I have told our story many times at the request of friends and acquaintances who envy my relationship with my husband, Danny. First, let me say that no relationship is perfect and ours isn’t. The key to our success is the determination to keep it going. We each know that given a choice moving forward we would not want each to be without the other in our lives . We have come across some pretty big hurdles in our time together. We could not have made it over those hurdles were it not for the knowledge that life is not black and white. We are not always the people we fell in love with depending on the circumstances. Marriage is truly a give and take and its never even just a give or take. Danny and I are facing some pretty big challenges right now and one of them is spending 24/7 together now that we are both retired. I believe that we are up for the challenge.
Danny and I met at a difficult time in both of our lives. We actually met through a support group so rather than go into detail, we just say that we met through friends which is absolutely true. When we met, Danny was separated from his wife of the time and I was in the divorce process. We had both been in very difficult marriages so it was the worst possible time for us to start a relationship. I was new to the group and was a little intimidated when I walked into the room but I have to admit that my eyes went straight to Danny. You see, he looks a lot like my dad. The first thing I noticed was his silver/white hair. Both he and my Dad had their hair turn from black to the most gorgeous color of silver/white at very young ages. Then I noticed what I saw as his arrogance. He remained engaged in the meeting without even a glance in my direction. Little did I know that he was also attracted to me and after a few meetings, he approached me and asked me if I had any advice for him on the divorce process. Hmm, maybe that was his way of letting me know that he was going to be available, never thought of that.
I made a commitment to myself that I would not date at least until my divorce was final but we decided that we could spend time together as friends. The first time we met for dinner, he took my breath away and he knew it. We had deep discussions about our past lives though I believe that no one has a right to the details of your past unless it will directly affect them. That being said, I’m glad I know about Danny’s past because it helps me to understand why he believes and/or reacts to situations as he does. We found that there were similarities in our family backgrounds and life experiences. I learned that he had 3 children, a boy 14, a girl 12 and a girl 9 that he had temporary custody of and that they were involved in support groups and family counseling. I was impressed by his dedication. We would talk on the phone for hours and see each other often at support groups or when he was available. When he started talking about another woman one night on the phone, I asked him to avoid those topics in our conversations. He asked why and reminded me that we were supposed to just be “friends”. I hemmed and hawed and finally told him that my feelings were moving more in the romantic direction. He asked if we were going to be exclusive since I had confided in him that I had a crush on a guy from my church. I told him I had to take a bathroom break and would give him an answer when I got back to the phone. I already knew the answer but was afraid to voice it. I am a one-guy girl and I don’t compete. You either want me or you don’t which doesn’t mean that I won’t pursue you when I’m interested but once in, its just you and me. I suspect that all this was part of the plan but all I really know is that things moved forward pretty fast after that. When he asked me for our first “real” date that night, he asked if it would be a “Date, date” “one where we kissed”. As nervous as I was, I answered yes.
Our real “date, date” was to a seafood restaurant and when we walked outside, he kissed me. I was glad it happened that way so that I didn’t have a chance to be nervous. We dated exclusively and though a few friends thought it wouldn’t last, my family knew it would. They could see something they had never seen before in me. I was truly happy. Because we both had so much baggage to bring into the relationship, my domestic abuse counselor told me that we would need to get into couple counseling right away. When I told Danny this, he didn’t hesitate. It would be nice to be able to say that it was the answer to everything but it wasn’t, however, it did keep us together. Whenever we would consider a break up, we would talk with a third party and they would point out the strengths they saw in our relationship. We would go to Taco Cabana and talk it out afterwards. I don’t believe either of us wanted to break up. It was more that when Danny gets upset, he runs or in other words, tries to rid himself of the problem where I have abandonment issues and come apart at the seams.
When it was obvious that we were going to be together in a committed relationship, I joined his family counseling sessions with him, his children and their mother. The sessions went well because we were all on our best behavior. I have written about the trials I went through as a stepmother so no need to repeat here. I won’t go into details out of respect for my stepchildren and their mother. Suffice it to say that I fell in love with them and made a commitment to help Danny with their care since he often worked overnights and to help them have a sense of stability. This was very hard because their mother was feeling threatened but we worked it out between us.
I had joined a church that I found I could relate to and overcame my fears and was baptized. The minister was my domestic abuse counselor and Danny’s and my couples counselor. At the time, Danny claimed to be atheist but I would say he was more agnostic. He accompanied me to a Ash Wednesday service and seemed very detached. When I expressed my feelings about that to our minister, he told me that he had no problem with it. He said that people like Danny are hard to win over but once you win them over, they stick. Danny began attending church with me and eventually we included the children. They were all baptized as a family and Danny and I became very involved in the church. We both became Deacons which was shocking to both of us. It was a very traditional yet non-judgmental denomination. When I say traditional, I mean non-charismatic. There weren’t any do’s and don’ts, just positive messages. The people were the impetus that won Danny over and we both miss them to this day. Unfortunately, the church congregation was mostly seniors and they began to die off one by one. Then the minister left and things were never the same so we moved our membership to Lakewood Church with Joel Osteen.
Danny and I dated for three years continuing to live separately. He needed time with his kids and I didn’t want another live in situation. We did, however, spend weekends together though I slept with the girls. We took a “family” vacation to Colorado and had a really good time. There were spats and fusses but we made it through. Eventually, after his divorce was final, we talked to the family counselor and the children and we received the children’s blessing to sleep in the same bed. Life was much calmer after that because it was a bond that the children were accustomed to.
My family loved and trusted him and I got close to his family. It was a given that we would get married. He planned to ask me to marry him after midnight on July 5th so that it would be my birthday, the 6th. The 6th was on Sunday and we would be able to announce the much awaited news in church. His idea was that we would have dinner at our favorite restaurant and after midnight, he would pop the question. Two things happened to spoil his plan. One, his oldest daughter couldn’t keep the secret and told me his plan and two, the restaurant closed early due to the July 4th holiday. So he asked me on Sunday morning before church and we made the announcement to happy applause.
Danny was sorta forced into choosing a wedding date by our counselor. Our minister told us that we had been in couple counseling long enough, were we planning to marry? He said if we were, we needed to set a date before he was booked up. He suggested that Valentine’s Day was going to be on a Saturday that year so it would be a good time for the ceremony. The idea of marrying on Valentine’s Day appealed to both of us. A friend from church offered to do our decorations and plan the food. We wanted to be married in the church but have the reception elsewhere. The color scheme was red and white, of course. Danny and I decided on a formal wedding with the children as our attendants. We wanted the children to respect our marriage and that we were forming a bond as a family. Finding our oldest daughter who was to be maid of honor a dress was easy. However, when it came to the younger daughter who was twelve and very tiny, we hit a brick wall. We were renting their dresses so we decided to make her a Junior Bride and she loved the idea. I have no idea what he purpose of a Junior Bride is but it worked. We found an old community center that was like an old house complete with a large front porch, loft and fireplace. One of our church members lived in that town so we were able to get a reduced price. Oddly, we not only got our deposit back but we got the money we paid for the rental as well. I am pretty sure that was the church member’s wedding gift to us. We decided on a Mexican buffet and friends pitched in and cooked the meat and Danny’s cousins made the beans and rice. I’m sure it was good but we never got to eat. My mother and our church friend fixed a spaghetti supper for our rehearsal dinner. We wanted something more romantic but decided to use the money elsewhere. The church gave me a big surprise shower. The church hand bell choir played and the church choir director played the organ and a friend sang. We were so fortunate to have such a wonderful group of friends to contribute and support us.
I think I should have asked someone to back me up on the day of the wedding. My maid of honor was young and had no idea that I might need to be reminded of details and kept on schedule. The day of the rehearsal, I had my eyebrows waxed. The woman who did the waxing looked at the woman who was doing my nails and said something in Vietnamese. All the women who worked in the salon were talking in Vietnamese and looking very uncomfortable. My nail stylist finally told me that I was now missing a piece of my eyebrow. Sure enough, the woman had removed a hunk of my eyebrow and I began to cry. I was assured that I could fill in the missing part with an eyebrow pencil. I had to accept that it was what it was and move on. The day of the rehearsal, Danny’s brother and future sister-in-law were in town from North Dakota so Danny wanted to go to the youngest daughter’s school and have lunch with her. We took pizza and the adults never got any because all the daughter’s friends and acquaintances devoured every piece. My future sister-in-law spent the day with me and I wish I had her the day of the wedding too.
The day of the wedding, my ADD kicked into overtime and I was on automatic pilot as if someone else would take care of the details. A friend from church took the girls in hand and got their hair and make-up done. I don’t think our oldest daughter was particularly comfortable and I wasn’t thrilled that the make-up was too old for them. Our 15 year old daughter looked 21 but beautiful. My niece’s husband commented on how beautiful she was and was surprised to find out that she was only 15. I didn’t have the time or inclination to do anything about it and was appreciative of the effort our friend made to keep the girls occupied and help make their day even more special. So while I was having my hair done, I sent my ADD sister out to get me some white bridal hose. She got lost and was late getting back to pick me up. I hurried to get my things together and get to the church. I didn’t have time to worry much about my eyebrow, funny how something that seemed to big became minute. The dress had to be steamed so I am standing there with women all around me holding out my dress while it was steamed. The minister was having a conniption because we were late. Finally, they were finished steaming and I was ready to go. Unfortunately, I had asked a woman from the church to cut and hem my dress to save money, bad idea. She had never done a wedding dress before and didn’t tie off the beads after she cut off the bottom so the beads were falling off and I was sliding on them as I walked through the lobby and all through reception. My stepfather stood waiting for me at the entrance to the church looking so dapper in his tuxedo, we picked out a tuxedo that was a little more western cut to fit into his comfort zone. My mother’s ex-boyfriend and friend of the family, came up and said, “Someone is very proud of you today.” referring to my dad who died 3 months after my first wedding. While I appreciated the sentiment, it made both my stepfather and I uncomfortable on several levels. Bill had reached out to me several times, offering to be of support to me after I left my abusive ex-husband and I could see that he thought I would be feeling the absence of my father.
The wedding was beautiful! The hand bell choir dressed in their tuxedo shirts and finery led the processional while playing. We had decided on a full religious ceremony complete with communion and congregational singing. All went well until the minister asked for Danny’s ring and there was an “Oh my God!” and I was not quiet about it. I had forgotten to bring Danny’s ring to give to the maid of honor. There was much laughter and the quick thinking minister took off his ring and handed it to the maid of honor and we completed the ceremony. We sent the guests on to the reception while the high dollar photographer took pictures. I will get to him much later. A friend went to my apartment and got Danny’s ring so we could return the minister’s ring. Anyway, we had a DJ and it had been decided (by whom I don’t know) that the wedding party and parents would be announced as they came in. It took forever! Why, because the wedding party was arriving one person at a time so we had to wait until everyone was there. Once that was done, it was a very nice reception. Unfortunately, I realized much later that we did not do our duty by greeting our guests table by table. We were so totally into each other and there is always the photographer who seems to dominate everything by trying to get his work done. I am not complaining, the pictures were awesome once we finally got them but again I will get into that later. As always seems to happen, the bouquet was caught by a friend of our oldest daughter who wasn’t invited to the wedding. She and other friends showed up dressed in jeans and a t-shirt but there was no avoiding the picture. I realize how snobbish that sounds but it was a formal affair and we were trying to move our daughter in a more positive direction when it came to her friends. Her friends who had higher aspirations were disappearing from her life and being replaced by the path of least resistance. We eventually had to step in and remove their influence.
Danny was wearing underwear with a big red heart on the butt that I bought for him in honor of the day. He also wore socks with red hearts on them (bought by his ex-wife in the past) and my shoes were red. Now that I think of it, my shoes were recycled from my first wedding. Rather than buy new ones, I had them dyed red in honor of Valentine’s Day. So, I guess we were even though honestly even though I made a joke about it, it didn’t bother me. As we were leaving, Danny drops his pants for the photographer and we now have a picture of his Valentine butt. The picture was previously arranged though no one knew but Danny and the photographer.
Danny had booked the bridal suite at one of the hotels by the airport. We were flying to Playa del Carmen in the Caribbean the next morning. On the way to the hotel, we discovered that neither of us had eaten so we went to Steak and Ale for dinner. The restaurant sent over a bottle of champagne and since neither of us drink, I think we may have had it exchanged for sparkling cider, I can’t remember. So when we got to the hotel, we were undressed and in bed when Danny said, “I don’t think this is the bridal suite.” and I agreed. It was just a plain suite. Danny called the reception desk and we were, indeed, in the wrong room. I just put on a robe and we re-packed and the bellhop moved us to the correct suite. We both found it quite funny. Our chocolate dipped strawberries were pretty much melted by the time we got to the suite but everything was really nice. We had a complimentary breakfast served in our suite the next morning.
We flew to Playa del Carmen the next day where we stayed at a new all-inclusive resort which was within walking distance of the small town. One night when we were in town shopping, the power went out in the entire town. We were looking at some turtle necklaces made of opals and became very nervous that we had possession of these expensive items in the dark. The lights came back on fairly soon and all was well. When we got back to the hotel, the kitchen was closed but someone made me a hamburger. One day when we were on a tour of ruins, we missed the tour bus and had to get a cab to take us to the next tour stop. We weren’t the only ones, we shared the cab with another couple. It was a wonderful honeymoon and I cherish the memories.
Now to the photographer, we owed him $200 and with all the costs of the wedding, honeymoon and raising 3 kids, money was tight. When we finally made up our minds to bite the bullet and pay the $200, we contacted the photographer and met with him and his wife to organize our photo albums. Danny paid quite a bit for the photographer so we definitely wanted our pictures. I called and left messages for him several times and he would leave a message for me reassuring me that he had my pictures. Then, we were never able to contact him again. We were understandably distressed! Coincidentally, I met the woman who put his albums together at an athletic club and she told me that he had “gone off the rails” with his alcoholism and disappeared. Luckily, we happened to remember that he had once asked us to come by his house to lay out the albums again so we had his home address. When we knocked on the door, his wife answered and told us that she had all our pictures and gave us the negatives, proofs and prints. Due to procrastination, they sat around until last year I put my own albums together.
As you can see, Murphy has been with me for a long time. His law often rules my world and keeps my life interesting. We raised his three children to the best of our ability and now it is time for us. Families can’t understand how we could leave them in Texas and move to Colorado. We have given them our lives to this point. We put off the move until the kids were grown and settled, two out of three anyway. This is our dream and we are living it. We finally have time for us.
Danny and I have been married for 18 years on Valentine’s Day and I would do it all again. Every year we try to celebrate in a different way. This year, he planned to surprise me with a weekend at the historic Strater Hotel in Durango for the weekend. However, he felt he had to tell me about it when I suggested that we needed to make some dinner reservations. He says he has it all handled. Can’t wait.