My college roommate got engaged over Christmas vacation. Her fiance was very kind to include me in his plans. He let me in on the details of how he would make the official proposal. It would happen at Disneyland in the Blue Bayou restaurant that overlooks the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. He would have the waiter serve the beautiful diamond ring with their meal. It was all very romantic and exciting. Of course, their plans to start a wonderful life together meant change for me as well. Shortly after the engagement they found a new home and I found myself hunting. I needed a new place to live.

I knew exactly what I wanted. A quiet apartment where I could live without any distraction from my studies. My major was art/design. I enjoyed taking art classes; but, those required general education classes were killing my GPA. I needed to get serious and spend more time studying.

Two apartments were available. I was sure I was going to choose the first one. I was told there was currently only one student living there. That sounded perfect – fewer people, fewer distractions. The manager opened the door. It was dark, and a bit cold; but, it was tidy, other than some dishes left in the sink. I thought it was exactly what I was looking for, a quiet place to work and study; but, it didn’t feel like “ home.” I asked to see the other available unit.

Next, the manager showed me an apartment with three girls. They were all home when we arrived. The apartment felt warm and welcoming. I didn’t hesitate, I shoved aside the need for a quiet study spot in favor of warmth and light. “I’ll stay here,” I told the manager.

My first priority was paying my rent for the full semester. It took every bit of money in my account; but, I expected to receive funds to pay for food, books, and supplies soon. With no cash to pay for groceries, I was grateful for homemade cookies, sent via postal service in a #10 can, by my sister. It was three days before the check finally arrived.

I didn’t realize how that very limited high sugar diet effected me until I was in the check out line at the grocery store. I found myself feeling a little light-headed; but, I made it back to my new apartment with bags of groceries. My roommates had all gone out; so, I ate my first healthy meal in days, laid on the couch, and fell to sleep.

I can’t tell you how long I’d been asleep when it happened; but, my dreams were interrupted by knock at the door. I have a vague recollection of getting up and opening the door. A tall stranger looked at me and said, “you don’t live here!”

I said, “Yes, I do!” and I closed the door.

I didn’t give a second thought to the tall stranger, who he was, or why he had knocked on my door. I simply went back to my dreams.

Callie, my new roommate, and I were hanging out in the kitchen, chatting about usual college girl subjects, when a guy stopped by. He announced that his team had won their basketball game and he brought over a box of donuts to celebrate. He didn’t introduce himself to “the new girl” (aka me) or stay to chat. I was a little confused by his behavior. If he was celebrating a winning game, why didn’t he stay and eat a donut? On the other hand, didn’t he know that Callie was engaged to be married? It all seemed a bit unusual to me; but, Callie didn’t seem at all surprised. He was just a thoughtful friend with a box of donuts.

I began to understand Callie’s casual response to the donuts when a different guy brought a big box of candy bars to Rebecca, another roommate. The guy was not her boyfriend – just another friend. Okay, I thought, this bearing of random treats by guys who are neither fiance or boyfriend is common place – nothing I should “read” anything into.

Visitors were plentiful at my new apartment. Most of the visits came from guys who were neither the fiance or boyfriend of my roommates. They would stop by and make themselves comfortable. They would hang out and chat. It didn’t seem to matter who was, or wasn’t, home.

A few weeks after I moved in, my roommates were invited to movie night at “the guys” apartment. I wasn’t sure about joining them; but Callie and Rebecca assured me, “they are harmless” and insisted I join them. If you’ve seen “The Big Bang Theory” you probably have some idea what we were walking into. In this case, the guys were all very excited about a movie they had all seen several times. I’d never heard of it. It was called The Last Dragon.

That evening shed light on the dynamics of the unusual relationship between my unavailable roommates and “the guys” who didn’t seem concerned that they had no chance with them. In the weeks ahead, I became comfortable with their random visits. I even enjoyed the occasional diversion from my studies. Turns out these guys were just the “geeks across the hall.”

Basketball Guy (the “geek next door” who brought donuts after the game) had recently purchased a shiny new on/off-road motorcycle. When a nice spring-like day presented itself, he came by our apartment offering rides. I had a lot of projects to work on, and wasn’t sure I could afford the distraction. Liz, my third roommate, quickly jumped at the chance. She returned a mere 15 minutes later, unharmed. With a little coaxing from Callie, I agreed to take a little spin as well. It was just a short ride, I could spare a few minutes.

We were met outside by Basketball Guys roommate, Corvette Guy (he owned a few of those “guy toys”).  I put on a helmet, climbed onto the back of the motorcycle, and wrapped my arms around Basketball Guy. The three of us were off. We headed east and before I knew it we were driving off of the pavement and into the foothills. Basketball Guy and Corvette Guy had decided to ride up to the “Y” on the side of the mountain. More than 30 minutes later, I was wondering what had happened to my 15 minute ride.

The view from the top of the hill was wonderful. We could see the entire university town and the lake beyond. We took a couple of minutes to take it all in before heading back down the mountain. The way down, however, was a little rougher than the ride up. After turning a sharp corner, the bike tipped over and I found myself landing in the dirt. We were going very slow. I am sure Basketball Guy was more embarrassed, than I was hurt, by the fall. Corvette Guy used the opportunity to get in a little jab. He questioned Basketball Guys riding skills and asked if I wanted to ride the rest of the way with him. I wasn’t amused by Corvette Guy and refused his offer. I was willing to risk my personal safety, if necessary, to keep Basketball Guys pride intact.

When we reached the bottom, Corvette Guy went off in his own direction. I continued riding along the hillside with Basketball Guy – wondering all the while, where exactly we were going and when did he plan to return me to my apartment? Finally, he mentioned a package he had agreed to drop off. “Did I mind?”

I was anxious to get home. This ride had been long enough and I was starving; but, I agreed to one last stop. Then, after dropping the package, Basketball Guy asked, “Do you want to get something to eat?”

“What? absolutely not!” I was shouting in my head. There was just no way I was going to let him turn what was supposed to be a 15 minute ride into a dinner date! I politely refused his offer. “I need to get home,” I insisted.

We pulled into the parking lot and I returned to my apartment; however, as much as I protested it all in my mind, I enjoyed myself that day. Basketball Guy made an impression on me. The ride may have ended, but, for Basketball Guy, the wheels were in motion.

Before I moved into the new apartment, I had my own version of “the guys”; however, they were hardly the “geeks across the hall.” One was a talented dancer, one a young Australian mathematician (okay so he may have been a little geeky but, the accent saved him) and a ski instructor. They were all great fun to hang around with; but, I found myself particularly fond of Ski Instructor.

Ski Instructor, a cute blond guy, had no set plans for the future, there was a girl he liked back home, and one time, he made me a really great sandwich. Is there a more perfect guy in the eyes of a 19-year-old college girl?

Australia and I, happened to be taking a skiing class at the same time Ski Instructor was on the mountain, with his team of teen racers. There was always a little time for flirting on the way down the run. I was pretty sure this was what love was all about. I had our future all planned out. In 4 years we would both graduate. By then he would have decided on an occupation and realize he was completely in love with me.

Yes, Ski Instructor fit perfectly into “my dating rule” – DO NOT go out on dates with guys who are ready for that “serious dating” phase – because I was not! I had plans. I loved school. I wanted to graduate and start a career with a nice greeting card company – Hallmark was my first choice.

I used that rule to decide a “yes or no” answer to most of the invitations that came my way. In a moment of weakness, Basketball Guy became the exception. He called and asked if I wanted to go see a movie. I was home alone. I considered the offer for a moment and decided to go. He was harmless. What could it hurt? I really didn’t have anything better to do.

I said, “Okay.” However, there was a little catch. To keep things really casual and friendship like, I’d run a quick errand on the way.

“I need to stop by Ski Instructors apartment to put some ice cream in his freezer, is that okay?” I was driving, so what was Basketball Guy going to say? He agreed to my plan.

Skiing class had ended, so, I had to create new opportunities to stay in contact with “my guys.” I had purchased ice cream for an upcoming church social. Our freezer didn’t have a lot of space, but, I knew some guys who had plenty of room.

I left Basketball Guy sitting in the car and I ran inside with the ice cream. Ski Instructor was there, lounging on his couch. He started up a conversation. I was all too happy to inform him that I had to make it quick.

“Is someone waiting for you?” Ski Instructor caught on and decided to give me a hard time about the date.

“Has he asked you to marry him yet?” He mocked. (The reason is another story.)

With a little attitude, I snapped back a reply. “No, but he will!”

I have no idea what Ski Instructor said after that. I was totally freaked out by the fact that after I said it, I knew in my gut, what I just said was true.

A few days later I ‘bumped into’ Ski Instructor. He asked, “How was your date?”

“With Basketball Guy? Ugh, Yeah, I’ve got to stay away from him.”

“Why?”

“I just do.”

I changed the conversation to “What was he up to?” and in a “stupid college girl” moment, I offered to type a paper for Ski Instructor. There was only one person I knew with a computer to type it on… Basketball Guy.

Basketball Guy and I were NOT dating. I let him know that I didn’t have any interest in him beyond friendship. I went on “set up” dates with Bleachers Guy, and Stagehand Guy. I was happily accepting dates with others I’d met, like Artist Guy and Colorado Man. Basketball Guy was scratched off the “safe to date list.”

Not dating didn’t stop Basketball Guy from being part of my life. He continued to randomly drop by our apartment to visit. He was also kind enough to offer the use of his computer to type papers, which occasionally took me to his apartment.

There were frequent coincidental meetings in our apartment parking lot. He and his roommate, Political Science Guy, happened to be out shooting hoops at the same time I arrived home from class – a lot. On one such occasion Basketball Guy challenged me and Political Science Guy to a game. Two against one – winner buys dinner. I don’t suppose it takes a lot to figure out who won.

Basketball Guy took Political Science Guy and I to a Mexican Restaurant. It was a dive; but, the food was great – authentic, free for two poor students, and best of all, it wasn’t a date.

Friendly conversations in the parking lot gave Basketball Guy tidbits of information which lead to a new behavior. One morning, on my way to class, I found the first in a series of notes left on my car windshield. The message on the first note was simple, “Good luck on your test.”  All of the messages were short and not at all stalker like. They were always a sweet and pleasant surprise.

Basketball Guy was so nice to me. I felt really guilty for using him (his computer anyway) to type a paper for Ski Instructor; so, I made him an offer.

“I’ll cook you dinner,” I said to Basketball Guy. “As a thank you for letting me use your computer.” He obviously didn’t know about my lack of cooking skills because he didn’t turn me down.

The time and obligation were set. I would make a “thank you dinner” for Basketball Guy. I went to the grocery store and bought some steak. I couldn’t say what the cut was. It didn’t have a lot of fat on it, and it wasn’t very expensive. That is how a 19-year-old, non-cooking, college girl buys meat. I also bought a frozen Rhodes bread loaf.

I followed the instructions on the bread, letting it thaw & rise. I popped it in the oven and let it bake for the instructed time; however, after I pulled it out of the oven, and let it cool on the counter, it sank. I guess we weren’t going to have freshly baked bread for dinner after all. I didn’t worry about a replacement for the bread. I had meat.

I joined my roommates, who were gathered in the bathroom, preparing for the evening. We had a huge bathroom in our apartment with a large dressing area. It had double sinks on one side and a long make up counter on the other. It was a great space to hang out and chat while getting ready for class, dates, etc. As the time for dinner approached, so did a conversation with my roommates.

When Basketball Guy called to confirm our dinner time, my roommates and I were busy applying make up and discussing the guys in my life. (Basketball Guy was not part of the conversation.) I told him I had some steaks. He said I could cook them on a grill at his apartment. That sounded good to me. He would warm up the grill and I’d come over with the steaks in a few minutes. After hanging up the phone I went back to the bathroom to finish getting ready, and continue the conversation with my roommates.

A little while later, Basketball Guy’s grill was warm, and since I hadn’t shown up with the food, he came over. I gave him the steaks to take back to his apartment and told him I’d be over in a few minutes. I wasn’t finished getting ready (or with the conversation I was having with my roommates.)

A little more time passed and the phone rang again. It was basketball Guy letting me know the steaks were done. I figured I’d better go, I was being rude to delay any longer. (I think my roommates may have pointed that out.) So, I ran over to his apartment.

When Basketball Guy opened the door he looked at me and asked, “Where’s the dinner?”

I said, “The steaks are the dinner.”

“You don’t have anything to go with the steaks?”

Now, I was feeling a little stupid. I offered a lame explanation about how I had planned to have some bread with the steak; but, it didn’t turn out. Then, Basketball Guy suggested we go out to dinner; “Because,” he claimed, “the meat was over cooked.”

“Come on in,” he invited. I figured he had to get something before we left. He led me into the kitchen. There sitting on the table was a gorgeous bouquet of spring flowers. “These are for you,” he said.

I hadn’t given any thought to how Basketball Guy had envisioned the evening. I would bring dinner. He would give me flowers. We would dine together…

My brain completely shut down at that moment. I was caught off guard – stunned. I had never been the subject of such a beautiful and generous display of affection and that was only the beginning of our evening.

Basketball Guy and I walked to my apartment and put the bouquet of flowers in water before we left to get dinner. He asked, “Is it okay if we drive into the city?” I agreed without hesitation. He could have taken me anywhere at that point. I hadn’t begun to “come down” from the effects of the flowers.

Basketball Guy worked in the city. I had only been there once or twice. I was impressed by his level of comfort – knowing exactly where he was going, while I was entirely lost. When we arrived downtown, he pulled into a Sizzler Steakhouse. “Is this okay?” He asked.

I know what you’re thinking. Did he really need to drive an hour to take me to a Sizzler? Initially, I didn’t question his motives; however, when he began rushing and asking if I was finished with my meal, I couldn’t help wondering what was going on.

There was someplace we had to be at a certain time. We rushed from the Sizzler to another location in the city. He parked the truck and we began a fast paced walk. “We’re gonna be too late!” He explained, as he grabbed my hand and started running. It was like being dragged by a big dog on a leash.

“Stop!” I pleaded, “My shoe!” Basketball Guy could see my small white slip-on, abandoned on the sidewalk, 20 yards behind us. He ran to get the shoe, came back to me, and placed it on my foot. Then, he picked me up like a sack of potatoes (under his arm) and continued running.

He turned a corner before he stopped and put me down. We were standing in a line to enter the Planetarium. (Keep in mind it was the mid-eighties. This was a really cool place to be.) We were there to see a music and laser show. I had never seen a laser show before.

I was dazzled by him and the planning he had done on my behalf. So many thoughts passed through my mind that evening. He was not the person he seemed on the surface. I enjoyed being with him. It felt good when he held my hand for the first time.

There was little room for doubt. Basketball Guy had swept me off my feet that night – both literally and figuratively.

The next few days were like waking up from a hangover. What had I done? I let this man push his way into my heart! Panic set in, what was I going to do now?

It seemed to me that the best thing was to simply act like nothing had changed. He didn’t need to know that he had gotten to me. He was still on the “not safe to date” list. And, that was not a date – he had tricked me!

It wasn’t too hard to keep Basketball Guy at a distance, for a while. I was busy with class assignments, as the semester was drawing to a close. He seemed to be busy with his job. However, one afternoon, I found myself needing a study break. I had to get out of my apartment for a little while, so I went to visit “the geeks across the hall.” It was okay, Basketball Guy was at work.

Political Science Guy and I were having a light discussion in the living room when the door opened. Basketball Guy walked in. He was wearing a striped dress shirt and a skinny necktie. He was carrying an attaché case in one of his hands. He looked good. As my eyes took in the “whole package” a foreign idea popped into my head. “I could handle having that come home to me every night.” I thought.

Basketball Guy excused himself as he passed through to go to his bedroom. I, disturbed by my own thoughts, decided it was time to go home.

It seemed the entire universe was conspiring against me. While I was doing laundry I ran into Artist Guy. We had a couple of nice evenings together; but, he was part of the basketball team. He chose to ask me about Basketball Guy, and why I wouldn’t give him a chance. I was infuriated!

The more I wanted to avoid Basketball Guy the more he appeared in my path. All that I had done and said to “push him away” had not ended with the desired result. It was time to take serious action; so, I concocted a drastic plan to “scare him” away.

All guys are “gun-shy” of a girl who is looking to get married. I knew this for a fact because I had seen a lot of movies. The next time Basketball Guy came for a visit, he and I went for a drive, alone. That is when I “let the cat out of the bag.” I casually told him all about how I wanted to get married that summer. I wasn’t really picky about who, any guy would do.” I rambled on for a while, watching for a reaction that never came.

Ears are closely attached to the brain. There shouldn’t be any problem with translation when something has been so directly funneled in. May be it had something to do with the thin mountain air, I can hardly say; but, Basketball Guy’s brain didn’t get the message I had intended him to that night. He heard an entirely different message, “I was open to the idea of marriage – with him.”

It was Easter weekend and thankfully, Basketball Guy was leaving town to visit his mother. I was relieved. It would give me some time to clear him from my head.

Easter morning arrived. We were all getting ready for church when Liz responded to a knock at the door. On the doorstep she found a wicker basket. It was filled with pastel wrapped candies. Sitting on top of the sweets there was a stuffed bunny. It was brown with pink ears. Upon further inspection a figurine would be spotted, a small bear wearing rabbit ears and holding a paint brush. Liz looked for a name on the card. She turned to me and said, “it’s for you.”

I couldn’t imagine who would have brought such a nice surprise to me on Easter. May be it was Artist guy trying to apologize? I opened the card. There was his signature – no, not Artist Guy. It was from Basketball Guy; But, he was supposed to be out-of-town, wasn’t he?

I looked through the basket with amazement. I hadn’t mentioned that I love Easter and bunnies so much. How did he pick out just the right things? So much for getting him out of my head. Basketball Guy and his Easter surprise were all I could think about.

I was crazy with worry. What was I going to say when I saw him? Could I hide how thrilled I was with his gift? It turned out that he was out-of-town after all. He had a roommate ding-dong-ditch the basket for him. I was greatly relieved knowing I had time to gather my thoughts before I’d see him again.

I talked to Callie about the situation. “What was I going to do?” I asked. She said, “I don’t understand how you can not fall in love with a guy who gives you an Easter basket like that?”

Now I knew I was in deep trouble. Callie made a good point. I didn’t know how to respond. I was vacillating between holding firm to my “not ready” status and giving my heart to this obviously wonderful man.

I decided to create a hand drawn thank you card to give to Basketball Guy. That was the least I could do. I kept it simple. Inside I wrote a big “Thanks” and “Happy Easter, I hope you had a good time.” I was cautiously dipping my toe in the water – still not ready to jump in with both feet.

Liz came home after spending the evening with “the geeks across the hall.” She told me all about the conversation that transpired in her presence. To sum it all up, Corvette Guy and Basketball Guy were “being boys” talking about needing a “spring fling.”

I realized Liz probably had personal motivation for sharing the information; but, it seemed there had been a mention of a serious “Basketball Girl-fan” who would be returning to town in July. The knowledge of their “boys will be boys” conversation was the only excuse I needed to pull back. I was not going to be anyone’s spring fling!

The next time Basketball Guy came around I was especially cold. I answered the door and said, “Callie and Rebecca aren’t home.” He caught my impertinence and left.

Basketball Guy came around again. This time he sat at the table with me and innocently kicked my leg. I was indignant, accusing him of kicking me on purpose. Again, Basketball Guy left, obviously confused and frustrated.

I knew I had been completely unfair and I should apologize. This time, I had pushed too far! Callie, seeing the frustration I was causing her friend, warned me, “if you don’t have any interest in him, don’t say anything to encourage him.”

Callie was right. I didn’t want to cause Basketball Guy any further frustration; but, I couldn’t just let him go away like that.

I dialed the number to Basketball Guy’s apartment and walked over to the kitchen window. Looking out I saw the largest and most brilliant moon I’d ever seen. It was rising up behind the mountain. It was amazing! It was nearly full and it was huge! It looked so close – like if I could get to the mountain fast enough, I could touch it.

I was so excited about the view, when Basketball Guy answered the phone,  I didn’t say hello. Instead he heard, “Go to your window and look at the moon.” For a moment we watched it together. Then, as time passed, the moon rose above the mountains and “changed back” into that familiar circle in the far off distance.

I asked Basketball Guy if I could “come over to his apartment.”

He said that would be “okay.”

On the way to his apartment I remembered Callie’s words. “Don’t say anything to encourage him.” I knocked on his door. When he answered I said, “I want to apologize. I am sorry I was so rude to you.” Then I turned to walk away.

“That’s it?” Basketball Guy said.

“Yes.” I paused my departure to reply.

I thought I had heeded Callie’s advice with my simple and straight forward apology. But, if truth be known, the “damage” had been done before I stepped on his porch. Basketball Guy and I shared a moment and everything else, all the frustration he was feeling, had faded far into the distance along with that amazing moon.

The semester was quickly coming to an end and I had finals to think about; but, there were end of the year socials to go to and Basketball Guy had become a daily presence in my life. Needless to say, I wasn’t getting in a lot of study time.

I hadn’t altogether given in to Basketball Guy’s charms; however, I wasn’t trying to chase him away anymore. When he asked if I would go to his brother’s house for dinner I nervously agreed.

We arrived at a nice home nestled into a neighborhood at the foot of the mountain. I was introduced to Basketball Guys Brother, his wife, and their two young boys. Brother had a Bar-B-Q in process.

There was a definite family resemblance between Basketball Guy and his brother. Being several years older, his brother had gone completely bald on top; however, he had an “outdoorsy” look that didn’t fit my idea of the “bald guy” stereo type. I learned that he and his petite wife, spent many weekends on a nearby lake. His love for boating had created that deep tan.

Boat Brother’s wife, Miss Maple Leaf,  was a Canadian transplant. Her fun and sassy personality surprised me. She didn’t seem like the type to be attracted to a “bald guy” yet there she was, obviously enjoying life with him – and somehow, her presence made Boat Brother more attractive!

As the evening progressed, I began to think may be I could see myself wanting to be part of Basketball Guy’s life. This was a huge step for me; but, Basketball Guy was determined to take it one step further. Throughout the evening he tried to catch a moment to give me that first kiss. I wasn’t sure I was ready and I was thankful I didn’t have to worry about it too much. Two adorable boys, who were delightful with their timing, prevented his success.

When the evening at Boat Brother’s home was over, Basketball Guy took me back to my apartment. My roommates were all in their bedrooms; so, we had the living area to ourselves. We talked for just a little while and then, when the moment seemed just right, he leaned in and gave me a kiss that warmed me all over.

That kiss was the point of no return for my heart. It was all his; but, seconds later it was confused and a little broken when Basketball Guy got up and said he had to leave. He indicated that he was feeling a bit of discomfort and he promised he would be back; but, it was like he couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

My head was in a whirl. I had never gotten that kind of reaction after a kiss before. What had I done to make him leave so abruptly?

Basketball Guy did return that evening. His sudden discomfort had nothing to do with a change of heart, as I had imagined. Let’s just call it a young guy thing (could be embarrassing to elaborate further.)

Finals were in process and I would be returning to my hometown soon. With my impending departure in the forefront of our minds, discussions between Basketball Guy and I turned to the future. When would we see each other again?

When the semester ended, I packed my car, minus a few things. There was a Beta fish, (the only pet allowed in my college apartment) a box of brownie mix (my mother sent it to “fatten me up”) and my peach comforter. Basketball Guy kindly offered to store a few things for me, including my blanket, until I returned. Now that he had my stuff, we had an unspoken pact or promise, we had to see each other again.

A million things raced through my mind those last few days. We had just started to get to know each other and now I was leaving. I didn’t know what to expect next.  How serious was this relationship?

When Basketball Guy came to see me off, he gave me a single red rose and a note. He told me all the usual things: be careful, drive safely… then he said three words I hadn’t expected… “I love you.”

I wasn’t prepared with a response. It seemed like this had all happened so fast and I wondered how things might change once we were apart. Did I love him? Would he still think of me after I was gone? I just listened and kissed him good-bye.

As I waited for another student, a girl who needed a ride home, I read Basketball Guy’s note. How did he always seem to know exactly what needed to be said?

Note 4-17-86 wb2

Before I “drove off into the sunset” I gave Basketball Guy a card and a teddy bear with a heart on its chest.

Card to Kevin wb

On the outside, the card read:

Distance does not really matter. Being close to someone is an affair of the heart.

Of course the card didn’t take into account long distance phone charges – calculated on a per minute basis in 1986. At $.20+ cents a minute most distant conversations were kept as short as possible. That made carrying on with a “budding romance” difficult.

Shortly after I arrived at my sisters home in Oregon, I found myself missing Basketball Guy more than I imagined I could. After a short phone conversation I wrote him a letter.

“Dear Basketball Guy,

I don’t know that it is possible for you to miss me more than I miss you; but, I guess it would make me feel better if you missed me almost as much. 

Yadda, yadda… mushy stuff...”

Letter to K wb2

This is how it ended (red markings added for emphasis):

I said it, those three words were printed, the stamp was licked, and it was in the mail – no way to take it back now!

I’d been missing my family, and I thought I’d be happy to be back at home; but, my days felt a little empty without Basketball Guy and, several states away, as I was mailing the letter above, Basketball Guy mailed this:

Letter to tami wb

I should have seen what was coming. Long Distance relationships rarely ever last.

Whale sticker wb

Late night phone rates were the least expensive; but, the time zone difference between us added to the difficulty of an expensive means for conversation. Though we had planned to see each other in June, Basketball Guy and I didn’t make it that long.

Things might have been different if we had instant messaging or e-mail. May be we would have been able to talk more. May be we wouldn’t have become so frustrated with the distance between us. I could blame it on the lack of instant mail; but, may be there was more to it?

We wrote a lot of I miss you’s and I can’t wait to see you’s sent via “snail mail” before that late night phone conversation when I told Basketball Guy, “I want to come back now.” I didn’t want to continue with late night conversation and sending letters in the mail. I didn’t want to wait another month to pick up where we had left off.

Not missing a beat, Basketball Guy said he’d be on the soonest flight he could arrange. He was coming to get me.

Friday, May 2. I drove to the airport and waited anxiously at the gate while passengers began filing off of the plane. When Basketball Guy saw me, waiting in the distance, his pace quickened. He didn’t care that we were surrounded by strangers – when he got close enough he grabbed me, squeezed me, and gave me a kiss like a soldier that had arrived home from war.

We gathered his bags and made our way to the parking lot. When we got into the car Basketball Guy said he had something to give me. He couldn’t wait; so, I took the small box.

This is that moment  – the one where the girl’s heart starts beating really fast and she is thinking this is it – he is going to…

I excitedly opened the velvet covered box. Inside was a gold heart on a delicate gold chain.

Oh, okay, false alarm. And thank goodness! because we are sitting in a parking garage at the airport after all.

I said thank you and Basketball Guy put the necklace around my neck before we drove away.

Honestly, I don’t remember a word spoken on that long drive back to university town. No doubt there was talking and planning, but my head was whirling. After I settled into my apartment I began looking for a job. Within a week Basketball Guy officially proposed and we set a date for a late June wedding – less than two months away.

In the weeks that followed my stomach was filled with butterflies. I felt so uncertain of myself and all the changes to come. How does a guy fall in love with a 19-year-old girl he barely knows? That is crazy isn’t it? And how can a 19-year-old girl trust that the guy, isn’t going to change his mind and break her heart? But, there was no time to contemplate the craziness. Time was short. In just a few weeks there was a wedding to plan, engagement photos to take, invitations to send, a dress to be made, an apartment to find, furniture to purchase, a job hunt to continue, and even though it seemed I barely had a moment to let my mind wander, it did. I would look at the beautiful ring on my finger and I’d wonder what on earth I was thinking? Could I really become a wife? Was I ready?

Basketball Guy was an amazing groom-to-be. He was so calm, so reassuring. Never once did he show the slightest hint of doubt. His love for me was evident in all that he said and did. He even ate the food I cooked for him each evening without complaint or criticism. (I am pretty sure now, that being in love numbs many of the senses – most certainly the taste buds.)

Getting married on such a tight schedule can be a complex process. Because we decided to get married in my home state, we had to travel there to get the wedding license. Then there was a waiting period before we could actually get married. Between purchasing the license and the wedding day, Basketball Guy had to work. Some people dance after their wedding – you could say that Basketball Guy and I danced before.

Basketball Guy sensed the stress all the craziness was causing for me. He also realized I never had “that time” I was going to spend with my family during summer break. He suggested that I stay with my family during the last weeks before the wedding and he would make the long commute back and forth on his own.

He always seemed to know what I needed better than I knew myself. Being back home gave me the opportunity, though short, to be “the bride to be” surrounded by the support of family and friends who were excited for me.

The big day arrived and all went as planned. Basketball Guy and I were surrounded by family as we promised to love each other for time and eternity.

When the ceremony was over… Well, all that is a bit too personal, isn’t it! (wink.)

During the months that followed I learned things I didn’t know about my sweet new husband. He helped fill in some blanks – things I didn’t know about our relationship – as we talked about the day we met. I assumed our first meeting was the day he brought donuts to my apartment after winning a game; but, he talked about the day he knocked on my door and said, “You don’t live here!”

“Okay, so you were that rude guy?”

He explained further…

Seeing me on the other side of the door was a shock. Basketball Guy didn’t know how to respond. He’d seen me many times before that day. A few months earlier he was surprised when he saw one of his roommates with a photo of “the girl” at church.

“You know her?” he asked.

“Yeah, I know Tami,” he said.

One Sunday, still watching from a distance, he pointed me out to Corvette Guy, and said, “That is a girl I could marry!”

But, Basketball Guy was too intimidated to introduce himself to the girl who’d made an impression on him from afar.

Then, one day, he knocks on a friend’s door and there I am. Like God had delivered me to him.

Over time, I began to recognize all the things that had to take place before we could meet. Many events, that didn’t necessarily make sense at the time, had been requisite to put each of us on the right path. I marveled at the miracles, the timing, and all that had transpired to bring us together.

Because of an unexpected knock, I opened the door to the man of my dreams.