Thirteen years ago this spring, Al Williams and I had our first date at Mataam Fez in Denver. Now, the fact that he did not realize it was intended as such until after the evening was entirely over and he was sharing coffee with the arranger, our mutual friend Cheryl, only adds to the charm of our meeting. It also underscores how underwhelmed we both were with the idea of “dating.” We each had ended two marriages, so letting new people into our lives was a calculated risk, at best.
My push came from a counselor who said my doing nothing but work and walk didn’t model healthy behavior for my daughter. Ouch. His came from friend-Cheryl, a fellow participant in his post-divorce workshop. Still not sure what she told him, but the message to me was pretty clear: “Okay, Carla. You and this guy are not alike. He’s Republican, you’re Democrat. He’s a forensic CPA, you don’t balance your checkbook. He’s also older than you are and is raising twin sons. (Pause…) But when I hear the two of you talk, you sound alike.”
Cheryl had good ears.
Al and I found that, for all our differences, we were in sync when it came to essentials. Our kids would always come first. We both liked living alone. Financial independence was a given, given our ages and respective family commitments. We both loved to laugh. And dogs were part of the picture. When I learned that his dad was a native of Keosauqua prior to homesteading in Mesa, AZ, I realized there was some Iowegian still flowing in his veins. So, over Vietnamese food, we struck a contract. For real.
Kate was less than thrilled he was part of the new equation. But in pure Al style, he remained quiet, supportive and unobtrusive. (“He’s human Prosac,” I told a friend. His classic line: “It’s not time to worry yet.”) When Kate’s car was hit by a driver who disappeared, it was he who went to the scene to help sort things out. And when she nicknamed him Owl, I knew we had a good thing going.
Like every couple with more than a decade of history, we’ve had our ups and downs, sweet times and sad. We’ve renegotiated that contract a couple of times. I was at his mom’s burial; he was at my dad’s. Our first families have embraced our non-traditional relationship. And when Kate and Dmitri were married, he escorted Kate’s step-mom down the aisle.
At the reception a couple hours later, he never blinked when I asked him for his credit card to cover my share of the festivities. Yep, forgot my purse.