Chapter 9: Falling In Love

I woke up early and packed our picnic lunch. Before I knew it, Mike was at the door to pick me up.
We visited for awhile and then headed out around 10:30 am. We stopped at Sonic for our drinks to take with us and then headed up Rich Mountain Drive. The fall colors were spectacular, such a beautiful background to such a special weekend. I had been on that drive so many times, but this time it seemed to be at the peak of its beauty. It was a rather warm October day even when we arrived on top of Rich Mountain at the state park for our picnic. We laughed and talked and learned more and more about each other. I talked about Charley and Caleb a lot (I always did). He had numerous questions about them and mentioned that he would love to meet these other guys in my life that were so important to me.
We took a hike down Lovers Leap and back, soaking in each and every moment together.
The more I found out, the more I was drawn to him; I wanted to know more. He was the best listener I had ever met, and I found myself talking comfortably about my life and some of the experiences I had been through. I had his undivided attention, and of course he had mine as well. Interesting how many things we talked about but never ran out of topics. There were also moments of silence, but not the awkward kind; for some reason even the quiet moments felt so comfortable.
Later we would return to Mena and go into Walmart to look around for something he had forgotten. I don’t recall that forgotten item, but I do remember we ended up buying a Lionel Richie “Truly” cassette tape 🙂 To this day if I hear one of those songs I’m immediately there again in my mind, and I get that same warm feeling. We also received a TON of stares from people, haha. I was constantly seeing someone I knew and introducing him. He was really intrigued by that part of a small town.
We drove out to the lake and parked the car while Lionel Richie sang to us :)…as we sat on the hood of his car. We spent the rest of the afternoon there until time for dinner, talking about dreams and plans we both had, and more about my boys. We laughed a lot but also had some serious moments, but not too intense. I felt like we had always known each other.
I would eventually find out that during these moments together by the lake, Mike realized he had fallen in love with me, even though he never mentioned a word of it to me. I also felt our hearts connect in a different way; for me it was a bit frightening. I was feeling vulnerable, part of me screaming, “Yeah,” and the other part screaming, “RUN!” Just went I would feel the unsettling thoughts, he would slip his arm around me and pull me close, almost like he was reading my mind.
We decided to go out to the Fishnet for dinner with, of course, more people to meet there as well.
A funny memory I have of that day is Mike asking me where an ATM was in town. I had no idea what that was and apparently I wasn’t alone in that because we drove by every bank in town (I think there were just two banks back then 🙂 and soon found out there was no such thing in Mena. Mike was so amazed at that….I can’t remember what we did for cash but we brainstormed something. I think he felt like he had stepped back in time a few years. Ha
Most places in Mena didn’t even take credit cards at that time much to his shock as well. We had some good laughs about it. Growing up in California, he had already been imprinted with the notion that people from Arkansas and Oklahoma, too, for that matter, were all missing teeth and wore overalls.
Dinner was over and we were back in his car, too early to part ways; so I suggested we go up to one of the lookouts on the Rich Mountain Scenic Drive, spots where you could pull over and park. Now I know what you locals are thinking, 🙂 but Mike didn’t know the town secret so he didn’t think anything (or expect anything ); he was always so respectful of me. We pulled onto the lookout area and rolled the windows down and sat outside of the car again while Lionel Richie played in the car. Typical of warm October days, as soon as the sun dipped behind the last mountain and darkness fell there was a definite chill in the air. He kept his arm around me and I couldn’t help but think how it felt like a perfect fit. He told me how it bothered him that I had gone through such a hard time, and that he was impressed how I had made the most of it. He told me later that he noticed I didn’t have negative things to say or dwell on, and he said it was obvious to him I was not bitter, which stood out to him. Of course I wouldn’t know that for sometime.
He told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever known; and he said, “The more I find out about you, the more I want to know.” He asked a lot about Charley and Caleb. I told him all about my little men, how precious they were and how important they were to me.
Before we knew it, it was very late (around 11 I think) and it was VERY chilly at this point up on the mountain; so we started talking about heading back down when Lionel Richie suddenly quit playing in the car. We both looked at each other with the same look as it dawned on us what had just happened. We had the windows down and the music playing softly that whole time on battery mode. We laughed and tried to think of what to do….of course no cell phones back then. By now we were pretty cold and we couldn’t even roll the windows up (electric). I was thinking what a very long walk back down the mountain that would be, but we could do it. I was about to mention it to Mike when he interrupted my thoughts by saying,”Hey, there’s a truck over there on the far end of the lookout; maybe they have some jumper cables? I’ll go ask them”. I started laughing so hard and he just looked at me like, “What”? “Well, I need to tell you something about the mountain and it’s reputation, haha.”
He said he figured that was probably the case but we needed to get the battery jumped so off he headed toward the truck. The closer he got, he could hear music blaring inside of it; and of course the lights had been off the whole time they had been there. He said he was prepared for most anything when he knocked on the window, but much to his surprise when the window was rolled down an elderly man with an obvious hearing loss (by the way his country music was blasting) looked at him and said, “What can I do for ya?” Of course he had jumper cables and gave us a jump start. We laughed all the way home about how glad Mike was to see that guy. 🙂
We headed back now as it was really late, and we were going to church together in the morning. He walked me in for a few minutes. A couple kisses and hugs later, he was headed out.
My heart was full…..I was falling in love. I knew I was, and little did I know Mike was thinking the same thing as he headed to his hotel. The weekend was passing by too fast. I wanted to freeze time and make it last forever. These were beautiful moments I would cherish the rest of my life, that we would both cherish.
We didn’t know yet….but we were God’s perfect plan 🙂

Isaiah 55:8-11
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.


Chapter 10: Walls of Protection

The weekend was over way too fast. After Sunday morning church together, I fixed him lunch in my little tiny kitchen…. which he still says was the best grilled cheese sandwiches he’s ever had 🙂
Soon goodbyes were said and he was headed back to Tulsa. My boys came home a couple of hours later from their weekend visit, and I decided to tell them about my fun-filled weekend (the version that 2 little guys could grasp anyway). That short 5 minute talk mainly consisted of: “Mom has a new friend that’s Aunt Pam’s neighbor, he came to see me, we went to church and had a lot of fun.” I’m not sure Caleb even heard, since he was busy enjoying being home and digging out toys he had missed over the weekend; but I’ll never forget Charley’s sweet smile as he caught every word I said. Then he just came over and gave me a big hug. That said it all. Eventually, Caleb would actually catch on that Mom had a fun weekend. I didn’t make a huge deal about it, still unsure what it all meant. I knew I was feeling some crazy things in my heart, but I wasn’t sure where exactly Mike was with his thoughts. I knew he was very attracted to me, but I also was very aware he hadn’t actually met the boys yet,and they were a HUGE part of my life. We were a sort of “package deal,” and I did live a whole state away….I could see where he might think it as too complicated. I brushed it out of my mind , and decided to focus on the fact that I had just experienced a pretty perfect weekend. I was feeling very blessed.
If I remember correctly, he called later that evening to tell me he was back in Tulsa and to tell me again thanks for a fun weekend. He said,”I listened to Lionel Richie on the way home, and I thought about you a lot!” I told him that I had told my boys about my “friend” and one of them (can’t remember who) asked to say hi to him over the phone. He talked to both boys very briefly. When I got back on the phone, he told me he would really like to meet them; and I realized for the first how much I really wanted them to meet him and he-them.
It was probably the next conversation, maybe the next evening, that he threw out a possible option. He had thought up a plan, wanted to run it by me and see what I thought. His plan was for the boys and me to go to Ft Smith, Arkansas, and meet him there (about a half way in between place). He would get two rooms. The boys and I would have our own room/suite, and he would have his. We could spend the weekend there in Ft. Smith, sort of a “get to know Charley and Caleb weekend.” I was immediately excited and said yes, as long as I could make it work. He said he would pay for my gas and all expenses (always such a gentlemen), and when I mentioned it to the boys they were beyond thrilled. Just going on a little trip to Ft Smith was a very big deal. I’m not sure they thought much past that part 🙂
The next day (Wednesday) I had a dozen beautiful red roses waiting for me when I got home from classes; my head was spinning in a whirlwind of excitement.
This was a huge step for me to be ready for the boys to be in on the equation. It was a bit risky because Mike and I had still not mentioned the word love to each other; in fact we didn’t even end our letters “with love.” I think I was afraid if that word. I certainly didn’t want to throw it out there, carelessly. No, the next time I said that word I would be sure.
My boys were very adorable, but of course I wondered what he would think of them, what they would think of him. There were so many questions running through my head as Friday drew closer and closer, and the trip became more of a reality. My emotions were on the cautious side. I felt that protective wall around my heart getting reinforced. I could sense that this was a much bigger step, and believe me it was bigger than I could have imagined…this weekend would not be like the others. No, this one was a game changer, a life changer in fact.
I could not have imagined, but soon it would be Friday night and I would live it.


Chapter 11: Weekend of Surprises

After classes for both the boys and me on that Friday afternoon, we loaded up the little car; and around 4:30pm, we were headed off to Ft. Smith Arkansas (about a 1 1/2 hour drive…..for me any way 😉
Mike had booked our rooms (at the Four Seasons, I believe was the name ).
The drive was exciting for the boys and they were wound up. The closer we got to Ft. Smith, the more I started thinking about the evening; so I decided I better establish some rules and have a “mommy” pep talk with my little guys. I had them dressed super cute in their stone washed jeans and cute long sleeved polo shirts. Of course I had not cut any corners on looking my best as well; it was a big night after all. We had never stayed anywhere there was an indoor pool, and just the excitement of that was enough to put the boys over the top. The more rambunctious they got in the car, the more intense my mom talk was 🙂
They were good, polite little boys, but they were ALL boy and I wanted them to make a good impression, not scare him off. Ha
As I drove and finally had their attention, I told them in a very serious “mom tone” how important it was for me that they would be on good behavior and show my friend what good boys they were. I told them how he was paying for our little trip and how they should be thankful for it and those type of things. Yes, I had quite a long list of items…..don’t interrupt, eat with manners, don’t ask to swim a thousand times, no wrestling, do not be loud, wait your turn… get the picture:). Finally at one point Caleb asked, “Mommy, what CAN we do?” to which I responded, “Not much!” haha
I started on lighter topics as soon as I was sure they knew I meant business.
My stomach was full of butterflies like I hadn’t experienced since our first date. I felt a ton of anxiety, wanting things to go well; but really it was out of my control. I could feel my hands trembling as I pulled into the area where you drive through at the hotel. I still remember the boys craning their necks around saying, “Where is he mom?” looking in all directions, with those big brown eyes of theirs searching for this guy that mom said was important to her.
I had barely put the car in park when I saw Mike walking out of the office where he had checked us in. I kind of froze. I didn’t know how to do this introduction. Should I quickly get them out? Should I just wait? I opted for getting out myself and meeting him close by the car. I was met with that smile that immediately calmed me down. We walked back towards my car where Charley and Caleb were poking their heads out of the back window they had rolled down. I introduced them to Mike. As big, huge smiles greeted him, they said hello in their best mannered voices, just like we had practiced on the car drive. Haha
Mike could sense my nerves, I think; and so he said, “Are you guys hungry? How about we all go out to dinner and get to know each other a little bit?”
I parked the car, we quickly climbed into his car, and off we went to begin our get acquainted weekend. “Denny’s ok”? I hardly heard him because I was so intent on what the boys were doing in the back….. but I agreed and it was a very quick drive. The boys were fairly quiet but popping with excitement.
We were seated in a sort of corner booth as I recall, sort of a small semi circle. I can’t remember the seating at all (my nerves blocked it out I guess) but I do remember Caleb was sitting next to Mike and staring up at him a lot. If I know my Charley, I’m sure he was by me watching over me. I’m sure they were picking up on how stressed (in a good way) I was.
We ordered, and made small talk. The boys were SO good and well mannered, I was very impressed, and I could tell Mike was too. So the longer that continued, the calmer I became. I could feel myself relaxing and starting to really enjoy myself. We were only there for a short while when little blond-haired, brown-eyed Caleb puts his hand up on Mikes shoulder and says (in his famous southern accent),”Hey….my momma’s gonna buy me a ‘tep-daddy.” I felt the heat rise from my chest up my neck into my face and my heart thumping loudly. In my head, all I can think is, “Did he really just say that? Surely this is not happening.” I mean you have to remember, we had not even mentioned the word “love.” I felt my heart beating in my head as I shifted around in my seat hoping I would realize this didn’t happen any minute. Mike, I’m sure, sensed my embarrassment and tried to act like he didn’t hear him; so Caleb, thinking he DIDNT hear him, continues to tap on his shoulder and repeat himself 2-3 more times. I wanted to crawl under the seat, disappear, run, hide, anything. “What must Mike be thinking?” I wondered. “This will scare him off.” I felt like time stood still, and all I could hear was Caleb’s sweet little voice . At this point, we were only 10-15 minutes into our get-acquainted weekend. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mike sort of pat Caleb on the shoulder and smile at him. To my relief that was all Caleb needed, just to be heard and acknowledged. “Wow,” I thought, “not how I planned on this weekend getting started,” and “Why, when I covered my very very long list of “not to do’s” did I not think of covering that possibility?”
Mike was so quiet it was impossible for me to read him, so I decided to take a deep breath and act like it never happened. I wanted to forget it, but it would be brought up again….that very night!


Chapter 12: Everything Changes

After dinner at Denny’s, we headed back to the hotel and a much anticipated swim in the indoor pool for the boys.
When we arrived back we went our separate ways with the plan that the boys and I would meet Mike by the pool after the swim suits were on. I’m pretty sure the door was barely closed before the boys were dressed in theirs. The excitement was building as they tried to patiently wait for me by the door. I’m not sure how many times in that few minutes I said the words, “Hold your horses!” Haha. Even though we were slow, from the boys view, we still beat Mike to the pool. I’ve posted a picture at the bottom of them waiting in the chairs for him to arrive. I’m SO glad I took pictures that night, since it wasn’t as handy as it is now with cell phones; but I had managed.
What a fun hour or so (I don’t recall how long) but from the pool to the hot tub to the pool and so on, I watched as they interacted with Mike and got rid of some of their energy. He was very patient with them, and I could tell he was genuinely having fun. They were talking to him non stop and laughing and saying (about a million times each), “Hey, watch this!!!”
They were trying to impress him, and it worked; he was very impressed. As you can imagine, we didn’t get to talk much during this time; but that was ok because this weekend was about him and the boys more than anything, or at least that was the plan 🙂
Around 10:00pm we finally talked them into drying off and heading back to the room. They were intent on wanting Mike to hang out with us longer, and I wasn’t about to argue against it. After all, I still wanted to visit with him as well. I knew eventually they would fall asleep and I would have him to myself, but until then I was perfectly happy and enjoying watching him with my little guys. So he headed to his room to change and we did the same after he accepted our invitation to come back over and hang out with us in our room.
The boys were starving after such a fun swim. Mike took them to the vending machines when he came over and even that was such fun for them.
I was very proud of them with the exception of Caleb embarrassing me half to death at dinner with his proclamation of, “My momma’s gona’ buy me a ‘tep-daddy” … had gone very smoothly. There was a connection between Mike and the boys that could not have been fabricated; it was amazing to watch, and I remember thinking how good he was with them.
I felt like the boys were starving for a “daddy” to be honest, and this was a gift to them. I watched this play out that evening, and I was drawn to Mike even more than I had imagined. It really scared me because for the first time, I KNEW I loved him and that made NO sense to me. “How could I possibly love him?” I thought to myself, and then refused to think about it again; but within a few minutes those thoughts would come back in my mind, and I seemed to be powerless over them. I felt vulnerable, scared, full of doubts, almost panicked. I felt the walls I had built up so strong for protection against any heartbreak, being chipped at…..little by little….”But what if he doesn’t love me? I mean really love me…;” but then I’d catch his eye, and we would exchange smiles and my insecurities would vanish (at least for awhile).
We tucked the two very tired little boys into bed and then went back into the living room area and sat on the couch together. I think we had planned on watching TV together for awhile but somehow instead we sat there talking for hours.
Almost from the first few minutes of quiet, our time seemed different than any other times we had spent together talking. We talked about a lot of things that night; in fact, we talked until almost 2:00am. Eventually our conversation came back around to Caleb’s comments at dinner, and we laughed. Somehow it didn’t seem as big a deal as it had earlier to me in the restaurant. All he had wanted was to be heard; and when Mike patted him on the head and smiled, it was all Caleb needed. In fact I guess it was all Mike needed as well. For it was that very night, after hours of talking, that he would look me in the eye and tell me for the very first time that he loved me. I found myself telling him that I felt the same, even though all the while my brain was screaming, “No, it’s too soon, what are you doing?” After all we had only known each other a total of 36 days. Yes that’s not a typo: 36 days… and the boys he’d only known for a few hours…”This is crazy,” I thought. “I’m setting myself up to be hurt; I can’t do this.” He held me close and told me he had never felt this way before, and promised he would never hurt me. By this time I had shared enough on different occasions that he knew the insecurities I held; he knew about my wall of protection that I had spent time building up. I’m sure he knew my heart (though for the most part healed) still showed signs of trauma. The scars were still there, even though not as visible as at one time, still there as a reminder of rejection and heartbreak. It felt like Mike could see all of that, but could also see past all of that, and what my heart could look like if it was given to him.
What I didn’t know till later was that during the same time frame when I was being served with divorce papers, almost a year earlier, Mike had decided he wanted to find someone that he could love and eventually marry. He had been so busy with his business he never dated any one girl more than a time or two.
So during that time he asked God to give him a wife and a couple of kids :)…..which I just happened to have:)
He realized soon after meeting me, that I was the answer to his prayer.
How special this night was as we talked. I felt like every prayer I had ever prayed was being answered in those gentle, quiet moments with him.
So you see when Caleb told Mike earlier in the evening, that I was going to buy him a ‘tep daddy, I could not have imagined before the night was over, Mike would tell me he loved me for the first time; but that’s not all…..he would also ask me to be his wife…or as I always like to put it, “He asked US to marry him.” After all, we were a package deal, and it was just the family package Mike had prayed for, as well as the “‘tep-daddy” Caleb had prayed for in his little song.

Philippians 1:6
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.



Chapter 13: Can I Trust You With My Heart?

I’ve never felt so safe, yet so afraid. He just kept telling me, “I’m not like that; you can trust me.” I wanted to… more than anything I wanted to put all caution aside and dive in; but when you’ve been through divorce, you’re never quite the same…..not for a long time anyway and possibly never. There are just a lot of gray areas, unknowns. It’s difficult to give your heart away again; but that’s the BEAUTY of love, taking the risk, opening that door, and eventually holding out your heart to someone you’re willing to entrust with it, and in return accepting the responsibility of loving them as they deserve and desire to be loved.
For those of you who don’t know Mike and me well, (or at all)….I must tell you that we are both very cautious decision makers. Everything about this proposal from Mike was completely out of his character but that’s how much he knew I was the one he wanted to love forever.
There were so many thoughts and feelings that night and not enough hours to talk everything through. Eventually we had to get some sleep, so he headed back to his room.
I didn’t say yes or no to his proposal, just kept bringing up the “what ifs”…… so many things to weigh out. I was in nursing school which I still had several months left to complete; then there was uprooting the boys, the moving. I was overwhelmed, but Mike was patient and completely understood why I couldn’t say yes at that moment.
I am not sure either of us got a wink of sleep, but it’s funny how during times of great excitement your body just doesn’t require much (it also helps to be 26 years old).
The boys and I met Mike fairly early for breakfast so we could plan out our day, and a fun day it was. Chuckie Cheese, was one item on the agenda. It was a beautiful warm Saturday in October; that made the park a perfect place to spend the afternoon. While the boys ran and played, Mike and I had a few more moments to talk; but this was not really the place to continue our marriage conversation. Even in these quiet moments, our hearts were speaking a thousand words to each other. I didn’t want our time to end, because everything felt so perfect when he was near me.

The boys were absolutely crazy about him and he them! As I watched them play in the park together I couldn’t help but wonder if Mike was really ready for such a major change in his life….I mean from bachelorhood to a family of 4, and it would be so instant. I decided to put all those thoughts and fears aside and just enjoy our last few hours together before we parted ways once again.
The boys slept all the way home, exhausted from all the fun and thrills, and I knew I had a lot of thinking to do. Could it be this easy? Should it be this easy? I was not ready to tear down the wall that had been protecting me. I had spent months building it up with all levels of defense and I couldn’t risk living without its security, not yet. I was not about to quit school. I had determined long before to never be dependent on anyone again, with the exception of God, but certainly not a man. I would not put myself in that position, I had promised myself that over and over during the previous year.
Mike returned to Tulsa and had a long talk with one of his brothers. Whatever was said just seemed to firm up his decision.
The week was filled with flowers and phone calls that lasted for hours. I think I made it to Tuesday evening before telling him, “I’m scared but everything in me is screaming: Yes marry him, trust him.” I decided I was willing to take the risk. I had the strangest peace in my heart that came over me between Saturday and Tuesday, peace that could have only come from one source, and that was God.
Just as I had instantly fallen out of love with my ex husband many months before, I had just as instantly fallen in love with Mike. I explained to him that I had to continue living in Mena until I finished my nursing school. He was very understanding and said if that’s what you need to feel secure then we will just be together on weekends till it ends. I assured him that’s the only way I could feel OK about it. I had to have that security; it was a major part of my wall of protection. He constantly reassured me that he would show me through time and love that I could eventually trust him and that we would take those steps together. He always seemed to know when I needed reassurance and he would say,”I’m not going anywhere.” He told me he had never been in love with anyone. I can’t even put words to the way he loved me with the words he spoke to me, the way he respected me, admired me. Mike had my heart in a way no one had ever had it before. It was as though I was falling in love for the first time. I knew everything would be OK; I can’t explain how I knew that…..I just did.

1 Corinthians 13

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.


Chapter 14: Will You Marry Me?

Our phone conversation on Tuesday evening lasted for hours; probably about half that time was actual talking, the other half just sitting in silence while I studied for school with neither of us wanting to hang up. 🙂
It was decided that night that I would come to Tulsa the following Friday October 26,1990. He told me the first thing he wanted to do was buy me an engagement ring. I could hardly wait!! We talked about possible wedding dates. With me in school and not wanting to quit and move until finished, we threw around the idea of a spring or summer wedding. I would be finished with nursing school in August so that seemed to be a great plan. I had already had the “big wedding” thing so I was way over that; however, I wanted Mike to have a wedding of his choice since it was his first marriage. Mike is extremely quiet and a bit of an introvert, so the last thing he wanted was a big wedding. We casually talked about possibilities of maybe just family, or family and a few friends. He had told his family about me, but I had only met his brother Jim and his wife Gail (my sister’s friend who set us up 🙂 and their little girl Jamie. I’m sure everyone was shocked that Mike was telling them we had decided to eventually marry; like I said in an earlier blog, this was not in his personality to be impulsive.
Between October 19/20 (the weekend of his proposal) until we would see each other again on October 26, it seemed like a life time. Seriously, that week felt like a month because of all the changes and planning. I had decided not to say much or really anything about marriage to the boys (or anyone else) until I had a ring to show them. With every day that passed, I grew more and more sure of my decision. I still had moments of fear (especially when I wasn’t with him), but just a phone call and hearing his voice was calming and reassuring. I could hardly focus on anything there in Mena. It was all I could do to keep up my grades in nursing school, but I did somehow. A few times before the proposal, but several times afterwards, Mike would ask to help me financially in some way, just to remove some pressure from me. I was so funny/weird about it, I just would not accept anything. With the exception of our weekend in Ft Smith, I always insisted I pay for my own gas to go to Tulsa! Even calling him collect (long distance was extremely expensive back then) was just something I couldn’t bring myself to do. When I was the one calling he would insist I hang up and let him call me back. I’m still not sure what I thought I was proving, but I’m sure it involved my wall of defense and self preservation. He was always so kind and offering to help in any way even though I felt I could not accept.
The boys talked about nothing to anyone but their fun filled weekend in Ft Smith. They always wanted to talk to him on the phone when he called, and he took time to talk with them both as long as they wanted. What a fun, light-hearted time in life it was for us all; worries seemed like a thing of the past. Heartbreak was all but forgotten, and I had not cried in months. In fact, I would go several years without crying at all which was so strange, because I wasn’t hard-hearted. I honestly think I had just ran out of tears, and nothing about my life was telling my body to replenish the supply 🙂
Friday could not arrive soon enough! After saying my sad goodbyes to the boys for their weekend visitation, I headed out as quickly as I could for Tulsa. Everything about this trip felt so different. I can still remember the feeling so vividly….the mix between butterflies and tranquility that comes with knowing you’re loved and that someone is just as excited to be with you as you are with him. He was crazy about me; and he always made sure to remind me of that, always made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. He just thought I was flawless. I kept saying, “I’m afraid you’re going to be let down at some point when you realize I’m not as perfect as you think,” but he would always remind me that every day those feelings were stronger and he had no doubts of the kind of woman I was. No one has ever made me feel the way he did…..ever 🙂
When I pulled into the neighborhood I was immediately picked up and we were off to dinner. We were so comfortable with each other by this time; I loved everything about him, including his quietness. For some reason it was so refreshing to me. I had never met someone so quiet. He was very confident (not at all shy), but his silence spoke volumes to me. He listened like no one I had ever met; and even though he wasn’t a talker, he never seemed to tire of listening to me. 🙂 I knew I loved him but I also was so aware of how much I respected him…so honest, so giving, so selfless. For me, he was everything; and I wanted to be with him forever, yet it still made no sense.
We decided to wait until the next day (Saturday) to ring shop. I had been looking at every married woman’s ring I came across, trying to decide what type and style I wanted.
He picked me up from my sisters house early that Saturday morning and we went to my nephew’s soccer game first. By then it was around 11:00 am, and we were officially ring shopping. We ended up at Moody’s (by Woodland Hills Mall) where Mike insisted I not look at the price but just pick out the ones I liked the most. Oh my, this was so hard for me. All my life I have always managed to like the most pricey things, so I was paranoid that I would pick something over the top. Obviously I knew the bigger the diamond the higher the price, but I also knew in upscale jewelry stores even the smallest diamonds were not cheap. Eventually I narrowed it down to liking the round stones which were very popular back then. Mike could tell I wasn’t comfortable picking out the size of the diamond so he did that for me and it was the most beautiful solitaire diamond ring I had ever seen. It was more than I had ever dreamed of wearing, and I was speechless for a moment. The size was perfect as well, so while they did a last minute cleaning and polishing on it we went ahead and picked out the bands that we liked. I picked out the wide gold band that went so well with the solitaire back then; and for Mike, we picked out a gold band that had sort of a basket weave look to it. Wow, my heart was full! This was really happening. I was going to be able to tell everyone I was engaged (I had waited to announce that until I had a ring). I snapped back into reality as I heard the lady who had helped us say “Well, Mr Feeley, here you go; here’s the beautiful ring. He took it from her, we were both all smiles and she was genuinely excited for us you could tell. Mike took the ring box, opened it, sort of grinned and said, “I guess I’m supposed to put this on you,” in a tone somewhere between a statement and a question. I just smiled as I felt myself blush a little and put my hand out toward him. He took my hand, slipped the ring on my finger and we didn’t say a word. It felt like a moment too big for any words. In that few minutes time stood still, and I cherished each and ever second.
Then there was a quick kiss, accompanied by lots of stares from people in the store, which helped make it quick. If there’s ever been a perfect moment in time, it was then. I had no idea how the end of this day would turn out; I could have never imagined! By now it was late afternoon; and we were headed to his nephew’s football game, where I would be meeting his oldest brother. It was a night of showing off the ring numerous times; but by the end of his nephew’s football game, everything had changed.

Psalm 126:5
Those who sow tears shall reap joy.


Chapter 15: Forty Four Days

Who knew a middle school football game could hold so much excitement? But it certainly did on that Saturday night in late October. Mike and I had known each other for a total of 43 days and yet here we were, engaged, a sparkling diamond on my left hand to prove it to me every time I thought I might be dreaming. It’s certainly not something I go around advising people to try; but I’m also non judgmental when I hear of how serious someone is becoming, relative to time. Obviously it’s not something you would see often; but for us, it was just perfect. Two hearts brought together by God. The more about Mike I learned, the more I loved and respected him. He was very funny, with a dry sense of humor, 6’3″ (yes very important), he was on a men’s volleyball league and was very in shape and athletic. I’ve never met a more intelligent man, even to this day. He was raised Catholic and in Catholic schools, but became a Christian at a concert in Anaheim, California when he was 17. He had moved to Tulsa about 6 years before we met to start a business with his brother because it seemed to be the perfect city for it. He was six months younger than me; we were both 26 at the time. I’ll never forget the crisp feeling in the air that night, maybe partly from the excitement of the day; but it was magical, for lack of a better word.
We were at his nephew’s game, so naturally I was introduced to a few more family members for the first time such as his older brother Ron (it was one of his son’s game.)
Jim (brother and business partner) Gail (the one responsible for the match making) and Jamie (their little girl ) were also there, but of course I had already been able to get know them a bit in the few weeks before.
Mike’s sister and parents were yet to be met. Mike’s parents lived out of state, and his sister and her family lived on a ranch not far from Tulsa.
It was a light-hearted conversation during the game that became slightly more intense as the game ended and we all made our way to the parking lot where we would stand and continue the talk for another half hour or so….mostly going back and forth with when we should get married, where, etc. etc.
I had told him to decide the “where” and “when” since this was his first marriage. Mike said something to the effect of, “I’m already tired of trying to figure this out.” 🙂
I didn’t really want a big wedding at all, and Mike was no fan of that either. Ron, Jim, and Gail were helping us think through some dates that might work when one of his brothers (Jim I think) said, “What are you waiting for?” They were all suggesting that if we didn’t want a wedding then don’t stress over it. One thing led to another, with Jim saying something like, “Just hurry up and do it so you can get some work done at the office!” haha
Following there was some joking around that we should just run off. They all agreed that everyone would understand and not be surprised…..more comments, more discussion, and basically they helped talk us into something so bazaar, so off the wall; but the more we talked, the more positive we were that that’s what we wanted to do. After a little bit of nervous laughter and last minute advice we all went our separate ways. Mike and I headed back to his house to finish discussing all we had just talked about. At one point we looked at each other and it was like, “Let’s just go for it!” The next few hours are almost a blur.
He dropped me off at my sister’s and went on to his house to make calls on airlines. If my memory is correct, I believe Gail made some calls for us too, trying to find flights. I asked Mike to drop me off at Pam’s so I could tell her our plans and then call my parents and tell them. They had not met Mike but knew we were fairly serious. My sister was probably the hardest one to tell; she was understandably extremely hesitant to be OK with it all. She felt a ton of responsibility because she saw herself as the main reason I had met him. She felt a huge burden of, “What if this doesn’t work?” I knew where she was coming from. She didn’t want me to be hurt, and she sure didn’t want to be left feeling responsible if I was. We both cried a bit. Just like at times before my heart was saying, “Yes,” and my brain was saying,”YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND!” but my heart kept winning. I hadn’t expected the relief in my parents’ voices, but I didn’t want to go get married and not let them know. I didn’t tell the boys, feeling that I really couldn’t without putting them in an awkward and unfair position since they were on their visitation weekend. Besides, this news was not something I wanted to share over the phone with them.
Lots of feelings were floating around in my heart and head; it was truly like being in a dream. Of course I could only follow my heart, and I had no guaranties I was making the right decision; but I did have that peace that would sweep back over me and calm my thoughts and fears down. Love is always a risk you take, no matter how long you have known or think you know the other person; but the fact that I was taking this risk after being so devastated and disappointed in love was a miracle in itself. There were many times I thought I would never love and trust again. Of course I still would battle trust and vulnerability issues, but the fact that I was willing to take the chance at all was amazing. At that point in my life I would say definitely my heart was healed, but even after you heal from anything there remain scars for sometime. In some ways I was stronger than I had ever been, but I was still pretty fragile.
We would not be able to fly out of Tulsa until 7:00am the next morning, October 28, 1990.
Then, there we were at the airport, with excitement that can’t be described; and soon we were boarded on the plane and headed for Las Vegas, Nevada. I had flown before but not often and not in a very long time, so even that was exciting. We had lots of talking to do as you might imagine, going through all the details about figuring out where to go once in Vegas. He had visited there a few times with his family and even on business, but this was not the typical trip by any means. We really weren’t sure how everything would unfold.
After a layover in Salt Lake City , we arrived in Vegas where it was still morning because of the time change, probably around 10:30-11:00am.
I never saw any nerves at all from Mike until we were about to land and it hit him, no second thoughts just a big reality jolt. It didn’t help when he suddenly remembered his drivers license had just expired and he had not had time to renew in all the busyness of our last couple of weeks. Because he had forgotten, we couldn’t rent a car. I certainly didn’t want to drive in Vegas! This was not the only issue as we suddenly realized we might not be able to be married with an expired identification . Wow, what are we going to do?
We decided to get a taxi first. When we were in the cab, Mike told the cab driver that we were here to get married and asked for any suggestions or help he might give us with the process? I’m guessing he had been asked that before, because he gave us a chuckle and said, “Well I better take you to the courthouse first and let you get your marriage license.”
Here it was Sunday morning and the courthouse was open; welcome to Vegas!
He pulled up in front of it and said he would wait. “Wait, you don’t think it’s going to take very long?” we asked. He replied, “I doubt it on a Sunday.”
As we walked up those steps, we were both pretty nervous, just not knowing what would happen with Mike’s drivers license. Would there be a waiting time before we could get married? Blood test? We had NO idea.
We walked in and there was a sign that said Marriage License and a couple people lined up, but after what felt like 2 minutes tops, we were there at the counter where it was our turn. We were given a paper to fill out which was general info type thing… only 3-4 minutes and we were back at the counter with it. The lady took it and said, “Thank you very much and good luck.” We just looked at her like, “That’s all?”
All that concern about his license not being current and we didn’t even have to show ANY ID
We had a good laugh over that for awhile.
From the time we stepped out of our cab to the time we got back in, couldn’t have been more than 8-10 min (closer to 8 I’d say).
So back in the cab we go to procure some more free info from our cab driver who was our friend at this point 🙂
He suggested a couple of nice chapels and told us the ones that were famous for who married there.
He dropped us off in the area where we went ahead and booked a room in the “Frontier,” which is no longer there. We carried our luggage in and sat down to make a plan. I didn’t want to get married in the middle of the day (didn’t seem as romantic I guess). Besides, I wanted to look my best; and we had been traveling for hours. We decided we would get married that night after dinner (not sure who thought eating first was smart ha).
I had nothing to fix my hair with, because when I went to Tulsa to see him I always stayed at my sisters and borrowed her blow dryer, curling iron etc.
So that became our afternoon activity, to shop for me some hair equipment 🙂
The only place we could find was a mall, and so he bought me a blow dryer and curling iron in Dillard’s. They don’t have the best hair tools; but it beat none, except for being pricey! Again, I had trouble letting him buy it for me (ridiculous, I know).
Then he told me he wanted to buy me something special (like a wedding gift) and so we ended up at the perfume counter where he bought me my first bottle of expensive perfume, a bottle of “Red” by Giorgio Beverly Hills (yes I still remember).
We walked a lot just looking at Vegas, the strip, it was all very new and exciting for me.
Finally it was late enough to start getting ready for the evening.
We both wore fairly casual clothes. I mean I didn’t know I was going to get married, or I would have packed differently! I had on some casual pants and cute top, while Mike wore corduroys and a casual polo shirt. With a spritz of my new perfume, we were off to dinner.
As you might imagine we didn’t eat much, just talked more. I felt some big time fear slipping up on me; but Mike just reassured me over dinner once again that he would love me for ever and ever, and I would never be sorry I gave my heart to him. I believed him!!
Around 7:00 that night, not long after the sun had gone down, we took a taxi with marriage license in hand to the closest little wedding chapel “Candlelight Wedding Chapel.”
It was lit up so beautifully. We stepped inside to find a very tastefully decorated sanctuary of sorts, decorated with gorgeous flowers, complete with pews and everything a small church would have. We were met by the minister who after finding out that we did indeed wish to be married, had us sit with her for a few minutes. Interestingly she talked with us about what an important covenant marriage was with God and how it should be taken very seriously . She talked about the beauty of a loving marriage and that we should be sure we were ready for a lifelong commitment. She called in another person that worked there (a younger woman) that was to stand with us as witness/photographer. Then we all went to the front and began the ceremony.
It was not what you might expect from Vegas; it felt very reverent and intimate. There we were, just Mike and me along with two people we had just met; but the most important One there was the One who ultimately had brought us together, our Heavenly Father. Those moments were frozen in time for me, looking at this man who had swept me off my feet, knowing he loved me and I loved him…nothing has ever felt so right, so “meant to be,” as we stood there and committed our lives to each other for ever, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…I knew this was something very special. It was more than his kind eyes and handsome face. We were connected much deeper than that; we were two souls drawn together to love each other, to build a family. Just like a beautiful painting, our lives were planned out and put together color by color, moment by moment, and the painting would have details added to it as the years went by until someday it would be a master piece of God’s plans. The painting of our lives had just started, but it was already so beautiful. I knew it was a day I would never forget. Just Forty Four days after we met, I was Mike’s wife.


Chapter 16: One plus Three, Equals a Family!

It was an unforgettable 24 hours and we were back on the plane headed for Tulsa. The boys were in Arkansas with my cousin and her family, and of course I had school to get back to there as well.
Funny picture in my mind is……for some reason we decided to buy souvenir T-shirts and wear them home on the plane. Don’t ask me why; I have NO idea, ha! I just know Mike and I have never since worn matching shirts in any form for any reason, but it seemed the thing to do at the time. So there we were, on the plane, exhausted from the exciting whirlwind of our weekend. Our T -shirts said, “We were married at the Candle Light Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas”…..haha, must have been a pretty funny sight. We both fell asleep and Mike said he woke up and saw someone laughing at us. Oh my. So funny, looking back.
The closer we got to Tulsa, the more somber our moods became as the reality hit us that we would be going our separate ways upon our return. Mike was a good sport and so understanding of my need to stay in Arkansas and finish school. He just made sure I knew I didn’t have to; but knowing my insecurity, he didn’t push anything. We would just be together on the weekends, we thought. While on the plane ride, he pulled out his checkbook and insisted I take money for the week. I was his wife now, but it was still difficult and felt less than normal. He wasn’t taking no for an answer and I had no good reason for saying no. I watched as he filled out my new name on the check, and I couldn’t help but smile.
It was late afternoon before we arrived back at his (now our) house, and I needed to head to Arkansas right away before it got any later. We drove up to find my car all decorated (by Pam and my new sis n law, Gail) the two that had fixed us up. We hurried and said our goodbyes. It was much harder this time, very different; and I felt that knot in my throat as I fought back tears.
A few hours later I arrived safely and called to let him know. He told me he had gone into the house to find the entire place was decorated with rice, balloons and streamers with no one there but him to see it 😦 ….I could tell he was wishing things could be different. On the other hand I was rather shocked that it bothered me. I had felt very independent and was not thinking I would struggle with the “apart” thing; but I found myself torn.
I didn’t have time to think about it much after I arrived home. I had two very excited little boys that I needed to talk to and let them in on the updated news. We got right back Into the swing of things in our routine, but it just felt a bit hollow. I proudly drove my car around town with the “just married” and “Mrs.” written on the windows. My friends in nursing school were beyond shocked and anxious to hear details. They all thought I was quitting school but I told them that was not my plan.
By Wednesday evening, I was miserable and realizing this was much, much harder than I had imagined. It felt almost like I was pretending I got married. I had a rush of mixed emotions. I had worked so hard to be in nursing school, but yet my heart was in Tulsa Oklahoma.
It was the hardest, yet the easiest decision ever. I called Mike that Thursday evening and said, “I can’t do this; I want us to be a family. I’ll just take classes in Tulsa, but we need to be together.” He was thrilled and surprised. That Friday evening he arrived in a big U-haul truck and spent the weekend with me in my little government house. 🙂
We packed up everything I wanted and gave the rest away to neighbors and friends and Sunday afternoon the four of us were headed back to Tulsa. I had a peace in my heart that I was doing the right thing. The proof of that was the fact we were immediately a family, and it felt like it had always been that way. I can honestly say there was no adjustment period for any of us. Charley asked if they could call Mike, “Daddy”; and he of course wanted that very much; so from that day on, he had a new name.
The next morning found me enrolling the boys in a private Christian school (with Gail’s help) where everything came together like clockwork. I waited until January to enroll in a couple of college classes. In the mean time, I had a beautiful home to make my own, a new kitchen to cook in, a new life. I depended on Gail (who lived next door ) to help me get in the swing of things, such as, “What does he like to eat?” She had fixed most of his non-pizza delivery meals; and since he was next door to Jim and Gail and they were in business together, it worked out quite nicely. Everything was different now, but it seemed so comfortable. The boys adored their new cousin, Jamie; and she became like a sister to them. She was 5 at the time.
I never looked back, as far as doubting my decision to marry and move. We had those who said it wouldn’t last (or so I was told). We just smiled and thought, “You’ll see.” To the hand full that claimed I married for money, well we just laughed at those few; and after over 23 years together we are getting the last laugh I do believe 🙂 🙂
God had matched us up, way before we even met…..our best days were in front of us. I treasured being loved differently; I still do!

Psalms 91

14-16 “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”


Chapter 17: Things Don’t Always Turn Out The Way You Had Planned

Not long after the wedding I was able to meet Mike’s sister, Sheri, and her family as well as his parents, Bob and Alice. His entire family completely welcomed Charley, Caleb, and me with open arms as part of the family. They accepted and loved us and made us feel like we had always been in the picture. I still feel so blessed with that fact! The first year was filled with lots of “first’s,” including a honeymoon trip to Cancun in June of ’91and then a family vacation to Disney World in September. We also bought a new house that July. Mike taught the boys how to swim right away (in our very fun indoor pool), and they both started playing soccer.

They loved their school, Grace Fellowship, and continued to attend there for several years. Our church home became Victory Christian Center, where we still attend.

Around 5:50 a.m., July 26, 1992, we welcomed a beautiful little baby girl into our family. Our 7lb. 14oz. Stephani Lynn arrived very quickly for me after only 7 hours of labor. Mike practically had to deliver her, because she came before the nurses or doctor could get things ready. I finally enjoyed my first epidural and loved it of course! 🙂
Stephani was such a little princess; I couldn’t believe I finally had a girl, and she had two very proud big brothers. I was wondering one day (as moms will do) if in their minds they might think Mike loved her differently?! One of the boys had been told by another child that Stephani was only their half sister, and man did that ever cause an argument. Ha! So I decided to have an impromptu talk with them one day about the whole dynamics, and most likely made it a little more complicated than I should have. I had never for a moment sensed a difference in Mike around the boys; he truly loved them as his own, but I went ahead and took the opportunity to ask them. I finally got to the point and said, “Sometimes in these situations where there is a new baby, children might feel like their step parent loves the baby more.” They looked at me with big brown eyes full of mostly interest but also dipped in little confusion. Before I made my closing statement about how that wasn’t true and all…..I asked, “Do you boys ever feel like Dad loves baby Stephani more?” I assured them that they could tell me honestly.
They looked almost startled and Charley (who was now 8) looked up at me and in the most matter of fact voice said, “Oh…..I think he loves US the most,” to which Caleb nodded in agreement. I can assure you that was the truth in their little hearts, and that describes the type of dad Mike was (and is) to this day.

January 9,1995, we welcomed our second daughter, 8 lb. 2 oz. Jessica Lynn, (both girls share the same middle name with me) into our family. Jessica was the first of my labors that I felt no pain at all from start to finish, and I loved it!! Now we had two princesses, each one playing such an important role in our lives. We had become a family of 6, two boys, two girls….everyone had a buddy 🙂

Our children have always been close, and we cherish each one of them!
Life’s road has taken many turns, as it’s known to do; but I have been abundantly blessed, and I’m forever grateful.

This year Mike and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary. It seems so hard to believe that he was ever not a part of my life.
The past year we became “empty nesters,” and we love this part of our lives just like we have loved every season through the years. This is quite different for us, however, because we were never “just us two;” but how we treasure our alone time together…..making plans, being grandparents, we just never get enough of each other.
My heart still skips a beat when I hear the garage door raise and know he’s home from work. He still tells me I’m perfect (which I know I’m not :), but it always makes me smile. He loved me right through those first few years when my insecurities and fears would creep up, always being faithful and true to me, never giving me any reason to doubt him or lose trust. He’s never made me cry (except in a good way:), never spoken a harsh word or shown any anger towards me. We cherish each other, and not one day goes by that I don’t stop at least once (often more) and thank God for my husband and this Plan B that I’m living. Sometimes things don’t turn out like you planned……sometimes they turn out BETTER!

Only a couple more chapters left……

Jeremiah 29:11
I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.


Chapter:18 A summer To Remember 2005

Lots of memories in the last 23+years….graduation, weddings….
One of the best memories was Father’s Day of 2005 when Charley and Caleb gave Mike the greatest gift he could have ever received, adoption papers. They were 21 and 18 at the time and could make this decision on their own. Even though Mike had dreamed of that opportunity, he would have never asked them or put pressure on them. It was not possible when they were young, so he had not let himself even think about it, really; and I’m not sure he even put the thoughts together that it was something they could choose to do after turning 18. They had always called him Dad; and believe me, he was and is an amazing dad to all of our children.
It was always sort of sad when the guys got any recognition for their athletics in the paper or awards in school that with their last name being different, it almost felt like Mike didn’t get any credit (which he did not care about at all); but still it was just a bit of a downer. Teachers and friends all knew the last name was different, but sometimes even they hadn’t stopped to figure out exactly what that meant. I’ve been asked more than once if I was Charley and Caleb’s step mom 🙂
Now that’s the kind of dad he is!
We learned to laugh all of that off, like the few times people (mostly kids) referred to Mike and me as Mr and Mrs (last name of the boys)…all good memories though.
So that weekend with the adoption papers, as you might picture, was quite the surprise for him, to say the least. Charley and Ruth were dating; so she was in on it along with Caleb, Charley,our family attorney and me. It took a month or so to get everything legally in place, and it was SUCH a hard secret to keep. I think I’m the one that came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt as a way of presenting to him, so we worked to put clues and such together. They were funny clues such as “This gift is black and white,” (documents) and another clue “We had to go so many miles to purchase,” (meaning miles to the attorneys office)…..about 10 clues in all ….. Then the final clue was, “This is something you’ve always wanted and only we (Caleb and Charley) could give it to you!”
The next stop was an envelope with adoption papers, which still needed to be legalized and brought before a judge in a court room appearance.
The Saturday night before Father’s Day found us all standing there with our hearts beating out of our chests, waiting for him to open the envelope which contained the documents after receiving the final clue.
Just so you can get the accurate picture, we had not let Stephani and Jessica in on the secret, because we thought it was too risky they might say something. They were only 9 and 11. They didn’t have a clue as they stood there so excited as well. The next few moments were so emotional, and surreal. At first Mike was a little shocked as he began to read the pages of documents, which were a bit hard to follow with all the legal jargon. He was not really sure what he was reading (it was so quiet as we are all waiting), and then it started making sense to him as he was reading the papers. Being a man of few words as he is, Mike looked at Charley and Caleb, one of a handful of times in our marriage that there were tears in his eyes…..and sort of asked/declared, “Adoption?!” I think he wanted to verify before he got too excited. Little 9 year old Jessica was busy trying to look over his shoulder as he read. Of course she was clueless, bouncing up and down with the excitement of “dad’s getting a surprise.” Just when the moment was getting very emotional and intense, and Mike had just asked the question, “Adoption?” Jess started clapping and getting beside herself because she thought it meant we were adopting a baby. Hahahahaha such a funny moment tucked inside such an unforgettable memory.

A short 6 weeks later our family went on a cruise and Ruth went with us for the first time and her first cruise. There was so much excitement, and the girls were beyond thrilled to share a room with her. She had no idea how exciting this cruise would be. On the second night before dinner and while having pictures taken (a normal routine cruise activity), Charley proposed to Ruth after dating since they were 16, such a happy moment. She was completely surprised and we were all on Cloud Nine. We had loved her since we first met her, so this was a dream for all of us that was coming true. Our excitement would be cut short, however; because two days later on the same cruise, our family was involved in a jet ski/wave runner accident that came close to taking the lives of Jessica and Mike. It was so traumatic; and even though Mike and Jessica (who was only 10 years old at the time) were the two visibly injured, Stephani and Caleb had a deeper injury which occurred in their emotions, hearts and minds. Caleb had a much harder time dealing with the burden he put on himself as being somehow responsible for what truly was just an accident. It is still very painful for him to talk about, and he still battles the demons that want to destroy him with guilt. He and Stephani were on a jet ski together and had lost control of it, hitting Mike and Jessica on theirs, as they flew over the top of them, hitting them in the head….. totally a freak accident; but to say it was difficult for Caleb to live with would be putting it mildly.
Charley and I went with Mike and Jessica in the ambulance while Ruth, Stephani, and Caleb followed in a taxi. The ambulance had no working siren or air conditioner, and it felt like a million degrees inside there. Jess was still mostly unconscious, so I feverishly talked to her to keep her somewhat awake as that is one thing I was told that I understood from the non English speaking paramedics and the difficult language barrier.
Mike was out of it even though he was conscious; he kept having to be reminded where he was, and his behavior was very erratic. I was not out there in the ocean when the accident happened; instead, I was taking it easy at the beach there in Playa del Carmen. I was never one to get in on these type of activities, so I sat there drinking my coke and decided to call my sister. Her phone was ringing when I heard someone screaming my name several yards away down the beach. At first I couldn’t find who the screams were coming from; but soon my eyes focused in on someone running and realized it was Ruth, screaming my name and running towards me still with her life jacket on and dripping wet from the ocean. I knew something was horribly wrong. The big invisible pause button that gets pushed when these types of things happen was pushed, and I couldn’t move.
I had just placed a call to my sister to tell her of the engagement excitement and completely lost track that I still had the phone in hand. It had gone to her voice mail which recorded everything that was said between Ruth and me. My sister would hear it and be unable to contact me to find out if everything was OK for 24 hours. The last thing she heard after hearing Ruth say to me, “There’s been an accident on the jet skis,” was me asking Ruth who was hurt and if they were alive.
Soon Charley showed up; and as we walked/ran to the ambulance, he told me he needed me to prepare for what I was going to see…..and be strong. I asked him if they were going to be OK? He replied he thought “Dad” would make it but he wasn’t sure Jess would…..words that hit me like a million pounds.
As we approached the scene where they had laid Jess on a board and were preparing to bring her to the ambulance, I first saw Steph’s face (she was just 13) and then Caleb’s, both so full of fear. They needed me to comfort them for their own emotional wounds; but I would not be able to help them because of focusing on Jessica and Mike, who were needing me the most. There was not enough of me to go around. Ruth and Charley helped fill in the gaps and were absolutely incredible.
Of course our phones weren’t working except for Mike’s Blackberry (which no one knew how to use but him, as far as looking up numbers). That’s the first time I realized how I know no one’s number anymore; it’s just a name in my phone :/
Ruth could only think of one friend’s number from memory, so she called her to call everyone else to pray. I was in no place to even try to think of phone numbers. My entire attention was on Jessica and Mike….and in that order, since Jess was more critical than Mike, and she was still coming in and out of consciousness.
Back in the ambulance earlier, Mike had a lot of blood coming from his chin which was split open. He was not himself at all after being knocked unconscious and face first into the ocean. He was in a world of his own and not the person he would normally be for me in that situation. We eventually arrived at the hospital which looked like a run down apartment with a garage, the emergency room. Suddenly, I felt fear surround me as the reality hit that this was not a modern hospital, or from the looks of it, possibly not even a hospital. We were obviously in a very poor and scary part of town, but there was no other choice; we needed help.
I’ll never forget being in that one room “emergency room” which literally was the garage, Mike on one side of the room and Jess on the other. Charley and I took turns talking non stop to Jessica to keep her from falling any deeper into sleep which was extremely difficult. She would only open her eyes briefly when we would speak. She still had not really said anything since being rescued by Caleb out of the ocean, ,just moaned and groaned.
Meanwhile, Mike was lying on a table underneath a single light bulb that was hanging from a string as a man (doctor?) pulled out what looked to be a rusty tackle box that he might have fished with before. He opened a bottle of rubbing alcohol and began to pour it over Mike’s gashed open chin. I could hear Mike wrenching in pain. I turned to look at him for a moment and caught sight of a fly buzzing around the light bulb inches from Mike’s face as the man pulled out a needle from that same “tackle box” and began stitching up the large gash.
About that time Jessica began to throw up blood which is probably the worst thing to see after a head injury, a sign that something very serious is wrong. Things seemed to be getting worse.
I felt like I didn’t have time to even pray, but yet I don’t think I ever stopped praying. Everything was happening so fast yet SO slow……I would soon hear words from the doctor that no mom ever wants to hear. Just when I thought everything might be OK, his words literally brought me to my knees.