My husband Charley and I met working at a local pizza place when I was just 15. I was the waitress and he was the grill cook. If you are expecting some high-school sweetheart story, let me squash that thought now. He wasn’t exactly “my type” back then. Hindsight is 20/20 though and I wish I had seen the great man he was then. He was always a great friend through the next 4 years of my life. At 19 with a daughter of my own from a previous relationship, I was overwhelmed by the thought of being a single mother. I broke down and prayed that God would send me someone different, someone to love not only me for who I am, but my child as well. Little did I know at the time Charley was praying for someone to settle down with and that he always thought he would marry me from the first time he met me. We reconnected via AOL instant messenger and it wouldn’t be long after that we went on the worst first date of my life. Charley showed up 45 minutes late to our movie date, and while I was annoyed I was willing to give it a chance. Throughout our date he was busy texting someone else; I would later learn that it was his sister. Growing more angry by the minute, I agreed to go to a party after the movie, thinking at least there would be free alcohol and a rare chance to be a normal 19 year old. This party turned out to be a 15 year old’s birthday party and with one phone call about my daughter not feeling well, I rushed home. I wasn’t quick to return his phone call after that, but suddenly found myself missing that human connection and gave in to a second chance. Our next date while still strange, because he was accompanying me to an eye doctor appointment, turned out to be just the day we needed. On May 17th we committed to being exclusive. July 4th after caring for me during my gallbladder surgery Charley proposed and we started the whirlwind known as our life together. We moved into a rental house and began our life as a family of three. The next few months introduced me to the life of the boilermaker girlfriend as Charley had to leave for an outage in West Virginia, while I remained home with my daughter attending college and working through a custody battle.
On October 24th 2008, I was told by my attorney that I would have to get married, give up custody of Jess, or move out of our house that we’d worked so hard to make a home. On October 26th, Charley made the journey home from West Virginia and we were married. Fast forward almost 9 years, and we have our own home, two sons, 5 dogs, a roommate we love dearly.
Charley was able to finish the Boilermaker apprenticeship at around the same time I finished my college degree. We have had our ups and downs over these past years, but still hold to the belief that we are soulmates. I joke that I am a highly paid single mother, because I am most often home alone with our kids as he works outages across the East Coast and don’t always give him credit for how hard it is for him as well. I saw clearly through this tragedy just how much of a blessing in my life Charley has been.Over the past 3 years, Charley and I faced devastating losses beginning with the loss of his beloved mother that July, followed shortly by our unborn baby, and his uncle who was also our pastor at our church. We are now dealing with the suicide of my beloved 24 year old brother who passed away just over a month ago. Charley rushed home after being up all night on the phone with me, to be by my side through the coming week, as I was forced to say goodbye to my brother. He has held me when I’ve broken down, come to countless therapy and doctor appointments, taken over the care of our children and house all while supporting me as I work through the grief. I have seen that man step up and be strong for both of us when I didn’t even have the strength to get out of bed. I have recently made an effort to never take him for granted again. He’s not only an amazing husband, my best friend, but also an incredible father who loves our three kids with everything in him. He always makes sure that we know he loves us and wants to be here with us even when work causes him to travel far away. He has worked countless hours to ensure the kids and I have everything we need while I transitioned to being a stay at home mother. So to the man who has always taken care of me, been there through everything, seen me fail and still pushed me to keep going… I love you more than life itself and I am grateful for you each and everyday. Forever and Always Baby!