Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Story of Us, Part One

I have known my husband for twenty-three years. We've been together for fourteen of them. We originally met when I was 16 and had my first job at a local discount store. He worked there too. When you're sixteen you don't think about who does what or how things go together, but he was funny. He was married and had a brand new baby girl that he was really proud of. Mostly, when we worked together he was nice to me and made me laugh.

We probably would have met sooner if it weren't for the age difference. He is, after all, a whole four years older than I. We went to the same elementary school but what does a Kindergarten kid care about a third grader? More importantly, what does a third grader care about a kindergartener? Not one whit, I tell you! However, his next youngest sibling (a sister) and another girl who's now my sister-in-law were in my class. Both of us had the same kindergarten teacher but different teachers in first and second grade - in case you were wondering. We did have the same third-grade teacher, Ms. Engen. She was mean but Paul liked her. I didn't. She was MEAN!

Back to 1984: The nights at work were always nicer when he was there. He was just nice to me and showed me how to do things the right way and usually he managed to keep me in stitches all night long. When I lost my job (for reasons neither of us really knows), his face was the last one I saw as I left the store. The look of compassion and concern on his face was one I won't forget.

Fast Forward: For a few years after that, we both kind of did our thing. He was married, raising La Reina, joined the Army and became a father of two - La Reina and Squidward. He ended up divorced, working as a logger for a bit and found himself at a local manufacturing company. One of the things I admire about my husband is that he works hard. He's never been afraid to and he's always given 100% to everything that he does.

Me? Well, I finished high school, spent a semester in college, married PDB, gave birth to Shrek and Bratticus, divorced and was doing my thing too. I found work as a nursing assistant and got certified when I came home with my kids from Germany. It was good work, rewarding, and I did a lot of it. (For a brief period I actually worked with his ex. I thought she was a bitch then and I think she's a bitch now - my relationship with Paul and his kids notwithstanding) I went for a six or seven week stretch while I was in certification training without one day off between my two jobs and CNA training. I guess the lack of fear of hard work is something we share.

Around this time, it was probably late winter 1992 or early 1993, we happened to cross paths again. Being from Sparta, Wisconsin; most "How we met" stories begin in a bar and this is no different. I was out with my friends, he with his and we nearly literally bumped into one another. I believe the exact words I said were "Holy shit! How have you been?" and we spent some time talking, laughing and shared a dance or two. I gave him my number and he never called.

And so it went off and on through the early to middle part of 1993. We'd run into one another, have some fun, part ways with him having my number and he'd lose it. Again. I'll never forget the time I teased him about coming over and making me breakfast only to find that he'd hung donuts on my doorknob on his way to drill that morning. Remember, we weren't having overnight visits yet. That memory, among many others, always makes me smile. Paul's just that kind of guy. He's not one for grandiose gestures, but he manages to make the little things count.

Finally, I think it was the Fourth of July, we ran into one another and the same script played out. I gave him my number on a cocktail napkin as we parted ways. Oh... maybe it was later than July 4 because not long after began a series of nightly phone calls. Every night for a couple of hours we'd talk on the phone. By then, I'd moved to La Crosse and was preparing to go back to school and finish my B.S. in the fall. I'd switched jobs and was working at S**rs in order to enhance my marketing expertise. I was originally a marketing major, you see, but switched because I heard the classes were boring. I believe they may be still. But I lived in La Crosse and Paul lived in Sparta above a hair salon where he'd trade food for laundry service. He's a great cook so the girls that worked in the salon would come up and raid his fridge doing his laundry in return. But I'd put the kids to bed after getting home from work and by 10:00 my phone would ring. It'd be Paul calling to talk at the end of his work day. Each call was always an hour, usually more. It was a great thing to look forward to at the end of the day, you know? He's got this great baritone sort of speaking voice that's warm and soothing when I need it most.

My memory gets a bit fuzzy for a few weeks, but I remember the weekend after Labor Day. He stopped by to see me after drill (this is how I know it was the weekend after Labor Day - I still remember his drill schedule back then) for a visit. It was awesome. He met the kids and the kids liked him a lot. Unfortunately, my grandmother was also going to be stopping by and because my family is crazy because I didn't feel like we were at the meet-the-relatives stage, I shooed him out. He used to tease me until he realized my family is full-on crazy some of the aspects that make my family special.

And then he kissed me. We were standing on the corner of Court and Franklin Street and it was a world-stopping moment. I don't remember the specific day but we were walking back to my grandparents. The world hasn't been the same since.

After that time went by in a flash. Our first overnight visit, September 25, 1993 (his place, if you're curious), I remember he had to move his kids out of the bed. I can't really make it weird or anything like that and this isn't a pron blog so I won't give details other than how it showed me exactly what kind of man I was in love with. He divided his time handily between me and checking on his kids in the next room. He also gamely took the ration of shit that he got the next day after his nephew, the babysitter, informed his family that Paul had brought a woman home. My family was, naturally, clueless. We'd both had family weddings the night before and when grandma asked to take my kids home with her, well, who was I to argue?

After that, of course, our nightly phone conversations took on a different tack. He'd call, too tired to drive over. We'd talk for a bit and hang up. Inevitably, several times a week about half an hour after hanging up the phone, I'd get a knock at my door. I guess I'm irresistible. Who knew?

Back then, for both of us, the word of the day was broke. We were both scraping by and working like hell to make ends meet. I was a full-time student and working as much as I could. I paid my bills and never took one cent of public assistance. That means more to me than you'll ever know. Paul paid his bills too. His ex was (and is) a bitch about everything, but when he didn't work, he had his kids most weeknights and spent time being a great dad and the best boyfriend a girl could ask for. He was planning on moving from his apartment to a house that his brother owned. Since we were both looking at astronomical phone bills and general frustration from our financial strain in addition to the fact that, cliche as it sounds, being together just seemed right. It was never difficult to be together. We had stuff to talk about, things to do (not just that you perv!) and being together brightened the rest of the dark spots. Paul asked if I'd be interested in moving in with him. I said yes. Three weeks after our first slumber party, we were roommates. It was awesome.


Stay tuned for part deux...

3 comments:

janiece said...

AHhh friendship--the best way to start a relationship because then you always have a good base. Wouldn't trade my best friend for anything---well, maybe for someone who snores a little less--but the good with the bad!

Tal said...

I'm sorry I missed this! These are my favourite types of stories!!

Barbara said...

Good grief -- what HAVE I been doing for the last week? I could have SWORN I read your blog at least every other day. :(

I love your writing style, lady. You are immensely entertaining to read. And your history with Paul makes me do a lot of smiling.

(I especially love the strike-out phrases -- lol)