The long road to forever...and a day.

Do you have your morning cup of coffee?  How about a story...The "happily ever after" kind...of course.  They are my favorite you see.  Far too long for a single blog post, or 30. But I shall condense and try  to focus today's post on "in the beginning".

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perfect

Once upon a time I was this 15 year old girl(once...only once), who everyone knew, had zero desire to ever have a boyfriend, let alone spend the rest of my life with a man. I would never end up like my mother...strapped to a man.  A man who controlled her every move, appreciate not the meals she put on his table, the endless laundry, the thankless hours spent in a garden to make a bit of extra money, the raising of his kiddos. A man that cheated on her, yelled often and drank far too much....yes, he was my father.  I did indeed love him, even with all his flaws but no way would I EVER marry my father or any man for that matter.  My mind was made up. I swore that oath at the ripe old age of 12 and was sure I was going to stick with it. Yes, I was convinced I would NEVER want a man.  I even had this >>> giant poster on the closet in my bedroom.. I think I must have been every bit of fourteen when I stuck that on that on my door.  I was adamant. No boyfriend.  They were trouble.

Now don't get me wrong...most of my friends were actually boys.  Mainly because I have never "played girl" very well. I had lived through enough drama my first 13 years to last me a complete lifetime...and it hadn't ended yet. Always the tomboy...never the beauty queen.   I preferred that role.  It was safe. Well it was at least "safe" until those teen years hit and before I knew it many of the boys I had been so close to as friends, well they fell hard for the girl that had zero desire to be with a boy...any boy.  Ever. And just so you know...I had no interest in girls either ;-)  (these days that disclaimer must be made I suppose...LOL!) I simply liked myself just fine and being alone was safe.  I built that brick wall stronger than Fort Knox. I left a trail of broken hearts.  Each time I felt so bad for my friends.  I would point out they were just in love with my cooking and mothering...because even then I "mothered" folks. The line "I just don't like you that way..." and "I just don't want to be in any relationship right now..." were used often. Actually even used that line the week before I left for church camp...heartbroken by yet another close friend "falling in love". But on a hot day in July I hopped on our churches bus with bull horns adorning the front grill...my frizzy Summer hair in it's full frizz glory, and slept my way to Front Royal, VA.

I kid you not...this was the bus...it had the tiniest bus seats.  They were tiny but teenagers can sleep anywhere.  True story.  Can't make this stuff up.

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Why is Steve under the bus?  I have no clue?  Was it broke?  Probably the thing was like a million years old. We made it though and my girlfriends and I promptly set up "home away from home".

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And we then ran away to the main pavilion so they could "find boys".  Oh sure I didn't mind that...boys were fun to look at and all. I just had no idea what would happen. Would I have gone to that pavilion if I had known?  HECK YA! With in five minutes of being up at the main hub for the camp ground we had met a group of handsome young fellas.  We sat in a circle as we all gabbed about where we were from, ages, names...the normal stuff.  As we were sitting there a few of the fellas saw their fellow youth group friends walking by and yelled out a greeting. "Hey Daryl!  Come over and meet these girls!" At that moment time really did stop for me. I have read more than my fair share of romance novels over the years and can assure you that "love at first sight" is a very real thing.  Before that day I would have laughed in your face if you had told me that.  I would have sworn "doesn't exist...only in romance novels". But there he was right in front of me.  My stomach flip flopping and my head buzzing with some strange sound. I heard not a single word anyone else said at that point.  I simply had to know who this guy was.  What in the world was wrong with me?  Was I getting the flu? It had to be the bangs?  Right? Daryl and I managed a conversation for about 5 minutes before their group had to head back to their campsite. Here is the catch...Fishnet is a huge, Woodstock for church folks, type of event.  Finding him again took me three very long days. By the end of that third day all of my girlfriends had their official camp "boyfriends" and I had no fewer than three boys they were trying to talk me into making mine. THAT wasn't happening.  No way.

I had three days of walking around by myself, looking for him.  Pondering what in the world was up with me?  Surely I was just not feeling well that first day from the long hours spent on a bus filled with stinky teens.  Had to be it. As the sun started to set on that third day I plopped butt on a picnic table to feel sorry for myself...chin on fists, staring at the ground.  Sulking. Then something crazy happened.  Daryl plopped down beside me...I was speechless.  Those darn butterflies and buzzing came back instantly. He then proclaims: "Where have you been?!  I have been looking for you for three days!!" We had 3 days together from that point.  Never losing sight of each other except for when the adults would make us. By the end of the third day when my bus pulled away I was in tears...tough me, in full ugly cry. He was not in much better shape.  As the bus pulled away I can still see him standing there waving, running beside the bus. We had made the promise though. We would get married one day.  That much we knew, for sure. The next three years were the hardest of my life.  My home life spiraled once again....I was convinced I would never see Daryl again. But we wrote... and called.  We knew everything there was to know about each other well before the pressures of normal teen dating were added. We had time to grow up and be friends.  Rare these days. We would be boyfriend and girlfriend and not be girlfriend and boyfriend over those years...but we were ALWAYS friends.

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When I finally received that letter ... him saying  "I still love you"  and I finally managed to make it down for a visit. I just had to know...was our crazy chemistry real?  Or was it just puppy love to an extreme? When I saw him again for the first time in three years... The butterflies danced and that crazy buzzing returned.  I had dated in between those years and told them all "I will always love Daryl." I hadn't lied. At the end of the day we had a total of three days together, three years apart and me driving up and down the road, 10 hours one way, at the age of 18 to see this romance through once a month for a weekend here and there in between my work and school life.  I was living on my own at the time...another very long story. I think we totaled it up once and we had spent a total of, maybe, 18-20 days together in our life before I moved in with his family.

We became the little town of Farmville, VA's town scandal for a time.  The mothers all in a tizzy that Daryl, a junior in high school at the time, had his girlfriend living with him.  But there was so much more to our story that they just didn't know... It was "just for the Summer" to help out as his mother was dealing with a brain aneurysm.  He needed me. We needed each other. In the end those mothers who gossiped the loudest now all have sons with divorce under their belt. Sometimes you can know who you are meant to be with....even when you are 13 and 15. It happens. Love at first sight is real. I still get butterflies....

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And yes...one day I will write our book. Will I share it with the world or just our kids?  I don't know but this trilogy deserves to be written. It's the greatest romance story I have ever known...thankful it is ours. I have always said that even if it all ended tomorrow I would never change a thing.  Having a passion filled relationship that spans decades... Well I tease often that Daryl is God's apology for my childhood being so drama filled. God must have been like "I am so sorry...let me give you a wonderful adulthood...as drama free as possible and filled with love and passion."

I have no clue what would have happened to me if there hadn't been a "Daryl" but I am sure it would not have been a "happily ever after" scenario. Today starts our 25th year in love.  It is also the first year we have had to spend it apart in at least 22 years. His work takes him out of town weekly now.  We are both so aware when he is gone just how much we complete each other. How much we can't be apart for more than a few days without feeling lost. Is it too cheesy to say "he completes me...".  Oh yes, far too cheesy.  But it is how it is. Happy anniversary honey...come home soon.  My butterflies miss you.