By my mid-forties, I had given up on love. With a long history of bad relationships, I concluded love wasn’t in the cards for me. Having decided to remain single, I broke up with my latest beau, sold my apartment, bought a house in another state, and moved on.
I loved my new home and new life. After getting to know the lay of the land, I worked on getting to know my neighbors who were friendly and welcoming. But as the first winter in my new home ended, and the trees started to show signs of life, my happiness faded. I missed my family and friends terribly.
To cheer myself up, I went to my favorite bookstore. Reading had always been my favorite hobby, and a good book would help bring me out of my doldrums. While there, I noticed a man following me. He never said a word but watched me intently as I picked up one book after the other. Hoping to prove myself wrong, I walked to the opposite side of the bookstore and waited. Moments later he rounded the corner and stopped a few feet away and pretended to look at a book. I didn’t know whether to be alarmed or flattered. So I took careful note of his appearance. He was just over six feet tall and had dark hair and blue eyes. He was dressed in jeans, plaid shirt, and work boots. I thought, “He’s ruggedly handsome and probably works outside – definitely not my type.” But I was mildly intrigued. “Having trouble finding something good to read?” I asked him.
“No,” he said, “Actually, I’ve been sort of following you. I want to buy a book for my daughter but I have no idea what she likes. I thought if I followed you and saw what you picked out, I might get some ideas.”
“I’m probably the wrong person to follow. I like many different subjects. What kinds of books have you seen her reading?”
“All I know is that the covers usually have some half-naked man with long hair on them and he’s holding a woman in a long flowy dress.”
Laughing, I said, “Those are romance novels.” On our way over to the Romance section, I introduced myself. His name was Brad. Together we picked out several novels and then he asked me out on a quasi-date – coffee at the café inside the bookstore.
After getting our coffee, we sat down and talked for hours. Fairly quickly I learned Brad was a little unconventional, opinionated, and rough around the edges. But he was also down to earth, warm and friendly, and rather charming. I was beginning to find his earthy good looks appealing, and I was captivated by his gorgeous blue eyes. In spite of the fact that we had nothing in common, and he had no fashion sense whatsoever, I liked him. He made me laugh. So I agreed to have dinner with him the following night.
Brad was soon at my house several times a week. We took things slow and spent a great deal of time getting to know one another. We became friends first – something I had never done before in my previous relationships. It was refreshing. Brad loved to build and fix things – alas, something we had in common. He worked in construction and had recently finished renovating his home. I had just started the renovation of my own home but was putting off two easy projects due to some uncertainties. One of them was the paneling in my bedroom. So I asked Brad, “Do you think the paneling in the bedroom was installed directly over the studs?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “But there’s only one way to find out.” He went into the bedroom and tore down a strip of paneling – there was a plaster wall behind it. So he ripped off the rest of the paneling and threw it in the corner for me to throw out (I never could get him to take out the garbage.) When it was done, I gazed at my beautiful new bedroom and recalled a book I once read about the five languages of love. I never did learn which of the languages was mine – all the men I dated spoke the same language. But Brad had just discovered it. And as luck would have it, our love language was the same – acts of service. We enjoyed doing things for one another because it made the other person happy. But more important to Brad than my happiness was my safety, which included the dogs.
One of my dogs had escaped from the house and ran away. For three nights I laid awake praying she’d come home. On the fourth day, a woman saw my ad in the newspaper and called. My next date with Brad was a trip to Home Depot. He took me to the outdoor department, and together we picked out a fence that would secure the dogs in the yard. We installed it together. Afterward, we sat by the fire pit, drank a bottle of wine, and watched the dogs chase each other around the house. It was then that I realized I had fallen in love with Brad hook, line, and sinker. But because of all the bad relationships I had had over the years, I hid my feelings from Brad for more than a year.
The stairs to the second floor of my house were steep and narrow. One cold morning I attempted to move a table from the office upstairs to the music room downstairs. I had on my favorite fuzzy socks, and as I stepped down onto the first step, my foot slipped. While holding onto the table, I fell down the remaining thirteen steps. There were no broken bones, but I was bruised from head to toe and couldn’t walk for weeks. When I was able to climb the stairs, I saw that Brad had installed a handrail, which went all the way to the top of the stairs. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. And like a fool, I stood there and sobbed uncontrollably. Brad came running in to see what was wrong, and with tears streaming down my face, I said, “I love you.”
“Yeah, I know. Ditto.” And with that, he walked away. I wanted to slug him.
That was how Brad communicated – not with a lot of words but through acts of service and kindness. It took some getting used to, but we got along well and seldom fought – while he wasn’t big on talking, he hated arguing more. In all the years we’ve been together, I recall having only three arguments – and they were doozies. During one, I was sure our relationship was over. He stormed out of the house vowing never to return. But hours later he came back. I was working in my office and refused to come out. So he slid a folded piece of paper under the door and left. I opened it and read the only word he had written – Ditto! That’s when I decided Brad was a keeper.