Twenty-two years ago today I was at work in the Dillard’s buying office. I shared a cubicle with Juniors’ buyer, Robin and I assisted her in placing orders for dresses, knits and swimwear. The other buyers with their assistants (my colleagues) were all around us–dozens of rows of cubicles with six-foot walls. When I looked up I saw a floral delivery man carrying a dozen long-stemmed red roses and my curiosity got the best of me. Who was the lucky lady? The delivery man stopped at the cubicle across the aisle and Jenna motioned in our direction. I turned to Robin wondering what had earned her such honors. Shockingly the roses were for me. The card was from Patrick. We had had our first date the night before. Everyone wanted to know who Patrick was, when Jenna exclaimed with horror, “The guy with the kid?!” I laughed at Jenna’s obvious appal at the thought that I would even consider dating someone with a kid. Jenna and I were both fresh out of college and all of twenty-one years old. I calmly replied, “It’s just a date, Jenna. It’s not like I’m going to marry the guy.” But, in my heart I knew that I had met the man I was going to marry and here he was sending me flowers. Roses. At work.
Patrick is seven years my senior, so at 21 he was so much more mature than I; but, I was mature beyond my years as well. In April of that same year, 1992, I had made the most difficult decision in my life to that point. I called off my wedding which was only six weeks away. I won’t go into all the details here, but I see now that it was by God’s grace and my parents’ support that I was able to avoid making that disastrous mistake. I was mature enough to realize that my love for this man was not deep enough to overcome the obstacles that we faced. Even though my head understood these things, it did not make the heart break any easier. In May I graduated and moved back to Texas. In June I started my job with Dillard’s during the day and occupied my evenings by going out on dates or with friends. I have always hated being alone.
My brother invited me to play adult volleyball at church. This was a huge coming-of-age moment in my life. He had been playing every Wednesday since I was 14 and I would sit in the gym watching them play after my religious education classes ended. I was not able to join in until I was 18 and by then I had moved off to college. So, when Wednesday came you better believe I was ready to play! I noticed Patrick that first Wednesday. We always played opposite each other. My team almost always lost. When my brother introduced us, he reminded me that Patrick used to come to the pool parties at our home when they were in college. It was at that moment I realized the age difference and immediately told myself that he would never be interested in someone as young as I was. So, when Patrick stopped me after Mass and asked for my phone number I completely missed the opportunity thinking he was just being polite. On July 14, however, everything changed. Volleyball was moved to a sand court while the gym was being cleaned. Patrick and I played on the same team for the first time and we had some opportunity to visit on our rotations out. After the games were over, I visited with Patrick and a mutual friend and this is when Rachael’s name was first mentioned. Before long it was just the two of us left talking and I spoke my thoughts aloud as I realized that I had forgotten to ask Larry to borrow a softball glove for my game on Friday. Patrick quickly offered to loan me his glove and just as quickly worked in a date proposal for Thursday evening when he could get the glove to me. I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so he joined me at Jack in the Box before we went our separate ways.
On Thursday evening, July 15, 1992, Patrick picked me up promptly for our first date. We went to TGIFridays. It was a terrific dinner with our conversations covering all the forbidden topics: religion, politics, parenting, and divorce. In addition to seeing eye-to-eye on all major topics of discussion, I had also met someone who was willing to listen as I discussed my recent heartbreak. Because of his divorce, Patrick could relate to my frustrations and struggles. We returned to my apartment and I nervously fumbled through my mail thinking that he couldn’t possibly be interested in me. He politely said he needed to get going, so I walked him out to his truck and thanked him for dinner. And then he asked if he could have a hug. The story can be told two ways here. He claims that I kissed him, but I know that it was he that kissed me first. In any case, he drove off and I went back into my apartment to call my girlfriend in Missouri to tell her the news: I just met the man I was going to marry!
The dozen roses confirmed it for me. It would be another two weeks before Patrick spoke the words, “I love you” to me for the first time. That Christmas he asked me to be his wife. I would bet that Jenna would still be jaw-dropped and wide-eyed today to know that I did in fact marry that “guy with a kid” and then went on to become parents to ten more. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!