my love story


The idea of writing my love story came to me because I am doing an internship for my undergraduate degree.  I will be working at a local senior center, where one of the projects that I will work on is recording the love stories of the seniors in our area.  This project was started by someone else who had to leave it undone, and so it has been on hold for a while.  The genesis of this project is actually very interesting.  I won’t go into great detail here, but basically it began as a college project and has become very popular.  (For more details, google “love story project” and check out all that comes up!)  As I began to think about this project, I recalled my own love story.  Although I never thought of it as something that would interest “the world,” I consider my love story to be pretty special.

My Love Story

My love story began when I was just 16 years old.  I was just two weeks away from my 17th birthday, and I was a typical 16 year old girl.  I was looking at some CDs at a local Christian book store when I heard his voice for the very first time.  “That’s a good album!” he said.  When I looked up, I found myself looking into the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen.  He was a college guy, and had just turned 21.  I couldn’t believe that he wanted to talk to me!  Russ and I talked for almost 2 hours that first time, and I gave him my phone number.  The phone call never came.  Over the next 14 months I ran into him again, several times.  Each time, I gave him my number again because he had lost it.  One of the times I ran into him, we were at the same bookstore where we had met.  He told me about a recent break-up with his girlfriend and was upset about it.  I remember when he left the bookstore, I thought “I’m going to marry him” as I watched him walk out the door.  I then spent the rest of the day beating myself up for thinking that!  Finally, I ran into him at Schmucker Hall, the music building at Gettysburg College, just after finishing my voice lesson.  I decided to give him my number one more time.

That night, he called me.

On January 14, 1992, we had our first date.  We went to “The Dive,” a club at the college, for a snack.  Then we went to the practice rooms at the music building so he could play his sax for me.  That spring we spent a lot of time on the phone and seeing each other.  He even went to my high school senior prom with me, even though he was a senior at the college.  Every time we were together, we grew closer and closer.  One day my family was having a picnic at my house.  We lived about 7 miles west of Gettysburg.  Russ rode his bike all the way from town to surprise me and visit me.  My dad took one look at him coming in our driveway and said, “That boy is serious!”

We dated for almost two years.  During that time he came to see me at college and helped me with my homework.  He was there for me when my grandfather died, and spent the night in the main lounge of my building holding me and letting me cry.  On my 20th birthday, Russ proposed.

We were at Ludwig & Luigi’s, an Italian and German restaurant.  He asked me as we were finishing our dinner, and of course I said yes!  The funny thing was, about a month after his proposal, the restaurant closed down.

We were married on July 23, 1994 at Calvary Baptist Church in Bethlehem, PA.  It was a small and simple wedding, but our family and closest friends were there.  We went on a honeymoon using some of the cash that we’d received as wedding gifts.  We went to Williamsburg, VA for a few days.  On the way home, we stopped at Indian River Inlet in Delaware for a night at the beach with my family.

Our first apartment was in Bethlehem, and we were excited to move in and start our married life—the happily-ever-after that was supposed to happen.  We soon found out that marriage was more work than we’d anticipated.  Neither of us was good at managing money, and some of the choices we made at the beginning of our marriage had some big consequences.  He took a low-paying job in the newspaper industry to get started, and we moved to Pottstown, PA.  The plan was that I would get a job too.  The very weekend we moved, I found out I was pregnant.  We hadn’t even made it to our first anniversary, and the plan was to wait 5 years for kids.  Plans don’t always work out the way we would like.

Our daughter was born on January 26, 1996.  By the time she was four months old, she had a broken femur and evidence of another healed break.  That summer she was officially diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (a.k.a., Brittle Bone Disease).  Bad financial choices, along with heavy medical bills, caused some growing money problems for us.  In the midst of this, I had a miscarriage.  And then I was pregnant again, with our son.  He was born February 11, 1998 at 37 weeks gestation.  He was 11 pounds, 5 ounces, owing to my gestational diabetes.  I had to wean him at 4 months old, because the diabetes did not go away after my pregnancy.  The next several years brought us struggle and changes, as Russ changed jobs and we ended up moving to Delaware.  I was having health concerns that led me to having a hysterectomy when I was just 27 years old.  During this time, too, we started to realize that something was going on with our son.

After many doctors and much struggle, our son was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 7.  He also was diagnosed with Tourette’s and with Encopresis.  In the middle of all of this, Emily had several broken bones as well.  And then on March 25, 2004 something happened that changed our life.  My husband had been volunteering at a church, when the ladder he was on malfunctioned.  He suffered a broken hip, and when they did the surgery to pin the hip complications arose.  Unbeknownst to the doctors, his iliac artery and vein were also injured, and the stress of the hip surgery caused them to burst.  Russ underwent almost 9 hours of emergency surgery to locate and then fix the bleed that almost took his life.  We later found out that doctors had to recusitate him twice during the surgery.  The next several weeks and years brought recovery, numerous surgeries, physical therapy, heavy medical costs and financial stress.  He didn’t walk for 3 years!

Eventually, Russ took another job that we hoped would be good for our family and easier physically for my husband.  We moved back to PA, and he started working for his brother.  For various reasons, the situation didn’t quite work out as planned (again, a lesson about plans not always going the way you hope) and so I took a part-time job.  I hated it, I was disillusioned by life, and we were still struggling with health issues with our kids.  During this time, someone I once knew in middle school contacted me and we talked.  Given our history, I should have run away from this person as fast as I could, but I didn’t.  I kept talking to him, and confiding in him, and found myself sneaking around to talk to him.  Emotionally, I removed myself from my marriage and this individual had no trouble encouraging that.  My husband and I had grown so far apart and I felt like this man was listening and cared.  Without going into details, suffice it to say I had an emotional affair that turned into an abusive and harmful relationship.

This is where my story really becomes a great love story again.  Through the year, a lot of crappy stuff happened to us, and because of us.  I had let that stuff pull me away from my husband and my faith; it almost removed me completely from what God had given me.  Nevertheless, my husband did not give up on us…on me.  Even with others telling him to leave me and take the kids and forget me, he wouldn’t.  He chose to fight when it was most important to fight.  I was finally able, with my husband’s help, to break away from this unfaithful and harmful relationship with this other man and cleave to my marriage.  It took some time, but my husband was able to forgive me and I was able to heal.  Together Russ and I have moved forward.

In the years since, we have faced extended unemployment, money issues, and health threats.  During the nearly 2 ½ years of layoff and unemployment, he and I spent a lot of time together, talking and healing and falling in love all over again.  We have connected in a way that makes us one flesh.   I have to say that it is very different than what we had in the beginning.  Now what we have between us is tested and has proven to be strong and reliable, as it is based on more than just feelings and circumstances.  He is my best friend, and my biggest supporter.  He makes me want to be better and stronger.  He keeps me going when things get bad, even if he is the only one.  I am not alone on this earth because of the gift that God gave me in this man.

Russ and I just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary a few days ago.  Yes, we saw our share of bad times in our years together, but we live in the good times.  We are strong together and we are focused together.  We actually like to be together, hanging out and talking.  We trust each other, and support each other, and even defend each other.  Our love story is all the more beautiful because of all it has seen and overcome.  It is all the more beautiful because of where it is taking us, together as one.


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