Saturday, 10 January 2015

How I Met Your Father (fifth and final part)

* Part five of our love story. Part four | Part three | Part two | Part one*


Image found here

Eventually we disentangled and looked at each other. I was suddenly feeling shy. "What now?" I asked.
"Let's go to your car and find a hotel." he suggested, and that's what we did. I was driving a somewhat odd little car back then, a red VW Caddy, and was pretty embarrassed about it. I worried that he might think me strange for having a strange car, and was also anxious about driving in a big city with him by my side. So anxious in fact, that I almost caused an accident; Richard made me pull over and climbed behind the wheel himself, which was the only sensible thing to do under the circumstances. 

We soon found a hotel and checked in. The desk clerk looked at us and I felt suddenly incredibly conspicuous - was he judging me? Did he know what we were about to do? Richard didn't seem to notice, so I tried to shake it off, but didn't really succeed. 

Entering the hotel room, I was nervous. 'What now?' I asked myself again. Despite our hours and hours of phone calls, I didn't really know this man in person. I had spent all of three days with him, the majority of it with other people around, and being in a room with him alone felt suddenly strange. 

But then he asked me: "Are you nervous? Because I sure am!", and the ice was broken. "Yes, me too!" I laughed, "but I'm so happy you are finally here!" "Me, too. You know what? Let's have a drink and relax." He pulled a bottle of rum out of his bag, and with a can of coke out of the mini fridge mixed us each a Cuba Libre. We clinked glasses, took a sip, and suddenly fell into each other's arms, kissing passionately. My nervousness was gone. 

Hours later, both ravenously hungry, we ventured out of the hotel in search of food. We didn't have to search long: there was an Italian restaurant just down the street. It was everything a restaurant should be: cozy, warm, with delicious food and an Italian proprietor who was loud, cheerful, and effusive and kept calling Richard "padrone". It was at that restaurant that we discovered out mutual love for eating out. We sat there for hours, getting tipsy on Italian wine, dreaming of our future together and revelling in each other's company. Richard showed me pictures of his kids, and I envisioned a future where we would all live happily ever after, as an unconventional, yet happy family. It was utterly perfect. 


Sadly, he had to leave the next morning to go see his parents for a few days, the "official" reason for his visit. He promised to return to me as soon as he could, and we parted ways. 

Three days later he arrived at my student dorm. A dorm I was sharing with a room mate. Said room mate was 21, already divorced, but full of opinions. She took one look at Richard, pulled me aside and started whispering urgently: "That's your vacation fling? He's so old! You can do better! What are you doing with him?" "It's none of your business!" I whispered back crossly. "I really like him, we get along great, and you're being rude. So shut up!"
I took Richard into my room and slammed the door behind me. "What was that all about?" he asked. "She doesn't approve?" He smiled as he said it, but I thought I detected a hint of hurt in his voice. We couldn't stay here. 
"What are we going to do? We can't stay here, but we also can't go to either your or my parent's house." I plopped myself down onto my narrow single bed, discouraged. Richard thought for a moment, looking at me speculatively, then he asked: "Have you ever been to Spain? It's beautiful this time of year!" I stared at him uncomprehendingly. "What do you mean?" "I rented a car, it's parked outside your dorm. How about we take off for a few days? Get away from everybody and drive south? Really get to know each other." "But, where are we going to stay?" I was extremely slow on the uptake. "In hotels, Miri! That's what they are for!" "Are you serious?" I couldn't believe it. Was he offering me a vacation? 
Yes, he was. I talked to my boss at my part-time job and begged to get some time off; he agreed. There was school and classes, but I decided not to worry about it; I would catch up when we got back. 

The
next day we hopped into his rental and headed towards Spain. I was giddy with excitement: Going away on a spontaneous road trip was so romantic!
That trip turned out to be one of the best, yet strangest trips I have ever taken. We didn't take a single picture; we barely did any sightseeing. We drove for hours every day, and talked incessantly. We told each other everything: our favourite foods, colours, childhood fears and future dreams. He told me about his marriage, and what he thought went wrong; I told him about my previous relationships. We talked about jobs, life in Canada, life in Germany, vacations, hunting, reading, our families, friends. He described his daughters to me: their personalities, likes and dislikes.

When we didn't talk we ate, drank and made love; it was a vacation for the senses. The predicted "few days" turned into two weeks; Richard changed his return ticket to a later date, I called my boss to let him know about the change of plans. It was a magical two weeks: just him and me, no other company needed. I could have travelled with him in that car to the end of the world.

During those two weeks we made plans for the future: For Richard to leave his marriage and start divorce proceedings, and for me to quit school, pack up my things and come to Canada to live with him. We were both scared, because we knew we would be hurting people we cared about - but we were more scared to lose each other. On our last day together we were both silent for long stretches at a time. "Is everything okay?" he asked at one point. "Yes", I answered. "I'm just so sad that you have to leave, and wish we could face the next steps we have to take together." "Me too, believe me", he said, and squeezed my hand.



And then he was gone. We had promised each other to talk to our families as soon as possible, so I could come to Canada quickly. That suited me fine; I had returned to a life that no longer felt like mine. Going to school felt pointless, so I simply didn't. I avoided most of my friends, only telling a select few of my plans. But the worst task was still ahead of me: Telling my parents.

I decided to get it over with only a few days after our return, and drove to my parent's house on a Friday evening. During the 2.5-hour drive I had to stop twice to throw up, I was that nervous; I have never before or since been so scared in my life. I knew they wouldn't be happy, to put it mildly; but what else would they do? I tried to steel myself for yelling, disappointment, maybe even a slap in the face.

I had told them on the phone that I needed to talk to them, so they were both waiting for me in the kitchen. Thankfully, no other members of the family were present this time; I don't know if I could have handled them all together.
I was shaking badly when I delivered my stellar opening line: "I have fallen in love with Richard (he had called my parent's house a few times so they were aware of his existence) and want to move to Canada to live with him." Bam! Not exactly subtle.

The conversation was long and difficult. They didn't slap me, and they didn't throw me out of the house; but the disappointment was there, as was the sentiment that I wasn't the person they thought I was. Interestingly enough, they weren't too concerned about the age difference at that time: My mom was convinced that he would never leave his wife and I would get hurt. They also couldn't believe that I would quit school, a fact I barely believed myself: I had never been a quitter. But, as I explained to them, staying in school for another two years would kill our fledgling relationship, a sacrifice I wasn't willing to make. Besides, I hated what I was studying (forestry), and never wanted to work in that field anyway.
In the end we agreed to disagree; at least my parents still talked to me.

By this time it was mid-November, and Richard and I had settled on the day of my move: January 10. To pass the time I worked as much as possible to earn myself a little financial cushion. I also worked out a lot to burn off nervous energy and drop a few of those extra 20+ college pounds. We talked on the phone every day, which helped both of us tremendously with the difficulty of the separation.

Then the day of my departure arrived. It felt eerily similar to that day five months ago when I was off on my Canadian adventure - so much had happened since then! Once again we left the house before daybreak, this time just my dad and I. On the way to the airport we kept the conversation light, and had a surprisingly pleasant time.
After saying a difficult goodbye, I breathed easier and started to feel exhilarated - soon I would be reunited with my love!

Ten hours later there he was, waiting for me at the airport. This time I wasn't nervous, just thrilled to see him. We hugged each other tight, holding on for a very long time. At this moment I didn't feel scared or insecure - I felt safe.
I had come home.

12 years later  

So much has happened in the past 12 years. As I'm sitting here today, on the day of our 10th wedding anniversary and simultaneously the 12th anniversary of my move to Canada, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude towards both of our families, who didn't always approve of our relationship, but who supported us nonetheless. Gratitude towards the kids, who have been amazing throughout it all; they have assured me numerous times over the years that they are happy for all of us, knowing how much happier both their parents are since the divorce. 
Gratitude to our younger selves, for trusting our hearts and ignoring the many voices of reason and doubt. 

But I'm most grateful to Richard. I was only 23 at the time, with little to lose; but Richard was 48, with everything to lose. Nobody gave us a chance; but he believed in us. He saw something in the two of us together that made him trust that we could make it. It wasn't always easy: We have had a few rough patches along the way, even lived apart for a while in the beginning. But the strength of his love and conviction has carried us through all these years.

If there is one thing I have learnt it is this: Love can hit you hard. I never believed in love at first sight - until I experienced it myself. Did I have a thing for older men? No. Did Richard have one for younger women? Believe it or not, he didn't. We fell in love with the person, not the surrounding circumstances.
So here is my advice: Listen to your heart. Trust your gut feeling. Sometimes, you just know - and when you do, hold on and never let go!



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7 comments

  1. I feel like you are so much more spontaneous and brave than I am. I don't think I could jet off on a vacation like that! But it sounds amazing. This had got to be one of the craziest stories I've ever heard! It really needs to be in a movie or something :)

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  2. How romantic! I love how adventurous you are and how it's lead to such wonderful things for you and Farm Guy. True love really can hit you hard and this is such a perfect example of it! I'm not speaking from experience, of course - I have yet to find that "holy cow this is it" with someone but I'm staying optimistic. I loved reading your story and think it's just incredible. It gives us single gals hope!
    ~Samantha

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  3. LOVE IT!! You are such a brave girl! I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to even just pick up and go to Spain for two-weeks. It's such a wild story. I'm glad it all paid off and you are celebrating a wonderful 10 years!!

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  4. oh, this is such a beautiful beautiful story. congratulations on your anniversary!

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  5. Thank you for this post. I am 26 and in love with a man 25 years older than me. Our relationship has just ended over what I thought were an amazing 8 months. Though our story won't end in a 12+ year marriage, this was so nice to read. He has a very hard time with the age (thinking he is holding me back from meeting the one) has been married and divorced and has two children almost my age. I wish things could be different and I have no idea how to start to move on but this post was so great to read.

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    Replies
    1. Dear Katie, I'm very sorry that it didn't work out for you guys. Break-ups are terrible. I hope that your relationship didn't end primarily because of the age gap? From experience I can tell you that it gets easier all the time, because one of the unfair facts of life - women often aging more visibly than men - totally works in our favour here.
      I try to see every experience as a lesson. You may not see it yet, but your time together was valuable and will help you in your life.

      I wish you all the best, and that you find great love and happiness!

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