I went through a year of horrendous online dating before I met the man who became my husband. I wasn’t exactly a poster girl for the most eligible bachelorette, but none of my hold-ups were much excuse for the sort of men I met. I was 24 years old and a full time student. I worked part time, lived with my parents, was divorced, and had two children under the age of five. I’m not an unattractive woman, but men weren’t exactly beating down my door to date me. More so, I knew that I needed a companion, not just a boyfriend.
I couldn’t seem to even meet a normal, down to earth man. Things became enough of a joke around the house that my mother would sit up at night and wait for me to get home, collapse on her bed and giggle while sharing all the terrible details of my odd nights out.
There was the man who was allergic to everything. I gave him an innocent kiss after our date, forgetting that I had eaten a piece of chicken, and almost killed him.
Then there was the guy who asked me to hold his belt while in the mall so I wouldn’t get lost.
The man who took the menu out of my hand and ordered food for me like I was three.
The guy who took me to a movie and proceeded to move down to the front row where there was only one open seat to “see better,” leaving me alone.
The man who figured out where I worked and spent an hour walking around the store trying out different women’s lotions before finally admitting he was one of the men I had denied a date request from on an online site.
The guy who took me shopping and then proceeded to tell me how I should dress.
The gentleman who stripped naked in his parent’s living room while I used their restroom.
The dude who attempted to suffocate me on my parent’s couch.
By the time I got around to talking to Mak, I was pretty wary of dates. A whole year of these kinds of dates will do that to a woman. I had a whole safety set-up – complete with emergency friend phone calls lined up and pepper spray.
Mak invited me over for dinner. I had such a good time that I ended up coming home and looking him up on Google and the case search program to see if he had some shady criminal past hiding. There had to be something wrong, considering my past history with online dating. He had a speeding ticket. That was it. Needless to say, I was impressed.
The next morning we had a quick conversation.
“I’m not really interested in playing around,” he said. “I like you. Let’s make this serious.”
If any other man I’d gone on a date with had said that to me I’d have gone running for the hills.
“Okay,” I said.
I don’t know why. I’d hate to chalk it up to some sort of fate thing, but maybe part of me knew he wasn’t a psycho killer. Maybe there was some deeper connection. Maybe I was just really brave.
Within a few weeks he had met my children and included them in our outings.
A few months later was Easter and I was scrawling ‘I love you’ onto an egg and hiding it in the fridge.
“Go get the orange egg out of the fridge,” I told him.
He got up and I heard the fridge door open. After a moment it closed again and he came back to the couch.
“Well…” I started.
“Well what?” He asked.
“What did you think?” I asked. It was the first time I’d attempted to tell the man I loved him and he was being completely stubborn about the whole thing.
“It’s cute,” he said.
“And…” I lead him.
“I love you, too,” he said. “You know that.”
By the end of the year he had moved in. We were blessed in our relationship. There hadn’t been many of the big challenging moments. His father passed a few weeks before our wedding, but it was expected, and while we mourned it hadn’t surprised us. Their relationship had been so strained, for so long. It was the first time though that I ever saw him cry – a moment that I think is imprinted in my memory. There is something about seeing a strong man mourn, something heartbreaking and frightening and so real it hurts that one simply doesn’t forget it.
I remember standing by his father’s bed. He sat in a chair across the room from me. I went to him, but he didn’t reach for me. I stepped back – gave him space. I didn’t know how to handle his grief. He took a few moments to himself and I watched him. I watched the years, the pain, the neglect from that relationship wash away. For those few moments there was love.
There hadn’t been many of those bring-you-to-your-knees moments. We didn’t even really fight or argue. We were thankful to have found a companion in one another that shared a similar sense of humor. Laughter got us through any time things seemed to be getting dark.
He stepped into the role of father as if it were all he’d ever known. It was never a look-at-me exercise, but came naturally. There was a gaping hole in our little family and he saw it, stepped into it, and never looked back. It was in the quiet way he made that transition that still never fails to amaze me.
He has a silent strength in him. A code of ethics that can’t be argued or even discussed. They simply are.
Perhaps it’s because of his quiet nature that people find him intimidating. Combining that with the sleeves of tattoos and long dark hair, it’s quite understandable. However, anyone watching him drink tea from a tiny porcelain cup with my daughter would realize how wrong they are.
Four years after that first date and I was talking to my brother in California, planning his trip home to visit.
“When is he coming home?” Mak asked.
“The end of June,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “We’ll get married then.”
Proposal. Date set. End of discussion.
I had a month to get everything planned and ready.
I love you, too. You know that.
After our wedding we decided to have a baby. A few short months later and I was excitedly waving those little pink lines around in the air. We were so excited we told everyone.
We were at his mother’s for a belated Thanksgiving dinner when I started miscarrying. My husband had the kids in the car while I stood white knuckled on the phone with the emergency room and watched my father-in-law toss the kids’ toys into their book bags. Hours and many tests later the doctor gave us the news.
“There’s no heartbeat.”
I’d known when I saw her face. I’d been crying since she came into the room. I looked across the room at my husband. I expected him to get up, to come to me. The doctor left and he still sat there for a few moments. In that space between us I watched him break, hit his emotional knees, mourn, and grieve. I watched him as he cared for himself and then he came to me. He put himself behind and cared for me.
For the following days he held me while I cried and found whatever ways he could to make me smile. We found laughter in the darkest moments. We suffered. We healed.
We spent months talking back and forth about whether or not to try again. The entire process had frightened him so badly. I learned to appreciate what pregnancy can do to a man. It’s a terrifying situation, especially for one who tends to like to be in control of things. There is no control with pregnancy.
He couldn’t see what was happening inside my body.
He couldn’t control what was happening.
He couldn’t stop me from being in pain, from hurting.
All he could do was be there and hope that I would heal.
“I’m not sure we should try again,” Mak said.
We were lying in bed, the lights off and waiting for one or both of us to become too tired to keep talking.
“We’ve got a girl and a boy,” he started. “You know? Maybe that’s enough.”
“You don’t want one of your own?” I asked.
“They are my own,” he said.
A few nights later we were repeating this whole thing again. It was like a record skipping, playing backwards, flinging all over the place. I never knew where we’d end up.
“We could try again,” he said.
“We’re not doing anything to stop it from happening,” I answered.
“If it does, it does,” he’d agree.
Three months of this back and forth indecision plagued us.
Finally he said, “I don’t think we should try again.”
“I’m pregnant,” I said.
We collapsed against one another laughing. For weeks we were quiet. We were so careful not to tell people too early. We went to each appointment with our heart in our throats. Every test was a negative, dangerous thing. Every symptom I had was cause to worry. We struggled to find joy.
Mak kept warning me not to get my hopes up.
I kept countering that he needed to not think so negatively.
We flew past each other, both of us on separate ends of our own emotional roller-coasters.
“Are you happy about the baby?” I finally asked him.
“Of course,” he said. “You know that.”
I love you, too. You know that.
I am five months pregnant today. A few weeks ago we went to the doctor and we got to hear the heartbeat. The tiny whomp whomp whomp sound filled the room. I was laid back on the bed watching my husband. He didn’t stand up and come to me. For a few moments, he sat there and smiled. I watched him in this moment of joy and excitement and relief. I watched him take that moment for himself and then he came to me.
He kisses me every morning before he leaves for work. He tells me he loves me before we fall asleep. He doesn’t have to say that he loves me. I know he does. All I need are those few moments, where there is space between us and I have the chance to really see my husband. It is in those moments that I get to watch him love.