I want to tell you a love story.
A boy meets a girl. They are out on a double-date, but not with each other. Still, the attraction is there, so they ditch their original dates and decide to go out a few times with one another after that.
But the girl has an on-again, off-again boyfriend who shows back up in town. And so their very brief romance ends.
Nine months later, the boy is riding his bike, and he sees the girl walking down the street. They chat, he asks her out, and she says yes. They start dating. The girl’s on-again, off-again boyfriend (the same one from before) lives in another city, and so she doesn’t think of him much. She doesn’t think of really anyone other than this new boy, the one who she finally saw again riding his bike that day on the street.
They are in love. The boy asks the girl to marry him, even though it’s only been two months.
The girl says she has to do this the right way. She has to go and formally tell the on-again, off-again boyfriend (the one in the other city) that things are really over. So she flies to that city, and breaks it fully off with him. Then she comes back, and tells the boy on the bike that yes, she can marry him.
Three months later, they are married in a tiny university chapel. Their reception is in the boy’s parent’s backyard. It is the happiest wedding anyone has ever seen.
Their story about how they met is a beautiful one, and it’s always been one of my favorites.
It is a story about patience, timing and serendipity. We might think that love stories should be simple, and those of us who are single might long for a love story where there are no complicating factors.
But love is not always so straightforward, is it?
For the first nineteen years of my life, I learned about love from this couple. Because, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this love story is about my mom and my dad. I got snippets of this story when I was a child, and I’d imagine the boy on the bike talking to the girl walking down the street. I’d imagine the boy waiting for the girl to return from the other city, so he could marry her. I’d imagine their wedding as I looked through their pictures.
And I’d think about how their love story was perfect. And it was.
But, here’s the thing: it was also kinda messy.
As a kid, I often thought that my parents were the happiest people I knew. When I was a teenager, I still thought this, but as my mom got sicker and sicker, I used to wonder why my dad remained so devoted to her. Her mind wasn’t the same, really. And her body declined as she ate less and less.
But I knew they loved each other, maybe because of how often they would tell the story about seeing each other that day on the street. The boy on the bike. The girl walking down the street. And even when my mom was in bed all day or my dad was stressed by the workload at home, they always smiled telling that story.
And every night, when my dad came home from work, he’d pick my mom up in his arms, smile at her and kiss her right there in front of us.
Yes, she wasn’t always well. But he didn’t see that.
He saw the girl on the street. And she saw the boy on the bike.
Because really, the love story of their lives – the one that happened after their wedding – wasn’t perfect either. They had a lot of roadblocks.
And yet they knew they had something special. They didn’t come to it easily – my dad had to wait at that airport, and hope my mom was going to come home and say she would marry him. My mom had to hope that my dad wouldn’t give up on her, even when her depression took over. Both of those parts of their story were complicated.
Maybe my dad shouldn’t have asked my mom out, that day when he was riding his bike and saw her on the street. She wasn’t technically 100% single, and he’d already lost her once to the on-again, off-again boyfriend. He could have been really hurt by her. Maybe my mom should have said “no” when my dad asked her out. Maybe she should have married the on-again, off-again boyfriend, because she’d devoted so much time to him at that point.
But they didn’t choose that path. They chose to try love together. And because of it, I got to see real love for all the days of my childhood.
Love, I think, is not always so straightforward.