Welcome to the second part of the story of my relationship with Papa Bear. You can find part one here.
As Papa Bear pulled into my parents driveway that Sunday to pick me up for our first date, my excitement grew. What is it about a southern boy in a pickup truck that is so irresistible? And lucky for me he turned out to be quite the gentleman too! Once we got back to his house I offered to help him with his preparations, and ended up peeling potatoes for him while we got to know each other. (And to this day, one of our favorite things is to be cooking together in the kitchen.) I told him about being a hospital nursing assistant, and he told me about being a volunteer firefighter. I was impressed and shared with him the story of the only time I'd ever needed to use my CPR skills outside of the hospital, about four months prior at my BFF's wedding reception. An older family member on her new husband's side collapsed, and I did chest compressions on the woman until some fire fighters and eventually the ambulance responded. Coincidentally he said he once ran a similar call, and after discussing more details we eventually realized we were talking about the same incident. He had been the first person from the fire department to arrive, and taken over chest compressions from me! As soon as he connected the dots, he said to me, "So you were the cute blonde in the little black dress!" Talk about scoring some major brownie points! I couldn't believe that here we were in the middle of trying to save this woman, we only had a passing encounter, and he remembered me after all that time.
The rest of the day went well, and by the time he brought me home we had arranged a dinner date for Friday evening. But I didn't have to wait until Friday to see him again; we actually ended up either seeing or talking to each other every day that week. On our first date I knew he was something special, and by Friday I was already growing certain he was *the one*. Not that I wasn't guarding myself, or that I was falling too fast, but having been with my previous boyfriend for four years, and having a string of one-time dates in between the two, I had a very clear picture of what I wanted in a man, and what I wouldn't tolerate. He wasn't Catholic like I was, but he was at least a man of strong Christian faith, and the one thing I wanted nothing to do with - his smoking - he was willing to give up, and did so after our first date.
Our relationship blossomed quickly. Our mutual friend/matchmaker, Cable Guy, was engaged, and after a short while we started joking with he and his fiance that we were talking about marriage too. Then we started talking between each other, what if it wasn't a joke, and we really did consider getting married? Before long the "if" in our conversation turned to a "when", he saved up some money, and about 3 1/2 months after we met he proposed just after Thanksgiving. If anyone else told me they were getting engaged so soon I'd think they were crazy, but in my heart I knew we were different, that this marriage was meant to be. The one thing I insisted on was that we be married in the Catholic church, which meant he would have to agree to raising our children Catholic as well. While Christian in his beliefs and upbringing, he was not practicing any particular denomination at that time, and had no problem agreeing to my request, as he recognized my faith was very important to me.
We were married in October 2004, only 14 months after our first date. The beginning of our marriage could not have been more perfect. By this time he was working in the ER at the same hospital where I was a CNA, and after our wedding and honeymoon I had switched from day to night shift, so that we were working at the same time. Most nights we were able to commute together, and we always tried to coordinate our dinner breaks; either he would come up to my unit to eat with me, or I would go down to the ER to eat with him. I can't imagine a more perfect newlywed period, but sadly it was quite short lived.
To read about the event that shook our marriage, and changed our lives forever, read part 3.