The hard work of being in Love
If our meeting was incredible, our relationship was up against odds that could easily have crumbled a lesser pair. Being on opposite sides of an ocean is difficult enough, but after two and a half years of only being able to communicate through facebook messages, we finally managed to be in the same place at the same time. Alan had moved to Toronto, bringing us close enough to visit, and he came to meet my family over the Thanksgiving dinner table. Needless to say they loved him! But, because the course of true love never did run smooth, I then departed for a year of living in Texas and we were, yet again, back to time differences and thousands of miles between us.
Gratefully, we were able to make the journey to see each other many times. Whether we were meeting in Boston or taking turns visiting each other’s cities of residence, when we were together the days we spent apart melted away. We both made the move home within months of each other and quickly set to the business of making the miles between us smaller. In the years that followed we each became accustomed to the journey from one country to the other to the extent that we each became unaccustomed to a life not lived out of a suitcase. Today we look back on those times we spent apart and are made ever grateful for the comforts that come with living a life together, without fear, without hesitation, and with the knowledge that we will never again be apart in that same way for as long as we live.
There is a park in Newton where the rest of the world doesn’t exist. It makes no sense for it to be that way, the park sits in the midst of a busy metropolitan area in the shadow of a hotel, but from the moment you enter, the commotion falls away and you find peace. We love this park and we visit it whenever we can. It helps that our favorite ice cream shop sits just a block away.
We were on our way into the city for some last minute Christmas shopping, a daunting task to be sure, when Alan suggested that we stop in our park for a bit of respite. As we made our way over sidewalks thickly laden with ice and slush, I took his hand to keep my balance. As always, the park was a spot of beauty amidst chaos and the snow that covered the ground lay untouched, a beautiful and pristine white. We sat on our bench and Alan began to speak. I now understood that his quick pace getting there had been nerves as he spoke of how much I meant to him. He told me that he knew that I was the woman he was meant to spend the rest of his life with and that all the days we were together were the best days of his life so far. My heart stopped when he shifted off the bench and onto one knee. From his pocket he produced a small box that contained a ring more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.
Speechless, I’m sure I just about gave the man a heart attack as it took me a few breaths to manage any words at all, but when I did you can imagine my first word was an enthusiastic YES! In a joy filled haze, we decided to leave the shopping and made our way home to share our good news with family and friends. I will look back on that day for as long as I live as one of the most beautiful days of my life.
Destined to Meet
By all accounts, we never should have met. We grew up in completely different worlds, three thousand miles apart, but sometimes the smallest decisions and the most inconsequential moments end up being the most important.
I was studying abroad in Co. Claire when I met Alan. Everyone had expected me to be in Florence, I had even learned Italian in anticipation of that journey, but at the behest of a strong-willed art teacher, I made the decision on the very last day of enrollment to take the leap and make my way to the Emerald Aisle. As part of the experience my teachers informed me that I and my fellow students were going to take a mandatory weekend trip to the Aran Islands. I tried to get out of it, wanting some peace and quiet in my art studio after two solid weeks of noisy fellow students, but upon asking I was reminded of the definition of the word mandatory.
Alan never went out on Saturdays. He worked long hours at two jobs and it had been a busier summer than usual. He was exhausted. But, being the good man that he is, when a friend of many years called to say he was visiting the island, Alan rounded up what energy he had left and made his way to the pub.
It was a busy night at Tí Joe Watty's. The music was loud and the dancefloor was full to bursting. Years later, we both sheepishly described our first moments of noticing each other the same way. It was like time stopped. With all the commotion around us, everything just fell away and it was a moment like neither of us had ever experienced before. As introductions lead into life stories, the night just seemed to slip away. They next thing either of us knew, the house lights were up and the crowds were pouring out into the streets as revelers, both tourist and local alike, made their weary way to their beds. Not ready to see the night end, Alan offered to walk me back to the Hostel down the hill where we were all staying for the weekend.
Still not ready to bid each other farewell, strangers though we were, we found a quiet place to sit and chat. From opposite sides of a picnic bench, we talked until the sunlight began to peak out over the horizon. For all we knew we would never see each other again, but every moment of that night felt like the most important moment of my life. We’ve never been ready for it to end and when we discovered that our birthdays are only five days apart, we made a plan to get together and share in a mutual birthday celebration in Galway, the nearest city. It was saying goodbye to Alan that very first night, strangely heartbreaking and profound, that I knew he was going to be important in my life. How little I knew then, and how grateful I am for every moment that has happened since.