All your life you’ve known us as “Mom and Dad.” Believe it or not, my dear ones, there was a time when we were simply “Rob and Cate.”
Our story began in the summer of 2007. I had just finished my freshman year at the University of Alabama. I was staying in town to intern with my church’s high school ministry and to take a few summer math classes (not because I am a secret math genius, but rather the opposite). Your father stayed behind to take more classes as well because he is a genius.
I knew who your dad was, but only from afar. He was the tall, sweet guy who had been dating the super cute blonde for quite awhile (we were all aghast when he broke up with her). He led freshmen Bible study and was best friends with my new friend David. When I met him, we were sitting in a building called The Ferg eating lunch with a small group of mutual friends. I was drawing in the sweat of my melting drink when he spoke his first words to me. I would love to tell you that the “Hallelujah Chorus” sang out and the clouds parted the first time our eyes met, but . . . it was quite the opposite. I thought he was a sarcastic jerk, and he thought I was “too much” — whatever that means. Despite our initial feelings about each other, our friendship grew although more out of a lack of summer buddy options. Eventually, we became friends on purpose and hung out outside of the pack.
That is, until fall classes began again and our normal friends returned.
A couple months into the fall semester, your dad had surgery on his back. After breaking my promise to visit multiple times, I finally went to his apartment to check on him. That’s when I first met your Gammy and Pop, although I’m not sure they even remember because, at that point, I was just another friend. I sat in your dad’s room talking about the guy I was seeing at the time who had taken me on several coffee “hangouts” but had never officially asked me on a date. (Son, please note that this is the worst idea ever. Either commit or don’t, but don’t sit in neutral.)
Looking back, I was completely self-absorbed. Your dad was in so much pain and all I did was talk about myself. Maybe that’s what “too much” means.
Finally, spring arrived, and the earth was in full bloom along with my allergies. Every March, our college ministry took a trip to the beach for a retreat. During this retreat, we had several worship sessions and a guest speaker. After one session, I found your father and took a picture with him on my super cool, handheld digital camera. Eight years later, the details are getting foggy, but we had apparently started a joke about getting married because when I posted this photo to Facebook (pre-Candy Crush #thegooddays), I added the caption, “Our Engagement Photo.”
We went on our first date a month later.
Your dad planned out the best first date! He contacted my roommate at the time to ask her for my preferred dish from a Tuscaloosa favorite. When I walked into his apartment, he had candles lit all over and jazz music playing. We ate our candlelit dinner and then watched my favorite movie (which was Enchanted at the time, no shame). We danced in his living room, and just like that, the switch from cohorts to sweethearts flipped.
Everything about dating your dad was different than with other guys. He was upfront about his intentions. He was thoughtful in planning our time together. He worked hard to know me better, even though we were already such good friends. Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but it was relatively easy.
Although it was mostly a breeze, we had our fair share of struggles. We spent both dating summers in separate states and even countries (he in India, and I in Romania). It was hard. We (okay, probably just me) questioned whether or not we were “meant to be,” and I’ll never forget July 2009 when I returned back to the states after serving orphans in Romania for a month. I was bitter at everyone. My world had been turned on its head. I was out to make everyone I loved feel the pain I felt. Dad took the brunt of that. Even so, he got down on one knee and promised to fight for me for the rest of our lives. In that moment, I chose to trust him. Boy am I glad I did because that moment brought me closer to you. We got married on June 19, 2010 at the tender ages of 21 and 22. Two and a half years later, son, you were born. Two and a half years after that, daughter, it was your turn.
After almost a decade together, your dad is still my favorite person. He still makes me laugh and cry tears of gratitude. He is the most amazing man I have ever known, and I am deeply grateful that you two have him as an example of how a man should treat a woman. I hope you always know how lucky you are — how lucky we all are — to have him in our lives.