Because sometimes love can overlook a man who drives a mini van

imageNine years ago tonight, I had my first date. I was 40. It’s not that I hadn’t been on other dates in my life. It’s just that, from the very first moment we took each other’s hands, none of the others seemed to matter anymore.

Because nothing compared to this one.

The best one.

The last one I’ll ever want.

Both of us were recently divorced after long, unhappy marriages. We both had two children at home. And both of us had joined a dating website a month earlier within a few days of each other. Fate, it seemed, had already set things into motion. Nine years and one pair of wedding rings later, I’m still thanking fate each and every day…

Oct. 28, 2006:
My search for a red rose after making the hour-long drive to Salem for our first date had put me behind. Coupled with the fact that I hadn’t been on a real date in nearly 20 years, had lost 23 pounds since my divorce several months earlier, and was driving a Plymouth Voyager mini-van, I technically had four strikes against me already. Plus, after several weeks of chatting together on Match.com and long evening phone calls, she had finally posted her profile picture. When I saw it, I realized I wasn’t only in danger of striking out before our date even started:

Heck, I was batting out of my league.

See what I mean? Wow!

See what I mean? Wow!

 

Fortunately for me, her shift at the Wachovia Bank call center was running late as well. This allowed a quick stop in a nearby Denny’s to freshen up before meeting her in the bank parking lot a few blocks away. I literally sprinted inside the restaurant, past the hostess desk and into the restroom carrying a small sack of toiletries: cologne, toothbrush, hair spray, razor, etc. When her text arrived telling me she was clocking out, I scooped everything back into the sack, rushed out the door and jumped into my mini van. I’d like to say I then “sped away,” but as I mentioned, it was a mini van; a slap of the emergency brake and defiant groan from the power steering was about as close to Tokyo drifting as I could get. To this day, I still wonder if the night manager at Denny’s thought I’d planted a bomb in the men’s room.

A few minutes later, I pulled into the Wachovia parking lot and quickly spotted the blue pick-up truck she had asked me to park next to. Killing the engine I took a deep breath. We had talked for more than two hours every night the past few weeks, discussing our single parenting challenges, our families, favorite movies, what we’d learned from our failed marriages, why mayonnaise is superior to Miracle Whip… but would it be the same in person?

Or perhaps more importantly, why didn’t I rent a cooler looking car?!?

My phone vibrated with her latest text:

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Taking another deep breath, I stepped out into the parking lot with my single rose and stood in front of the Voyager. Do I cross my arms? Put one foot up on the bumper? Lean back against the hood? Did it even MATTER since — let’s be honest — there’s no way to look the slightest bit debonaire standing next to a mini van?

I opted for the one-footed lean-back, with one hand holding the rose, and my free hand stuck in my pocket, being careful to avoid nervously playing with the keys in my pocket because it could be misinterpreted as playing with something else. From across the parking lot, I saw two figures exit the front doors of building. One had her head dipped low as she carried a basket of something. The other, a fiery black woman I came to know as Charleta, held her head high as she blatantly scoped me out. I later learned my wife was too nervous to look up, so Charleta did the looking for her.

After sizing me up, my wife said Charleta whispered, “Oh, he is definitely fine for a white guy.”

As they approached, I thought it smart my date had decided not to come unaccompanied into a dark parking lot to meet someone she only knew from phone conversations and emails. I also realized the basket she was carrying was full of…

Red roses.

Was her ex-husband trying to win her back? Who could blame him? Or maybe they were sent by someone else? A different date or admirer? The bastard!

As they got closer, my wife glanced up and we met eyes for the very first time. To this day, I can honestly say I have never looked into a more beautiful, warm and enticing pair of eyes. And when she smiled? It was all over for me.

I handed her the rose. “I have to say, I’m feeling a little inadequate right now.”

Handing the basket to Charleta, she took the rose as if it was an entire bouquet and breathed in its fragrance. “This rose means more to me than any of those. They came as a gift from the office. It was my birthday earlier this week, so I was bringing them home for the weekend. But this? This one is special.”

We instinctively reached to hold hands and, when our fingers met, it was like the final two pieces of an unfinished puzzle coming together. A perfect fit crafted just for each other. We were both smiling and couldn’t stop. Something magical was happening and we both knew it. Neither of us remembers exactly when Charleta left because, in that moment, time literally seemed to stop. We were alone. In the parking lot. Possibly even on the planet. As we stood gazing at each other, there were no words because we didn’t need them; our hearts had recognized each other and were speaking for us.

And I knew — absolutely KNEW — I was exactly where I was supposed to be for the first time in my life; this place; this moment; with this woman.

Squeezing her hands, I thought to myself, “You were so worth waiting for.

…Nine years later, I know I’d wait all over again for the chance to love her.

I’m just glad I don’t have to.

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Thank you, Dear Readers, for letting me share the meaning of this day with all of you. But let me just say, if things go the way I think they will tonight, I won’t be sharing that part with you…

 

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88 thoughts on “Because sometimes love can overlook a man who drives a mini van

  1. Beautiful and meant to be. These are the kinds of stories that make me think there are such things as soulmates ❤

  2. Every time you talk about your wife, you reaffirm my belief that Love really IS everything. And that it’s possible to find that one person you were always meant to be with. Thank you for sharing this memory with us. Oh, and Ned…she’s stunning, absolutely…but you underestimate yourself. You’re right there in that league with her, my friend. You are BOTH incredibly lucky, and deservedly so. Hope you are taking a single red rose home with you tonight.

  3. “..instinctively reached to hold hands and, when our fingers met, it was like the final two pieces of an unfinished puzzle coming together. A perfect fit crafted just for each other. We were both smiling and couldn’t stop. Something magical was happening and we both knew it. Neither of us remembers exactly when Charleta left because, in that moment, time literally seemed to stop. ”
    Perfectly said. When the magic happens, it happens…and there is no other real explanation.
    Great story well told ( And cheers!)

  4. Ned, I think that the minivan actually helped – a man driving a minivan comes off as family-oriented, responsible, and confident – confident, because it takes much more courage to drive up to the date in a minivan than in a Ferrari.

  5. What a fabulous story and I have thad he pleasure of knowing your wife for over 26 years now! She is truly a beautiful person inside and out. Now, I am getting to know you. Hopefully we will meet in person someday! Just because Alicia and I don’t have interactions on a daily basis, that doesn’t even matter. We have always picked up right where we left off. She hasn’t aged in all those years either, damn it! LOL~JK Licia 🙂 To many more years of TRUE LOVE, you both deserve it!

    • I’m sure getting the chance to meet is definitely in the cards — and I know it will be a great time for all of us, Lisa 😉

      And you’re right, she is completely beautiful in every way 😉

  6. AWWWWWW!!!!! Dang it!!! I KNEW IT! I knew there was at LEAST one more prince charming left out there! You be him!! 😀

    What a *sniff* sweet story *sniff sniff*! I love a happy ending story… well, beginning with you two! Isn’t love grand?? So sorry you had to wait so long to find each other, but at least you are together now. I call that a “God thang” 😉
    Happy Anniversary you two lovebirds!

    • The thought has crossed my mind more than once on how much I wish we had met sooner; I would have loved to have had our own children together. But I think we were brought into each other’s lives when we were for a reason: Not only to love each other, but also to be there for each other’s children.

      Plus, I don’t think I would’ve gotten nearly as much accomplished at a young age if we’d have been married back then — she would’ve been too much of a “distraction” (if you know what I mean… 😉 )

      She still is…

      • I think God always knows the right time to bring the right people into our lives. Whether it is a spouse or children or friends. He usually knows what He is doing! 🙂
        And yeah… she is a looker for sure! 😉

  7. Well done. And from the “why is it that scatlogical humor is vulgar and cheap and gross unless it’s my idea?” department, I’m sure that “many a bomb” has been planted in that Denny’s bathroom.
    It took a lot of guts to chat with someone that long when you didn’t know what they looked like. Don’t think I could do it. Not so much that someone “deserves” a certain look in a mate; it’s more that I want to see if they look batshit crazy in their profile pics.
    Many many happy years to come to you two.

    • Hahaha! Usually the “bombs” I plant are AFTER I have eaten at Denny’s.

      And as for not having a photo, I was just drawn to her voice — in writing and eventually over the phone. I just figured the fact that she also turned out to be gorgeous was my reward for being patient. But now that you mention it, I’m glad MY photo to alert her to my batshit craziness; that didn’t come until later…

  8. Oh, Ned. Homerun on this one! Love that we see who you are and what a great guy–and how decent you were. Are:). So glad you’ve found lasting happiness. As a divorced woman, I just love these stories!

  9. What a wonderful story! I love to hear about other people finding “the one” and happy endings. You are humble beyond words at times (just like my soul mate) and yet secretly you know you deserve it all (just like my soul mate). The hand holding is a powerful image, and it’s exactly how I knew I was in the right place with my husband – he was my first love and when we reunited 25 years later and I placed my hand in his, it was like coming home. Happy anniversary to you and your beautiful wife and here’s to many more!!

    • There’s just something about the hands, isn’t there? When it’s right, the hands seem to know it first — that first touch tells you a lot. And every touch — handholding or otherwise — keeps the conversation going 😉

      I’m so happy for you both. And your “coming home” comparison was perfect.

  10. Ned, I think your blog has gone viral on this one. I found it on my feed on FB and loved it. Thank you for showing other men how to be romantic. Especially in the way they talk about their wives and girlfriends. You’ve expressed yourself beautifully. Thank you. She’s a lucky girl.

    • Thank you so much, Kimberly. Talking about my wife is always a pleasure for me. And I’m a lucky man 😉 But if she hears I’ve gone viral, I’ll have some explaining to do…

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