Friday, May 17, 2013

For my wife...Rachel


It’s the start of questions that, not only are asked of me, but asked within myself.

How did you and Rachel meet?

How did someone like you get someone so wonderful like Rachel?

To learn the story, we have to travel back eight years.  I was just emerging from an absolutely awful “relationship”.  I spent nearly two years with someone who was dishonest, disliked and disloyal.  She had cheated on me, at least with one person and I suspect more than that.  The best thing to come from that was my friendship with Mike, who experienced a similar situation with his fiancée; coincidentally who was great friends with the person I was with.  Mike and I spent quite a few nights hanging out and developing a great trust.  He was someone I could rely on and, in turn, he could rely on me.  In some dark moments, we saw each other through.

Kraig, Mike and I
Mike was part of a co-ed softball team filled with employees from Mercy hospital in the Des Moines area.  The first season, he invited me to sub in from time to time.  By the second season, I was a full blown member of the team.  The turnover in co-ed softball is relatively high as players shuffle in and out of the league, so going into year three we were looking for more players.  Mike invited a girl fresh from college to join our team…Rachel.  Without the sour of my previous relationship, I never would have experienced the sweet of my future.  My ex brought me to Mike who brought me to Rachel.  Funny how the world works, isn’t it?

I was attracted to Rachel the moment I saw her.  She has, as my great friend Jason once said, “a natural beauty”.  She played second base and I was at first, so we developed a nice chemistry on the field.  Although, it was hard to get to know her because she is extremely quiet.  I like to think of it as a lovely innocence; someone who can’t be brought down by anything.  I, on the other hand, was a very dominating personality…especially on the softball field.  I was loud, cocky, boisterous and never afraid to get into it with opposing teams.  I always prided myself on being a positive and great teammate, but would fly off the handle if I played poorly.  It was probably very unsettling to be my teammate during that time, let alone my friend.

Rachel and I after we
got engaged
The biggest problem was that I still was dating my ex when we first met.  I was on the cusp of ending it, and when I finally did, I felt liberated.  It was a great feeling.  The day after I kicked her out, I started thinking about dating.  Now I’ve never been the type to date around.  I’m a committed person; someone who looks for a relationship.  I knew that coming out of the relationship that I did, I was mentally damaged.  It was going to take time and patience for me to mentally heal.  I could not simply jump into a relationship because it would be doomed from the start.  I went on a couple of dates.  Met some new people and enjoyed myself, but I would most look forward to Sunday nights when it was time to go to softball.

It was early July in 2005 when I decided that I was going to ask Rachel for her number and see if she wanted to go out.  The day I planned to ask her, funny enough, I was supposed to go on a date prior to the game with someone else.  As luck would have it, I got stood up.  I was hurt, but it was no big deal.  It was someone I took to dinner and didn’t really click with, so it wasn’t awful.  The embarrassment of being stood up was a blow to the ego, though.  I was in an off mood when arriving to the fields because of it, but was ready to shake it off and talk to Rachel.  In a cruel twist of fate, the girl who stood me up came to our game to babysit the coach’s kids.  Seriously.  That happened.  I saw her and acted as if it wasn’t a big deal as she apologized with some nonsensical excuse.  Truth be told, I was completely rattled.  It’s one thing to be stood up, but it’s another to continue the embarrassment later!

Needless to say, I didn’t have the greatest game of my playing life.  I struck out during my first at bat.  Yep, struck out at slow pitch softball.  As a guy who is the model of consistency at the plate, I was clearly distracted and angry.  Right after whiffing at the last pitch, I angrily threw the bat towards the dugout and watched it careen towards the on deck circle.  It landed at the feet of a teammate getting ready to bat.  Who would that teammate have been?  You guessed it!  Rachel.  To recap, my Sunday so far had the following events: get stood up for a date, embarrassed in front of my teammates when the girl showed to babysit my coach’s kids, strike out and throw a bat in the direction of the girl I hoped to ask out that day…definitely not one of my better days.  However, Mike came up to me in the dugout and hilariously said, “I’m guessing you’re not asking for her number tonight.”

The great thing about Mike is that he knows when to step in.  He e-mailed me at work the next day and asked if I minded if he asked for Rachel’s number for me.  I thought that was perfect.  That completely takes the pressure off of me!  I’ve never been smooth when approaching a woman, so the less I had to do to hook it up, the better.  He e-mailed back a little while later with her number.  As he told me, he walked in to the area she was in and said, “You know who would make a cute couple?  You and Cuddles (my softball nickname).”  She blushed, laughed and gave the number.  I tried calling her later that night, but my call would not go through.  I tried a couple of times with no luck and laughed that she gave him a fake number.  I met up with Mike at our friend Kraig’s house later that night and told him about it.  Not believing me, I gave him the number and he immediately called.  A few seconds later he tossed me the phone and told me to leave her a message.  Like a deer in headlights, I stuttered and stumbled my way through the message.  “Hey it’s, uh, Cuddles from softball.  Do you, um, want to maybe, uh, go out sometime?  Yeah, um, maybe call me if you want.  Yeah, um, bye.”  Like I said…smooth.  Amazingly she called Mike’s phone back a few moments later.  She mentioned that her number was not from the Des Moines area and needed the 515 area code entered in to connect.  Darn landlines!  It made me think I was getting blown off twice in a week.

The call was short and sweet.  We made plans to meet up that Friday night at the Olive Garden and go from there.  I was excited and told the group of guys hanging out with the plan.  They proceeded to laugh at and mock me for meeting up with her instead of picking her up.  To continue with the theme here…smooth.  That Friday I was genuinely excited.  I had been on a couple of dates since my break up and none of them gave me the rush, a shot of adrenaline, that this one did.  There are times in your life where you know that you’re turning a corner; almost like you sense something monumental is happening.  That is what was felt as I drove to the Olive Garden.

The rush wore off quickly and was overtaken by awkward attempts at conversation.  Remember how I mentioned earlier that Rachel was quiet?  It wasn’t just on the softball field.  We sat at dinner as I continued to talk and ask questions.  My questions were met with short answers and a shyness I wasn’t expecting.  I figured since we got along well at softball, it would translate over to a date.  I was not feeling that during dinner.  She hardly ate or spoke, just politely and sweetly listened in an awkward way.  Sensing that I was failing miserably, I asked her if she wanted to go hang out at a bar or something after dinner.  It was only about eight o’clock, and she decided that was a little too early.  I mentioned that I had beer at my place and we could go hang out for a bit before going out.  She agreed and we drove, separately, to my place.

As it turns out, the best way to get Rachel talking is to get a few drinks in her.  After a couple of beers, she loosened up.  We were finally having fun conversations!  We hung out for a couple of hours, getting to know each other and throwing a few back.  When we ran out of beer, we made a quick run to Hy-Vee for more.  On the way home, she started singing along with a song on the radio.  The super quiet girl from dinner just started rapping word for word with 50 Cent on the track Candy Shop.  The shyness had finally slipped away and I was starting to see new sides to her!  The rest of the night was filled with drinks, laughs and late night watching of shows like Elimidate.  By the end of the night we were definitely tipsy and knew that she could not drive.  I gave her some clothes to sleep in and gave her my bed as I slept elsewhere.

Rachel was on call at the hospital early the next morning and had to get home.  She left with a smile and a hug.  I hoped to see her again soon, but at least I knew Sunday for sure.  As she was heading home, my phone rang.  She called to tell me that she had “forgotten to grab her leftovers from Olive Garden” and wondered if I would bring them to her for lunch.  She claims it was an accident, but I like to think that she is just smoother than I am.  It’s clearly not difficult.  I said I would and would be happy to hang out with her if she wanted.  We haven’t been apart since.

I don’t know how things clicked.  They just did.  That’s the great thing about real love.  It can’t be forced.  You can’t go looking for it.  It will find you, if you’re paying attention.  Sometimes it’s right in front of your face, or 10 feet to your right playing second base.  It’s a gift ready to be opened.

Marshall - Our greatest gift together
Rachel gave me the two greatest gifts I could have ever received; our son Marshall, who means more to me than anything I can possibly imagine, and unconditional love.  She loves me for who I am, despite my faults, which is not an easy thing to do.  So as our 6 year wedding anniversary approaches this July, I want the world to know how I feel.  I love my wife, Rachel, more today than I have at any other time, and it will continue to grow each and every year.  I’m not an easy person to be with, and I know that I haven’t been the greatest husband the world has ever known.  I’m trying, though.  I do know that I will never measure up to the standard Rachel has set in our home.  I just hope that she knows and understands that everything I am and want to be is because she is part of my life.  I could not be happier with anyone else.  She is the yin to my yang.  I am whole because I have her.

Ain’t love grand?

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