Things I didn’t Expect
So, if you are like literally everyone else in my life you have probably figured out I would eventually go out with Nelson. Apparently I was the only one that God had not let in on the big plan. I suppose I owed it to him considering how patient he was along with the fact that he never really pressured me to.
He would joke about it here and there but I always blew it off. I’d tell him I was too broken for him which he would follow up with he was broken too. Other times I’d say I don’t think God had a man in mind when he messed me up. I was joking of course but on some deep level I did feel that way, a messed up version of a human being, just not necessarily messed up by God. Maybe the person running quality control when I was conceived was out sick and I slipped through. It was a bad way to feel since I wasn’t disabled or anything but that’s the way we work, right? We are too self-absorbed to really remember that there are people who are worse off than us for more than the time it takes for the commercial depicting children riddled with malnutrition and poor water supplies to go off the TV.
And then other times he would bring it up and I’d say I don’t think I could give myself physically to any men anytime soon. He wouldn’t say anything to that and I would assume that was his male ego going, ‘this one’s not worth it’ and I would drop it. But one night he was again joking that we should go out and I was again saying that I couldn’t give myself physically to any man just to go on a date. He finally responded to this and informed me that he didn’t want to have sex until he was married again. Well that stopped that argument and softened my heart. Still my defenses went up and I said it would never work to which he told me, ‘we see each other almost every night to have dinner and we go to church together. We’re already dating!’
I guess he wore me down, or my defenses fell, or God filled my heart or his stupid charming smile got the best of me and I said, ‘fine Nelson, we’re dating.’
Our first actual ‘date’ was nothing special or anything super fantastic. I asked what he wanted to do for a date and he said tomorrow, Friday, he wanted to take Kora and I out to see the new Pixar movie that was playing. And we did, just us as a family we went out and watched a movie. He treated us to dinner at Kora’s favorite Mexican restaurant and we watched the movie. About half way through it he took my hand and held it the rest of the movie. Kora laid her head on his other shoulder near the end of the movie and then we went home. He kissed me on the cheek, said he’d had a great time and ‘see, it wasn’t so bad was it.’ I told him no it was nice but in all honesty, that simple family date was and remains one of the best memories of my life.
That was really it and that was really the only change, the holding of hands and the occasional kiss. I wanted to be more passionate towards him but I was still skiddish at the idea of a relationship and the possibility of being hurt emotionally or physically. The only really big change was that I started worrying much more when he’d get a call to a fire. I kept a scanner radio with me when he was on duty and I made him promise to send me a text message when it was done so I knew he was alright. He did and he seemed happy to have someone who was worried about him.
I started finding other things to do to fill my time as well. As I had realized how I felt I wasn’t doing as much as other people I was talked into starting to write again. When I was young I would write little poems or short stories some of which my mom had found while going through some old boxes and brought them up to show me, Kora, and Nelson. Nelson and Kora both thought I should do that and he bought me a new laptop and she showed me how to use it. At first I didn’t really know what to write. I tried poems for a little while but just like in my life I didn’t really want to open up and write anything ‘real’ so it just sounded contrived and cookie cutter. I tried writing a children’s story but I had the same problem and really no subject so I dropped that too.
Then one day Kora showed me some online blogs that she would occasionally read. I was floored when I saw people from all over the world pouring themselves out in a basic public forum. Granted the subjects varied greatly and some were biased political views while others were how to do whatever the person writing the blog purported themselves of being an expert at.
But some were just men and women talking about their struggles in life. These were my favorites not only because I could relate to them but because I was so impressed that they DID open their soul up for the world. I got Koras help and I started my own blog to speak about my own life. I asked her what I should call it and she told me quickly and without any humor in her voice, ‘More Than a Neighbor.’ I chuckled and silently told God He had a great sense of humor. I was still coming to terms with the phrase being thrown around in my life and was happy that it was occurring less and less. I told her that and she told me ‘If you’re going to open yourself up don’t start by guarding yourself at the title.’
She was right, of course as she often was. She was way too smart for my own good and I took her advice. She helped me write an ‘about me’ page and I wrote the first entry that night. It was going to be a short introduction but ended up being a long story about my abusive ex-husband. I intentionally left out my and Koras full names but everything else was true.
When you first start a blog there’s really no one out there to read it and I was ok with that though as I wrote more and more a few regulars started appearing. And then more and then more and a number of women would occasionally comment on that first post that they had gone through similar situations and could relate or even they were going through the situations and said I was inspiring them to find a way out. My stories were finally doing someone some good, it just hadn’t been me.
Danny would occasionally tried calling and once in a while Kora would speak to him just not for very long. I continue to try and forgive him and the dreams and bitter nights have lessened themselves greatly. Unfortunately when they do creep up they are more bitter and angrier than ever and I feel ashamed of myself.
When Kora was about to turn 15 she and Nelson both started asking about marriage. Actually it wasn’t even just them but also mom and Vivian. Heck even Amy May and Vivian’s husband were bringing it up. One night I got mad at Nelson when he brought it up again and quickly apologized telling him I felt everyone was just trying to push me into something I wasn’t ready for. He told me he would wait his entire life for a chance to marry me as he was sure God brought us together. I told him that night I would marry him.
We chose a date about 6 months later in the spring and started planning. Kora seemed more excited than either of us and was constantly showing me new dresses she found on various websites. Nelson asked me to write our vows and he got Pastor Jason to agree to marry us. The last month of planning mom basically moved up with us to help out.
She showed Kora how to make different things like flower arrangements for the end of the rows and how to crochet though that had nothing to do with the wedding. Kora and Vivian were my maids of honor since I couldn’t very well turn either down so Nelson got two best men from his firehouse.
The cake was three tiered with doves and crosses and hearts done very beautifully around the sides and on the top was a little fireman and his wife which I have saved to this day because it is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen and Kora bought it with her own money.
The original wedding guest list was small as I simply felt I didn’t know that many people and neither did Nelson although he had invited all of his co-workers. But the weeks before the wedding Pastor Jason told both services of our church that Nelson and I, Kora’s mom (My daughter was way more well-known at that church that I ever could have been), were getting married and they were all invited. At first I was panic stricken thinking if even a few showed up we wouldn’t be able to feed or seat them until he went on to say that as our wedding gift his wife, the singles group I had gone to, and the mother daughter group had all gotten together and were paying for a full reception dinner after the wedding.
He also said, directly to me the first time then apparently just to the congregation during second service that a surprise group had been booked to play music at the reception; the youth group led by my daughter. I buried my face in Nelson’s shoulder and started crying at all of this and pulled Kora close and told her thank you. I had never been so proud of my daughter or so happy to be part of such a great church community.
And the big day did come quite quickly. I kept getting in a panic over details and getting ready and Kora, mom, and Vivian would have to take turns or at times gang up on me to relax and just let everything happen and it would be beautiful. They apparently hadn’t met me before because obviously this was one of my weakest points.
The service itself went pretty smoothly and was videotaped by the church tech team. At one point, doing the traditional vows before we did our own Jason turned to me and said, “Jillian, repeat after me, I Jillian.”
“Do take this man.”
“Do take this man.”
“To have and to hold.”
“I’m sorry what’d you say?”
Everyone laughed and I went beet red. To this day it’s Nelson’s favorite part because, he SAYS, you can see the tension and worry leave my face and the real me comes out. I argue that if the real me is a ditzy blonde with poor hearing he should have asked God for a better option.
Our real vows are my favorite part though because they were truthful and honest and all part of us which meant they were lined with humor and not traditional at all. My favorite part was, “I promise to break down crying for no reason, get mad at you for something that happened years ago, and confuse you when I tell you one thing yet mean another.” To which his reply was, “and I promise to take it, but I get the remote.”
The reception was easily as great as the service thanks to my mom, the groups, and especially Kora. She got up there and led the youth worship team in a number of Nelson and my favorite songs as a slide show played showing us growing up. Then she said it was time for the bride and groom to dance. I’ll never forget she said, ‘and now if my mom and new dad would take the dance floor,’ because that was the first time she called him dad. I looked in his face and watched his eyes well up with tears before he caught himself and said, ‘shall we dance?’ At that we danced our first dance as a couple while my daughter and her group sang our song, God Gave Me You. And then Kora promptly jumped off stage at the end of the song and cut in on me saying it was her turn.
We cut the cake and he promised not to shove any in my face but that went out the window when I shoved some in his after which we started to get ready to leave. He had paid for us to take a trip to New York which was great because I’d only been out of Arkansas a few times and mom was going to watch Kora for us while we were gone. We were headed out of the church as people clapped and I looked over at mom on the way by and she had the biggest smile on her face. I glanced away and glanced back and the smile was gone and so was my mother, she had collapsed to the floor with a heart attack.
Have I mentioned yet how much I hate hospitals? The only good thing that ever happens at a hospital are child births and even then you don’t really want to be at the hospital. Some people hate that so much that they have their babies at home or in taxi-cabs. And if someone is sick you have to deal with that stupid beeping machine. I’ve told Nelson multiple times that if I’m ever in a coma again I want a silent beeping machine or just pull the plug.
Nelson and Kora drove me freaking out to the hospital following the ambulance as close as he could safely. When we got in there it took a couple of hours for them to let us see her. Well that was my perception but I’m told it was only a few minutes, 15 tops. It felt like forever and I just wanted to go see my mother before she was gone.
Seeing her immediately reminded me of my father so many years ago. She was weak and frail even though she had just been so full of life. She was obviously in pain even though she tried to smile when she saw us walk in. She hugged Kora and whispered in her ear and Kora started crying and had to excuse herself. She hugged Nelson and whispered something in his ear and he nodded his head and said, ‘I promise, mom.’ It was the first and last time he’d ever call her mom. I didn’t just give her a hug but rather clung to her as though I could stop God from taking her from me.
I told her I wasn’t ready to do this on my own and I needed her. I told her life was hard and she was always there to make it easier. She told me, ‘life is hard for us all and you’re doing great.’ And as though they had discussed it beforehand she echoed the words of my father that I had only ever told one person, Nelson, and I knew he hadn’t told her because he hadn’t even told Kora. She pulled me close and said, “I love you so much, you’re a great mother and I’m very proud of you.”
I screamed balling and demanded that she stay with me. I told her it wasn’t fair and she told me, ever so weakly, ‘I know, I’m sorry I ruined your wedding. You two are great together. Make me another grandbaby.’ And with that, I lost my mother.