Almost everyone has heard this love story, or so it seems, because Ive written about it for many years in various publications. Every time I look back on how it came to be, it seems surreal to me even after all these years.
You know what Im saying; its like someone has written a script for a movie that, even though your eyes are seeing it, your mind doubts that something like this would ever really happen. I suppose thats what love stories are about. Its always hard to explain magic.
I know that many of you know the story but there are those who dont and Valentines Day is only a few days away, so humor me. Ill try to give you the condensed version.
I was barely 2 years old and my future wife, Debra, was 9 when we first met. I cant remember much about our first meeting but Debra can recount it in vividly clear detail. It was in a tent in my parents backyard at a sleep-over for my mothers Sunday School class and I was only wearing a diaper. Debra, with a straight face, tells everyone that is the first time we slept together.
You probably already doubt this story, but I promise it is true and I promise it gets even better.
Debra and I grew up together in the same neighborhood and church congregation. We went to different schools, but dont forget she is seven years older than I. Im not trying to rub that in, but it does play an important part in our love story. When one is young, seven years seems to be a greater difference than when youre older in life.
We were friends, but never in a million years did the thought even cross our minds that we would be married someday. But thats how things that were meant to be work. Love always seems to find a way.
Debra married when she was in her early 20s and I attended her wedding with my parents since I didnt even have my drivers license. I know this because I was thumbing through her first wedding album one day and saw us right there in living color sitting on a church pew.
A few years later, I went away to art school in Atlanta. Debra and her husband started a family. I would go see them on visits back to Macon. Debra and I always had a very special bond. I was happy to share her with her husband and little girl.
One Christmas, the gruesome hand of tragedy came for a visit and took Debras husband away. Unexpectedly, he died of a massive heart attack. Its very hard to imagine such a tragedy could happen on Christmas Day, but it did and Debra became a 27-year-old widow with a 5-month-old baby.
Our families were very close and, of course, we reached out to offer support and love to Debra and her family. Debra fell into a deep depression and I seemed to be able to cheer her up. So, the interstate between Atlanta and Macon was a well-traveled road for me.
I was barely 20 years old and, as time passed, we felt our lifelong friendship slipping into something more. I feel that any time you are good friends first Cupid has more to work with when he draws back his arrow. Such was the case with us.
We married the next year and suddenly I had an instant family and wife at age 21. Thats a scary thought even now. After another year passed, we welcomed our son. Just typing these words reminds me of how truly unbelievable our love story was and still is. Life has an amazing way of twisting and turning things you dont understand at the time -- after putting all the pieces of the puzzle together -- into the way theyre supposed to be.
In a few months, Debra and I will have been married 32 years and we have certainly seen our shares of ups and downs. Hardships have knocked at our door on more than one occasion. Things have tested and tried us but have never broken us. Neither of us is perfect, but theres one thing that has never wavered or changed: We are still best friends who love each other.
The rest of our story remains unwritten. Who knows what adventures lay ahead? God knows we could have never imagined our lives thus far and will have to wait to see what happens next.
The other day, Debra and I were talking about our future. We wondered where we would live if we should decide to move. We wondered what wed be doing in a couple of years or maybe even 10 years. You can always make plans but sometimes, as we know all too well, life can change them.
While we were talking about all of this, Debra asked me what I loved most about her. I didnt have to think long at all. I told her it would have to be that she always has allowed me to be who I am. Shes allowed me to follow my dreams without any doubts. She always supported me and took the role of head cheerleader after my mother was gone.
I guess what it all boils down to is I love her because she is still my best friend after all these years.
Everyones love story is different. Everyones spark and magic plays out on a different stage. To me, the important part of any relationship is the glue that holds it together. Its that special bond that allows you to weather any storm and beat any odds. Its that strong bond that is able to stand the test of time and, with each year, allows you to grow old together.
Who knew that little boy in diapers in a tent in his parents backyard would be sharing this love story in a column in a newspaper? Certainly not I!
Celebrate your love story! Happy Valentines Day!
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