I returned to Arkansas early the next morning, the day after our first date. The following days were filled with smiles and butterflies. Letters, phone calls, and an unending movie of moments and events of that evening played in my head.
I returned to get my boys, resume studying and real life. I never mentioned a word to the boys about the special person I had met; I had decided long before I wouldn’t do that to them until I was serious about someone, just to protect their little hearts.
I received a letter that week from Mike stating that he would like to see me again, and that he thought I was beautiful inside and out….I felt so special just reading those words. I read and reread his letter several times and talked on the phone a couple of times. Everything seemed effortless to me: studying, taking tests, getting the boys ready for school and everything a single mom does. Life seemed to be a gentle breeze as opposed to the dark stormy season I had just lived through, where everything I did seemed to zap all my energy and emotion.
I had learned from my dark days to cherish the warmth of the sun, so the tiniest moments of happiness were to me like treasures. I knew on an entirely different level, the gift of being at peace with yourself and the feeling of coming out of the dark, dense tunnel of despair into a new world that was bright, fresh, full of promise.
There’s nothing quite like having calmness in your spirit, until you’ve lived without it.
In a very short, yet very long year, I had been transformed into someone new. I had lived through trials and heartache that I didn’t know I was capable of. I had trusted God in situations that normally would have been unbearable. I was stronger, I was kinder, less judgmental, more sensitive to the pain of others. I still lived with my boys in the little government duplex, still hung my clothes on the clothes line, put $5.00 worth of gas in at a time in my car; but my heart was happy, and now I had someone that thought I was beautiful. That was the icing on the cake!
After phone calls back and forth and “get to know each other more” conversations, I planned another trip to my sisters for the last weekend in September.
I anxiously awaited the arrival of the weekend, and it felt so good to have plans that no one really knew (with the exception of a few). I felt in control of my life again, and did that ever feel amazing.
I didn’t need a man to complete me, I didn’t need “things,” I only needed God and his wonderful plans.
Friday finally arrived; and after handing over the boys for their weekend visitation, I left in my little Chevy Spectrum and headed for Tulsa, Oklahoma.
We had a date planned, so he picked me up from my sisters. This time the nerves were a bit more settled but not completely. He took me to a wonderful dinner at Steak and Ale, where we soaked up each others’ company. Nothing serious, just great conversation. We rode around some afterwards and listened to music; then he stopped by his business and gave me a tour. The next morning he picked me up bright and early from Pam’s, and we went to my nephews soccer game and then on to the state fair. We just walked and talked for literally hours. He was such a gentleman and I loved how “even keeled” he was. I found out he was a volleyball player and had grown up in California on the beaches. He was full of ambition, but not in an imbalanced way. He was a dreamer, a visionary, and lived life with a purpose. He looked at me as though I was the only person in the world. The weekend was going by way too fast.
Before I knew it, I was headed back to my real world; but I left part of my heart with him. He was the perfect gentleman, not pushy, or assuming. I wanted to know more, and in some ways that scared me. Could I trust and love someone again? I knew I was getting way ahead of myself; after all, the word love or anything of a serious nature had not come up.
The next week’s letter included a question…..Mike wanted to know if Mena was big enough to have a hotel. If so, he would like to come see me and see where I lived, possibly go to church with me (I wasn’t ready for him to meet the boys). Wow, I thought, and immediately became intimidated about my living situation. What if he wants to see where we live? He had no idea I lived in government housing. Insecurities began to build, but they were quickly pushed out with my desire to have him come for a visit. I’d just worry about that when the time came (with the plan in my mind to make sure he had no reason to see my house).
I was beyond excited! I could finally let people in on my secret; I could have a date and everyone know it. Even my elderly neighbors waited with great anticipation for me to start dating. Lots of people would be excited for me.
I wanted to show him off, and I wanted to see him again; so I gave him the name and number of a local hotel (I think it was called Harvey House Inn). The plans were put into place for him to come for a weekend visit the next time the boys were on weekend visitation. Mike grew up around Los Angeles and knew nothing about small town life. He was in for an interesting experience. I counted down the days with anticipation. It was different having him come to “my world,” and I was a bit unsure how it would turn out. It would be a weekend that would change everything; little did I know the impact it would have.