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A true love connection

I wish I could share with you an interesting story, a hilarious anecdote, and/or a photograph that will make you say, “Awwww, that’s sweet” from my first date with Cindy. I’m sorry, but I have none of those things.

Our first meeting 18 years ago today isn’t what you would call Harlequin Romance novel material. I liked what I saw when I found Cindy’s profile on We had exchanged a few emails prior to agreeing to meet for dinner at TGI Fridays. We talked a lot throughout our meal, and I felt a little bad about Cindy not being able to finish her dinner and having to take what was left home with her. She must not have held it against me, because we went to another nearby restaurant, had a couple of drinks and talked some more. I asked to see her again. She gave me her phone number. We said goodnight and went our separate ways.

And deep down I think I knew – yes, knew – I had just gone on my last first date ever.

Did I know Cindy would agree to marry me just 30 weeks later, or that we would be husband and wife 80 weeks after that initial meeting on that snowy evening? No. But I do know how happy I was driving back to my apartment. I know I couldn’t wait to call her – not that night, I told myself a couple times while slapping my hand as it reached for the phone – and set up a second date. I know I forgot all about the Green Bay Packers’ loss to the St. Louis Rams earlier that day in the NFC divisional playoffs and the six interceptions Brett Favre had thrown. Thinking about a woman instead of football at that time in my life? She must have been pretty special.

I’m happy Cindy was just as smitten with me after that first date. She had to be to still want to go out with me after I’d slammed into the neighbor’s mailbox while backing out of her mom and stepdad’s driveway en route to our second date. To accompany me to some of the events I covered as part of my job as a sportswriter for a daily newspaper, and to tolerate the fact I worked nights and weekends. To stand at the finish line during a late April snowstorm and watch me finish a 10-kilometer road race. To calmly smile and say she’d be my wife that summer evening while I choked up and my face turned stop sign red as I fumbled for the ring in my jacket pocket in a busy restaurant. I got a few stares, but I also got the girl and a free dessert.

The happy ending to my search for the perfect woman came 18 years ago tonight. I had reached the point in my life where I doubted it would ever come.

I was a shy teenager who tried, and failed miserably time after time, to find a girlfriend – hell, even one date – in high school. It took me until my second semester in college to finally land my first date with a woman in one of my classes. We went to see “Uncle Buck” somewhere on campus. We said maybe 25 or 30 words to each other all night. I walked her back to her dorm after the movie. I asked her if she wanted to do anything else. She said no. That was the date. Yet I really, really liked her. I think I sent her flowers once or twice and wrote her a poem. Things got awkward – think Mike, Jon Favreau’s character in “Swingers,” leaving several messages on the answering machine of a woman he’d met earlier that evening. Needless to say, there was no second date. Come to think of it, there were only one or two dates the rest of my time as an undergraduate.

Choosing print journalism for a career and working primarily second shift at four different daily newspapers after I graduated from college did my social life absolutely no favors, either.

I tried a telephone dating service, and it was the dumpster fire you can imagine it would be. One woman I was supposed to have a date with called me early one morning from a local detention facility to tell me she had run afoul of the law, but not in those words (Needless to say, I hung up, but I was kind of flattered I might have been her one phone call). Another woman talked me into going to a bar with her after dinner. She ended up playing pool with another guy and bumming 10 bucks from me on the drive back to her place. I never saw her, or my 10 bucks, again. I met a woman I really liked and we went out a few times. She stopped returning my calls, started seeing another guy and neglected to tell me. I gave her another chance and we went out again. The next thing I knew she had met some guy in Maine and moved there to be with him.

(As bad as some of my dating experiences were, they could have been worse. Think of your worst date, and then go to and thank your maker you haven’t walked in those people’s shoes. But if you have, I’m really sorry).

Maybe I wasn’t about to fly to Moscow to seek out a Russian bride – I checked, and it was way too expensive – but I was getting a little antsier to find someone as I got closer to 30. I flew to St. Louis and spent a few days with a woman I’d met online who was really nice, but not my type. My mom tried to play matchmaker and encouraged me to ask out one of her co-workers. She then told the co-worker I was going to ask her out. The woman told me she wasn’t interested. I told mom she was forbidden from trying to recruit dates for me.

Cindy came into my life at just the right time. I’d told myself, as I’d told myself in the past, I was going to take a long break from trying to meet someone if this one didn’t work out – and damn it, this time I meant it. But it never came to that. As much as I was intrigued by the person whose emails I’d read and whose picture I’d seen, I was captivated by the woman who sat across the table from me. She was very easy to talk to. She was attractive. She was everything I’d hoped to find.

So, what would have happened if Cindy and I hadn’t ended up together? I’d rather not think about it. I can’t imagine a world without her and Nolan. I can’t imagine closing in on 50, still living in an apartment, going to work at a job I’d come to dislike, consuming too much fast food and watching too much television. I’m pretty sure my tale wouldn’t have ended well.

I’m glad I got to share my boring, yet happy, first date story with you instead. It’s one that still brings me tremendous joy after 18 years.

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