On my desk is an unremarkable plank of pressed wood, stained with something unnaturally dark all over, except in one small area. An area where a tiny little hand in a moment in 1970 pressed against the plank. Someone, some adult in charge, sprayed the stain on the board while this little hand stayed still enough that when it pulled away, a perfect print stayed on the wood. Under the hand, in block letters—“ALAN.” And the best part, on the back, in his writing that looks exactly like our son’s today, Alan had written his name with a #2 pencil. He was five. I adore this plank of wood because it reminds me every day that Alan was once a tender, trusting little boy, just trying to find his way like all the rest of us.
I didn’t mean to blog today about my crazy love affair with my husband but I woke up feeling all nostalgic, watching him get ready for work like he does every morning. Heading out to slay the dragons so I don’t have to. Anyone that knows Alan knows he’s a hard worker. A good man. True, quiet, gentle, and so good to us. I’m blessed.
I knew something was going on behind the scenes when he and I met because I couldn’t wait to see him. I’d never felt that way about a boy before. I lived in a tree house during the last part of our dating life. I was finishing up graduate school and I didn’t have a lot of money. The tree house worked for me. It did have plumbing, I promise. And a door that locked. And tiny windows that I could only see out of if I stood on my bed. When I knew he was coming to pick me up, I’d stand on my bed and watch for him.
We’d met in an elevator mix-up. Um…really, it was a Laura mix-up. I was a graduate assistant in the department where Alan worked at Texas A&M. The professor I worked with sent me on a foolish errand one morning. He’d loaded me down with old files and told me to return them to the second floor of Thompson Hall. I taught in that building and never knew it had a second floor. A basement, yep, I knew about that. But I’d never noticed anything above the floor I taught on. The main floor. The floor you were on when you entered through any door.
Barely able to see over the stack of files, I headed into Thompson Hall and looked for a staircase. Couldn’t find one. But I did find an old service elevator with three buttons – 1, 2, and 3. I pushed 2 and went nowhere. Got out, got back in, pushed 2 and went nowhere. I tried that a few more times because I’m just that way. Finally, I pushed 3. Surely that’s what my professor meant. The elevator creaked slowly up and when the doors opened, I was looking into an office. The elevator opened up into some guy’s office!? I got out and turned slowly around, looking for a hall or other offices. But, nope. The guy looked up from his work and smiled. I smiled, backed into the elevator, and because I don’t learn, pushed 3 again.
You see where I’m going with this…The door opened again, and again, the guy smiled at me. Raised his eyebrows this time in a “Hello, again,” sign. I nodded hello and backed into the elevator. Most of you would push 2 and go back down, I know. But I’m not you and I pushed 3 again. This time when the door opened, the guy, a tall, lanky blonde, was standing, hands in pockets, in front of the elevator.
I looked at him, swallowed and nodded, but said nothing. What was there to say? He laughed a little. “Maybe I’m wrong, but you look lost.”
“It’s possible,” I said.
He stepped onto the elevator with me, took the files out of my arms, glanced at the name on the tabs, and said, “I’ll take you to her office.”
Okay, it turns out, in Thompson Hall, the basement is the “1” on the elevator. The main floor is “2” and Alan Kurk’s office is “3.” I was young and naïve. What did I know about elevators and how they’re labeled?
We talked for a while in that hallway in Thompson and when he turned to leave and walk away, I watched him. Halfway down the hall, he looked back. HE LOOKED BACK! And he chuckled again and gave me a half wave.
Later, the deal was sealed when my co-worker, Kathy Hucks, whose husband Charles, worked with Alan, put the bug in my ear that Alan “liked” me. I didn’t know it, but at the same time, Charles was telling Alan that I “like liked” him. Now, neither of us had ever said that to Kathy or Charles—it wasn’t our style, even if it was true. So second grade. But Charles and Kathy had decided on their own one night in their apartment on 29th street, that Alan and Laura were meant for each other and they needed to speed things along. They were right. We might still be dancing around each other if they hadn’t pushed a little.
But armed with the (false) confidence that Alan “liked” me, I asked him to go to lunch after he offered to fix my computer (hehehehe). And my roommate, Shelly, rolled her eyes and said, “What happened to our plans to throw a dart at the map and head out together, two newly-degreed, single women ready for the world?” I just said, “I’m marrying Alan and we’re going to Scotland. Sorry.”
And we did. (And Shelly is still my best friend, and happily married with two kids and a great career in medicine, so don’t go feeling sorry for her.)
Seventeen short years later and I still grin uncontrollably when Alan comes into a room. All my friends, and even my kids, make fun of me because when I say his name, it sounds like I’m sighing. I guess I do sigh when I say it. Alan. A-lan. Al-an. Ahh-lan. It makes me think of the first line of Lolita – “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”
It’s difficult to imagine, as you sit in your high school and college classes, how you will know when you meet “the one.” I mean, is it really true that there’s only one “the one” for each of us? I don’t know. . . I want to believe that. And maybe it’s true. But our roads become so winding and twisted as we move through life and live with choices and consequences, and it seems that if there’s only one “the one” that it would take a miracle to find him. I think I just answered any doubt in my own mind. It does take a miracle. And a lot of prayer.
I look around at the marriages that I most admire—like my own parents (who met in a strange way, having had classes together at OSU but not meeting until they passed each other in a hospital cafeteria in Texas), and Marilyn and Chuck Jobe (who found each other later in life—Chuck had to get around Marilyn’s stubbornness to convince her and now I can’t imagine if they weren’t together, still acting like newlyweds)—and I see how blessed they are to have found each other. We all have stories of couples we know who are actually walking miracles. The fact that God crossed their paths, sometimes in a most comical way, and they recognized it, believed in it, and stuck with it.
Love is miraculous.
Marilyn tells the young adults she mentors at her church that it’s not so much finding the person you want to live with, it’s finding the one you can’t live without.
How’s that for a light Friday blog? Love—in all its maddening, passionate, stubborn, goofy, weak-kneed goodness, is one of life’s purest miracles.