Little Opie Cunningham! This was sweet OM; I haven't seen this musical since I was a kid; thanks for posting.
I had been seeing Smithery's comments around OS in prior months, and he was SO wise and thoughtful and warm that I actually thought he was a GRANDPA! I had no idea he was the exact same age as I was!
But these were his first public words to me on my post where I shared a snippet of my favorite musical "The Music Man" trying to cheer up OSers.
Then on July 1, 2009, he commented on an Open Call I had done. He described, in precise detail, a part of his hand, the subject of my open call. I liked the simple precision of his answer and found it charming, as usual. I said this in my return comment on my post.
On July 2, at 2:45 pm eastern, he commented on Verbal Remedy's (Denise Montgomery) post "How I Lost 17 Lbs. Without Even Trying." I commented at 3:11 pm. It was a long comment thread so I didn't read any other comments before leaving mine and I never saw his. (He read mine...)
On July 3, I posted something very personal in many aspects. It was a poem describing my "Confession to the Ocean" which was painful to write. It was also personal in that I had posted for the first time a tiny snippet of my singing. I was terrified but I also had to purge my heart of these secrets and attempt to share my voice. His comment was short but kind.
But - also on July 3, 2009 (what we now consider our anniversary), Smithery innocently sent a PM thanking me for my return comment on my Open Call, and also told me that what I'd said on Verbal's post was "hilarious."
My PM reply (only a small part of it):
"Smithery, you just made my day. You're very welcome. I really meant it, that it was charming. I'm 42, but I should be 102; I have always been an "old soul" - very old-fashioned - and love the idea that someone isn't just clicking away at a computer... Thank you for being here. I have noticed you as a quiet, steady presence. Encouraging, funny, smart, and just plain lovable... I am looking forward to reading more of your posts and will play some catch-up with the older ones."
His reply (a small part):
"So you're an old fashioned gal, or perhaps more accurately, you have an old soul. I like that. Yes, the east coast here has plenty to offer that is over the double century mark... I am glad you maintain your sense of humor, referring to your comment on Verbal's post of course. And the fact that you have daughters touched me as well. I have one of my own who is 9. She is my only child and I adore her. [I have two daughters - one who is the same age and another, one year younger, which was a wonderful coincindence.] PS~ It is funny you said you are 42 but that you should be 102. I am 42 and, given my penchant for the absurd, should probably be 12!"
In my next PM, I said something about the chair in his avatar. He has since changed it, but it was actually NOT a chair, but an anvil, which I didn't see clearly (clearly!). And I was so embarrassed for my blunder, I wrote a note apologizing:
"Love your note and will respond later. But had to quickly point out what a MORON I am. I spend a good amount of time reading OS via my iPhone, so the pics are small; or on my laptop, where the photos are still rather small. I cannot believe I thought your avatar was a CHAIR, for crying out loud. Charming and dumb are quite a combo, eh? Yipes. I'm so embarrassed... Sorry. Will respond more tomorrow. Thank you again for writing."
His fantastic reply?
"No worries my dear. I was a bit confused by your interpretation of my avatar; me thinking it may have been a metaphor or something and I just wasn't getting it :) Dumb? No. In need of glasses? Perhaps. Charming? Always."
I thought that was the kindest reply! It would turn out to be a trend in our relationship - him never making me feel incompetent or stupid or unworthy.
And so we began a string of PMs until one day, not very long after we started corresponding, he told me his real name (Barry) and offered to give me his personal email address, indicating that I need not feel the pressure to reciprocate with my name (Angela) and email. Well, once I had his real name, let me tell you that I spent about .02 seconds Googling him!
I found his name quite a bit out there on the internet. Turned out that he was quite successful in his company and his name was listed in many townships out in Pennsylvania and Delaware. A solid, professional man.
We struck up a great friendship - him in Pennsylvania and me in California.
It was something pleasant, easy, fun and, well, hilarious.
Within a week or so, he went to a car show with a friend and he started emailing me pictures with funny commentary. I was just puttering around the house, doing dishes, watering the plants, doing laundry. It was like I had a friend with me as I attended to the mundane duties of my day.
I sent him pictures of whatever I was doing, looking at, eating, as did he.
We emailed songs we loved.
We shared quotes about life, love, anything.
We shared poetry.
He drew me pictures.
We told stupid jokes. Really stupid.
We shared recipes and sent pictures of our cooking "in progress" and "after." (We both LOVE to cook and he is amazing in the kitchen!!)
He wrote me a haiku EVERY Thursday (and still does!).
We had a "First Day of Autumn Apple Pie Bake-off!"
(it was a tie :)
We stayed connected in every possible way, EXCEPT talking on the phone. In fact, we didn't speak on the phone until about two weeks before we met for the first time in October (a trip well-documented by us both).
One night, I took my daughters to dinner at our favorite restaurant. I emailed Barry to tell him and mentioned the restaurant name. He sent a message back saying that he'd looked it up online and it looked like a very nice place. I sat down in the booth and had an idea! I quickly emailed him and said that if he got this message, to look at the menu and give me some suggestions as to what I should order. And he did! It was so fun to be at the restaurant "with" my friend! And what he chose was delicious: Philly Cheesesteak Spring Rolls (of course!) and Crab-Crusted Filet. Oh yeah!
These are the pictures I took with my iPhone and emailed to him!
I know the mushrooms don't make a very nice presentation but they were goooood! And we both love mushrooms, thank heavens!
He sent me pictures of flowers. The first? Lilies!! Which, he had no idea at the time, are my favorite flowers! Amazing coincidence!
This is the picture he sent me, July 18, 2009
As the extreme comfort and trust developed, we began to email about more personal aspects of our lives. There was always, always a level of understanding that we'd never experienced with anyone else, regardless of the subject we were tackling.
I told him about my slightly wacky family and life growing up, my beautiful children, my abusive marriage. The scars I had, both inside and out.
I remember that as I told him some things, I would feel so small, so vulnerable, that I would simply sign my emails "me" - lowercase and all. I would hold my breath as I waited to see what he would say.
And he was always so full of compassion and care that it made it easier to tell him everything I wanted to.
He was the best friend I'd ever had.
We used to ask each other questions, both profound and mundane, and as I would read his answers, I would think of what a tragedy it was that someone like him wasn't loved the way he should be and further, that he was all the way in Pennsylvania. (Not that I was looking for a relationship!) We both appreciated the simple things in life and yet wanted to experience all it had to offer. He should have had someone with which to share all of these things...
Although we were becoming wonderful friends, we knew we'd never meet. In fact, he wrote a lovely post called "A Real Friend." Yes, this was only July 25; you can see how quickly this friendship developed!
On August 3, I wrote a poem. Somehow, I thought I was being completely elusive but as I read it later, I don't know how anyone could not see the struggle my heart was bearing. The poem was called "The Waiting Hours" and in case you don't go to read it (although I hope you do, as it remains one of my favorite posts I've ever written), there is a line that says:
"There must be a balance. The gracious friendship and the beckoning within a heart that beats with you inside of it."
There was something stirring that I was trying to deny, trying to push back. It made no sense. He was there. I was here. My life was not at a point where any relationship would work.
There was indeed something stirring, something neither one of us could deny. We shared our lives, exposed our souls.
And resisting love finally became impossible.
Despite our efforts to ignore our growing feelings and the obvious connection and emotional attraction, we fell in love.
I remember one day last September, standing in my kitchen, and a thought simply came into my mind...I wasn't thinking about this, it literally was as if it were spoken inside of me:
"This is the last person you will ever love."
It shocked me, this tremendous revelation. I've never experienced something with that kind of clarity before.
My Last Love.
Over the past year, we have sent over 9,000 emails (yes, you read that correctly) and hundreds of texts, and have spent countless hours over the phone. We see each other when we are able, but it is never often enough.
It may seem that being 3,000 miles apart would be an impossible way to live through a relationship, but we realize that it was actually that extreme distance that created the closeness we share. The distance and the real belief that we would never meet, much less fall in love, allowed us to be who we really were without fear of displeasing the other.
We left it all outside ourselves and in holding nothing back, we pulled the other close.
And we discovered something that can only be defined in these words by Emily Bronte:
"Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same."
Our matching rings, in Half Moon Bay, CA; May 2010