The numbers 00000000 popped up on my caller ID, and I knew it was The New York Times. We were standing on top of Whiteside Mountain, North Carolina on our honeymoon. Our wedding announcement had appeared in the Times’ venerable Vows section the day before, which I thought was a hoot since we were not rich, overly successful, or particularly well connected.
“Are you available today to be interviewed for a video story?” the reporter asked. I imagined that their first-choice couple had cancelled.
I looked at my dirt stained hiking boots and regretfully declined. However, if the Times had covered our story, you may have heard something like this.
When I met Robert in August 2003, I was coming out of another bad time. Six months earlier, my dad had another one of his heart attacks; my mom had a near fatal car accident and was in a wheelchair; my brother shattered his ankle in a freak hacky sack accident and needed surgery, and I went home to find the basement covered in vomit and cat shit. Our poor little Hazel had to be put down. I took six weeks of family medical leave to care for them all. Depressed, I was talking about quitting my publishing job in New York, moving back to Pennsylvania, adopting six kittens and taking up quilting when my friends staged an intervention. They posted a dating profile on salon.com.
I’d tried online dating before and had low expectations, but the headline “Fair and Balanced” caught my eye. His name was Robert, and he entertained me with stories of sassy southern relatives and archeological digs in Ireland. We decided to meet at Angel’s Share lounge in the east village for cocktails.
Robert teases me that I was late for our first date. On the way out of the subway, I noticed a street artist’s necklace that reminded me so strongly of my late grandmother that I felt a strange sensation, like she was standing beside me. I hurried to get cash at a nearby ATM so I could buy it. As I raced to meet Robert, I had a premonition. Had Nana chosen this moment because Robert was going to be important?
It was instant attraction. We discovered many odd coincidences in our stories. Both our fathers were ministers from blue collar backgrounds. Our mothers were both daughters of bank presidents. In the weeks before meeting, we had crisscrossed each other twice, practically brushing sleeves at the Howard Dean rally in Bryant Park and at Marble Collegiate church, where his dad was an associate pastor.
I felt like my world suddenly switched back to color. One typical Saturday shopping in Park Slope, I told him that I felt like we were on vacation. How could normal life be so fun?
We traveled everywhere: Cape Cod, the Berkshires, Vermont, Russia, Finland, Estonia, Ireland, and the Caribbean.
We dated for five years before he proposed on the eve of my 30th birthday. He gave me his great-grandmother’s Edwardian engagement ring, which fit perfectly. We were married a year later, three days shy of what would have been her 100 year wedding anniversary. We held the service at New York Avenue Presbyterian in Washington, DC where Abraham Lincoln worshipped, where Peter Marshall preached “one nation under God” and where Robert’s maternal grandparents had married during the Second World War. My father walked me down the aisle, beating all medical odds, and turned and performed the ceremony along with Robert’s father.
Our wedding day was one of the shiniest, happiest days of my life.
I remember telling our story to a stranger soon after the wedding. She said, “Damn, you’d better never get divorced. It would be too embarrassing.”
I laughed and thought, “Nothing will ever tear us apart.”
This past summer, a week before Robert’s kidney surgery, we sat on the deck of my grandparents’ lake house wondering if cancer would do exactly that. While I was inside napping, Robert heard a loud buzzing behind his ear. He swatted and turned to see a hummingbird staring him in the eyes. I felt it was Nana reminding me that she was still there watching over us. If she could, I know she would try to protect us from the disease that stole her life.
Please remember to pray for my husband, for successful treatment and healing, for the 30 others in his clinical trial, and that the researchers will find a breakthrough.
Wedding photo courtesy of Aaron Spicer. www.aaronspicer.com