I met Mike when I was 15 years old and I wanted to marry him. I look at my kids when they were/are 15 and think to myself, “WHAT? Fifteen is way to0 young to know or do anything!” And yet, that summer of 1984, at the age of 15 I decided I wanted to marry Mike German.
Mike was a mere 17 at the time, barely old enough to have a driver’s license. He lived in South Carolina; I lived in Washington state – a lifetime away from one another when you consider that in 1984 we did not have computers in our homes or email or texting or FaceTime or digital photos or any of the communication aids we’ve come to know and love. Our communication consisted of old-fashioned handwritten letters on actual paper, sealed in an envelope, and sent with a stamp to arrive about a week later on the other side of the continent. The mind can wonder about a lot of things during that time it takes to get a letter back in response. “Does he still love me? Is this still a thing” “What if he has found a new girlfriend and I don’t even know it?”
While people told me I’d forget all about this guy in far off South Carolina and that I’d probably never see him again, I held firm. I was determined. So here’s #2 in my something you didn’t know about me blog series: I was a teenage bride and would have gotten married at 15 if I’d been allowed to.
We met during a cross country trip my family took that summer, traveling from Washington to Florida, with a stopover in SC to visit my grandmother and some other family members. My grandma, a very special lady that has since left this earth, told me about this “wonderful young man” she wanted me to meet. Of course, I dismissed the young man altogether since Grandma had him all picked out for me. Who wants their grandmother to pick out their boyfriend? No one.
As it turns out, Grandma was indeed correct. This guy was pretty wonderful. And, over the course of a few weeks including time away at Myrtle Beach with his family, I fell head over heels for him. Although I wasn’t technically allowed to date just yet, being only 15, Grandma was sneaky and overrode my dad’s rule to let us go on a secret date. It was then that we decided we were going to get married in 5 years’ time. We figured Mike had 1 year of high school left, then 4 years of college. The five year plan was put into place. The summer came to an end, I left GSP airport teary-eyed and broken hearted wondering if I’d truly ever see this guy again but determined to do what I could to make that happen. Thankfully I had a box of Krispy Kreme donuts with me on that flight home to help drown my sorrows! (KKs work wonderfully for this purpose, by the way.)
It was three years before we saw one another again. Mike flew out to Oregon, where we had since moved, to stay with us and get to know my family better. It was a nerve-wracking time. I remember getting us lost on the drive back from PDX to our home in Hillsboro, OR. I think I may have been distracted somewhat.
Suffice it to say, our interest in one another was rekindled and the once 5-year plan was now reduced to a 4 year plan. Forget about waiting for college, we could do this!
Not long after that trip, on one of my subsequent trips to SC, Mike proposed (back at Myrtle Beach where it all began) and a wedding date was set for June 1988. I had a busy year following our engagement, which included the usual wedding planning along with a 3 1/2 month backpacking excursion around Europe with a friend (a guy friend…but I’ll save that for another post).
Nearly 4 years to the day after we initially met, we were married in Hillsboro, OR. I was 19, Mike was barely 21. The guy I wanted to marry that summer when I was 15 was now my husband for real. And hence began our life together in South Carolina and the 5 kids, two kids-in-law (so far) and a very soon-to-be-born grandson (literally awaiting his arrival as I type this). We are truly blessed.
Two years ago, Mike quit his long-time job of 27 years to come work with me in the cat empire. Without his tremendous support over these many years, none of this would be possible. I am thankful.
One skill we honed quite well over that 4-year long distance courtship was the ability to communicate effectively via written word. Besides the occasional, extremely expensive long-distance phone calls that we indulged in (remember the phones that were actually connected to a wall? Privacy was a rare commodity.) our relationship was really built through the many letters we wrote during those years. We have both saved our letters from back then. Despite the challenge of being apart and always wondering, I am thankful for our story. I taught me a lot about patience and commitment and communication and that just about anything is possible.