It's absolutely stunning how much can happen in only a year's time.
On a beautiful, dewy night in May, nestled in the North Carolina mountains with a houseful of friends, I sat snuggled on a bed with a box of Kashi cereal. I have a habit of bringing a snack to parties after many instances of winding up stranded and hungry, my heart palpitating, "WHY DIDN'T YOU THINK AHEAD, DUDE?!"
He walked up and sat down beside me. I had kept most of the cereal to myself, but his hands seemed clean enough and his smile was dazzling. "Sure," I said to his request for some, "but don't bogart it."
We sat together, talking and instigating our drunker pals with fake gossip for our own entertainment. We laughed and escaped to a quieter spot when our goading got a little out of hand. We talked more about everything, including our random and similar heart troubles. I barely knew him, but felt a very easy and strong connection that made me smile well after I'd departed for the evening.
The next day we all met for lunch on the beautiful patio at our favorite dive of a pub. We sat together, chatting the same invigorating chat as the night before. I had to depart back to the lowlands, but not before exchanging numbers with the most interesting person I'd met in longer than I could remember.
I sat on the edge of my seat, waiting to see if I'd imagined the connection, if he'd actually get in touch. If we'd actually ever see each other again. He put my mind at ease with an invitation to hang out that weekend and since then, it has been a whirlwind of unparalleled laughter and love, so much love.
This is the man I now call my boyfriend, but he's so much more than that trivial label. He's my best friend, my personal comedian, my supporter, my sounding board for everything. He has filled this year with so much joy for me, even during the darkest of times.
I love knowing that I can come home to him at any time. I love that when I tell him I wrote this, he will make some deprecating comment that will make both of us laugh. I love that because of the confidence I have in our relationship, I have the courage to make this (semi) public declaration of love for a man who deserves that kind of thing.
From warm summer days by the pool, to major hatin' on kids distracting our games of putt-putt, to late nights in our state's capital, to cool fall evenings in our now-home of the Twin City, to a holiday season of firsts, to cookouts every day in the spring weather, we have grown and grown together. I can only imagine the growth that waits on the road ahead.
I could wax on about a night in August when I heard the best combination of words known to man. I could tell you about the fuzzy feelings during that October Live concert. I could tell you how it still feels amazing every time he takes care of me or stands in my corner. I could tell you about every day I have spent with J in great detail, but I won't because it would overwhelm the both of us – you with words, me with love and so much appreciation.
After a few bumps in the romantic road, I have finally found a person who respects me enough to be honest and loyal. I finally found a man who wants to walk beside me instead of in front of me, who believes in my intelligence and my dreams. I found someone I can count on, no matter how murky and rough the waters become. I found someone who can make me laugh until I feel like I might burst, and sometimes I do with tears.
So to the man in question, thank you. Thank you, J, for being who you are. Thank you for making me feel loved and secure. Thank you for being man enough to be with me through everything. Thank you for being brave enough to stand on shaky ground once and a while. Thank you for this lovely home we have with two wild pups. Thank you for making me the best version of me I've ever been. Above all, thank you for knowing like I do that laughter is the most important part of anything in life, and ensuring that I'm doing just that, first thing in the morning.
You're pretty groovy, kid. I think I might keep you around. Happy "I met you one year ago," Eddie. Bern loves you.