Ali sent me this email back in July, and I don't know why I didn't post it way back then, but what better time than to post it now! It's a long one, so pour yourself a glass of wine, wrap yourself up in that Snuggie, and get comfortable. Trust me, it's a GOOD ONE! (Per usual, it made me cry harder than I care to admit)
Here's just another "How I met my Cayden" story :) I'm sure you have a ton of these already but I thought it would be fun to write mine out, even if you're not able to read it (I'm sure it will get long) - I think it will be fun for me to have :)
When I turned 16 I couldn't WAIT to get a job and make my own money. So I started working at a restaurant, Santa Fe, in my hometown. Santa Fe is where I met Jessica and Bronson. We were pretty inseparable from day one. They eventually started dating and we were still inseparable. Until one day in 2004 Bronson decided to enlist in the Army before mentioning it to either of us. Surprise! One way ticket to Army boot camp and training. Gone from May until October, just like that. After all the training he was stationed in Alaska at Fort Richardson. Jess couldn't handle long distance and they didn't make it out of boot camp but Bronson and I were still buddies. Phone calls here and there, when he was home on leave we would get everybody together for some crazy parties.
I'm sure right now you're thinking I'm going to end up with Bronson, that he is my Cayden. But he's not :)
My favorite phone calls from Alaska would come starting in February 2006 at 2am Alaska time as Bronson and his buddies were walking home from the bar. I'm not sure how well you know your time zones but 2am AK time is 5am Oklahoma time :) I would start out talking to Bronson and end up getting passed around to all the drunk Army guys. One in particular I talked to a lot (and he was the funniest one, had the best one liners and always drunkenly told me how sexy my "I just woke up" voice was) was Patrick. After a few phone calls like that, I finally receive a text from a phone number I didn't know. "Hey it's Patrick, Bronson's buddy. I figured I owed you a sober conversation at least once." And that's how it all started...
He was actually talking to a girl (we will call her 'Rebecca') back in his hometown (Houston) and I was dating Tyler at the time. I would tell Patrick the douche bag things that Tyler was pulling and he would tell me he wasn't sure if he should really try getting in a relationship with this girl since he was deploying to Iraq sometime in the near future. Iraq was going to be busy enough, did he really need to start a relationship and have something else on his plate over there? We talked via AIM literally from the time he got off work until I went to bed with texts sprinkled in here and there when he could at work.
We just had this easy going friendship and it was natural to talk to him, weird since I had NEVER met him. Strange how that works. In early July 2006 I broke things off with Tyler officially and for good and Patrick went home to Houston on leave for 10 days. He was being picked up at the airport by 'Rebecca.' I always told him, it would work out how it was meant to and I'm sure they would be fine while he was in Iraq while secretly starting to hope they didn't work out at ALL.
This trip home was kind of a testing the water phase for them. Over those 10 days I got maybe 5 short text conversations, I was quietly going insane. Why did I care if this boy I had never met ended up dating a girl he actually did know and had known for years. He got back to Alaska, a single and unattached guy. He couldn't commit to a relationship and didn't think it was for the best. The deployment was coming up in October for at least 12 months and he couldn't do that to either of them.
Late July my grandpa passed away. One night while I was working we were texting back and forth and he knew I was having a hard time with my grandpa's passing and was trying everything in the books to cheer me up. I feel my phone go off in my apron while taking a table's order. When I checked my phone, I found a missed call from Patrick and a voicemail waiting for me. I run to the bathroom to listen to the vmail. "You are my sunshine my only sunshine you make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know dear how much I LIKE you so please don't take my sunshine away. I know you're having a rough time babe but I'm here whenever you need me and I'll do anything to cheer you up. Even sing a cheesy song on your voicemail." I loved how he changed that one small word in the song and that was the first time he admitted liking me.
He was coming home again in September, one last time before deploying in October. I was an 8 hour drive away in OKC. We kind of threw the idea of me coming to see him around but how creepy does that sound? Driving 8 hours to a town where I don't know anyone to meet a guy I've only talked to on the phone and computer for the past 7 months. I couldn't justify doing that but at the same time could I really miss this opportunity? God works in really mysterious ways.
His mysterious way came in the form of a girlfriend of mine getting married. She asked me to be maid of honor. She lived in Baytown, TX about an hour from his hometown. And she needed me to come down and do some planning and help pick out the bridesmaids dresses. If I was going to go down there and only be an hour away why not make the trip the same time Patrick would be home? September 12, 2006, I had a test in Stillwater and then skipped all my other classes for the day to drive to Baytown.
The whole way I talked to Patrick and he was planning to come to Baytown while I was there (that way I had backup in my soon to be married couple friends just in case he ended up being a serial killer). I didn't get to Dacia's house until 7 that night. At 830 Patrick showed up at her house. He hadn't planned on it being that night but once I started getting closer, he wanted to go as soon as I got there :) He had his little brother bring him (so he had back up too) I had to go up the street to met them at a gas station and they followed me to her house.
I had nerves I didn't even know existed as I drove from the gas station to her house. I got out of the car and went over to him and we hugged. We were both so nervous and awkward at first. We ended up just sitting in the living room and everyone talked and it all went so well, everyone got along. He held my hand the whole time on the couch and finally toward the end of the night we went outside by ourselves and talked for a little bit. We had our first kiss in her driveway. He pulled back and said ''your lips are so soft'' before pressing his lips to mine again.
Needless to say, I ran back into the house that night giddy as hell after he drove off with his brother. We had plans to meet the next day. He text me as soon as he left and we talked the whole time he was riding back to his house.
Here's the first bump in the road. The next day. He completely blew me off. We had texted and he was giving me BS lines about stuff he had to do with his family. Weird since we had made plans the night before. Talk about being bummed. I wasn't sure what to think but finally just accepted he was a douche and I wasn't going to see him again while I was in Texas. I didn't text him or respond the rest of the time he was home.
When he got back to Alaska. He wrote me the longest "I'm sorry I was an asshole and blew you off" email. In his defense, we had talked in great length about his fear of starting a relationship right before Iraq. Even though it was about another girl, I knew the feelings stayed the same whether it was Rebecca or me. I had to give him that much. But why not just say that? Why make plans with me for the next night? He apologized about a hundred times in emails, texts, voicemails. He didn't expect to feel how he did the night we met. He figured we would meet and we would still be friends. He didn't think he would have these strong of feelings for me. He didn't know what to do or say so he panicked and just blew me off.
He knows he could have handled it better but he's a guy what do I expect? I finally responded and gave him a piece of my mind :) After a few days and more apologies we were back to talking, just as friends and I had forgiven him for the blow off. I told him during my "you could have handled this so much differently" conversation that no matter where he was, Texas, Alaska, Iraq my feelings were NOT changing and even if he didn't want to admit it now, we were going to end up together. I just knew we would. That's why I forgave him. There was just something about him and our relationship, I knew was different and I knew would work out. No matter what it took. I don't think he really believed me then :)
We talked everyday for hoooooours until October 5th when he left for Iraq. Talk about torture. To have him leave and even though we were just "friends," I knew his feelings for me, he knew mine for him, I knew we wouldn't be together while he was gone but that doesn't make feelings go away. In fact, knowing he was where he was, being shot at, going on missions where I wouldn't hear from him for 5, 8, 13 days at a time made them even stronger. I wrote him a letter literally EVERY day that he was deployed. Stupid letters that told him every detail of my day, insignificant or not. He just liked to hear about it and for 5 minutes or however long it took to read the letter, he took his mind off of Iraq life.
We never made a deal to try to make it work when he got back. I was free to date anyone I wanted. We were just "friends." And I tried to date other guys. It was easier when I was drunk and could flirt like there was no tomorrow. But my mind always went back to Patrick. Here I am drinking and having fun and he's running around somewhere in Iraq dodging mortars, hiding in holes, clearing houses, hunting down bad guys. Was he safe? How was he dealing with what he was seeing over there?
He came home on R&R in February of 2007. I didn't go see him, I wanted him to see his family and I didn't want to interrupt that (well a part of me did but I talked myself out of it quickly). Again he texted me all day long and told me how the hardest part of being home was knowing his buddies were still over there and he was sitting in America drinking a beer and not being able to sleep at night.
I hadn't talked to him since March 13th... he went out on a mission. I got a message saying they were going out and he would talk to me in a few days when he got back. Keep sending the letters, he liked having a ton when he got back from being away from the base.
March 16th 2007.
While on a mission Patrick, his squad leader, and 2 others are working on clearing a house. Squad leader gives them all instructions. You go this way, you that way. "Patrick go left, I'll go right." Pat took three steps when the bomb went off. Chris gave his life that day. Patrick was the second closest to it. One was so messed up in the head after that the Army sent him home. The last one walks with a limp and a cane to this day. Pat was the only one of the 4 to stay in Iraq after the accident. He was sent to Germany to the hospital. Where he told them all he was fine when can he get back to his buddies. He slipped out of the hospital before he was actually released and jumped on a bird back to base. They didn't remove the shrapnel from his legs. He received a Purple Heart. He couldn't care less about the Purple Heart, he wants Chris back. They looked for Chris' wedding ring to give back to his wife. They couldn't find it.
If that's not a wake up call. I don't know what is. I stopped trying to date other guys after that. Why pretend? These guys I could see on a daily basis couldn't hold my attention the way Patrick could from half a world away. I set an AIM alert on his screen name and when I went to sleep every night after his accident I turned the volume up so loud on my computer that everytime he would sign on AIM I would hear it, wake up and go to the computer to talk to him. I didn't care if it was 2 or 3 in the morning or 7. I talked to him until he had to get off. I didn't care how tired I was. It was worth it. This continued everyday. My letters continued until he told me to stop sending them because he was so close to coming home.
He was the first guy to send me flowers. He sent them from Iraq as he was getting close to leaving and the card simply said "Thank you for EVERYTHING." The flower shop actually messed up the order so they delivered them twice :)
The last month he was in Iraq, he decided when he was home in Texas he was going to come see me in Oklahoma. See how it went between us and we would go from there.
He got home to Alaska on November 30th 2008. That was the best day. He was home safe and I never had to worry about March 16th happening again. No more dodging mortars, no more missions, no more getting shot at. He was back on US soil. They had block leave after coming back from Iraq. Practically a month, a whole month, he would have to be at home. He went home December 21st. He came to Oklahoma December 27th-December 30th. Mother Nature played a TERRIBLE trick on me because I started as I was getting ready to go to the airport to pick him up. After ALL this build up (and to be honest some dirty conversations while he was in Iraq) we weren't going to be able to partake in any "base running" in your words :)
He decided that was for the best. We needed to be around each other without the sexual part clouding the mind. I thought he was crazy :) It was the most natural relationship I have ever had. He was so easy to be around and talk to and it felt like it was supposed to be this way. He left Oklahoma. I wasn't ready for it. He went back home. Again the text, the phone calls, the "this is sooo what I'm going to do to you next time" talks. We talked all the time. He had planned a trip to go to Rhode Island (one of his sisters is stationed there with the Coast Guard and she had just had her second daughter) to go see his family up there. While he was there, he was talking to his sister and decided he was going to come back to Oklahoma before leave was up. I wonder why ;) He asked if that was okay with me. Hell yeah it was! Round 2 bring it on :) He flew to Oklahoma and when he left Oklahoma he was going straight to Alaska. The base running was mind blowing :) but it was nice to know that we had a connection before AND after that!
He left January 10th and the next day we were booking my flight to Alaska in March to go see him.
Super Bowl Sunday 2008. We talked all day like we always did. I get a text really late that night. And it said "I have something to tell you." That night he told me he loved me. He wanted to wait until I came up in March because he didn't want to text that to me for the first time or do it on the phone. But alcohol helped his decision making on that one :) I told him I would believe it if he remembered telling me and if he decided to tell me the next day sober. He said he would. I highly doubted it.
The next day my good morning text said "Good morning beautiful, guess what I remember telling you last night? I love you and I still mean it this morning."
I was leaving for Germany early early February 14th with a girlfriend. We were going to be gone for 2 weeks visiting a good friend who was stationed there. We had said we weren't doing V-Day gifts bc we had just made it official and I was going to be gone on Feb 14th. On February 13th I got a surprise delivery. He had sent me a Build-a-Bear. It was a Dallas Cowboys bear with my last name on the back of the jersey (he's a Redskins fan, so I know how hard that must have been for him) and the bear was holding a little bouquet of roses even. Happy Valentine's Day to me.
I never imagined going to Alaska in my life. But I made 4 trips to Alaska from March to July staying two-three weeks at a time for a guy I knew it was meant to work out with. He got out of the Army in September of 2008. I moved to Texas March of 2009. Like your friend in STL, we're planning on getting married next summer but we're not engaged YET :)
It's crazy how one tiny moment changes everything, for me it's how the love of my life from Texas ended up being stationed in Alaska with a good friend of mine from Oklahoma. For you it's a random kick in the ass to some stranger in a NYC bar.
So long distance, I don't know quite Texas-London distance but any distance sucks. I've been there. You know when it's worth it and believe me I know when it's worth it, you and Cayden are worth it. Stick in there even in the hard times because when you guys are finally in the same place for good, it's the most fantastic feeling in the world. And it will be an amazing book, an amazing MOVIE (how do we help get that going?!) and a great story for your grandkids to tell in about 50 years ;) I wish you and Cayden the best and I can't wait to read everything you two post in the future!
Sorry this is so crazy long. I don't blame you for not reading it all. Lol :) Thanks for inspiring so many people to relive their own fairy tales beginning!!
.....As I said, Ali wrote me that email back in July. Two weeks ago, she sent me an update.
I told you my story about my long distance relationship a few months back. (Patrick in the Army- stationed in Alaska for 4 years, goes to Iraq for 14 months while I'm in Oklahoma, etc.) So I won't get into all that I just wanted to share an update with you and maybe give you just a hint of encouragement and make sure you know you're not alone in long distance relationships and I'm here to say THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT! Worth every lonely night when you wish you could fall asleep next to them, when your countdown is such a high number that it's almost depressing, worth the terrible jealous feeling when you see couples walking down the street hand in hand, worth all the frequent flyer miles that are racked up, just WORTH IT.
Then there comes a times when the miles shrink to next to nothing and you live in the same city. You get to do all the normal things that couples do when they live in the same place and that becomes normal to you guys. And then one day you're surprised when he gets down on one knee and gives you this:
Ok so maybe not THAT exact one. But you know what I'm saying. This past weekend Patrick proposed. And I said the sentence I've been DYING to say to him for nearly 2 years (or 4 since I KNEW from day one we were going to end up together one way or another) "Of course, are you kidding, did you really have to ask?! What took you so long! Yes!" Or maybe I just said yes but that's beside the point. So here's to one more long distance relationship, making it to this point and to my left hand being a little bit heavier now ;) and of course to happily ever afters ;)
Hang in there, it's worth it!