Happy Anniversary to me and Rita! It as 8 years ago today (May 3rd) that we had our first date. Although to be honest, I did not know it was a date at the time.
Let me explain. I got married in December of 1983 to Carolyn, and we had two children. We had a happy marriage, which ended in December of 2008, just a few days short of our 25th wedding anniversary, when she died of complications arising from breast cancer. I was devastated, and I will admit, completely lost.
When I first met Rita, I was looking to buy a house for my daughter to live in while she went back to college, and Rita was the realtor on the property. We met professionally just over three months after my first wife Carolyn died, and I was definitely not at the looking-to-date stage. I was more in the trying-to-find-a-reason-to-get-up-each-morning phase. Nothing may have ever happened between us, except that a couple of months later, I also bought a second investment home from her.
I was pretty much a mess at the time. I weighed over 300 pounds, and I was still prone to bursting out in tears when I was alone – and I was alone a lot. I was assuming that I would be alone the rest of my life, and in fact when I showed up to sign the offer on that second property, I was wearing sweat pants that may have been washed within living memory, a t-shirt with a prominent food stain, and a baseball hat to cover my unwashed hair.
Look out, ladies.
But then a stalled commuter train I was on forced a late contract-signing meeting with Rita at her office, where we were both tired enough to let down defenses and talk about our lives honestly to each other. We shared the loss of spouses from cancer, and I think for the first time we looked at each other as real people, not just client and agent.
We had our first date shortly after that, on Sunday, May 3rd. I didn’t figure out it was a date until the next day – really, I was still in a fog. It was hard for me to even imagine that anyone, much less this attractive woman, would be interested in a relationship with a fat, grieving widower. I mean, seriously – take a look again at the picture at the top of the page (taken just a month after our first date), and tell me you honestly think that woman would go for that man. I look like I could audition for a part in the new Star Wars prequel, “Jabba the Hutt, The Early Years”.
Or this one, taken in July of 2009:
To return to my story, we had been in contact via email mostly, conducting business, but now with the occasional small talk tossed in. At some point, we talked about how we both enjoyed walking, and Rita suggested I meet her at her house in Shepherdstown, and we could go for a walk by the C&O Canal.
As fate would have it, that Sunday was a rainy day. I suggested we could go walk at a mall, but Rita demurred, saying we weren’t old enough yet to be resigned to mall-walking. Instead, we spent the whole day talking. Time passed quickly, and we cooked a dinner together rather than go out. I of course assumed she didn’t want to be seen around her hometown with the likes of me, which I understood completely. I found her attractive and interesting, and I figured she was sizing me up and deciding whether she should introduce me to one of her overweight friends or something. We shared a nice steak dinner, talked a few more hours, and then I headed home after a semi-awkward hug.
It wasn’t until the next day that I started to suspect I may have just had a date. After all, you have to remember I had not been on a “date” for over 25 years. But I I started to think about that “spontaneous” dinner at home. She just happened to have two thawed t-bone steaks in the fridge? A bottle of wine chilled? Could it be she actually wanted to spend time with me?
I talked it over with my friend Ed at work. We were doing what we did best – sitting in a cafe in the basement of a Senate office building, delaying heading back to the office for another assignment. Don’t think us lazy, it was just that we usually solved the technical problems assigned to us much more quickly than the other techs, so we would then linger somewhere so as not to show them up. Really quite selfless and thoughtful of us.
Anyway, Ed was unconvinced. He too leaned toward the “fat friend” theory, and he suggested I ask Rita out someplace, and see if she offered to bring a friend, or something.
At the time I was playing in a local band in another attempt to add some sort of meaning to my life, something to do in the evenings other than drink, stare at the walls, and sob once and a while. So a day or two after our first encounter, I emailed Rita and told her I had a practice session that night not far from her, would she like to meet at Applebee’s for dessert or a drink, say around 10pm? I know, smooth, right?
Much to my shock and awe, her reply was “Why don’t you just come over to my place?”
I showed this to Ed (we were once again protecting the pride of our slower fellow techs), and he looked at me wide-eyed and said, “Dude! You got a booty call!”
Well, it wasn’t a booty call, but that evening did end with a good-bye kiss. So much for my friend theory (unless she was being very thorough). We started seeing each other daily, and within a week, we were in love. By the end of the second week, we were practically living together, splitting our lives between our houses. Before the first month was up, I think we already knew that we were going to be together, and considered ourselves married emotionally even though it would be a couple of years before we had the actual ceremony.
So today I celebrate that first date, and my new life with my wonderful wife, Rita. I am still amazed that she came into my life when she did, and that I somehow managed to find love when it was the last thing in the world I was looking for.