She volunteered to do my makeup. I was at a High School camp at Old Oak Ranch; I was too old to be there, but on a medical leave of absence from my work due to a shoulder dislocation. I was helping out with a variety show for the camp, & had the good fortune of being able to do a pretty good impersonation of the classic Paul Reuben’s character “Pee-Wee Herman.” Oh, the red bow tie, grey suit, & big white shoes. How I miss thee.
When I met her, she wanted to be an osteopathic physician. Even though I’d spent more than my share of time under the care of an orthopedist who so graciously made sure my shoulders & knees got patched up, good as new, I had no idea what that was; I just knew that talking with her as she applied her wares to my face was fun. I’d never been this close to a girl for this long… She wasn’t interested in a relationship (not that I was fishing; it just came up in conversation. Really. Innocently. But I digress.) She just wanted to grow as a Christian, focus on school, & help people. I was fascinated by my new friend, & couldn’t wait for makeup time to talk with her. So I didn’t. Wait to talk. I searched her out. Looked for opportunities to sit where she sat. Managed to learn her oh-so-spontaneous-but-still routine routine & maneuver myself to be in the right place at the right time.
Camp was only a week long, & when I got home, I knew something was different. I missed my new friend. There wasn’t really anything romantic in my thoughts, just a desire to connect in conversations that almost always were filled with laughter. So I called her on the camp pay phone. Talked as much as she was able with her work schedule. Shared hopes & dreams. Way too soon probably, but it happened nonetheless. She was many things I was not: fun, carefree, graceful, joyful, in touch with her emotions, able to identify what she wanted in life…
I felt myself slipping into something I’d never known before, something I couldn’t identify, something deep & strong; something I wanted to grow.
Weeks later, her grandparents were returning from the mission field of Brazil, & she & her mom were off for a week-long visit to Los Angeles to welcome them back to the States. They invited me. Still on work-leave, I went, not really knowing what to expect, but looking forward to time with my friend.
One night in LA, we were watching TV & I happened to look at her… she turned to look at me & at that moment, I knew that I wanted to marry her, that I would marry her if she would only have me. & somehow I knew that she knew too. She kissed me. Goodness, she kissed me.
Later that week, we talked about our hopes & dreams, our plans for the future. I will never forget her looking deep into my eyes & telling me, “I want to go with you, wherever you go, whatever you do… to be a team.” Somehow it didn’t seem too much to hear, but I couldn’t believe my ears… I asked her about her dream of becoming a doctor, an osteopathic physician… & she said, “That was my dream. Now I want to be with you.” & that was that.
More than 23 years have passed since that conversation, & I have watched this capable, gifted, talented, called, driven, unbelievably positive, “so beautiful it makes you think you’re dreaming,” woman make choices to choose me. Us. Often at the expense of herself. A career. Becoming something, somebody, someone. She stayed home with the kids. Worked jobs that others may have seen as menial or beneath them. Supported me. Believed in me. Stood by me, even when I acted like a fool & a tool. Even when I forgot that a team was what we were supposed to be, she didn’t. & she has contended for & believed in the very best version of me & us, with the greatest hope in her heart (& on her lips) being growing old, together, with me.
She started working at Starbucks last December – & her gifts, talents, optimism, & people loving have all contributed to her being recognized & elevated in her role with the company. She’s a shift-supervisor now, & has lots of potential opportunities for advancement; the sky is the limit, & I see the favor of God all over her life.
She has chosen me, time & time again. Her unwavering love has given me the support, the strength, & the courage to change, to grow, to contend for more; to not settle for a stunted, diseased version of myself, but to hope & grow, through pain, into the person God would have me be, the person that I think that she must see in order to love me as good as she does.
I am so proud of & thankful for this girl. My friend. My theBean. MyJoni. MyOne.