(If you’re looking for links to other parts of the story, scroll to the end of this post.)
“I couldn’t talk about this while I’m driving,” he said.
I took a deep breath in.
“I wish I had the words to describe how much I care for you and love you. It is crazy to me. I have never ever experienced anything like it. I’m trying to figure out how to give you what you need, while still being myself.”
I started crying, of course… within the first sentence. (Basically, take any serious emotional conversation and add my sniffly tears to the soundtrack as you read. I promise you were they were always there.) Looking back, I can’t remember what came next, but all I remember is Randy’s grace.
He handled every single discussion with grace.
And in a strange way, my ridiculous conversations about “not knowing” if he was the right guy for me forever, step by step, eventually helped me begin to “know” he could possibly be my forever.
In the few months Randy and I had been dating, we had spent spring and summer evenings exploring all of Greater Vancouver. I couldn’t have asked for a better few months of exploring, talking, laughing, learning one another. Our dates took us to Deep Cove in North Vancouver, Bellingham, Granville Island, Vancouver Island, Port Moody, Dundarave in West Vancouver, White Rock Beach, Whonnock Lake in Maple Ridge and all over the city: Olympic Village, Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, downtown. We loved going places together – and every date was full of fun. We were into a good rhythm. I loved holding his hand. It had been the sweetest summer of my life.
The week of my 23rd birthday, my Mom planned a family barbecue on my actual birthday (August 1) and Randy told me we’d celebrate together the evening before. He booked the afternoon off work and gave me instructions to be ready by eleven o’ clock.
After lunch on the water in North Vancouver, we drove to Horseshoe Bay, parking in front of a building with a sign reading “Boat Rentals.”
“We’re renting a boat!?” Randy nodded with a smile, opening the door to the bed of his truck and retrieving a blue cooler. He held it up, “I brought dinner.” For the rest of the afternoon, we boated around the gorgeous coastline of West Vancouver, taking in the mountains, ocean and warm summer sun. After exploring for a couple hours, we found a spot away from other boats and turned off the engine – the stillness a welcome sound.
Randy reached into his backpack and handed me a small wrapped present, about the size of a ring box. “Open it,” he said. I took the small package in my hands, and carefully unwrapped the gold paper. Inside on the gray paper box was the name of a diamond store.
Opening the lid, I found a half-carat solitaire diamond necklace with a delicate silver chain. “Wow. Thank you,” I picked up the diamond for a closer look. “This is incredible, Randy.”
He smiled sheepishly, “You like it? I was worried it was too much… especially after our conversation a few days ago… and how… I just didn’t want to overwhelm you… or make things too serious or anything. I asked your mom and Kristen and they said you’d be fine.”
I leaned over to give him a hug, shaking my head, “It’s perfect. You seriously had nothing to worry about. Thank you.”
A few hours later, Randy set out a picnic dinner at a park overlooking the water. He had packed a huge salad with goat cheese (my favourite), vegetables, almonds, chicken and dressing in separate containers so it wouldn’t get soggy and a craisin and quinoa salad. It was my favourite kind of meal.
By after eight o’clock, we finished up our meal and laid flat on our backs, looking up at the now-setting sun. We flip-flopped between talking about nothing and everything, speaking a mile a minute and not speaking at all. I laughed a lot that evening, the warm light turning to darkness and the cool air forcing us back to Randy’s truck.
My birthday was the next day! I was 23 years old!
My morning was spent alone, in quiet, reading and thinking and eating breakfast on the back patio. In the afternoon, my mom took me out for lunch to a cute cafe and we ran a couple errands to prepare for family coming over for dinner. In the afternoon, I opened the door to my bedroom and my mouth opened, “No way.”
On my bedroom floor stood two dozen red roses in a black vase, a tin of my favourite green tea, a birthday card (with our photos on the front), a book and a gift card to a coffee shop.
Who is this guy and what planet did he come from?
I grabbed the card and sat on the edge of my bed reading every word with a smile. This entire gift was… perfect. I arranged everything on the top of my dresser and bounded down the stairs, “MOM. Did you know what was in my room?!”
I was smiling ear to ear. Randy was too good for me – and I knew it.
Although every date with Randy was enjoyable, my favourite dates have always been day-dates. I believed we could date more authentically over a full day than just a quick evening coffee and a walk. It’s easy to be outgoing and bubbly for a couple of hours but I wanted us to “do life” together. I wanted Randy to see my morning face at 6am, know it was okay when I had nothing to say, see how I acted when I was hungry or endlessly yawned when I needed sleep. I wanted to see those sides of Randy, too – to know the “ups and downs” of his day.
One weekend, my mom’s cousins allowed us to stay in their Whistler townhouse for a few evenings as a family. We did a whole lot of nothing for those two days – walks, lots of time on the couch, playing cards around the table, taking the boat out on the lake.
Randy fit with my family naturally, nothing was ever an adjustment – and I was happier with him there, then I was without him there. I loved noticing how I was just as much myself with Randy (I man I had really only known for 6 months?) as I could be with my family (who I’ve known my entire life.)
One night Randy and I were flipping through a real estate magazine admiring the beautiful homes for sale in the area. My head rested against his shoulder as he turned the pages. I woke up to Randy rubbing my arm, “I didn’t want to wake you but I think you should get to bed.”
I stirred slowly, turning to look at the stove clock. Midnight. I said goodnight and in a half-slumber I walked to my bedroom thinking, “That is the most peaceful way I’ve ever woken up.”
I don’t imagine it would be easy leaving a city you called home for years: away from memories, oft-visited places, family. Randy’s mom and some of his closest friends still lived on Vancouver Island and we really wanted to make another trip ‘home’ before the summer ended.
So on Saturday, August 10th, Randy turned his truck off of Comox Road and onto the familiar gravel driveway leading to the back of his mom’s house. Upstairs, the kitchen patio doors were swung wide open, welcoming in the afternoon breeze.
I could hear music playing loudly from the speakers on top of the fridge and Randy’s mom bounded out the basement doors to meet us. Hugs were delivered (no one else hugs like Randy’s family, tight and just when you think it’s ending… it doesn’t) and an invitation to come inside. We walked through the basement and up one flight of stairs to the main floor where lunch prep was well on it’s way. The three of us shared lunch at the kitchen table on red patterned chairs and talked about our plans for the weekend.
In the afternoon, the three of us drove to a beach called Kye Bay. We explored the coastline, took photos together, poked a dead jellyfish with a stick. (Don’t knock it until you try it – it was exhilarating in a disgusting way. I screamed, a very weird texture.)
We stopped by a farmers market on the way home for fresh produce for dinner. An hour later, with the patio doors still swung wide open and music turned up loud, Randy and I lingered near the kitchen while his mom cooked. After dinner, Randy mentioned there was a spot he wanted to take me to before the sun set.
A few minutes drive from his mom’s, we came to a beautiful oceanside neighbourhood, large properties scattered down the winding road. Randy stopped the truck in front of an empty lot, overgrown with tall weeds. Looking out of the passenger side window, I noticed three “No Trepassing, Violators will be prosecuted” signs staked into the ground. I read them out loud.
“Well, those are new since the last time I’ve been here.” Randy cranked the wheel to the left and made a U-turn. “We’ll park the truck up the road and walk.” Parked safely away at an inconspicuous distance, Randy took my hand as we walked down the hill. As we were about to turn onto the empty property, a car slowly drove by. Randy pulled me along, looking straight down the road instead of to the right, “We’ll keep walking.”
The car turned a corner and Randy laughed, “Okay. Coast is clear. Let’s go.”
I followed him through the tall grass of the property until we came to a sandy clearing and looked out upon a completely unobstructed view of the ocean. It was beautiful. We found a soft spot on the ground and watched the sun set for the next hour, talking, enjoying being close to one another, kissing, until dusk fell. We heard a group of noisy teenagers walking up the path behind us, boxes of beer cans in tow. “I guess that’s our sign to go.”
Back at home, we made cups of tea with Randy’s mom, hanging out around her kitchen table playing cards until late into the evening. I was happy here with him, with her. I wanted to be beside him always.
Around seven o’ clock the next morning, I wandered downstairs fresh-faced and in my favourite sweatshirt and jeans. Through the spindles of the staircase, I could already see Randy awake with his laptop, typing with a look of concentration and a Starbucks cup beside him. When he noticed my presence he stood up immediately to come give me a hug, “Good morning! How are you?” he wrapped me in his arms.
He reached down to the table to pick up the Starbucks cup, “I got you a green tea! I went earlier this morning and knew you’d probably want one.” I smiled and nodded, taking a sip. Seriously, who is this boyfriend and where did I find him? How was it possible for someone to always be thinking of me… and for goodness sakes, it’s 7 in the morning!
In the early afternoon, we drove out to the countryside to Randy’s friends home, Brent and his wife Carlee and their four children. From the moment we drove onto their property, the kids came running towards the truck. Before Randy could introduce me to anyone, they were pouncing on him, holding onto both of his legs and calling his name excitedly. “Randy, Randy, Randy! Look at this, come here with me, did I show you this last time?”
I had heard so much about Randy’s friendship with Brent and Carlee and knew he treasured their children a lot. I was excited about spending the day with all six of them but a little bit nervous. It was another step towards commitment. And I love Randy now, right? So this should be comfortable and easy and amazing and I should be picturing Randy as the father of my kids – so I have to be excited and not scared.
As I settled into small talk with both Brent and Carlee, we all made nachos together in the kitchen for dinner. When Randy took his last bite, the kids begged him to chase them around the yard. He obliged and I stayed inside, getting to know Brent and Carlee while Randy ran around like a ten-year old boy with the kids.
Ten minutes later, the door swung open loudly and Randy entered, one on his back, three kids around his legs. Randy playfully said, “Okay! Enough’s enough!” and sat down at the table with us, reaching for his glass of water. He wiped his sweaty forehead with the back of his hand and tickled another kid with his free hand.
I sat back, taking in the scene. He’s certainly something special, I thought.
This is so different than my life back home. I don’t know how to picture it. Small town. Property. Four children. But if I can picture this with anyone… woah. I’m picturing this with him. Randy will be the most amazing father.
A few hours later, Randy, Brent and I took the three youngest kids on a walk down to the river to let them blow off some energy. Two were biking and the youngest Brent pushed in the stroller.
We had been walking for about twenty minutes when we noticed the sunny skies start to turn gray. I put my hands up to feel the air, “Randy, I think it may be starting to rain?”
Within seconds, it started to pour. The kind of pouring where there was no hiding, no cowering under a raised arm, and certainly no staying dry under a cotton hoodie. “Kids!! Let’s turn around! Let’s go!” Brent laughed, clapping his hands and speed walking back towards the house. The six of us broke into a jog and quickly gave up. We were too far away.
Randy and I started laughing while we held hands behind Brent and the kids. Randy shouted encouragement to the youngest boy, Cohen, who wasn’t quite sure if he should cry about this rain? Or if it was all okay? “This is awesome rain, Cohen! Great job being happy! Isn’t this sweet!?”
Back at the house, we changed into dry t-shirts and sweaters and warmed up near the wood-burning fireplace before saying goodbye to the family. Randy pulled to the end of their gravel driveway, about to turn right onto the road but instead, turned in his seat and grabbed my hand.
“Jamie? Thanks for coming with me today.”
I gave a small smile. “Of course, I love being here.”
I felt my eyes filling with tears and I blinked quickly, willing them to leave. Still holding my hand, Randy drove towards the direction of our dinner date in town with friends. I turned my head away from Randy, not wanting him to see. Why am I crying? Stop crying.
On the way to meet Randy’s friends for dinner, we were listening to country radio (always) when a new favourite song came on, “Mine Would Be You” by Blake Shelton. “It’s on again, it’s on!” I turned the dial up and sang along,
Mine would be you
Sun keeps shining, back road flying
Singing like crazy fools
Making up our own words
Laughing ’til it hurts
Baby, if I had to choose
My best day ever
My finest hour, my wildest dream come true
Mine would be you
Thinking, “This could be one of my best days ever.” The restaurant we went to was called Atlas, the same place Randy and I first ‘shook hands’ and met two years previous. When we entered the restaurant, I tried to recall our first meeting. I looked at the tile on the floor, the mirror on the walls, how the take-out menus were laid out on the bar.
It was an unassuming meeting. A quick hello. How completely odd and unexpected that Randy now lives near me in Langley. We’re dating. We love each other. And we’re back in Courtenay at the same spot. Weird! This is so weird!
After dinner, we started the truck to head home, only a couple minutes away – but Randy stopped in the back parking lot. Just a few moments of silence and ‘togetherness’ before going home. We held hands and came close to one another over the truck console. We looked deep into each others eyes, just staring at one another with the occasional word from Randy. He brushed the top of my hand with his thumb and we brought our foreheads close to one another.
We kissed in between our eye-gazing, but it wasn’t a physical or sexual moment at all. (We had those, too… goodness sakes, we definitely had those. But this wasn’t one of them.) It was a new level of emotional intimacy and comfort I had never experienced before in my life. My eyes filled with tears again, only a few hours after I blinked away the same tears leaving Brent and Carlee’s house.
“What’s wrong, Jamie?” Randy asked.
I took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Our noses were touching one another. Without thinking, just feeling I said, “It’s just that… I know that I love you… I really know that I do.”
Randy smiled, leaning in for a soft kiss, “You know that I do, too.”
The following morning, another Starbucks green tea waited for me in the kitchen. “I heard you leave your room, so I just boiled the water for you!” Randy said. “Yesterday I was worried it cooled down a bit too much before you got to it… so I got the barista to give me a tea bag in a cup without the water.”
What a cutie.
We went out for brunch with his mom and Randy planned our last few hours in the city.
He had a few trails and specific views he wanted me to see and we spent the afternoon driving around the city. We explored all over, mountains, valleys, trails, the river and the ocean. We went down one ‘logging road’ to a waterfall that I don’t think anyone should really call a road but I guess I’m from the suburbs not the country so you can take my opinion or leave it.
Time spent with Randy always went by too fast… but we still had to drive back to Nanaimo to catch a ferry to Vancouver. On the way out, we stopped by the house to grab our bags and with a couple hugs and a “Here! A jar of blueberries for the road!” from his mom we were on our way.
As we hit the open stretch of highway, I turned vintage Shania Twain up loud on Randy’s truck speakers and began to sing at the top of my lungs. “I grew up on this stuff!” I laughed and Randy smiled, “I’m sorry… I didn’t. But you go right ahead.” He reached for my hand as I sang,
“You got to dance with the one that brought you
Stay with the one that want’s you
The one who’s gonna love you when all of the others go home
Don’t let the green grass fool you
Don’t let the moon get to you
Dance with the one that brought you and you can’t go wrong”
I truly can’t sing and I was giggling in between lines as Randy raised an eyebrow at my misguided notes. Looking back, I can see something ‘breaking’ in me that afternoon, in the best way. I could be myself with Randy. My whole self. And he was still here.
I was happy.
On the ferry, we went out to the top balcony level to take in the setting sun. The sky was brilliant shades of orange and pink and we leaned up against one another, taking selfies and enjoying the view.
When the breeze picked up and the sun went down, we went down to the vehicle deck to the truck. Randy sat in the driver’s seat and I grabbed my pillow from the backseat laying it in his lap. Shifting my weight, I rested my head on my pillow and Randy placed his arm around my side.
We rested in silence and I closed my eyes, tired from a long day of adventuring.
A thought interrupt my silence.
I could see myself marrying this man.
It was a firm, confident thought.
I had another.
I have to push myself and share this thought with him.
I went back and forth in my brain, I can’t say that. If I share that, this is serious. Marriage? No. No, no no, interrupting my internal dialogue Randy asked, “What are you thinking about?”
Oh man, oh man, oh man.
“Nothing, really,” I lied.
Classic avoidance. That’s good. Bide your time.
A few minutes later he prodded again, “You seem like something is on your mind? What are you thinking about now?”
Here we go. The tears started to gather.
“I…” The tears fell down my cheeks. “was just…” I took a deep breath in, “thinking about how…” I exhaled, with my eyes closed, resting the back of my hand on my forehead. “About how I could…. see… myself… marrying you.” I opened my eyes and looked up into Randy’s. The tears were coming fast and furious and I was on a new level of sobbing.
Randy didn’t say anything in return. He had a blank look on his face and his arm still rested on my side. Slowly, he reached down to my cheeks to wipe the tears from my eyes. “Wow, that’s a lot of tears.”
“I know.” I sniffled.
He paused. “Jamie, I love you. I don’t want to say too much and scare you.”
Instead of feeling fear about his warning, I felt only peace. Say the words, Randy, say them, I thought. I know I’ve put you through your fair share of back and forth emotions and change… but I do love you. I can really see us together! I can really see myself marrying you! Say what you need to say.
“Nothing you say can scare me. I promise,” I said.
And so he began.
Randy said some of the most beautiful words I have ever heard. He knew I was the one he wanted to marry. He could see it, too. I was everything he had ever imagined or hoped for, except a million times better. I sobbed, literally sobbed (and I take word choice very seriously) throughout his entire speech. I was losing complete control of my emotions.
He held my hand after he finished speaking and my tears slowly began to wane. “You’re sweating like crazy,” I giggled, pointing to his forehead.
“I know! I didn’t want to say too much, or the wrong thing. It was stressing me out.”
Reflecting on the moment, I see clearly how emotionally exhausting it was to dig into my feelings; to be sure of them, to express them, to be vulnerable with them.
It was work… scary, frightening, rewarding work. And when I managed to express what was going on in my heart, the incredible work completely took control of my emotions. Throughout my sobbing, I felt peace, joy, comfort, assurance, confidence and love.
We were a beautiful progression.
The introduction of Forge can be found here and Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Part Four can be found here. Part Five can be found here. Part Six can be found here. Part Seven can be found here. Part Eight can be found here. Part Nine can be found here. Part Ten can be found here. Part Eleven can be found here. Part Twelve can be found here. Part Thirteen can be found here. Part Fourteen can be found here. Part Fifteen can be found here. Part Sixteen can be found here. Part Seventeen can be found here. Part Eighteen can be found here. This is Part Nineteen.