My friend Kara recently blogged their story and it inspired me. How lovely to have it all written out to never miss a detail and for their daughter to read when she is older. And while we don’t have children yet, we will eventually, and like my Maternal Grandmother and his Paternal Grandmother kept journals, this is pretty much mine. And since Valentine’s Day has a lot of significance for us, I decided today was a good day to post this. That was a lot of rambling to get to this…Here is our story!
Ryan & I both grew up in Flower Mound. (I was born in Dallas and moved to FM in time to start 2nd grade. Ryan moved from Wisconsin to FM in 4th grade.) The first time I met Ryan, I was in 7th grade and he was in 6th. His best friend at the time, Matt, had been known to come play flash light tag on Friday nights on my street. I saw Matt in the hallway so I walked over to say hello. Standing next to him was a lanky kid with jet black hair…and half of his head shaved. Yes, you read that right. He had a bowl cut on one side, and a buzz cut on the other. (You don’t forget a hair cut like that.) Matt introduced us, as well as middle schoolers do, and I remember thinking his dimple was cute (he just has one). Matt and I stayed friends but I didn’t really see Ryan much. He played drums, which I thought was cool, but that’s as far as my middle school memories of Ryan go.
Fast forward to my senior year. I was in both choir and drama and because of that, I occasionally had to take my core classes with underclassmen to get them all in. This was the case for World Geo. The first day of class, I walked in and spotted my friend Miranda, so I sat next to her. While unpacking my books, I glanced over and saw Ryan. He had filled out a little, but looked the same. I smiled at him. He looked at his desk. Through the entire semester, I’d try to talk to him and he’d look away. We watched a movie in class one day (Crocodile Dundee to be exact) and I sat next to him on the floor. He actually got up and moved! That afternoon, I tracked Matt down after school and told him I had a crush on Ryan but that he acted like I had leprosy! Matt assured me he was just shy. I didn’t buy it. That Friday, Ryan (very nervously) asked me out on a date. Our first date was April 27, 2002. We went to Chili’s for dinner, and he kept going to the bathroom. He told me later that he was so nervous, he was throwing up! (Which I found strangely sweet.) Things moved pretty quickly from there. We just “clicked”. We talked on the phone non-stop and at all hours, he made me smile until my cheeks hurt. And then, sitting on my parent’s driveway, we had our first kiss and he asked me to be his girlfriend. Things were perfect all summer and into the fall. I had graduated high school, and he was entering his senior year. I went with him to his homecoming dance, got to know his family, met him for breakfast before school. We said “I love you” with ease and spent many, many nights with Sonic $1 sundaes, swinging at Rheudasil Park.
A couple pictures of us then
At the beginning of 2003, things got rocky. Around Valentine’s Day, Ryan showed up at my house with a ring box. Inside was a silver band with “Ryan & Rachel” engraved on the inside. He told me it was a promise ring; that he wanted to marry me. He was moving faster than I was ready for and I freaked out
We tried dating again from late 2003 to early 2004, but it just didn't feel like it had before. We parted ways and didn't talk for awhile. Then, out of the blue, he called me to tell me he’d met someone else. I acted like I didn’t care, after all I’d been dating other guys since we broke up too, but when he hung up, I cried my eyes out. I decided it was time to swallow my pride and get him back. Clearly, I still loved him or my heart wouldn’t hurt like that. He was living in Denton, so when I knew I was meeting some friends at a bar in Denton to watch a band play, I called and invited him. He showed with a friend of his, and we hung out, casually flirting. I even wore the promise ring he’d given me around my neck, in hopes he’d realize what that meant. His friend asked me to dance, so we danced. I kept my eyes on Ryan the entire time. At the end of the night, I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek and said “call me”. In hind sight, I should have just said “I love you” but, at that point I didn’t realize that my sweet husband can be pretty dense. ;) And he never called. A few months later, July of 2004, was my 21st birthday. My parents were throwing me a huge party, so I decided I’d invite Ryan. I didn’t know if he’d show up. I was so excited when I saw his truck pull up…until he walked through my front door, holding the hand of his new girlfriend. It was as if I’d been punched in the stomach. But, I put on my big girl pants and acted unaffected. He only stayed for half an hour, and then he was gone. Really gone. He called me in May 2005 to tell me he was moving to DC with the girl he’d brought to my party and I accepted that I’d let the love of my life get away. (If I’d been smart, I would have realized he called to tell me so that I would try and stop him. Darn you hindsight!) I went through a string of bad “relationships” after that, comparing them all to Ryan. Not long after he moved, I was at home one night, talking to a couple friends on IM when his screen name showed up. And he messaged me. We didn’t do more than small talk but I had butterflies the whole time. A few months passed, and we’d talk online from time to time. (I will now openly admit to spending far too much time on the computer, watching for his screen name to pop up.)
January 2006, Matt called me to let me know Ryan was back. DC and the girl hadn’t worked out and he was home for good and wanted to see me. I was hesitant. And nervous. I told Matt I’d think about it. The next evening, there was a knock on my apartment door. I’d been out late the night before and wasn’t looking my best; sweats, hair up, glasses and no make-up. Without thinking, I opened the door. There was Ryan. I think I stopped breathing for a moment. He said “Hi.” That was it. He pulled me close and we must have hugged for a full minute before Matt cleared his throat. I hadn’t even noticed him standing next to Ryan! We sat outside and the three of us talked for hours. As was the trend with us, things progressed pretty quickly and we pretty much picked up where we’d left off. Matt & I took Ryan out for his 21st birthday on February 7th and after his fair share of “truth serum”, he told me he has never stopped loving me. I blew it off.
On his 21st birthday
We had our “first date” (round two) on Valentine’s Day 2006. A few nights later, we were on the phone and he told me he loved me again. I told him “Don’t say that unless you mean it, Ryan” and he said, “Okay. (Pause) But it’s always been you. (Pause) I love you.” He was staying with his parents, but could only stay there temporarily, so in April, he moved in with me. He slept on the couch every night, and was only going to stay until he was back on his feet and could get his own place. Eventually, he did, but we’d grown accustomed to seeing each other every day, so a few months later, he decided to officially move into the apartment.
Things were awesome and we began to talk about marriage in 2007. I’d known for a LONG time that he was The One, and I was ready to be his wife. He seemed to be on the same page. But, in mid-January 2008, something changed. If I mentioned marriage, he shut down, or changed the subject, or said he wasn’t ready. I didn’t understand what had changed but I tried not to bring it up again. He was acting so different, and I started to get worried. I was NOT going to lose him again. A week before Valentine’s Day 2008, he was being extremely distant, almost mean. I was a mess. I went to my Mom’s house and bawled to her, telling her I just KNEW he was dumping me. She tried to reassure me that she knew he loved me, but I didn’t believe her. The next few days were awful. I walked around on eggshells, just waiting for him to tell me it was over. Two days before V-Day, he told me he had made reservations at Dakota’s Steakhouse in Dallas and to wear something nice. I was more confused than ever. I called my Mom, freaking out again, telling her that he was taking me for a nice dinner to soften the blow of dumping me. She did her “Mom thing” again, just listening and saying nice things to me. Valentine’s Day arrived, and he was really acting odd. He barely smiled or even looked at me while he put on his suit, and I got ready. He hardly said two words on the drive to Dallas. We ordered our food and he picked at it. The waitress asked us if we wanted dessert, and Ryan quickly said “no” even though I’d told him I wanted to split some cheesecake. After our meal, I asked if we could take a picture in front of the waterfalls outside of the restaurant.
His forced smile had me 100% convinced this was it. He was done. We got back into the car and headed back to our apartment. I was fighting tears. Then, he took the wrong exit off the highway. I was confused but didn’t say anything. We were heading into Flower Mound. At this point I asked “Where are we going?” and he told me he was taking me to get dessert. Suddenly, we turned and we were headed toward Rheudasil Park. It was cold and sprinkling as we got out of the car and he led me to the swings. I sat down on one of the swings and Ryan paced in front of me. He starting nervously rambling about how much he loved me and that he wanted to be with me forever. That he’d always wanted to be with me forever. Then he started to cry (yes, I am PROUDLY married to a man who cries) and said “What would you say if I asked you to marry me?” I squealed “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” as he pulled a box out of his jacket pocket and opened it to reveal a 3-stone ring. He said “For our past, our present, and our future. Will you marry me?” He tells me I said “Are you serious” ten times before finally saying YES.
The next day, the planning began. We carefully discussed having the “normal” yearlong engagement, and that I’d always wanted a fall wedding, so that would really be a year and a half. It didn’t take long to decide we just wanted to be married and that it wouldn’t be TOO crazy to get married 9 months later. So, on November 8, 2008, we said our “I Do’s”.
Even though our road was long, and sometimes rocky, our paths just kept leading to each other…and I am grateful every day that they did. I love you, my forever Valentine!!