I used to live in Florida, land of the tourist and the elderly. I worked long hours in a cube farm (aka call center) and it wasn’t easy meeting new people as a transplant from the Midwest. A friend back in STL had met a great guy online, so I gave it a try. The matches I got weren’t promising. But one night in an online chat room I noticed a guy who wasn’t as shallow as most of the other guys.
I messaged him and we had a brief chat. (He told me later he thought I was a ‘cam girl’ J). I started logging in and looking for him and soon we were chatting every night. He was also from the Midwest, so we had that in common. But he lived in Montana! Regardless, we started talking on the phone because we were having so much fun. Only a few weeks later, he had Spring Break off because he was a teacher. He said he was tired of snow and cold and suggested that he could book a trip to Florida and even if we didn’t hit it off in person, he’d have the beach and a warm vacation. We were both in our 40s and figured we didn’t have time to waste emailing and calling, so I took a chance and said yes.
I suggested that we meet on neutral ground, so he booked a suite at a boutique hotel in Key Largo. He sent a photo so I’d recognize him at the airport and I got really nervous – he was a big guy and I’m petite. (He’s a full foot taller than me!). I got a few days off from work and we were set. The big day came and I don’t know when I’ve been so nervous. I drove to the airport to get him and then we had a two hour drive to the Keys. We talked about everything! We really enjoyed being together.
When we arrived at the hotel, our room was right on the beach and had a big deck out front for us to sit and enjoy the beautiful sunset. The complimentary breakfast was served out on the beach each morning. We went to Pennekamp National Park and took a ride in the glass bottom boat and saw dolphins! We took another boat ride across the Gulf to the Everglades! Everything was fun with him!
We spoke every night after our first date ended, and started planning our second date: a cruise to Jamaica. It was nonstop fun, even in the pouring rain when we got to the Botanical Garden. We were the only ones there (because of the rain). The guide pulled out a big umbrella and we had a private tour!
For our third date I went to Montana, and it snowed even though it was almost Summertime! We went to Yellowstone, and hiking, and panning for gold, and visited the headwaters of the Missouri River. And he told me he planned to marry me. I thought it was too soon, but he said he’d wait for me to be ready.
We had our dates about every other month, another visit to Key Largo, another cruise, driving up to introduce him to my mom, and then the next summer we got engaged, and he decided to move to Florida because it was so hard to be apart. We set a date for the following June.
During this time of joy and happiness, I had had a medical issue, which turned out to be an aneurysm. I needed surgery and was really happy I wouldn’t have to go through it alone. Once we were both living in Florida, I scheduled the surgery. But I had heard horror stories of unmarried partners not being allowed to visit in the hospital because they weren’t family. I learned about the Domestic Partnership that was offered by Broward County and called to see if it was only for gay couples. It wasn’t. So we had a private beach ceremony with my friend who’s a Notary, and became domesticated. With a card to show for it!
(We discussed just getting married ahead of schedule, but we didn’t want to deprive our family and friends of the chance to share our joy and celebrate all together).
I had the surgery, took the full FMLA time to recover, and we celebrated our second Christmas together. After the holidays we went into full wedding planning mode. We debated which state to have it – Florida? Montana? Missouri? Or Illinois where he’s from? I got my dress (NWT from a thrift store!) and lavender clearance sale dresses for my two bridesmaids. We decided to print our own invitations and get the flowers from Walmart, though we booked a professional caterer and photographer.
And then it happened. He had a heart attack and died. I was a widow – without getting to be a bride. But I have an official Domestic Partnership card from Broward County, Florida. And wonderful memories.