Carolyn & Jack
True love is not something you plan or can even speculate. True love, like a deer hunter in the dark woods, hits you quickly and with intense skill. It’s a shot that blasts your mind into a state of bliss. If you’re lucky enough to experience it even just once in life, consider yourself blessed.
I’ve always been told if you stop looking, true love will suddenly appear. So I stopped looking, but it didn’t appear. Expendable imitations worked their way into my heart only to leave it broken and longing. I found myself hanging on to relationships that weren’t meant to be simply for fear I would never find what my heart was searching.
When I was 31, working and living in the Chicago suburbs, suffering through a ridiculously cold winter, the opportunity to move to Atlanta dropped in my lap. This was on a Monday in February. That following March 1st, the day my most recent mistake married the woman he met after me, I was in route to Atlanta. It was 70 degrees there and my head was in heaven. Life was good.
I meandered my way through the next few months, dated a few guys, one in particular was exceptionally clingy and found I preferred the casual date rather than anything emotionally thick. I doubt anyone believed that because I was a professional girlfriend. Rarely was I without the “man I was going to marry”. I even sickened myself with my cotton candy-sticky professions of true love.
My meandering brought me into a new job and much more money. I opted to put that money into a townhouse as a secure financial investment instead of pilfering it away at Macys. I was comfortable in my skin, used to my routine of work and exercise then a peaceful night at home with a good book and my faithful German Shepherd. No accountability to anyone but my dog and my boss. This was December, 1997. ( I think this is about the time I truly stopped looking. I just didn’t know it!)
The townhouse was a huge commitment for me and I was excited with the adventure. Of course, being anal retentive, I needed to have my new place all in order even before I closed on the loan. There is a furniture store here in the south, Rooms To Go. Decent furniture at reasonable prices. My kind of store. Walking into that store changed my life.
I knew I’d buy living room furniture that day. I did not expect that I would meet the man I’d marry. But there he was. He walked by me, swiveling his tight little backside back and forth. Back and forth. I felt like an observer at a tennis match. I think I walked with a crook in my neck the rest of the week! The sales rep who was assigned to me asked if he could help me. My response “I’ll buy from you today if you set me up with a guy here.” He replied, knowing it was the guy with the butt-shakes, “Who, that guy that about broke his neck looking at you?” I was thrilled.
Making a long story somewhat shorter, I called him and he informed me that he was in the process of a divorce and had two young daughters. Perfect! I’d always wanted to be a second wife and a step mom. Think of the benefits! A man who’s learned his lessons and no child birth! How much better could life get? We set up a date for later in the week.
The date was not the date of all dates. There wasn’t any spark for me. He was nice, extremely attractive and quite personable. Not that I’m that a tough gal or anything but I felt as though I could walk all over him and personally, I’d been there and done that. I needed someone to challenge me, someone to frustrate me. It just wasn’t him. I walked away from that date with a hug and the thought I’d be moving on to the next opportunity whenever it came to be.
Shortly after that date, we talked. I don’t remember why or how, but we ended up going to lunch for his birthday and low and behold, I even introduced him to my mother. I repeatedly told her that he was a great guy, but only the kind which becomes a friend, not the kind you want to throw down and have your way with. (Not that I would ever do something like that!) She asked me why I continued to talk about him if there was nothing there. I tried to ignore that comment and was pretty successful at it, actually. I had committed to attending a Christmas party with him, the man I now called “Mr. Softy” and couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse to blow it off so I felt obligated to go. The night prior I’d been with my “sometimes” date and was quite happy to continue down the road of casual dinners and drinks with “Mr. I can’t tell the truth to save my life” rather than try to start something with someone whom I didn’t click. The liar was simple and I knew there was no future, so why not let the guy buy me dinner? He’d asked me to spend Sunday evening with him and I much preferred that option rather than a party with Mr. Softy and his work friends. But I went. Now typically I’d find an excuse, whether suitable or not. Why did I care? Yet I still went to this party and had I not, I’m not sure what I’d be doing today.
I watched Mr. Softy interact with his co-workers and friends. I watched him glide around the room, smiling, laughing, sneaking peeks at me when he thought I wasn’t looking. I watched the people around him gather closer and laugh at his stories. It was as though their ears and eyes were cosmically attached to his vocal rhythms. I watched the women light up at his comments and the men try to figure out how they could be as charming and inviting as him. I’m not sure, but I think some of the people there may have actually seen the light bulb go off above my head. Or perhaps they heard that hunter in the woods shoot his one last bullet in my direction. Bam! There it was and I wasn’t even looking.
The party continued and I sat there trying to figure out a clever way to get this man alone. I wanted to experience the charm all the other guests had experienced. Had I missed it the few times before? Was I so jaded by inadequate men that I couldn’t see what was staring me right in the face? Was I blinded by my independence and comfort? I didn’t get it. How could I have missed the obvious? Or maybe he simply didn’t feel the click with ME and couldn’t be that person with me. That thought motivated me the most. No way was he not going to click with me! I had far too much to offer! (and far too much ego to lose!)
How it happened, I’m not sure. I think I asked him to step outside with me for a minute. Yes, winter in Atlanta isn’t bitter but it does get cold so going outside for me wasn’t easy! Out we went. We chatted briefly and I tried to ‘wow’ him with my long, dark eyelashes and big blue eyes. Nada. Enough was enough. I decided to take the bull by the horn (only an expression here folks!) and I kissed him. It was a good, long, smoldering, sensual kiss, inviting more. I think it lasted about an hour. At least it seemed like it. There wasn’t any uncertainty, no pulling back. Just two people coming together in ardent attraction. I was hooked. I knew right then that he was ‘the one’. The butterflies in my stomach told me. They wouldn’t stop fluttering!
In May of the following year I moved out of the townhouse I’d moved into four months prior and into his house with his two daughters. We were married that September and had our son the following February. It was a quick courtship and everyone questioned it, especially those who knew me and my “this is the one, honest” track record. His family and friends thought it was a rebound or possibly a replacement for the girls lost mother. But it was simply love. And it’s been proved every day.
Jack and I have weathered more than I thought possible in the almost six years we’ve been together. That German Shepherd? He died of cancer two months after I moved in. I was devastated. My mother moved in with us to help with the kids while I tried to juggle my career and motherhood. She then got sick and barely recovered. My father suffered health issues; the girls mother has been a thorn in our side; I’ve been hospitalized and dealing with a painful, chronic illness that took too long to diagnose; we both lost jobs; I struggled with giving up some of my anal retentiveness and comfort to be a wife and mother; we revamped the house to make it ours; we’re dealing with a beautiful daughter with ADHD who is challenging but heartwarming; I’m trying to find my place as a stay at home mom instead of a career woman; he’s trying to find his place in his career and we’re still getting to know each other. It’s been hard. There are times when I think “what the hell am I doing?” But honestly, I just breathe deeply and remember that first kiss and the butterflies start up in my stomach all over again.
I stopped looking for love and started looking for furniture. I was lucky. I found both. But I’m even luckier than I thought I ever could be. Not only did I get a great couch and a wonderful family, I got a best friend, big supporter, annoying devil’s advocate and a man who challenges and frustrates me. What more could I ask for?