Thursday, June 16, 2011

We Three (And Rosie) Are Now A Family

We met on a cold February afternoon 40 months ago, at a downtown coffee shop in Longview. Julie had emailed because she liked a column I had written about unpacking boxes of books, the simple pleasure of revisiting those old friends as I set up a new house. She suggested we have coffee and see if we might get better acquainted, possibly become friends. I agreed, intrigued. It turned out to be the most fruitful column I have produced in nearly 30 years.

I walked up the alley from the newspaper office at the appointed hour, reaching Green Street as Julie crossed, wearing a maroon raincoat, curly hair blowing in the winter breeze. She recognized my face from the newspaper mug shot and said my name. I said hers.

Talking about having me at hello.

We went inside for coffee, out for dinner the next night, a long walk the morning after that. We have been inseparable since, hanging on to each other through thick and thin — certainly enduring our share of the latter.

I told anyone who could tolerate listening that I had met my life’s love at that coffee shop, at that moment. Most folks nodded politely, figuring it was merely an infatuation that would eventually pale. It wasn’t, and it hasn’t.

Her daughter, Abbie, then 10, and I quickly bonded as well. The first time we met was at Pizza King. She was reading the fourth Harry Potter book, a beautiful child with porcelain skin and a quick wit. In the three-plus years since, we three have had grand adventures, to Washington, D.C., New England and Longhorn games each fall.

I stunned Julie by proposing on Thanksgiving night while on holiday in Wimberley nine months later. That morning all three of us had leaped into the Comal River, gasping with the shock of the cold water. First Julie jumped, then Abbie — both shivering and squealing about the frigid water. I had no choice but to follow, then quickly realized if I didn’t get out immediately I might suffer what Minny in Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” called a “Cadillac arrest.” The hot tub never felt better than after that escapade.

When I handed the woman I call my Beautiful Mystery Companion a ring that night and asked for her hand, the day became forever known as When We Took The Plunge. Events conspired to keep us from getting married: a house too small for us that wouldn’t sell, job loss and relocation, yet another move and job change. Finally we concluded that if we waited for everything to be perfect, one or both of us would be returned to dust before we wed.

We married on a hot late-spring afternoon out in the East Texas countryside under a grove of trees, a dozen or so family members in attendance. Abbie, now 13 going on 20 most days, stood beside us. Now she is my daughter as well. Rosie the Wonder Dog carried our rings in a pouch tied around her furry neck, firmly secured with a leash. I happily will carry to my grave the image of Julie walking down the hill in her wedding dress, flowers in her hair, a bouquet in her hands. I forgot to breathe for several seconds. Abbie whispered to me something about how beautiful her mom looked while I nodded dumbly. Our preacher broke the silence. Birds chirped and cows lowed as we exchanged vows.

I’m grateful the event was recorded both on video and still photography. Everything is a bit of a blur for both of us, and it will be lovely to relive the event. Our honeymoon was brief with a longer trip planned later this summer. We still must live apart for a time because of our jobs. But we are a family, at long last.

It is humbling to realize that — at an age when movie theaters and museums give me the senior discount without asking — I get the chance to love again. We will raise Abbie together as best we can. My daughters have joyfully accepted her as their sister. Even Rosie likes me. (Of course, she likes everybody.)

I am truly blessed. We will have a grand life together, we three and Rosie.


  1. Great column. One of the best. But you had good material to work with. Best to all of you. Including the dog.

  2. Thanks, Frank, for the kind words. gb