Thirteen years ago this week, I first met Wesley. He had flown to Jacksonville where I was attending the wedding of a close family friend and we had agreed if we did not end up liking each other when we met in person after talking for months and months on the phone that he could just stay in Jacksonville and fly home. No harm, no foul. But, from the moment I saw him sitting nervously smoothing his hands on his front of khakis in the lobby of the Baymont Inn in Jacksonville, FL I knew that at least for my part, I liked this young man.
Wesley was a co-worker of a long time college best friend, Stephanie. She was a year ahead of me in school and had started her career at a newspaper in Virginia. Stephanie and her journalism colleagues worked in the evenings so after my classes in typical unprofessional 22-year old fashion I used to call Stephanie while she worked and talk to her. In time she would have to run and do actual WORK so I’d be passed off to her friends because I could talk the paint off of a wall. One night, my friend Stephanie handed the phone to her nice, but a bit nerdy, co-worker Wesley. He was shy, quiet, thoughtful and a sharp contrast to the boys I had dated in college. Wesley knew about books and was a kind soul to others, so I liked him. I liked his mind and wit. And I liked that he liked me too.
But I worried. Wesley lived so far away and I did not want to get too close so I kept encouraging him to “wait and see” when he would suggest that he come visit me in person. I think in part I feared that the mind and the man would not match in my estimation although I knew what he looked like and I found him handsome. Month after month I kept him at bay as we read books like The Cider House Rules and Angela’s Ashes and conducted our own impromptu book club discussing the meaning of Frank McCourt’s tragic childhood and Homer Wells rite of passage from orphan to adult. He would ask again and again to come visit as the months passed and I kept invoking my reply, “Let’s wait and see”
Finally I was won over and relented with the escape plan of leaving him in Jacksonville if we decided that we did not like each other. In looking back I’m not sure how I ever could have dreamed I would not like him, because in fact I think I was already in love with him. I think in my heart, deep down I knew that I would be with him forever. Even if forever was not as long as we dreamed. So, we met; we had dinner; I bit the head off of the server at Chili’s who kept hovering because I was wanted to talk to this soft spoken young man with the curly dark hair across the booth from me. We spent days together in Tallahassee looking at my parent’s Christmas tree; petting their cat Dickens and realizing that we were deeply in love. He went back home to Virginia and I cried and cried to watch him drive away. We saw each other every few months, spending a fortune on flights for the next 18 months before we both decided to move to Atlanta because if we were going to eventually get married we should live in the same place, right?
In 13 years together we moved 7 times, got married, changed careers, had a baby girl, bought a home and finally moved to Tallahassee where in some ways it all started. We sat on the same couch opening Christmas presents with our baby Julia in 2009, watched as our nephews and Julia collected Easter Eggs throughout the living room and where I sat on March 30th as Julia wandered through the room quietly having lost her father and I clutched a Kleenex to my face having lost my husband only hours before. So much had changed in such a short time, but how much love, how much life was shared in those months and years. I regret that I urged patience in those early days because now each day, each moment is precious. I wish for 5 more minutes. I wish for 50 more years.
As I rode in the car yesterday I thought of our life. The small moments of happiness and small kindnesses that were taken for granted. The way that he put his hand on my neck when I drove the car, the way he played “I Spy” with Julia and always saying he spied the color red, the way he loved Christmas and reveled in the joy others felt in the happy holidays. What if I had said, “Wait and see” a little longer? What joy, what happiness would have been missed? I rejoice in that day that walked into the hotel lobby and saw his beautiful brown eyes looking over his glasses, a copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany in his hands. I daily see those same eyes staring at me from Julia’s sweet face. In all of the moments, large and small, over the almost 13 years we were together she is the legacy of our love. My heart aches for the short time we had together but finds happiness in the life we created together which was vibrant, funny and brimming over with adoration.