me believe I was worthy of being loved and who I could truly, with no strings attached, trust with all of me.

It’s a crazy love story, but it’s ours and I love you more with every new chapter we write – Happy Engagement-versary, Babe.

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