Real Love Series: Gracie’s Story, Part 1
As I sit in a local coffee shop waiting for my dear husband and talented barista to close up for the night and take me home (where a horse of a dog and piles of laundry patiently await my attention), I must confess: I have an ulterior motive in writing my first of four entries this month.
My goal – as innocent as it may be – is to convince you that said husband is just about the best thing on earth. I do admit I might be a smidge biased on the issue, but, really: he is the best. I love having the daily opportunity to do life with this man. With almost two years of marriage under our belts, we have grown, laughed, fought (oh how we’ve fought), and loved more than I previously thought a lifetime could hold. In order to win you over, I would like to take you back to the beginning of our story.
Jacob and I met on the first day of high school. My grandfather, the most fascinating, dynamic, wonderful man I’d known in my fifteen years had passed away just two days before that Friday. He battled a specific type of skin cancer the last two years of his life, which racked my family with unspeakable sorrow. He held us all together and was the only father I had known, so after losing him I was in a state of shock and an observable mess. The afternoon he died, a moment of anger and sheer compulsion overtook me and I ‘trimmed’ my bangs [read: hacked off the front section of my brownish-black hair at every odd and uneven angle possible], so on that fateful first day of classes I wasn’t feeling the part of the new-and-unassuming-yet-effortlessly-adorable-and-ready-to-take-on-secondary-education student. I stumbled into the morning assembly having given up on my hair and shirt that was just a bit baggy in all the wrong places and found a seat next to my best friend. I half-listened to the principal welcome us all to the first day of class and remind us that we were the leaders of tomorrow, the future of America, the generation that would raise up blah, blah, blah…I was hardly listening.
The only thing I could concentrate on was the undeniable and humiliating fact that everyone around me had to, had to, know that I was broken. I was sure it radiated off me in a way that would act as a repellent of sorts, at least relieving me of exchanging niceties with people who hadn’t just lost the most important person they’d ever know. The assembly quickly dismissed and we were released for our first class of the day. With the school map in front of my face, I was able to find Spanish I with little trouble. I entered the room to find only two students had arrived before me: one who’s face and name I no longer remember, and…him.
He sat in the only corner of the room that managed a shadow on that sunny day. Rectangular glasses sat in front of piercing blue eyes. His plaid and slightly worn shirt hung open at just the right button, and his ponytail (yes, ponytail – we were 15 so cut him some slack for having one and me for adoring it) shown mix of rich chestnut and honey. As he stared mournfully out the second-story window, he looked to me like the pinnacle of the Tortured Artist. He was the most handsome boy I had ever seen. It wrecked my whole day, and the next day, and the day following. I was fifteen, deeply wounded from the loss of my granddad, and deeply smitten with the boy for whom I didn’t even have a name. (I would find out his name was Jacob after I bribed one of my friends into switching study groups with me so I could be in his. Underhanded, I know. But sometimes a girl’s gotta work it).
The first few weeks of school passed uneventfully, except for this handsome boy turning out to also be witty, a talented artist (I knew it!), unsettlingly intelligent, and in almost all of my classes. I had learned from watching my grandfather how to introduce myself and get to know almost anyone, so it wasn’t long until Jacob and I were friends. It turned out we had similar tastes in music, literature, movies, TV, sarcastic humor, etc., and he loved Jesus. The more I got to know him, the more I became enamored. He introduced me to his circle of friends with whom I fit right in. We were all a little witty, a little odd, and thoroughly adored one another. Through our three years in high school Jacob and I became the best of friends, and I spent most of that time smothering my feelings for him because ‘Jacob could never like like me.’ I was the girl to be friends with, not the girl to be in love with. Sometime around Senior Year, I finally decided to ‘move on’ and abandon the hope that, someday, he would call me his.
Interestingly, this was around the time Jacob remembers realizing his desire to marry me.
Something you need to know about my husband’s family: they all marry young. Like, really young. We married at 21, making him the sibling who waited the longest to wed anyone. So, flash back to high school and a newly legal Jacob is making plans to marry this girl who just decided she was done pining for something that was ‘never going to happen.’ The year flew past us, and all of a sudden we were certified high school graduates released into the world as adults. Jacob decided on a small bible college in town, and I set my sights on a Chemical Engineering degree from the state university.
I quickly and embarrassingly had my first official ‘fling’ that ended in all the tears, dejected love songs, and journal entries an eighteen-year-old can muster. Jacob, having made the decision to pray and wait a full year before disclosing his intentions to marry me, looked on in much disapproval and hurt as I made a fool of myself and let some other silly boy break my heart. That winter, he confessed his feelings for me and I was…confused. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that I had buried so long ago resurrecting and being something that he, Jacob, THE boy, wanted. Here he was, telling me he believed I was the woman he was to spend his life with. It took me a while (a full year, in fact: more on that later), to fully grasp the idea that I could really be the one he loved. But he DID. He loved ME. I’ll never forget the night we became a couple. I knew as I said yes to him in that moment I was beginning a pattern that would last my entire life. A year of dating and a six-month engagement later and we were united in marriage ‘till death do us part. I could not have been happier to have a house (well, a duplex, but who’s counting?), a bed, a LIFE with this man! This man, my Jacob, waited patiently and unrelentingly for me to give him my ‘yes.’ He modeled the character of Christ when he saw me making the ridiculous choices I made over those two years by being steadfast in his promise to love me, whether or not that love was ever returned. He was my Handsome High School Love. The boy all the girls wanted. The man whom I could never have dreamed to ask for.
And he still is.
Photo credit by Angela J. Martin Photography