Dan and I first met in 7th grade. My family had joined a new church, the same one Dan’s family attended. He was Danny then and it didn’t take long for us to become friends. By high school, he was well over 6 feet, tanned with blondish curls so tight the beads of water dripped off when he surfed. We logged in many church trips, choir practices and surf outings and just before I turned 16, he asked me out.
He was my first date. I’d never dated anyone else and as I got ready for the Friday night football game, I knew that first date was the rest of my life. He brought flowers every single date until we were married and this first was no exception — a pretty conspicuous large yellow mum corsage draped with our school colors. I still have the plaid blouse I wore that night hanging at the back of my closet.
I actually fell in love with Dan on our second date. He loved finding offbeat restaurants and for our second date, we went to a rural restaurant on Cross Creek, in an old pocket of Florida made famous in Marjorie Kinan Rawlings’ Pulitzer winning book The Yearling. Over fried alligator, cooter and key lime pie, I listened as Dan completely opened up about his dreams and hopes.
Dan was a born salesman. His confident handshakes, affability and boyish grin were magnetic. One of my favorite memories is the day in high school we cold-called a local Chevrolet dealership to sell a yearbook ad. Since I was yearbook editor and since this was his first time selling an ad, I asked if he wanted any pointers. Nah, he said he thought he had it. I’ll say! After listening to his pitch, the manager offered him a full-time job on the spot.
Because we were seriously dating, I decided not to go away to college. By 19, I was engaged and one month after I turned 20, we got married. He finished business school and I went on to law school. We got our first jobs, our first house and next up on the list was kids.
We had no problems getting pregnant and within two years we had our first boy and then a little girl. We had another little boy and then another and I came home full time. Things were financially tight, but we were so happy! We had another boy and then — in a huge stretch of faith — decided to trust God completely with the number of our children. You think it’s great when you have your first — and it is — but it was just as exciting to bring the sixth and then the seventh home to wide-eyed big brothers and sisters all ready to swing and hold and entertain the new baby.
By this time, Dan was in his dream job and the opportunities for him and for us as a family seemed really good. The kids were healthy. I was deeply satisfied in parenting and homeschooling. All was good. I mean, there were hard times. There were challenges with kids and money and tears from miscarriages. But even those challenges knit our love and life deeper.
So on June 16, after a business trip together in the keys, Dan and I returned to this sweet, full life. And with thoughts only about the next day’s to-do list, I tucked into my side of the bed like any other of a thousand other nights.