Your Dad and I have been on quite the roller coaster ride for the past 14 years. Never a dull moment, and that includes the months leading up to when we actually started dating. You’ll remember that I was regretting my decision to throw down the “let’s just be friends” rule? Well, I still did, but it was the beginning of a new school year (September of 2002) and I was busy. Your dad was busy too. He was in his last year at the Seminary in Mequon which meant a Thesis along with his other studies, and a part time job in the library on campus. It’s funny to say it, but way “back then” in 2002, our main form of communication was email. We spoke once a week on our land lines…yep, still had one of those, and occasionally splurged and called on our now antiquated cell phones (there were no touch screens, there were no cameras, and *gasp* there was no texting). Good old-fashioned communication. I sent him the occasional care package, much to the amusement of his buddies…he didn’t hear the end of it.
At first all was well, but a couple of months in to the school year a well-meaning friend of ours decided to play match maker and set me up with a guy I had gone to college with. I was not interested. Not even a little. I wanted to date your dad. Even though I had politely declined, about a week later I found myself on a date with Tom. I thought, “Why not, I’ll be clear about my intentions about this “date” and that I really WAS fine “just being friends”. I knew that would be challenging when he showed up at my door with a single rose. Oh crap. Might take a bit more convincing. Ok, I can do this. We went to a movie (can’t even remember which one) and then to dinner at an Italian restaurant. I remember not being very hungry. On the way home we stopped at one of my favorite little hole in the wall bars near my home. I can remember clearly telling him that I would be happy to get together with him as friends…with other friends. He took me home, I said good night and thanks for a fun evening.
A couple of days later he called me. He called me a lot over the next few weeks and I knew the only way for him to realize I wasn’t interested was to ignore the calls. I thought I had made my point and that all was well, after all, he stopped calling.
Then the weird started to happen. I began to realize that your Dad was communicating with me less and less. No emails, no once a week phone call. What in the world? I finally emailed him to see if he wanted to meet me at what would be your Uncle Seth and Noah’s final play-off game for the season. He said no, he was too busy. I was going to be in Wisconsin, not two hours from him and he was too busy. What in the world?!
At this point I was more then annoyed but it only got worse. My friend Karen and I decided to grab dinner and a beer and then head to an MLS basketball game. When we arrived an acquaintance of mine saw me, grabbed me by the arm and rather enthusiastically exlaimed, “RUTH, I am SO happy for you!!!!” My rather confused reply, “Um, thanks Patricia…but why?” “Well, you and Tom of course, it sounds like you two are pretty serious!!!” HUH? WAIT! WHAT? “Oh, noooo, nope, noooooo…we went on ONE date and I haven’t seen or spoken to him since!” Cue awkward silence. The rest of the evening was a blur, most likely because I spent it racking my brains trying to figure out what just happened.
Now I am curious. Does your Dad think I am dating Tom? Why does Patricia think we are seriously dating? I tried communicating with your Dad but it was hard, because of course, we were busy. I finally threw out a Hail Mary and thought, “if he doesn’t bite on this one, I am done trying. I’ll move on.” I invited him to have dinner with my family one night over Thanksgiving weekend. He actually responded back that he would like that and it was set.
Traditionally, a big group of us from MLC would get together the first night home for Thanksgiving. We always met in downtown Milwaukee. That night I drove with your Auntie Leah and our friends Ang and Becky. I had barely walked through the door of the place we were gathering when one of the gals meeting us, upon seeing me, grabbed me by the arms and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness RUTH I am SO SO happy for you and Tom, it sounds pretty serious!” WHAT IN THE WORLD?! I was absolutely fit to be tied at this point and with great exasperation and maybe louder then I should have, said, “What in the world is going on?! I went one ONE DATE over a month ago! We are NOT dating, we haven’t spoken in a few weeks?!?!?” Cue awkward silence. Again. Sigh.
That night I went over and over in my head what could have possibly happened. I just could not figure it out, none of my friends could. But I knew. I knew then that your Dad thought I was dating Tom, and that he thought we were practically engaged. I mean, why wouldn’t he? Every one else did!
The next day Erich met me in Sheboygan for dinner. We drove to the restaurant separately from my parents with the plan to go out afterwards on our own. We had a really nice dinner with my parents and siblings but I was biding my time. I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to ask him if he thought that Tom and I were dating.
We went to one of my favorite places, Sandy’s. When I was a little girl your Boppa would take Auntie Leah and me there for kiddy cocktails and carrots while we waited for your Mammy to get done waitressing at the Hoffbrau House nearby. At the time Sandy was still holding down the fort. She passed away from cancer a few years later. I loved going there, for the memories mostly, but that night it was probably for the comfort of familiarity. Knowing what I was about to talk to your Dad about, I am sure that’s why I chose Sandy’s.
Sure enough, Sandy was behind the bar. Let the grilling commence. We ordered a pitcher of Leinie’s Big Butt. I remember because we got the last of it, and it was good. I didn’t let the grass grow under my feet. He might as well have been tied up in a dark garage with a spot light on him. I could tell he knew something was coming too.
“SO, Erich…do you think I am dating Tom?”
“Well, yeah, I do.”
“Huh. Why do you think I am dating him? Because I’m not”
“Well, because Tom is telling everyone you are serious. Wait. You’re not?”
“Noooo, we went on one date. That’s it. He wanted more then that but I said no. Wait. Tom is actually telling everyone that we are serious?!?”
“Well, yeah. That’s what I heard from my Mike (whose dad is the one by the way, that tried to set Tom and I up in the first place)…and Tom also told Mike (a different Mike) that you were dating.”
“Really. Well, we’re not dating.”
Not how I envisioned this conversation going…”Oh. Ok.” That’s where it ended. Not, “Really, you aren’t dating? That’s great! I mean, well, not great, but what I mean to say is, I’ve been wanting to tell you that my feelings have changed and I was wondering if maybe yours have too?”
We went back to my parents house, after what I am guessing was decent conversation. After all, we had catching up to do. I can’t remember what we even talked about, most likely because all I could do was think about why he wasn’t telling me how he really felt. Maybe he didn’t have feelings for me after all? I was holding out hope that he would still say something once we got back to my parents house. It was not to be. We walked into the kitchen to the sound of laughter in the living room. My family was watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As soon as your Dad heard that he was gone. Like, I was literally left standing in the kitchen alone. Ditched for Ferris. LOL! Oh man, I am just now finding the irony in that!
I went to bed annoyed. I woke up annoyed. We went to church together and of course all the old ladies were frittering about “who that young man with Ruth could be”…as a matter of fact, my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Falck actually walked up to us and said, “Well hello Ruth, it’s good to see you. Now, who is this young man, is he your boyfriend?” HAH! “NO, he is most definitely NOT my boyfriend”…I may or may not have been emphatic about that. Mrs. Falck caught it…pretty sure your dad did too.
After church it was time for us to go our separate ways, me to Michigan and your dad to Mequon. As we said our good-byes, my sister was actually standing there with us. He hugged me and then he turned to Leah and hugged her too. And then he left. As he drove away I remember your Aunt being so miffed. “I can’t believe he hugged me the same way that he hugged you!!! I should go after him and give him a piece of my mind!” She didn’t, but I secretly wanted her too.
The entire drive home…almost 8 hours…was in silence. I know that might not seem strange to you now because I am always the one saying “turn down the radio” while your dad is the one turning it up…but I was always listening to music in the car. I loved it. But I was angry that nothing happened, and I stewed in it. To top it off, a conversation with a really good friend on the way home soured the trip even more. She said, “Well, if you hadn’t pushed him away when he was here, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” The thing is, while he lived near me, I really didn’t think I was interested…I didn’t know what I wanted then.
I did now.
I really don’t remember much about the first day back to school after Thanksgiving break, so it must have gone smoothly. But I do remember everything that happened afterwards. I walked down the hall to Pastor Ehler’s office and knocked on the door. He was still there and welcomed me in.
“How was your Thanksgiving Break Ruth?”
“Oh, it was really nice. I got together with a few friends, you might remember Erich from last year? ”
“Erich? Oh yes, he vicared for Pastor Thomford last year! Sure, well that was nice! So ahhh, are you guys dating?”
“No. No, we are not.”
“Hmmm…do you want to be?”
“What? Well, um, I guess maybe, yes.”
“Well, what’s the problem?”
I gave Pastor Ehler’s the 30 second commercial on the whole “everyone thought I was dating Tom” debacle.
“So then, he didn’t tell you whether he was interested or not?”
“Nope, he didn’t.”
“Why don’t you tell him how you feel?”
“ME? No, I can’t do that! I am old-fashioned. He’s supposed to come to ME!”
“Ruth, things aren’t the way they used to be.”
“Well, they should be.”
“Ruth, what is the harm in telling him how you feel? What’s the worst thing that could happen? So he might tell you he isn’t interested in that way. He seems like the type of guy who would still be your friend. But what if he says he is?”
“I see your point. But I still think HE should have come to me first.”
“Go home Ruth. Right now. Call him. You’ll feel better. Let me know what happens tomorrow, because I’ll be asking you.”
So many conversations leading to so many misunderstandings brought me here. And now this conversation, with my Pastor of all people, was leading me to have the most life changing conversation I would ever have. It amazes me how God works like that.
The whole 2.5 miles home I was gathering up courage to call him. What would I even say to him? What if he said no. What if, by breaking my own rules, I broke our friendship?
I called him. He wasn’t answering. Do I leave a message? What do I say on the message?
“Hey Erich, it’s Ruth. Call me.”
That was it. 6 words. For me that’s some kind of record.
Your dad called me back within the hour. I was so nervous.
“Hey, Erich…thanks for calling me back”
“Yeah, no problem, what’s up?”
I actually started rambling about stuff we had already talked about when we were together over Thanksgiving. I can’t even remember what exactly, but finally your dad said, “Ruth, you told me this stuff already when we saw eachother.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess we did. Well, here’s the thing. I need you to be quiet (this is funny since he had been quiet as I rambled on and on about things he already knew…on top of the fact that your dad was already a quiet guy).”
“So Erich, I have been wondering if you’ve ever been interested in me as more then a friend?”
“Oh! Ok…so like, in the past 6 months.?
“Last couple of days?”
Silence……then I start up again.
“So what do we do now? Do we start dating?”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
And the rest as they say, is history. Except that I won’t stop there. I’ve got stories to tell…our stories…your stories. HIStories.
Love you both so much…to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond…and don’t you forget it.