I Do….Do you too?
At 22 and the mother of a 2-year-old daughter I found myself in the midst of a relationship with a young man. He was 4 years younger and nothing even close to what I had dated up till then. He was from the west coast, in the Navy…ok so I was prone to the military guys, and already married, a fact I would learn later on.
I met him by chance actually. My best friend called me up and asked if I would go to a birthday party with her. It was a friend of the guy she was interested in and she didn’t want to go alone. I had nothing better to do that evening and told her that if my parents would watch my daughter I would go along. I was a bit surprised to find out that this guy was turning 19 but figured what the heck, it could be fun. I met up with my friend at the Navy Club we hung out at since that was where this party was supposed to be. When I arrived she was there already sitting at a table with this kid. I say kid because he looked all of maybe 16. I walked up and greeted them both then took a seat. I looked around but it didn’t appear that there was anyone else there for this “party”. When this kid got up to go to the bar I asked my friend is her and I were the only ones who showed up and to my surprise she told me yes. I thought to myself…what had I gotten into?
As it turned out it was just the 3 of us and I was definitely the third wheel. It was clear to anyone looking that this kid had an interest in only my friend, but was trying to be polite to me as well. We had a drink or two then headed out to a different club where I guarded the table while they danced and laughed. At one point in the evening a girl from the bar came around selling these little monkey things with bells in their tails. This kid bought one of each color for my friend and then must have had second thoughts and bought a red one for me as well. Since it was clear that they were enjoying the celebration I stepped up and stayed sober so I could do the driving.
When the club closed we stopped so they could buy beer and headed out to the beach. We found a quiet spot and once again I was left sitting only this time it was to guard the beer while they took a stroll along the water. I don’t know how long they were gone but when they got back it was clear that all the booze had my friend now showing an interest in this kid. When the last beer was gone we decided it was time to head home for the night. I picked my friend up, piled the two of them in the car and headed off to her house.
It took some doing but I finally managed to get her poured into bed and then headed back out to take him back to the Navy base. For the entire trip all he asked me was questions about her. I did my best to answer them but had to chuckle to myself because I knew come morning she wasn’t even going to remember his name let alone anything else about him.
Over the next few weeks they did hook up again a couple of time and it seemed to me that there might be something between them but she kept telling me she wasn’t interested in him, it was his friend she was after.
About a month after this first meeting I was again at the Navy club when I ran into this kid for the second time. We spent some time talking and dancing and in general just getting to know a bit more about one another. He told me that he was no longer seeing my friend because she had made it clear that they could and would only be friends. By the end of the night I have to admit I was finding something very interesting about him now that I actually had gotten the chance to talk to him and as it turns out this was the start of my second “defining moment” in life.
We started seeing a lot of each other over the months to come and found we had a lot in common. My family liked him and he seemed OK with them as well. My daughter took a shine to him as well and he liked her. Things were going well and by December this had turned into something more than either of us expected. Of course I was hearing now from all my friends that I must be crazy for being involved with someone 4 years younger than me but the age thing never bothered me or him.
By the new year neither of us had spoken those three fateful words yet but I am told that it was clear that we looked like we were “in love”. I guess neither of us wanted to risk it so we just let things go. In the beginning of February that all changed. In the midst of a conversation those words slipped out finally and I held my breath. He looked a bit shocked and sat there in silence for what felt like years but eventually he cleared his throat and replied that he loved me too but he had been too scared to say it up till then. In an instant our relationship changed. It was at this point I found out that he was married but that this marriage had only lasted for two weeks and he had filed for a divorce. Yes, I was a bit shocked but didn’t give it another thought at that point.
By the end of February things changed again when he found out that he was going to be transferred to the West Coast. We had a long discussion about it and we decided that I was going to go with him and that at some point we would get married out there if things worked out between us. This did not sit well with my parent who declared that they would not allow me to take my daughter if we were just going to live together. There was no way I was going to leave her behind but at the same time I didn’t want to risk losing him either. We decided to get married before he transferred and the mad dash to put together a wedding began.
Maybe I should have had second thoughts right from the start but the idea that I was going to have a new life, move to California…a place I admit I had always wanted to be, and be out of my parents house blinded me to everything else. We planned the wedding, set the date for April 21, bought my gown, sent out invitations and were ready to go when we found out we needed a copy of the divorce decree in order to get our marriage license. He contacted the attorney who handled it and found out that the divorce had never been finalized because his wife never signed the papers. Here it was March and he was still married with no idea where to find his wife and our wedding looming in the very near future.
Yes, I was in a panic but we were also at the point of no turning back. We either found her or we got married anyway and sorted it all out later on. With the help of a good friend who just happened to be the very one who introduced us in the beginning we set out to find the missing wife. An evening of searching every sleazy bar we could think of left us with nothing so on a final attempt we found ourselves in the last dive of the night and there much to our surprise she was. A quick conversation, an introduction as just a friend and the plans were made to pick her up the following day, cart her to the attorney to sign the papers and then off to the court-house to file it.
Clearly anyone with any sense would have thought it crazy of me to not just walk away but I was determined and so with that I went along for the ride the next day. It didn’t take long to get the papers signed and return her home. The next day he went before the judge and plead his case, explaining the situation and telling him that he was about to ship out so he needed this done ASAP. Thank goodness the judge was willing to comply and the divorce was finalized. Here we were just 3 days till our wedding and we were rushing to the courthouse to get a marriage license the very day his divorce was finalized.
From that point on it was smooth sailing. The wedding went off with out a hitch, we spent our last week with family and friends, then packed up our van and headed west for our new duty station and new life. We had managed to survive near disaster so with all the optimism I could muster I was ready for this new chapter.
I claim this as the second defining moment in my life because it was the first time I had to rely on myself, my ability to make choices and be willing to accept the consequences regardless of how it turned out. It taught me how to deal with fear as I contemplated leaving my family 3000 miles behind and having no one by myself to rely on, and it taught me strength as I would for the first time be not only a new wife but a mother on my own. I really had no clue if it would all work out but I was willing to take the chance when I said “I Do”.