Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Partner And I (How We Came To Be)

Tonight was a wonderful evening. The German and I were only going to run some errands but I felt like getting dressed up, so I did. I think I was the best dressed girl at PetsMart. I wasn't ready to go home after we made groceries because the sun was just setting and the weather was surprisingly nice for a summer night in Louisiana. The German suggested that we just go for a ride around town. I know that might sound really lame but it was the best time I've had in months. We kissed and held hands in the car and acted like a bunch of teenagers.

I remember when I was living at my parent's house and he used to drive an hour and a half just to see me on every day that he was off from work. My friends were sure that he was in love with me long before I was able to see it. They said any guy who'd travel from another city just to pick you up from class every other day has got to be in love. In my mind, we were still just friends.

My mother was the first to tell me that he'd be the guy that I married. She's never said that about any other guy who came over to see me. I suppose the fact that he was the first guy to win my brothers' approval impressed her a lot. Considering the overtly hostile response that all my other boyfriends got from them, I was pretty shocked myself. They scared most guys off from even getting involved with me. Altogether, I've literally only had four guys who actually made it into my parent's house. I think it helped that he looked like he'd fit in to our family. He has no tattoos, no piercings, no long hair, and he was willing to go to our congregation with my family whenever he was asked. My step-dad was going to be friends with him even if I dumped him once he found out that The German knew how to fix cars. Side note: The German is still fond of telling people how Germany builds the best cars and that Germans are the world's best engineers.

I don't think I've ever talked about how the two of us met. Well, I was sitting in one of the buildings on campus where a lot of students tend to congregate between classes. I'd just had lunch and I was trying to get some trigonometry homework done while chatting with my friends. The German was at my university for a NSBE meeting and was talking to some of the same people that I was talking to, even though we weren't talking to each other. He saw me struggling with the math and he asked me if I'd like some help. Well, I'm never one to turn down some free help, so I let him look at it. He said that he didn't have time to explain the whole lesson to me but if I faxed him a copy of my homework problems, he'd break it down for me. Well, since his proposition only entailed us exchanging fax numbers, I decided to take him up on his offer.

That evening, I faxed him my homework and a little while later, he faxed it back to me with all of the answers and explanations for how to solve each problem. I was very grateful. In fact, I was so grateful that I continued to fax him my assignments and get lessons from him through the fax machine all throughout the semester. Eventually, I gave him my e-mail address and he would explain the more complicated stuff that way.

He turned out to be a pretty nice person to talk to. He never once said anything that set off the creep alert in my head. I know all the stuff that people say about giving your phone number to people you meet on the internet but I rationalized doing it by telling myself that we didn't technically meet on the internet even though we had only seen each other in person once and then for only a few minutes. We talked on the phone a little bit every now and then but he didn't really call me unless he couldn't figure out a way to write down all that he wanted to say about what we were working on.

We hadn't spoken on the phone in months when I got a call from him on Valentine's Day. He called me and seemed sort of nervous. He said that he hadn't expected to find me home and that he was just calling to leave a message on my answering machine wishing me a Happy Valentine's Day. I explained to him that not only was I at home, I was completely without anyone who'd even want to spend that day with me if they could. To tell you the truth, I was pretty down in the dumps that day. I didn't grow up celebrating any holidays but if there's any day that reminds you that you're single and without any love interests, it's Valentine's Day. I talked about this with The German at the time. He said that if he had known that I didn't have any plans, he'd have loved to have taken me out. I told him that it was quite nice of him to say that but, honestly, I didn't believe him at all. I asked him what he was doing at home alone that day. He said that he wound up spending Valentine's Day alone pretty much every year.

The two of us decided to spend that evening keeping each other company over the phone. We talked for hours about our theories regarding why no one was interested in us. He's really shy which makes it hard for him to meet new people or to know how to let them know he's interested in them. My problem was that I'd get involved with jerks and then I wouldn't know how to extricate myself from the relationship because I had that "stand by your man" mentality engraved on my head thanks to my religious background. It had gotten to the point where I just wasn't even trying to date anyone because I didn't trust my own judgment when it came to men. That night, The German and I gave each other outside perspectives on what we'd talked about. I don't think we got off of the phone until we were both dozing off. He was really there for me and I hadn't had that in years.

After that, we were fast friends. We'd talk about our occasional forages into the dating scene. Those were short conversations since neither one of us went on a single date during that time. I talked to him about being a single parent. Even though he didn't have any biological children, he spent years raising his ex-girlfriend's son. He talked about the birthday parties they celebrated and the times when he'd have the boy completely in his care for weeks at a time. His ability to relate to what it's like having all of the parenting responsibility on your shoulders really made me see that my feelings of exhaustion and frustration weren't because I was a bad mom; It was completely normal and definitely to be expected if you're doing the job that most people get to share with someone else.

Thanks to him, I passed my math classes with flying colors. At the end of the second semester, I called to tell him how much I really appreciated the help that he'd given me. I offered to pay him because I know the going rate of that sort of help and he could have been making some decent money from another confused math student instead of tutoring me. He refused to accept any money but he said that if I really wanted to repay him, I could do so by letting him take me out to dinner one night. I said yes, of course.

We wound up canceling our first date because he asked me if we could move it forward so that he'd have another week to kind of deal with his shyness. He wasn't just the sort of shyness where you blush a lot when someone flirts with you. He was really timid. What made it worse was that he's 6'4" and strong as an ox. People tended to assume that he was some kind of macho tough-guy and they treated him accordingly. That only made him go even further into his shell. I was really thrilled that he was even willing to take a chance and hang out with me in person. Waiting another weekend was no big deal to me because I didn't want him to freak out and get too nervous.

It turned out to be really worth it. We had a ball. We went out to the House of Blues and had dinner. We walked through the Vieux Carre laughing and talking until that night when he dutifully brought me home. On our second outing, we went to see former president Nelson Mandela give the commencement speech at Southern University. It was an amazing experience to share with a real friend because we could talk about it and reminisce together. Not only was The German really smart (He has an IQ of 151), he also cared about the world we live in. He was a history buff and made me feel like I was with a walking, talking encyclopedia. He was passionate about politics and open-minded about religion. It didn't take long for us to become best friends. All the while, we'd still spend a lot of time talking about what it would be like to find someone to love.

Sometimes we'd pose as the other's Sig-Oth too. It started out with me being the featured poet at the Black History Ball on my campus. It was my third time performing at a black tie affair for the school. Every other time, I had gone alone or with a girlfriend. Well, this time around, all of my girlfriends had dates and I wasn't even about to consider being a third wheel. I was talking about it with The German and I asked him if he'd mind posing as my boyfriend for a night because I was getting really tired of people asking me who my date was whenever I was at a formal function. He was really nice about it and agreed to do it. I bought a dress and his mom even did the alterations on it for me. Doesn't that sound like a high school prom scenario? Well, it wasn't like my prom because I wasn't allowed to bring a date to that and wound up going with another girl whose mother belonged to the same religion as my family. Anyway, things worked out well that night. He made an excellent date. The two mayoral candidates were there and my mentor wanted me to go up and ask them some questions so that they'd know that college students are concerned about the issues. I schmoozed my way over to the first one and asked a few questions. To my surprise, The German also started asking him questions. He asked the other candidate even more questions. Even my mentor professor was impressed and let me know that he hoped to see more of The German in the future.

After that night, we decided that if we were in his city and we saw someone he knew, he'd introduce me as his girlfriend and I'd do the same in mine. It was great! I loved not having to hear all of my other friend's opinions on how I could "catch" a man. He became a constant fixture at my parent's house. He'd bring over movies for us to watch along with my little brothers. He'd go and run errands for my parents. I even felt comfortable enough to let him start being around my daughter. She thought he was the funniest thing around. My mom kept telling me (in front of him) that "He's a keeper". It was really embarrassing because I'd have to remind her that he and I were only best friends. She never did believe that no matter what I said and continued to insist that I'd better be careful or he might "get away"--as if he were some kind of catfish being weighed to see if he were the proper size.

Well, after almost two years of being friends, neither one of us had found anyone to date. I suppose that might have been the result of the fact that we were always hanging out with each other and showing up as a couple to all sort of events. There wasn't any point where we decided that we would be a couple for real (not just posing). Over time it just got to be that way. He never tried to kiss me or hug me until after I told him that I'd like for him to try. He just stepped into my life and became what I needed.

For VanGoghGirl's first day of kindergarten, he was there with his camera taking pictures. When I was living in Evanston, Illinois for awhile and VanGoghGirl was living with my mom, he'd pick her up and take her to the park on the weekends and made sure she had clothes that fit her and provided a constant influx of new books and toys for her to enjoy. He was there when the doctor told me that I have cancer. He was there with me every single day that I've ever spent in the hospital. He has never complained about having to do the bulk of the housework.

Whenever he's around my siblings, he always makes sure they don't need anything that we could help them out with. When my mother decided that she wanted to renovate her house, The German installed all of the floors, created custom tile countertops for the kitchen, installed the entire set of cabinets, raised the roof in one room, installed new bath-tubs, toilets, and sinks in each bathroom and helped my mom pick out the colors for each room. He has very strong religious values--the authentic kind, not the pseudo version that's synonymous with bigotry. When I die, I know that he's going to continue to raise our daughter to be tenacious and independent and assured that she has his unconditional love.

I won't say that we don't have problems but as far as such go, I lucked out. I'm learning not to freak out about the way he leaves his dirty handkerchiefs all over the place and has to be reminded to take out the garbage over and over again. He's still trying to learn to be more vocal about his feelings and I'm learning how to be a better listener so that when he does talk, he doesn't get drowned out by my abundance of words. He doesn't drink or smoke but when we go out to the jazz clubs, he seems to have just as much fun as everyone else. Yet, he's not a prude and never tries to get others to adopt the lifestyle that works for him. He's teaching me what it means to be a true pacifist. He doesn't yell or threaten or take any delight in seeing others do it. When he gets really mad, he stutters. That's my cue to take a breather and give him some space to find the words that he wants to express.

I have to be honest and say that it's probably a lot harder to live with me than it is for me to live with him. His sisters say that they can see he's much happier now than before we were together, so I'd like to think that I've contributed to his life as much as he has to mine. I'm not really fond of going on and on about how wonderful someone is because everybody has faults. However, I really believe that my Creator worked very hard to craft someone who was perfect for me and then put dropped him down into my life at just the right time. Sometimes people ask me if he's my husband or my boyfriend and I just never feel comfortable calling him either of those. Before him, I don't think I understood how meaningful the word "partner" actually is.

8 comments:

annelynn said...

What a beautiful story. It was wonderful to read - made me feel so happy for you and for him and for your daughter. I'm glad you have each other... and I'm just a stranger out here in the world.

Thank you for sharing.

I came here via http://brownfemipower.com/?p=210

It's good to "meet" you.

puck said...

Wow. That's a beautiful story. Heights to the both of you...

Also, hope you're feeling better... only started reading your blog off and on recently and I've got to say - you're quite an inspiration. I can't believe all the things you share about yourself... to keep living as powerfully as you are is really amazing.

Peace and blessings

Bint Alshamsa said...

Thank you so much, Puck! It sure is nice to wake up and see someone has left me such an encouraging message. I don't know how amazing I am but if I inspired you, then I'm really happy. Please come back and feel free to leave more comments.

Lori said...

Lovely story. Does he read this? If I were him, I would be quite flattered.

I love hearing about love!

Breez said...

I love you, but I'm ready to punch you for making me cry at work. You know I LOVE the German!! Isn't it amazing how the right person was placed in your life at the right time?

Vanaja said...

Good real story?
I'm a math teacher.anyway i got married7 years back.

Vanaja said...

Great story.i'm a math teacher.Anyway i got married 7 yeas back.

Karen McL said...

Ah...not sure how you found the *toothbrush* post (*smile*) but thanks for the comment. (I used it in my latest post with a reprise of that bit) related to the "White Smile Diet Foods"

Here's the link to this one - that might make ya *smile* too!