This is the start of a miraculous love story
Travel back with me for a while. No, let's go back longer than that...say, a little more than 20 years. It's 1998...March...warming up in Tampa, Florida. I've been here for almost three months, following my divorce from my first wife. I will only say this about my first marriage: we were never right for each other. She is a good person and I wish her nothing but the best. I knew then, as I know now, that divorce was not God's perfect will for me. But, it was not an unforgivable sin, either, praise God.
But, back to 1998: I am working for a man who is prominent in the Christian Patriot movement, running his shortwave radio station here, while he plans to move his operation to Honduras. He had given me the option to go with him, but I didn't want to be that far from my children and grandchildren. And, I was never anti-American, just anti-corruption and anti-shadow government.
I had borrowed a vehicle from my aunt, and loaded up my few belongings, with the hope that, in Florida, I could land a big one off the Clearwater Pier. I hoped to then land an even bigger one within the confines of the singles chatrooms in America OnLine aka AOL. I had managed to scrape together enough money to buy a nice rod and reel for the former and a computer to accomplish the latter.
I attacked this new medium, quite new in 1998, with the gusto of a bald (well, almost) eagle who, soaring from great heights, would swoop down with such grace and stealth as to render his prey completely without any hope for escape. It was my plan to find a godly woman using only my words as the sharpest of talons. It was my prayer that God would forgive my divorce and lead me to the "one."
I went on AOL with the screen name of "romancnlv". It was a shortening, as it were, of the words "romance" and "love." I found that there were "chatrooms" on America Online, which pretty much resembled what I had heard were the singles bars in any large city. I was somewhat disconcerted about that, until I discovered on that very secular website a chatroom called "singles 35+", in a Christian setting, sponsored by Christianity Today magazine.
As I sat at my computer, observing the varying forms of quarry before me, I
felt like a starving man in a cafeteria line. I took my time, while feeling out my competition, and waited for my moment to pounce. It wasn't long before I noticed that men would come and go from the chatroom, after a casual, "hey girls, send me your pic." But they wouldn't oblige, since they didn't know these fleeting passersby.
I should say at this point that I felt I had a small level of advantage, if, as my intuition told me, the weapons to be brandished were words...words of romance, words of mystery, words designed to make their targets swoon...to be bowled over by love. Of course, being a bit overweight, and 52 years old was a distinct disadvantage. My plan was to find a suitable filly, cut her from the herd, and hope she would love who I am more than what I looked like. I feared the day when my pic would rear its (ugly?) head. So, despite the potential disaster of visual knowledge, I pressed on.
After I had spent a suitable time in reconnaissance, I deployed my plan of
attack into the battlefield, as it were. I issued an announcement: "Okay, ladies, it's time for the annual Wednesday night beauty contest. Get your pics in to me to be judged in the next five minutes!" I was bombarded! I printed out the pictures and proceeded, at least to begin with, to grade the pictures by putting one star, two stars, etc. at the heading. I realized that this was a most unspiritual method, but I looked at is as a starting point.
The plan worked so well that I did it again, and again, and...well, you get the idea. After about two weeks, I had 73 Pics, many of which were of the 4 STAR variety! Of course, I had, as requested, reciprocated with them by sending my own pic, which to my utter astonishment, did not deter many friendly online conversations. I would learn only much later on that these women had their own "network." They were talking to each other on the phone, emailing each other, sharing pics, and, when possible meeting for coffee. What were they talking about? US! The men on the site. And many of the girls told Mitzi in no uncertain terms, that she needed to look at my profile.
When I created my AOL profile, I made sure that I came across as the consummate southern gentleman. My favorite quote was from Rhett Butler and Gone With The Wind, "No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need to be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how." I went on to say that I was looking for my Scarlett. Mitzi Yolanda Comellas had been giving some serious thought to changing her name to Scarlett, pointing to the scarlet thread that represents the blood of Christ, and winding its way through the entire Bible. She read the profile. What happened next is what I call "the miracle."
The following week, I was holding the annual Thursday night competition, and many of the ladies had been instructed to call her the next time I showed up pretending to be the rebirth of Bert Parks (some of you will be too young for that reference...just google that name). Shortly after announcing my five minute time limit, she sent me her pic, with the following admonition: "I'm not in your contest. I just wanted you to know what you're missing out on if you don't pick a winner tonight." I looked at her pic, and knew instantly...she was the one!
I had a dilemma, though. I hadn't been choosing a winner in the previous contests, as I didn't want to cause any rancor between the ladies. Tonight, though, in order to have any conversation with Mitzi, I had to choose a winner. Fortunately, one lady sent in her photo with a 12 year old daughter. Hoping to avoid being thought of as a pervert, I nonetheless chose the daughter. rather than the mother in the same pic. At that moment, in a truly devil-may-care affectation, I tore up all 73 pics!!
I was saying to myself that Mitzi was the one! I hadn't considered whether she was of similar mind. We talked for a little online and I seemed to be making some strides forward, when I promised to write her a poem.The next day, reality set in and I asked myself, "who am I kidding?" Looking down at her now-printed-out picture and I was sure I had set my sights too high...WAY too high.. I began to wonder if I could summon up the torn pictures and somehow tape them back together. Then, it happened...no less a miracle than a parted Red Sea; she instant messaged me and said, "Stomping my foot...where is my poem?" She had seen my picture and she was still interested!
I quickly went to work on the most romantic poem of my life and, to make an already too long story short, I spent the next couple of months learning that she was even prettier inside That was in March. Memorial Day weekend of 1998, I flew out to Colorado and met her. I kissed her and shook for an hour. She had a two bedroom apartment and she stayed in hers while I stayed in mine...for FOUR DAYS! That was the predetermined deal we made before I left Florida. We never regretted doing that. Within an hour I asked her to marry me and her answer was, "I can't imagine you out of my life." We were married the following Independence Day, and I was never more thrilled to give up mine.
Thus began a twenty year love affair worthy of Antony and Cleopatra, Napoleon and Josephine, and uh... Burt the Bandit and Sally the ne'er wed bride. Follow the trail of tears that was the earthly end of that love by clicking on "The End."