Where to start...we don’t have a “traditional” story, ours is a bit more complicated. I am Brad’s second wife. Our story is one of those “beauty from pain” stories. Of our five children our eldest three are not biologically mine, but I will fight you tooth and nail over me being their mom. I am not their step mom, I am their Mom. They do not have many memories of their biological mom, Dawn, because they were so young when she died. Haeley was 3, Jasmine was 2, and Gabe was just 9 months old when Dawn died.
While Dawn was pregnant with Gabe they found that she had Ovarian Cancer. They wanted to start her on treatment immediately and abort Gabe, but Brad and Dawn in their faith said ‘no’. If the Lord saw fit to heal Dawn, He would. Dawn had Gabe in June of ’00 and they preformed a hysterectomy and started treatments right away. She fought the cancer with everything she had and in January of ’01 the doctors told her that she didn’t have much time left. In March of ’01 Dawn went home to be with the Lord. Brad’s family and church rallied around him and helped him with the kids and moving on.
I waitressed on the weekend and was very involved in my church. I taught at the preschool 5 days a week, sang in the choir, participated in F.A.I.T.H., taught a Sunday School class, coached UpWard Cheerleading, and led a preschool choir. And, I loved EVERY minute of it! In February of ’02 I was chaperoning the youth group’s ski trip and the Single’s group from church happened to be at the same ski resort. I remember sitting in the dining hall and seeing Brad standing off by himself and wanting to go and talk to him, but I didn’t know what to say or even if he would be interested in talking to me. Little did I know, (he later told me), he was checking me out at the same time. ;-)
Upward events ended and I was waitressing at a restaurant that was opened 24 hours on the weekends. I had 12 hour shifts and would start work at 6 Friday night and get off 6 Saturday morning. Then I would repeat that Saturday night. By the time Sunday morning came around I was EXHAUSTED, but I would press on through Sunday morning. It was getting to be way too much for me. The tips were great, but I couldn’t pull of all the hours. I told my manager that I needed to quit the weekend shift and that I was giving her my two week notice. She said that wasn’t necessary and this could be my last weekend.
The next afternoon, as I was sleeping on the couch, the phone rang and when I answered it I found a VERY nervous Brad on the other line. I was not aware, but he had already called and asked my daddy for permission to take me out. Daddy said “yes” and called Momma and let her know. So, they already knew what was going on and I was none the wiser! I accepted and we set up a date for the following Friday night. Had he called a week earlier, I would not have been able to accept because I was way too busy.
Friday came and I got all nice and pretty with no idea where we were going. Okay, that’s a lie. I knew where we were going because I had called a friend that was watching his kiddos and asked what the plan was. We were going to dinner and bowling. I was wearing sandals, so I carried a pair of socks in my purse. :D We went to Steinhilber’s and had a fantastic dinner. I was determined to show him who I really was and I was not going to be that girl that didn’t order food. We had fried shrimp as an appetizer, salad, and filet mignon. Then some yummy key lime pie for dessert. It was delicious! Our conversation seemed very easy and there were not too many “dull” moments. I kicked his butt at 3 games of bowling that night. He dropped me off and I began to swoon. :) I told Momma, “I know you will think I am crazy, but I am going to marry him.”
I felt a little awkward on Sunday when I saw him at church because I didn’t know if he had as good of a time as I did. There were people all around and I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. He did tell me he would call me later and he did because he is a man of his word. We talked until his signal went low in North Carolina. He was going to his niece’s first birthday party. We talked endlessly over the next several days. We saw each other at church Wednesday night and then on Thursday we went out to Dairy Queen after F.A.I.T.H. He called his brother to check on the kids while we were out and I fell more for him when he told his brother that he loved him. I had not heard many guys tell their family that they loved them and it spoke directly to my heart. Saturday we went down to Rodanthe, NC (where I attempted to surf) and he held my hand for the first time. I know, I know, I am being disgustingly sweet. :) I don’t think there was much silence on that trip as we got to know more about each other.
We then picked up Gabe from his brother’s house and the 5 of us went to dinner. We sat at Applebee’s and I remember the waitress telling me how beautiful my family was---and I was a little taken aback. But the reality was this, I was falling not only for this man, but these kids too. The following Thursday night we had F.A.I.T.H. again and then we went out to Dairy Queen again. We sat on the beach looking out at the ocean and enjoying the night. I had my head resting on his chest looking up to the sky and I closed my eyes to savor the moment. Next thing I knew, I felt something on my lips and it took a minute to register that he had kissed me! It was my first kiss. It was sweet and wonderful and I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.
I will remember the moment he told me he loved me. There are so many memories that I will hold deeply in my heart forever.
The next couple weeks Brad and I spent more and more time together. I was still waitressing and I’ll never forget the night that I came out of work to find a bouquet of flowers sitting on my windshield. He had driven out with all the kids, dropped the flowers off and left. All for one reason: to make me feel special. And he accomplished that.
The school year was ending and Brad asked if I would be willing to come and watch the kids while he was at work. I really don’t think I hesitated at all before I said yes. And with that simple “yes” began the real adventure!!!
My first week with the kids was like none other. Haeley began challenging my authority the very first day. She was under the impression that they needed to have the t.v. on all day and that I was by NO means allowed to turn it off. Haeley would turn the t.v. on and I would turn it off. And that pattern would repeat itself multiple times. Until, I got smart. They could watch t.v. before breakfast and while they were eating I would unplug the t.v. Haeley would go to turn it on and couldn’t figure it out....and everyday around 5 the t.v. would start working again. Imagine that. :)
Brad was remodeling the house and we had scaffolding in the living room----I know that doesn’t happen very often and yet that’s where we were. I would go to the bathroom and come out and find the kids had climbed half way up the scaffolding! Trying to get those monkeys off of there was not fun! That was the week that really changed my world. I was doing laundry, cleaning, making meals...It was a HUGE change from my single, carefree living, but it was wonderful.
That Friday, there was a knock on the front door and it was the florist coming to deliver me 2 dozen red roses from my man. Awwww....Swoon! Yes, I just swooned. hrmf. :) It was such a sweet gesture and meant the world to me. I tell you, I was falling hard for this man and 3 monkeys. My heart would skip a beat when I would see him.
A couple weeks later, I had a hair appointment and was teasing him about my “mystery” appointment. He asked, “Are you going to look for something white?” I said, “No....” BUT, he opened up the door that I “should” go look at something white. So after my hair appointment, Mom and I went to look at wedding dresses. I fell in love with the first one I tried on and in the end, that’s the one we ordered. :D I couldn’t believe that I was even looking at wedding dresses...we weren’t even engaged yet.
The next several weeks consisted of me watching the kids and all of us growing closer in our relationship. During this time, a friend of Brad’s needed a place to stay for a couple weeks, so Brad gave him a spot on the couch while he needed it. Brad had been witnessing to this friend and he was looking forward to being able to continue. It did put a slight strain on things because I was not really comfortable with this guy, but we made it work. (Let’s just say I am glad that time is over!)
Brad planned a trip down to Hatteras for the two of us July 6th. My parents were watching the kids and we took their car so they could have the van to run around with all the munchkins. We woke up that morning and almost didn’t go because I wasn’t feeling a little ill. Brad encouraged me and told me that we should really go and I would be okay. So away we went...and we left EARLY!!!!
We got to the Kill Devil Hills fishing pier in NC in time to see the sun rise. We went out on the beach and sat on our blanket and watched the sunrise over the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. The waves were crashing softly on the shore and the beach was deserted at 5:45 AM. (BTW, I just did a search and found the time of the sunrise, because all I could remember was that it was EARLY!) I could have stayed there on that blanket all day, but Brad had me get up so that we could finish our drive and get to Hatteras. Well....that’s what I thought at first.
Brad asked me to stand up and I was being a bit of a brat and saying I didn’t want to....I was comfortable on the beach. He finally won and I stood up.
And. He. Did. Not.
Brad got down on one knee and said some of the most beautiful words I have ever heard. It went a little something like this, “Melanie, I have really enjoyed getting to know you over the past several months. You are beautiful and I have fallen in love with you. Will you marry me? Will you be my wife and the mother to my children?” Then the ring came out. My. word. A gorgeous 3/4 carat marquee diamond. It’s a very simple ring. One stone and a gold band. Very me. And it fit perfectly on my finger.
I admired my ring and was in complete and total shock as I gazed at it on my finger. I. was. getting. MARRIED!!!! There was only one problem though...we were walking back to the car and Brad looks at me and says, “Hey, you never said ‘yes’!?!?! What’s your answer??” I laughed and said, “I’m wearing the ring on my finger, so what do you think??? Of course I will marry you!!”
And thus started a wonderful day. We went down to Hatteras and spent the day lying on the beach, cooling off in the ocean and gazing at my ring. I remember asking Brad when he wanted to get married and he had the same though I did...the sooner the better! He told me that he didn’t like the idea of a long engagement and that he would marry me that very day if we could. He didn’t want to propose until he was ready to marry me that day...and my heart skips a couple beats again. ;-)
Brad and I set our wedding date for November 2, 2002. We were getting all the plans laid out and everything was falling into place. I still couldn’t believe I was planning my wedding. I take that back, I really didn’t plan the wedding. I told my mom and Allie (our wedding coordinator) what was important to me and then did little else. I gave my input, but really, the details weren’t that important to me. My mom, Allie, and all the other ladies that chipped in did a beautiful job on our wedding---it was breathtaking.
So November 2nd is the day. Come the middle of August we had pretty much gotten everything ready and we were just waiting for November to get there. Waiting....waiting...waiting....and we were dealing with the kids being confused too. Before Brad and I got engaged, Haeley say on my lap and said, “Ms. Melanie, will you be my new Mommy?” Oy. She melted me heart. She didn’t understand if I was going to be her new Mommy why I kept leaving at night. I was getting wore out with driving back and forth from my parents to Brad’s and back again.
I came up with a brilliant idea. :) :)
Let’s move the wedding up!
And we did! It was a little difficult at first trying to find a Saturday that was going to work for everyone, but we settled on September 28th.