11 Summers ago back home after my second year at JMU, I sat in the cubicle of my summer job and my clam shell phone vibrated flashing a number I did not recognize. I clicked it to silent and stared at that 703-447…. did I know that number? Nope…. and needing to concentrate I slide the phone in my purse and focused back on the computer. There it was again – buzzzzz buzzzz- that same number calling, but this time I figured it must be something of importance and I answered. “Hello?…. Uhhh, hello?” On the other end I hear a crack of the voice followed by a quick clearing of the throat, “Jackie – it is Danny …. Bessette.” After startling his plan to leave a message, he gathered his thoughts and asked me to lunch.
Danny and I had gone to high school together and I knew him, but not that well. One of my best high school gals, Atheni, was good friends with him – her prom date – and kept me abreast of how he was doing. When she heard he was in the hospital I would get an update and often tried to be one of the folks who would catch him on AIM with hopes of distracting him or maybe making his day a little brighter. We all had worked on SUPERDANCE and knew about CF, but did not really know what the hospital entailed. So we sent well wishes and tried to follow along, hoping to hear he was out and back up to no good soon. When I pictured Danny those days, I always knew him as the party guy who played hockey. Had great eyes and cute dimples… wavy hair and impressively broad shoulders for such a slender guy… but beyond that I knew his rowdy friends – Ryan and Matt much better. Compared to them Danny was quiet and later known as the guy who oddly enough also had CF.
Having a lot of friends that overlapped we kept tabs with each other and happened to hear we were both single that summer. Long term high school flames had blown out with quite a bit of force and we both were just doing the 20-something thing of friends, school, and FUN (Remember when that was the primary focus of life…. yea, me too – barely)! Needless to say, I was still sorta surprised I had heard from him and was pretty grateful that it was just lunch. I didn’t really know him that well and the last thing I needed was serious. So I plotted with some of my fav girls what to wear – def polo shirt and jeans… says fun, but not a date. And I chatted with my mom about the fear of who should pay if this was a lunch “thing”? She handed me a coupon for where we were going to grab a bite: buy one get one free, perfect!
That Wednesday, I peeked out my blinds as Dan and his famous hunter green Ford Explorer, turned onto my street. My butterflies started as I watched the cool and casual ease with which he drove such a guy car. He rang the doorbell and off we headed to lunch. It was a great meal – we chatted and laughed and I am pretty sure there wasn’t an awkward silence or pause during the whole meal. It was just so fun and easy – with this strange twinge of excited anticipation. It was a great date… if that was what it was supposed to be… but I wasn’t really sure. I mean practically everyone I knew was already aware of how obsessed I was with High School – so to date an O’Connell guy while I was in college? Hadn’t I finally started to gain fun and cool status? Better not blow it. So even though we had made tentative plans for another day – I was lucky enough to catch his voicemail a few days later and leave a vague cancellation. Phew….. But just a short week later and I was talked into that second date after all and the rest is how they say: history.
That summer of 2005 the DC area was our playground. We took midnight tours of the monuments – our favorite place being the Jefferson memorial. We spent hours playing with Walker – just a puppy- or jaunting up to Baltimore for a fun escape of food, the aquarium, and of course baseball. Keith Urban always blaring from the CD player of that Explorer – it felt like the world was our oyster. Truly – I had never felt so young, so excited, so alive…. each summer day was marked by adventure (since we saw each other almost everyday that year) and a favorite fun fact: most nights we managed to stumble on some sort of fireworks. It was summer love and I was pretty darn hooked.
Fall was finally brewing and my day to return to school looming – so Danny planned a fun last date. We headed up to Baltimore, since that had become one of our most favorite things to do, and went to the Baltimore aquarium, walked around downtown, and caught a baseball game. It was good bye…. until Danny showed up the day I moved out to give one final gift – and we had a brief “what are we talk” – that was truly our first awkward moment. Struggling for the right words or if we make promises (both being burned by long distance relationships that put a damper on being away at school)… and Dan finally said let’s just say we do this “until the fun runs out”……
The rest of that year was marked with him joining the ranks of my favorite JMU weekend crowd….
And we were in love.
11 years later and I will say it – I am completely enamored with our fairytale love story. Now before you roll your eyes let me explain. This is not a fairytale because we are perfect (not even by a long shot…. like at all), not because we are blissfully happy, and not because life has worked out like we planned it… not thanks to ANY of these things. Rather because the story has played out in such a poetic and beautiful journey, that I can so clearly see the little ways that God has revealed his presence to keep us in love with each other and in awe of his power.
Falling in love the summer of 2005 had quite a few moments that were brought about thanks to my family’s new dog – Walker pup! Little did I know the first dog that would truly be my own would be with Danny….
During that summer of 2005 I would dream about my nights following that boy on all sorts of adventures…. while racing to be at home for curfew and get enough hours of sleep to be somewhat functional at my association internship…. the one that I would eventually call my full time place of employment today.
The Jefferson Memorial holds a lot of special memories of late night conversations during those balmy DC nights…. and 11 years later we would take prom pictures there with OUR baby sister….
Fireworks has been a fun part of our story for many years following the first summer….
In 2010 – 5 summers later – we would exchange rings and share a last name….
And the fact that has my attention the most these days – a city that represented fun dates, a chance for us to escape and just be us two, a place that I had grown up loving to go to with my family was now something I shared with Danny…. may be the city where my husband will get his new lease on life…
Sure, I don’t write about all the ugly moments and although I have shared the raw and scary honest facts – the truth is it could be worse. But it is in finding the amazing power of the serendipity of life that I experience my happy place! Look at the adventures we have experienced and how they have foreshadowed the adventures we face now….
To my dearest Danny, 11 years and the fun has still not run out. These days it can be so much harder to see. Our eyes aren’t quite so bright and shining – in fact some days they are cold and filled with worry. Our dates aren’t quite the same as long hot days in the sun and a little bit more like cool basement nights with Netflix. The dreams and hopes we have had feel so far on a shelf somewhere collecting dust…. and our struggles are the elephant that follows us around – sometimes feeling like it is sucking up all the air in the room. Phone calls have drifted away from laughter and coyness to logistics and matter of fact. We aren’t 20 anymore and life looks a little different. But I know that dark moments have been erased when you grab my hand… the pride I find in saying “I am his wife” – even when it is in the corridors of an ER still sets my heart on fire, and the romance of wanting to keep smoothing the rough spots together has taught me the meaning of true love. I am not perfect (see Monday’s post on melt downs)… but I love you something fierce, my husband. And although the days can be long… my tongue sharp…. and the fears concerning – I will love you with my whole person always and know our God is here and our story is far from over.
Thank you so much for reading… God bless,