For 10 days, the world was bliss. Justin & I spent a lot of time together before his Christmas break ended and he had to go back to school. Even then, it wasn’t bad…he was only three hours away, came home every weekend, and we talked on the phone about 3 hours every night.
As word of our courtship spread, we got lots of enthusiastic responses and “Told you so!”s from our friends. And then we got the downers…
A family who put together and led a lot of our homeschool get-togethers sat down with Justin & me one night and told us that they had some “rules” for us to follow. I would have been okay with that, except for one fact: Their rules did not allow us to even remotely act like a couple.
My dad had already put boundaries on the physical side of our relationship–no long, super-tight hugs, no hand-holding for the present, no dates without a chaperon. They didn’t want us forming a physical-only relationship without a good spiritual and personal relationship base.
But some of this family’s rules were outright ridiculous–no sitting next to each other (in separate chairs, even), no talking a lot to each other…etc, etc. They made me very upset, but at that point no one wanted to rock the boat, so Justin & I went along with the rules for one get-together. After that, we couldn’t handle it, because these people couldn’t seem to accept that we were trying to form a real relationship–they kept blowing us off like we were two 5-year-olds with cute little crushes.
I later found out that Justin’s immediate response was to want to become engaged, to prove to these people that we were indeed serious. And even though we became quite serious quite quickly, our parents wanted him to wait and not rush anything.
We stopped attending those get-togethers, and the rest of the winter went by very quickly between my writing course, Justin’s school, and squeezing in time with both families and for dates when he was home on the weekends.
On Valentine’s Day, he took me ice-skating and held my hand for the first time.
In May, he graduated college, and I got up at 5:30 in the morning in order to drive up to school with his family.
Shortly after Justin’s graduation, he started applying for jobs at weather offices. We’d hoped to stay in Springfield, since he’d volunteered there for years and it was only about 30-45 minutes away from both our families. In the interim, he took a job with a roofing crew.
Around the same time, his youngest sister Olivia, who has Downs Syndrome and was 2 at the time, started bothering Tammy. She didn’t feel like Olivia’s health was that good, and after a lot of testing, they found out she had leukemia.
I remember the night Justin found out…his mom called him while he was over at my house. All I could be grateful for was the fact that it wasn’t weird to hug him this time as he cried.
That summer was bittersweet. One on hand, our relationship was amazing and growing in ways I’d never expected. One the other hand, we had Tammy and Olivia in a hospital three hours away. Bob went back and forth as much as he could, and the two older girls, Sarah and Hannah, took turns staying with Tammy and Olivia when Bob couldn’t be there. Justin’s older brother Josh had a new job, and Justin had a new job…and it was chaotic.
I helped where I could, though I’m not sure if it was actually help, or if trying to coordinate things made Tammy even more stressed out. It wasn’t a good time to try to become a new family member.
So we kept things fairly low-key…a few dinner dates, going out for ice-cream with siblings, attending siblings’ sports games, finding time together whenever we could.
All the way he was trying to find a job in the National Weather Service. Sometime during the summer he gave up trying to stay in Springfield and began applying wherever there were intern openings. We discussed the possibility of moving away, but neither of us were super excited about it. I especially was against the idea of moving very far away…and I put my foot down and would not budge when he asked if applying to Alaska would be all right. “I do not want to be stuck in Alaska,” I told him. “Absolutely not. I would hate it up there.”
Consequently, when he finally did get an intern position, he had to consider how to tell me without making me upset…