After we arrived home from the convention that July, I started to write a letter. Then I tore it up and threw it away. I waited. And waited. I didn’t hear a word from him. Complete radio silence. Blaring static. Nothing. I started to freak out. Weeks passed. I wrote another letter. Then I tore it up and threw it away too. I was old fashioned. If he was interested in me, he’d have to write the first letter. Waiting was torture. All of August passed. No letters. Turns out, he was doing the exact same thing 200 miles away.
While we were at the convention in July, his parents had invited my family to come visit for Labor Day weekend. When I caught wind of the invitation, I begged and pleaded my Dad to go. He eyeballed me a little funny and said they’d think about it. I wasn’t above begging. “I mean really, Dad, they have stopped by here so many times to visit when they’ve gone through town on ministry trips, we OWE them a visit!”
Finally, my Dad made arrangements to go visit, most likely just to appease my insistent begging and pleading. Then Ked broke the silence with a phone call.
We chit-chatted about school starting and the upcoming visit, when Ked decided to scope out my dating scene.
“So are you dating anyone?” he asked.
“Me? Oh no, there aren’t any Keds in my town.”
I bit my lip and smashed my hand against my forehead. Are you kidding me? I uttered a silent scream. Had I REALLY just said that out loud? Open mouth, insert foot. It’s what I did best. It slipped out, and he found it rather humorous. And enlightening.
“No Keds in your town, huh?” He chuckled that deep, irresistible laugh. I was doomed. End of story. This was over before it even started.
“Umm…no….I…ah….well…..” I stammered. He laughed. I wondered if I could plead to not go on this trip to Michigan that I had begged my Dad mercilessly for. I saw no positive end to the scenario.
Labor Day Weekend 1994.
I packed my bags with my stomach in knots. Somehow, I knew this weekend was going to be fateful. It would either be the end of something great or the start of something greater. Or worse, it would be nothing, leaving me with no answers and more confusion. Why, why do boy/girl relationships have to be so miserable?
He was one of my best friends, even though we’d never lived in the same town. We’d shared so much of our hopes, dreams and fears through our letters. We had a common love for God and a desire to share that love with others. We had so much in common. But we might as well have lived a million miles apart. Why, oh why did I have to fall? And now things were so awkward.
We arrived and his family warmly welcomed us. His older sister was home from her freshman year of college and his younger brothers and my brother ran around the woods on their property all weekend. Ked was the perfect gentlemen, eager to show me around his small country town. We visited the pizza shop where he and his sister worked. We caught up on life over mozzerella breadsticks and some of the best pizza I’d ever eaten. We went putt-putt golfing with a couple of his friends. We attended his high school’s football game. It kind of felt like a date.
On Sunday, both families somehow managed to pile into his parents’ full-size van and we headed to Grand Rapids to drop his sister off at college. They drove us around the city a little and we got a tour of the college where his parents first met and his sister now attended. As we walked around the school, Ked informed me that he was attending there next year as well. He asked me if I’d made up my mind where I was going yet.
I replied, “I’m not really sure. I’ve got a few applications to fill out. I’m still checking places out.”
He flashed that heart-breaking smile. “You should add this one to your list.”
Gulp. Breathe. Just breathe. How was it this boy could continually take my breath away with just a smile?
On the way back to his parents home, he and I sat in the back seat of the van with one of our brothers crowding in. It was a tight fit. We didn’t mind. Next thing I knew, Ked was smacking me on the leg with the end of his seat belt. I looked at him wide eyed. He smirked and raised an eye brow with the non-verbal challenge, “What are you going to do about it?” I poked him in the ribs with my elbow. He smacked my thigh again with the seatbelt. The smacking and poking continued slyly as to not raise the suspicions of three nosy younger brothers. The sun set and the van grew dark. Another smack. But this time his hand lingered and nudged my hand, as if seeking permission. I nudged back. He snatched my hand.
My hands had never felt so small. He slowly intertwined his fingers with mine. I thought my heart might explode. A tingle went up and down my spine. It was just a little hand holding. In the dark. In the backseat of his parents van, surrounded by our parents and younger brothers. But I didn’t ever want him to let go. Ever.
We made it back to his parents home, and I was glad for the cool country air to remove the pink from my cheeks. Darn cheeks always blushed too easily. I took a few deep breaths to clear my head. After all, we were leaving tomorrow. And driving home – four hours away. 200 miles. I gave a little shudder.
Our parents finished out the evening chatting and laughing. I felt more than a little awkward. Ked invited me outside to check out the stars. I was a city girl compared to his small town. He figured I hadn’t ever seen so many stars. He was right. We wandered the property making small talk, eventually stopping and leaning up against the propane tank. He leaned over and looked at me, his dimpled smile gleaming in the moonlight.
He popped the question, “So, do you want to be my girlfriend?”
“Um…well…yes, as long as it doesn’t ruin our friendship,” I managed to stammer.
WHAT?? I was internally kicking myself. Insert foot again. I knew what I meant, but it came out sounding all wrong. I’d seen a lot of guys and girls begin as good friends, start to date and when it didn’t work out, hardly ever speak to each other again. In fact, I’d been part of one of those relationships. Earlier that summer I had “the talk” with my on-again-off-again boyfriend informing him it was off for good, that we could only be friends and he needed to move on. It hadn’t gone well. We wouldn’t remain friends, and I was sad about that because he was a great guy.
I couldn’t bear the thought of something similar happening with Ked. I couldn’t lose his friendship, not even for the chance of something more. But, yet, I wanted something more. I wanted to be with him. But then there was the issue of dating someone so far away. How would that work?
I had definitely thrown him for a loop. He looked at me a bit confused and said, “I think it will only make our friendship stronger.”
I took a deep breath and agreed, “Yeah.”
“So….is that a yes?” he asked.
I turned to face him, and took a leap of faith. “Yes. It’s a yes.” He took my hand again. I shivered, not so much from the chill in the air, but that tingling up and down my spine. Yes. Most definitely yes. Forever yes.