When You Least Expect it

9 years ago, this woman came walking into my life. After two failed marriages and a failed engagement, I was done with marriage or the thought of it. I had lost almost everything emotionally and the two divorces had cleaned me out financially. I was living hand to mouth working a fulltime job, performing computer consulting on the side, and performing electronics recycling to make ends meet. I was drowning in credit card debt, struggling to make child support, driving a car that the A/C had died on and I could not afford to have repaired, and worried I was going to lose the mobile home where I lived. The light of hope at the end of the tunnel was extinguished. I was simply surviving as best as I knew how.

The only real love I knew in life was the relationship I had with my daughter who visited two weekends a month. I remember lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling listening to the words replay in my mind from the exs in my life. It was a grocery list of all my failures. I wondered how my daughter could love me like she did, and I wondered if it too would end one day when she grew up and realized what a failure I truly was.

I continued dating, but it seemed pointless and amounted to a means to fill my time on the weekends when I did not have my daughter. And then, Allison showed up. We had chatted online for a while and then began talking on the phone occassionally. One Sunday night, I dropped my daughter off at her mom's house and began the lonely one-hour drive back home. I decided to call Allison just to pass the time on the return trip. She asked me where I was, and I told her. She seemed suprised, and at first I did not understand why. But then she explained that she lived near where I was. She directed me to a local Ruby Tuesday's and told me to meet her there in 30 minutes. I did not think anything of it, but the thought of dinner with pleasant company was a welcomed proposal so I agreed.

Promptly 30 minutes later, she appeared. I would later learn that promptness was one of her hallmarks. We talked non-stop right up until the waitress brought our check and said they were closing. I looked around and realized we were the only remaining customers. We had been there from 3 hours. So, we did what any sane individuals would do. That is right. We drove across the street to the Waffle House and resumed our conversation. Finally at 2am, we departed.

After that we saw each other every night. One night I would drive an hour to her house. The next night she would drive an hour to mine. I fondly remember walking into work dead tired the mornings after driving to her house. But, I did not mind. The relationship was very different than anything I had ever been involved in before. Instead of judging my financial struggles like most of the women I had dated, she understood and offered to take me to dinner at times. Instead of complaining about the broken A/C in my car during the hot and humid Georgia Summer, she offered her car when we went somewhere.

As much as I was enjoying the relationship, marriage was not on my radar. I would not let myself even entertain the thought. I had failed miserably at it twice. After the first one ended, I had read every book on relationships and marriage I could find. And the second marriage was a bigger failure than the first. I was not marriage material, and I refused to consider it any more.

To make matters worse, when I was dating someone, my daughter would get attached to them. Then I would have problems with the person I was dating and elect to end the relationship, and I would see the sadness in my daughter's face when she got the news. I was tired of breaking her heart too. So it was a while before I even let Allison meet my precious little girl. When I did, Allison loved her. I still remember going to the World of Coca-Cola. When the tour was over, we ended up in the gift shop. Funny how most attractions utilize that marketing scheme. While gazing at T-shirts and such, I looked up to see Allison give Lindsey some cash so she could buy herself a souvenir. It struck me as sweet and selfless. My daughter took the money and bought Allison a gift. I set in amazement watching the two of them and thinking I could learn a lot from both of them.

One night, I was cooking dinner and waiting Allison's arrival. She walked in the door wearing this ankle-length skirt She stopped just inside the door and begin pulling the skirt up towards her knees. I could not figure out what in the world the woman was trying to do. Then she dropped to one knee and proposed to me. I felt all of the air in my lungs escape. I felt paralized in my chest. My mind raced 100mph. All of the books I had read said that you should date for a year before considering marriage. We had been dating two months. I thought about my second marriage that I had rushed into and how it failed. I also knew if I said, "No" that I could provoke the rath of a Southern woman. And I knew all about the rath of a Southern woman scorned. So, I answered, "Yes, but not right now."
Allison was undetered. Six weeks later we were married with my daughter standing by our sides. That was nine years ago.

Over the last nine years, we have endured a great deal together. She has been that quiet steady encouraging voice. She has stood beside me when it seemed no one else was on my side. She has restored my faith in marriage and has demonstrated what love is over and over. We have served side by side building Habitat homes and on mission trips in other countries. We even launched a nonprofit to reduce hunger in our community. She was the encouragement that convinced me to go to Grad school at 47 years old. When I struggled with the workload for accounting classes, she quietly say by while I spent 4 hours a night buried in a spreadsheet. When I became discouraged and overwhelmed, she was the steady voice that kept saying, "You can do this."

Today, this amazing woman celebrates her birthday. I cannot think of anything I could buy that would remotely honor her at the level she deserves. So, I thought I would share with you, her story. This is the woman that walked into my life 9 years ago and restored my belief in marriage and my hope in life. I am grateful for the blessing of having her in my life.

Happy Birthday, Allison.

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