How We Met (A Valentine’s Day Story)

DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley smiles at her fiance Chris

It’s an easy answer: he’s my best friend Becky’s brother.

But that’s not really the answer to the question, “how did you meet?”

We met a half-dozen times when the kids were tiny and I first knew Becky from preschool events. Chris would be visiting from Colombia or Maine or California wherever else he was living back then and I’m sure we chatted a bit, but neither of us can really remember that time period. So, if I’m literally answering this question, I’d probably have to say that we first met as I was cramming goldfish crackers into some child’s mouth, with spit-up from another child running down my arm. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the story anyone wants.

In any case, time passed and life happened. The kids got older. Chris moved to Atlanta. Shawn got sick, and then he died. Becky planned the funeral. And then all the other stuff happened that’s chronicled on this blog that I’ve kept for three years.

My dad and all of my friends helped support me and the kids. We made it through a year, and by the end, I was starting to reclaim my life. I finally left for a trip by myself and had a long layover in Atlanta. I barely knew Chris, but Becky organized for me to stay with him, and we spent a fun – and totally platonic – 12 hours together.

We struck up a friendship after that. He was one of the few unmarried guys I knew, so I asked him for online dating advice and shared all my funny and horrible stories of re-entering the dating market at age 40. Every once in a while, he’d be in DC and we’d get coffee. I knew he lived far away and wasn’t available. Moreover, I knew he was my best friend’s brother, which should universally mean “don’t fall in love with that guy.”

But I did. Well – maybe not love, at least not at that point. Still, I harbored a big crush on him, one that I couldn’t easily ignore. At least he lived in Atlanta, I rationalized, so dating him would be impossible. I hinted to Becky that her brother was “really cute,” but I never said much more. Why make it awkward?

Chris and I saw each other with some frequency in early 2020, when he was up in DC. By the early spring, I could feel my emotions shift. In my diary from that time, I wrote, “I need to stop interacting with Chris. I’m lusting after this guy who is never going to be available to me and it’s just not productive. Time for me to focus on someone else.”

I tried. I probably went out with a dozen different men over the first few months of that year. But I still thought about Chris.

The last time I saw him, just before the pandemic hit, we had a few hours where we got tea and sat on a park bench next to a busy street. We talked about our lives and we laughed – a lot – as we recounted the last few weeks to each other. I could feel the energy in the air, and I wondered if he felt it too. No, I said to myself, it was just wishful thinking on my part. But then again, the feeling between us was hard to ignore, wasn’t it?

I thought a lot about him over the next few days. I ultimately decided that I couldn’t see him anymore, and I texted him and told him that. For many reasons, he wasn’t available. I needed to accept that fact, I rationalized. It was time to have a fun spring, take another trip by myself and spend my free time hosting parties and focusing on my classes.

Of course, both of us didn’t know what was coming. We certainly didn’t know the big picture – that the pandemic would shut everything down in just a few weeks – and we didn’t know how things would change for each of us in our personal lives. My dad would leave to return home to Oregon. Chris would find himself single. We’d both be trapped at home.

But that all happened. Our texting picked up and then we started to talk on the phone because that’s all that anyone could do in those early days of the pandemic, remember? 

And over those talks, we started a romance. Yes, in many ways it resembled a 7th grade relationship, one that could only happen that way because we were quarantined a thousand miles apart. It meant that we ended up talking about all the things that mattered to us before we laid a finger on each other. I told him that I often sang in my kitchen and that I was learning to make pizza from scratch. He told me more about how he loved to cycle and why he wanted a dog. I told him about the time that Tommy got carsick in Barcelona and I was alone with three kids, so Austin had to hold the barf bin. He told me about his 21st birthday in Chile, hiking alone and imagining his future.

Weeks went by. (And yes, the kids knew about our relationship by then. “Your boyfriend is Ms. Becky’s brother!” they’d say in sing-song voices.) At night, we’d wonder out loud when the pandemic would end. When would we be able to see each other? We were both in still lockdown, and obviously I had my kids with me as well. 

One day, about a month after we first started talking, I got a text from him as I was making dinner. “I sent you a little Easter surprise. I think Becky left it on your car, down in front of your garage. Grab it and give me a call!”

I went outside, and did not see a package. 

Instead, I saw Chris, leaning up against my garage door, smiling at me.

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.

6 Replies to “How We Met (A Valentine’s Day Story)”

  1. This is so sweet- I love this! I met someone last year as well- 2 years into widowhood. It’s a different kind of relationship. I was married for 40 years to a man who was larger than life. It’s not easy to find that again, nor do I want to because our adventures and love will never be topped. My kids are grown, so I am happy with my alone time- which I never had. I have my own apartment- which I never had. So my …boyfriend… and I spend two or so days a week hiking and walking and cooking. It’s a quiet type of relationship, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I know that it’s nice and comforting. “You’ll be OK when I’m gone,” Ralph would tell me- he was 10 years older than I was. “You’re good with your own company.” I am. But your new love makes me feel happy. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I love this. I love that you can enjoy what you have with your boyfriend and appreciate what it brings you. It sounds like you are content, which is such an incredible thing. This post made me smile!

  2. Happy Valentine’s Day, Marjorie! This is so heartwarming. I love that Covid, too, has been a character in your story. (Yikes…I just now realized that that is so ironic since illness was an unwelcome character in the story of your first love story.) But I know from a previous comment that Shawn wanted you to be happy as my husband wished for me. And I know that believing in love is a tribute to the love we had and lost. Because love, like matter, never dies…

    1. Yes, I’m so lucky that Shawn loved me so much that he could let me go, and tell me to keep moving forward with new love, someday. It has been so helpful for me as I’ve navigated widowhood. That’s real love, for sure.

  3. Reading your stories have helped me cope with losing my wife, months ago. She always said that if she lost her battle with cancer, she’d want me to find someone else to share my life with.

    It is still far to early for me to contemplate another relationship without feeling I’m betraying her memory. Our 11 year old son said that after 12 months I can start to begin thinking about dating again. I told him that it is not that easy.

    I don’t want to. I want my wife back. I miss her, so much. We’d been together 26 years. We knew each other inside out, loved each other completely and accepted what we couldn’t change about each other, lol (my video gaming ; her shopping)

    Reading your stories has made me smile and cry. I feel that one day I may feel about someone else, the same way I feel about my wife.

    It has also made me realise that if it doesn’t happen again then that is fine too.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your wife. I can tell from your letter that you had an amazing love story, and I love that your son is already grappling with the future, even if you aren’t there yet. And yes – you might find someone new someday, or you might not – but knowing that you’ll be okay either way is really important. I can tell from your letter that you will be, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. Hang in there.

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