My Mr. and I have been together since 1990. We actually met in the fall of 1989. Me, the big college sophomore with plans to complete my degree and student teaching in three and half years, because why waste time. (I did accomplish this goal; I was always nerdy) The Mr., a big defensive nose tackle with a stellar freshman plan: play football, tear up the gridiron, be the best, end of story. Academics only existed as a minor speed bump to achieving what he wanted. We met through my roommate, who was assigned as his guide through academic and campus life, and making sure he kept out of trouble. We were both eighteen, and our worlds couldn’t appear more polar opposite.
Looking back, our beginning would have ended up on the nightly news as a college stalking report. We met before email, cell phones, and the internet. The library in the college was an actual place for studying, typing papers (yes, very few word processors existed at the time), and searching endlessly through the card catalog for research materials (hopefully they were located on our own college campus) occupying quite a bit of the academic student’s life. Our worlds collided because the stars aligned just right, and included things like the library, resourcefulness, and determination.
He soon began stopping by my classes when they would end. All in hopes of getting a single date. He’d offer to carry my books, take me to lunch, study in the library. I always refused, sent him packing, and complained bitterly to my roommates about the “Dumb Jock” following me around. He then began lurking in my residence hall, coming by my room, asking for help or other various ingenious calculated plans for striking up a conversation. Again, I deferred him to my roommate, who was assigned the task of helping him. This kept up for months: the same bantering, the same stalking, the same refusing. (I always wondered how he knew where I’d be since we didn’t have the technology; to this day, he tells me it is his only secret.)
I finally stopped one day as he trailed me to class, and became the mean girl. I explained that under no uncertain terms would this baseball-loving, dedicated student ever date a football player, who by the looks of him would fail out of college before the end of his freshman year. You would think this would stop the freight train cold. Oh no, not Mr. determined, it only stoked the coals for the fire, and built up the steam in his momentum.
After Thanksgiving break, I broke. I accepted a date. I figured it would be my last mean act. He’d give up. We went shopping for Christmas presents for my roommates. We met at a mutual location, and I kept my distance. His attentiveness and open mannerisms started growing on me. Before the shopping ended he asked me to dinner. I accepted, because the experience had not been as painful as I’d worked it up in my mind. Dinner was another trap; he had already set it up so I’d meet his dad. His dad cooked us dinner. His mom, a CCU/ICU cardiac RN, worked that evening, but his dad willingly played chef. Once again, The Mr. made his plan and executed it flawlessly. He manipulated the situation, which outwardly I fought against. Inwardly I thought, “Well played, maybe he isn’t as pea-brained as I’d thought.”
Before long, winter break crept in and I packed up ready for the drive home. The Mr. called and asked for my home number. His confidence over the phone shown as he unfolded his next little tactical move. He explained how he’d like to take me to the beach, sit and watch a beautiful sunset, hold my hand during dinner, and then see where things might land. He was a little smarmy for my outer-self, but the inner-girl slowly broke a little more. I laughed when he said he wrote the number on the weekly TV guide (yes, we dated in the days before channel guides were available, and remotes were still a luxury). I told him his mom would throw it away, so it was nice knowing him.
When he never called over break, I knew things had run their course. We were finished. Who writes a number on the weekly trash anyway, and this actually suited what my first impression about him was anyway. I wasn’t sure how he’d crept into my life anyhow, which only built my walls back up again and I refocused my mindset back on my goals.
January arrived, back in classes, volunteering in classrooms, and all study times penciled on the calendar, I focused on rocking the new year. A knock on the door changed everything. A sad Mr. waited on the other side; not the confident, cocky, six-foot three, two hundred eighty-pound lusting boy, but a broken soul. His grades mailed over vacation showed a less than stellar outcome. Football, his life’s breathe, needed him to up his game on the academic side. He also spent the break searching the trash for my number since his mom threw away the weekly guide when the new one arrived. I didn’t say “I told you so”, I actually sat down and helped him work on a better study plan. Before long we developed a friendship through hours of studying and learning little things about one another during those sessions. I learned very quickly he’d never worked as hard academically as he had athletically, and this was the basis of his struggle. He knew what his goal was with football all along. Nobody had ever asked him what his academic endgame looked like. I found this intriguing.
By mid-February, we were inseparable outside of classes and his off-season football schedule. He even got up early running with me catching the dawn or visiting the gym in the afternoons for a second work out. All this just to spend time with me. We experienced a few laughable dates; including one which involved running out of gas, a large cow patty riddled field, his roommate, Twinkies, and the cops. Another where a mixture of Malibu rum, cheap beer, a second story window, and poor innocent people below experienced a puke bath. But as the saying goes, “What happens in college, stays in college!”
We’d spent time with his parents, who lived close to campus. His mom still laughs about the Christmas she and his grandmother spent digging through the trash, because The Mr.’s future wife’s number had been thrown away. He told his parents way back in August, before speaking to me, he’d met the one. I did not know this until much later. Realistically, if I’d known, I’d have run fast and far, far away. Sometimes things need hidden for a while.
When spring break rolled around I invited him to meet my parents. This step truly solidified our relationship. My parents liked him. His eighteen-year-old self, held up through the line of questioning put forth by my parents, brother, and grandparents. He also earned brownie points, helping my dad with a few manly things around the house, and sweet talking my mom. I knew when they all liked him our relationship found its solid footing.
Second semester finals arrived in May, he began acting a little strange, taking me to the mall (I hate shopping) where his sister worked. He’d have us perusing jewelry stores and asking all kinds of what if questions:
“What if we were to live together, where would that be?”
“What if you were looking for a wedding ring, are you a big gem girl or a traditional band girl?”
“How young is too young to begin a family?”
I chalked all these questions, and odd mall trips, to his Ohio upbringing. He spoke about friends back east getting married right out of high school, so I questioned nothing about his inquiry. Then, he sold his car. The beloved camouflage Baja Bug, which ran out of gas on the freeway only a few months earlier. It wasn’t like he needed a vehicle on campus, but it was a project vehicle he enjoyed modifying. Again, my content nineteen-year-old self-trusted his words and if this made him happy, who was I to stop it.
I finished my last final a day before his. My roommates also finished, and we were ready for a little fun before leaving for summer. However, The Mr. had asked me over to his dorm before he began studying for his last final. I figured he needed a little ego boost since he’d been working his rear end off, raising his GPA. (He did raise his grades and graduated with an overall 3.3 GPA. Playing four seasons of football, landing him national athletic accolades, and finishing his degree in three and half years. Not bad considering his 1.9 GPA at the end of his first semester)
It didn’t take me long, when he dropped to his knee, voice shaking, ring on his pinky, and he began his spiel, to figure out his intentions. The innocent part of his personality grabbed my heart immediately as his words flowed. The Mr. kneeling, the bunk beds unmade, and a life-size inspirational poster of Howie Long overlooking us as he popped the question. With zero doubt in my mind, the yes gushed out and the ring slipped onto my finger. (I proudly wear that Baja Bug on my left ring finger each and every day!)
In the heat of August 2016, we embark on our twenty-seventh year of knowing one another. The ride continues each and every day. We still hate being away from one another. We both love our three children beyond words. We always work as a team.
He still does silly little things like kiss each one of my fingers in hopes it will inspire my creative process. He never leaves the house without saying “I love you”, and he supports me in everything I’ve ever dreamed of, while I, in turn, do the same for him. He is my best friend, my lover, my protector, my rock, and my everything, every day of the year and twice on Sunday’s (even if we are still a house divided between football and baseball!).
This poem was written last year as part of my National Writing Fellowship, it should hopefully make a little more sense after my long diatribe!