Coming to Columbus
I had been buying presents for Andrea's birthday since March. As I didn't want to pay $16.00 in shipping (or more), I decided to bring her presents with me. In addition, I used a website to send her flowers the day I arrived. We were nervous and not sure what was going to happen when we met. Andrea was scared that we would deeply and passionately kiss each other right at the terminal.
On Tuesday, August 7th at 6:30 a.m., I departed for Seattle from Glacier International Airport on a Cessna. It was my first flight and the plane wasn't exactly airtight, so I felt the cold breeze against my face through a small hole in the plane. We landed in Seattle and I ran across the terminal to catch the flight to Detroit. While I'd lived in big cities before (Denver and Phoenix), I'd never seen a huge airport like this one and was amazed by it. I got on the flight to Detroit and from there it was a three hour flight to Detroit. In Detroit, I made the mistake of buying an overly salted pretzel and the same place that was selling the pretzels was charging fifty cents a glass for water, so I had to rush to get water from some other establishment before I caught my flight to Columbus.
I was extremely nervous on the Detroit-to-Columbus flight. It was scheduled to last an hour, but the pilot announced that the short distance between the two cities could be covered in half that time. The pilot started the engine and circled the runway for fifteen minutes. I was ready to scream, "Will you please just take off?!" He was driving me crazy, or so I thought. I was nervous about meeting Andrea. On the flight, I prayed for peace and God granted it to me.
I landed in Columbus and was looking for Andrea. It wasn't Andrea who caught my attention but her mother. Andrea was wearing her contacts and quite shy. In fact, she was panic-stricken, if her mother had not pulled her along, I think, perhaps she would have become a fixture in the airport. Instead of a passionate kiss, she ended up shaking my hand. She wouldn't even directly look at me. I, however, couldn't take my eyes of her. She was a beautiful woman with a wonderful figure to match her wonderful mind and soul. My heart was beating excitedly as I saw her for the first time.
I wanted to hug her and hold her, she, however seemed more interested in the Columbus Airport's fine carpeting. Her mother was scared that I was going to run into something because I was spending so much time looking at Andrea and not enough at where I was going.
While we waited for our ride, I asked her to hold my hand. It was scarily unreal for her. Having me right next to her as opposed to 2000 miles away was a sudden and overwhelming change for her. I said that I wanted to be able to tell her, "I love you" without her fainting and she said weakly, "Maybe next Tuesday." I was crushed.
When our ride arrived, Andrea and her mother sat in the back seat of the car while I sat up front. The idea of sitting next to her and trying to look into those beautiful hazel eyes, only for her to turn away was too much for me to bear. I cried a few silent tears on the way to the motel, as I was scared and confused. Had I come all this way to have my heart broken? Would I spend my week in Columbus alone in a roach motel?
They dropped me off at the Casa Villa (in Spanish, "House House"), I asked them to drive home so I could spend some time in prayer feigning fatigue. Andrea helped me carry my bags into my room. I expressed her why I needed to pray and what was bothering me.
"I just wanted to hug you," I said, sadly.
She then surprised me by hugging me and saying, "Like this?" It was odd. how fast she'd gotten over her shyness. I didn't spend long in my motel room. Within ten minutes, I had begun the six-block walk to Andrea's house, bearing on my back a duffle bag full of presents, including one that I'd bought for each of her parents and a present from my mom for Andrea (a $50 gift certificate to Wal-Mart) and a book from my pastor's wife.
Andrea was clearly overwhelmed by all the presents and her family was really surprised and impressed that my mom and my pastor's wife had given her presents. We spent the evening watching videos we'd made for each other and sent back and forth.
We were sitting on the couch next to each other but with a good foot of space between us. Somehow, over the course of about an hour or two, Andrea ended up with her head on my chest. I became a little nervous at being this close, this soon. As she lie there, I looked down at her and said those words I had longed to say for so many months, "I love you." and to my joy she told me that she loved me too.
My happiness and nervousness both increased as Andrea somehow ended up with her head resting on my chest and was in fact reclining on me, perpendicularly. I was somewhat relieved when her friend, Sean took me back to the motel. The situation showed that now that we were together "IRL” (in real life) that things could get dangerous.
The next morning, I went to Andrea's house early and we watched Christian videos until about eleven a.m. It was on this day, she discovered I am obsessive compulsive about being early as I insisted on leaving at eleven o'clock for a noon church meeting at a church that was six blocks from her house. I was unaccustomed to the humidity, so we had to take shelter in an office building until it was time for service.
After that noon prayer service, and praying for the hundredth time to make sure it was okay, I asked Andrea if I could court her. She said yes and immediately we returned to work out a Courtship agreement.
Like two lawyers, we sat down to work out all the legalities of our pre-engagement relationship from where Andrea could rest her head and where she could not to where kisses were allowed (not on the lips or below the chin). It was a legal document that would have made many a lawyer proud. Too bad we didn't get it notarized.
Andrea and I before going to church on Wednesday Night
Wednesday Night, we went to Church. I dressed up in my new suit. Of course, as always happens when I dress up in a suit, the rest of the congregation was following a casual dress code and I stuck out like a sore thumb. (Clichéd but true.) It was the last time we attended our first church together as the pastor decided to engage in sexual education from the pulpit (something that's a big no-no in my mind).
Thursday was our biggest day together in Columbus. It was all intended as a simple trip to the zoo but didn't work out that way. Andrea's mom is a master at following bus schedules and told us which buses we needed to catch to go where. We took a bus directly to the State Capitol to wait for the zoo bus. There were some statues outside the Capitol and for some reason I couldn't resist playing with them. I asked Andrea to take a picture of me standing next to President McKinley. Then, I decided to make bunny-ears behind the 25th president's back. It was at this point that the zoo bus, which I had been oblivious to, pulled away. Andrea and I briefly ran after it but gave up. At first, this frustrated us but then we decided to view it as an opportunity to tour the State Capitol, something that Andrea, a Columbus native, had never done.
The building wasn't as fun as the Montana State Capitol. Primarily because when I had visited Helena, it was teeming with legislators and plagued with lobbyists while the Ohio Legislature had adjourned for the year.
We had some soda in the Capitol Cafeteria, went to the gift shop and took a visit to the House floor. Here, I did my most tourist-like act and walked across a barrier (as no one was around) and stood at the Speaker's desk and had Andrea take a picture of me. After my attempt, Andrea was even bolder, sitting in the Speaker's chair. We were then asked to leave the chamber by a security guard.
After this, we were back on the COTA bus headed for the zoo. I loved my time riding on the bus most of all. Because while on the bus, I could hold Andrea close to me with the excuse that we didn't have a seatbelt and there was no way to have breathing room between us.
In the zoo, we spent two hours walking through the mammoth complex. We saw a great variety of animals. Few were different than what I'd seen in trips to the zoos in Baton Rouge and Seattle but it was still cool. I got to see some gazelles, who reminded me quite a bit of the deer we have in Montana. While Andrea lived in Columbus and hadn't seen the State Capitol, I had lived more than a Decade in Montana and hadn't seen a Grizzly Bear until visiting the Columbus Zoo. Andrea and I enjoyed the full Zoo experience (or as much as you could jam into two hours). We ordered popcorn chicken and french fries, rode the carousel together, and on our way out shared an Ice Cream cone.
After this, we needed to go shopping. I had changed rooms and in the process of moving, part of my wardrobe was stolen. We were going to take a confusing bus route to K-Mart but when we were dropped off near the Capitol, Andrea remembered there was a giant Mall behind us.
We went shopping together. We'd grown closer during the day and my heart was more towards her than before. I found myself looking at an engagement ring that was way too much money. I remembered my dad's orders regarding the Traveler's Checks ("don't buy an engagement ring with this") and continued shopping. As I got new t-shirts and undergarments, my blushing courtess hid her eyes from the Men's underwear department.
After getting my underwear and then buying her a skirt at Lane Bryant, it was about dinnertime. We searched for a place for our first dinner date. The first place we went was too barrish for either of us. We ended up at a place called, "Spinnikers", which was more of a family environment. I quickly ordered Chicken Fried Steak (one of my favorites.) Andrea, however hesitated. She really wanted the fish platter but was afraid it cost too much money. I assured it was alright. She began to cry because she was torn over what to order. She didn't want to be seen as a gold-digger and was afraid that if she ordered really expensive things she'd be seen that way.
I came over to her booth, held her in my arms, and assured her everything was okay. She calmed down and ordered what she wanted. After dinner, we went to a 50s placed called Johnny Rockets and shared a malt shake.
I told Andrea, "Well, lets go ahead and catch the bus back to your house." She said she didn't want to go home, or have the day end. Of course, it had to. I took her home and then called a cab.
Friday, I have one very specific memory. For some reason, I had been having trouble breathing. I, Andrea, and her mom all assumed I was dehydrated. They quickly solved any dehydration by having me drink three quarts of water. This only made my “dehydration” worse.
The Ohio humidity had been getting to me the prior day and I became very scared and so did Andrea. In my mind, I can still see her kneeling beside my weakened form, as I lie upon the couch. She was praying for me with tears in her eyes. She was afraid I was going to die. I saw real, true love in her eyes as she was praying. I didn't know what to do, but I did know she really cared about me.
However, in this time of need, I remembered my dad, a former Army Medic. I called home before calling a hospital and my dad informed us that my breathing problem was not dehydration but hyperventilation. I needed a paper bag to breathe into but we had none, so Andrea used her arts and crafts knowledge to construct a paper bag from that morning's newspaper.
The rest of that day(and on other days, too), there are large blocks of time in which I have no specific memories other than a large blur of sitting on her parents' couch and looking into each other' s eyes, almost kissing on the lips and then pulling away at the last minute in an excruciating dance.
We spent most of my Columbus trip this way.
Saturday, Andrea and I went down to the library. There, for the first time, I lifted her up in my arms, carrying her full weight. I'm not that strong of a guy, so I had to put her down after a moment. It was still special. From there, we walked down to Dominoes and ordered a pizza (half hamburger and half pepperoni). We sat outdoors and had our own little private picnic.
Through the first four days of my visit, Andrea was everything I could have imagined and more. What I had never considered or imagined was that her own physical movements could be attractive. When she'd shake her head just the right way, her hair would dance and it was so cute. Her heart and mind were exactly what I'd come to know and love on the Internet. Was Andrea the one? That was the question that filled my mind.
Sunday, we went to Obetz Pentecostal Church of God with a friend of my pastor's, Reverend Paul Hatfield. At this church, we met a very special man by the name of Don Walee. A blind man, Walee is one of the most incredible people I've met. He's capable of playing thirteen different instruments and delivers anointed messages. We were guests at the church and when offered the chance to testify, Andrea declined, having a case of stagefright. Brother Walee, well-acquainted with Pastor Hatfield joked that it was the first time he'd seen a Hatfield at a loss for words. After saying this, he said he was going to give me $20 after the service to take Andrea out to eat. I thought within myself, "I wonder if he'll actually do it or if he'll forget." After the next song, Brother Walee handed the money to Pastor Hatfield and told him to give it to me.
After Brother Walee's sermon, he held an altar call and both Andrea and I went to the altar. While on my knees, I saw a vision of her in my head and a voice telling me that she was the one. Andrea remained at the altar for a good fifteen minutes while the pastor and his wife both prayed for her. Afterwards, the pastor took us out to eat at a favorite Mexican restaurant.
My vision caused some problems because despite it, I was still reluctant to propose. Andrea was utterly confused about this, in addition to being hurt and upset. If I thought she was the one, why didn't I just propose to her. Of course what she didn't understand was that after violating the first three commandments, I was hanging onto the fourth for dear life. In addition, my pastor had warned me that I might come home engaged and I didn't want anyone to say, "I told you so." This led to a fight in which she asked me to make up my mind.
Brother Walee's pure honesty earned our respect and though it was Andrea's first experience with a church in the Holiness movement, we both decided we wanted to come back on Monday and skip a trip to the State Fair.
So Monday was spent doing a variety of things. In the morning, Andrea's mom did my laundry. Andrea had not wanted to know what type of underwear I wore because she feared it would create "pictures" in her head. In asking her mother to put them at the bottom of the bag, I accidentally blurted out what type I wore. Andrea playfully hit me in the head. Her mother had left the task of folding them to me. Carelessly, I started folding them right in front of Andrea. Andrea responded by grabbing some of her underclothes and folding them in front of me. It was these little weird moments that reminded me of how much I loved her.
On Monday Afternoon, I decided to use Brother Walee's money to take Andrea to The Olive Garden. My heart was filled with one thought, "Should I propose?" At each stop in our walk and on the bus I considered it. At the Olive Garden, the idea occurred to me at least two dozen times. After dinner, Andrea went to the bathroom and I prayed for the millionth time about it. It was time.
We left the Olive Garden and I knew I was taking my last steps as an uncommitted man. At the bus stop, I crouched to my knees (I didn't want to ruin my dress pants) and asked Andrea to marry me. She said yes. We got her mother's blessing that night but I was nervous to talk to her dad and made an excuse such as, "He's probably too tired to want to talk about it."
Tuesday was my last day in Columbus. We spent Tuesday morning crying on Andrea's couch together. We went to Wendy's for lunch and an hour before the flight, with tears in our eyes, we drove to the Columbus Airport. We cried and held each other in the terminal until the last possible minute. Crazy ideas ran through my head like Andrea buying a standby ticket at the last minute. Or staying in Columbus on the $140 in travelers checks I had left. It just couldn't be.
I went to the gate and I let go of my Andrea. I left her at the gate in tears, as I ran to the plane, for fear of turning back. Even once on the plane, the idea of getting off and going back occurred to me. Unfortunately, life isn't a romance movie and I sat still in the plane as it took off, leaving my Love behind.
When the plane arrived in Minneapolis, I called Andrea who was in tears. I comforted her as best I could. I was sad, though I hadn't been crying until I talked to her. She was so alone and not sure what to do. Worst of all, I wasn't going to be able to chat with her online for quite a while. I ran out of time and had to board my plane.
I returned home to Kalispell on the 14th and was met by my family. I was sad but I tried to hide it. I love my family and I didn't want them to feel hurt by my sadness. I thought that if they knew how I was feeling they'd have a "What am I: Chopped Liver?" attitude. I love them, but I still missed Andrea terribly.
I got back on August 14th and spent about 11 hours at home before we were off to Wenatchee to visit my ailing grandfather. We stopped at every meal time for food. At one meal, we were sitting in a booth and I felt myself starting to cry. I quickly asked to be excused and let my tears out in the restroom. Mom had a sense of what was going on and talked to me. She understood how hard this was and said that anyone who didn't had forgotten what it was like to be in love.
I still held much of my pain inside, trying to keep up appearances. One day, I finally let it out. I was sitting in the Wenatchee Library. I was alone and I sat down absentmindedly on a couch and put my left arm out as I'd done many times before in Ohio. I turned and saw--no one, and I broke down in tears. I didn't care who saw me, I just needed to let it out and over the course of about three minutes, I did.
Things were better once that occurred. I had let my tears out and I allowed myself to really feel my pain. I did have to adjust to not having Andrea around. I remember Joshua threatening me with bodily injury for absentmindedly placing my arm around him while we were riding in the car.
Things returned to normal, for the most part. Andrea and I kept chatting and calling each other on the phone. I eventually got a cell phone, so that I wouldn't have to deal with my dad telling me how much I'd run up our phone bill every month. Dialpad.com had stopped offering unlimited free calling and if we wanted to use it, we had to call back every five minutes. I didn't particularly like it, but we did it a few times that way.
I eventually told Mom and Josh about the engagement, but I didn't tell my father for fear of how he'd react. We weren't planning on getting married for two or three years to allow God to work out differences between us as well as to allow Andrea to finish college but God apparently had his own plans.
On September 11, 2001, I got up between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. as I always did, those days. I had a 7:00 a.m. Introduction to Microcomputers class to attend. Driving up
, I was listening to AP network news when it was reported a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought nothing of it at the time. I remembered a few years prior, a plane had crashed into the White House and I turned my mind to class.
When class got out at 8:00 a.m., I drove home just as I always did, when I tuned into the radio and found out that this wasn't an accident. Another plane hit the World Trade Center and still another had slammed into the Pentagon. All air travel was grounded. President Bush was heading back to Washington from Florida.
I was nervous and scared. Was this the beginning of the end? I drove home and saw the drama unfold on Fox News. The brave Fox Reporters brought home the absolute best September 11 coverage. One of their reporters was walking through the debris, talking to soot-covered survivors when suddenly everyone began running in a panic as Tower 2 collapsed. Soon thereafter, Tower 1 collapsed. I was in tears. Thousands of people had just died on national television.
I ran to the computer to check what was going on the Internet and also to find Andrea. Andrea hadn't heard yet and she was totally bewildered when I told her what happened. We were both shocked beyond measure. I was in tears at what I'd just seen. I'll never forget it. My first instinct was to get in my car, drive to Andrea's college, pick her up and take her home with me where she'd be safe. I know the idea was totally crazy, but it was the only one in my head.
September 11th was a reminder of how fragile our world can be, it reflects back to something in the book of James:
Come now, ye that say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain"; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Instead ye ought to say, "If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that." -James 4:13-15
For me, it was a realization that life can be short and that we don't always have tomorrow. The thought was frightening. Once I had calmed down and saw the country was going to be alright and Andrea was going to be fine, my crazy urges subsided. This didn't make me move faster, but it did make me less resistant when God decided to speed things up.
God began to resolve our differences. On some issues, she moved towards my position, on others I moved towards hers, and on several issues we moved towards each other. Still, there was one huge impediment to any plan to move up the wedding date.
Andrea needing to finish college was a given, based on what both she and I had learned of the importance of education. However, once again conflicting desires and issues began to work in our lives. Due to some problems Andrea was having with her family, she was no longer comfortable allowing them to take out loans to help her with college. She didn't want to be indebted to them. So, she was going to need to take out a supplemental loan for her last three semesters (she really only needed two to complete her degree).
However, when she went in to inquire about the loan, she was startled by what she realized. In order to finish her college degree with supplemental loans, she'd spend her first few years out of college paying more than $200 per month to pay off her student loans. In addition, if she got her wish and I transferred to Ashland after getting my AA from FVCC, we'd be looking at combined monthly loan payments of $300.00 per month.
In addition to this, her majors were in religion and creative writing (she was possibly going to add a minor in English) and she had no career ambitions beyond her writing, being active in church, and becoming a wife and mother. She had hoped that the creative writing classes would improve her writing skills and they were but only to a small degree. She had hoped that the religion degree would prepare her for a life of ministry, and it didn't really. On top of this, the coursework was becoming increasingly tedious for her. Each year, she found herself more and more disinterested in the annual ritual of final exams, research papers, and long essays. Now, she was having more trouble than ever focusing on her work.
I blamed myself for this and apologized for distracting her from her schoolwork. She told me that this had been going on a long time, even before she met me and that it wasn't my fault. I suggested that she come out here and take the next Semester off (the one she didn't need to complete to graduate anyway) and we agreed on that but it had become clear that if she left her college, it wouldn't be temporary. I tried to persuade her otherwise because I didn't want to be selfish. Finally, I stopped fighting when the Lord gave me peace about it and felt his assurance that it was His will and His time.
If she was going to come out, she would need money and so would I. She had a part-time job as a Library Assistant in the Ashland University Library. I got the booby prize, a part-time job as a Crew Member at Taco Bell. I'll write more about this in another part of my biography, but it suffices to say the working conditions weren't the best but I managed to make enough money to get Andrea a plane ticket out to Montana.
The next step in this process was to find her an apartment. However, rent isn't inexpensive in Kalispell and first and last month's rent are generally required. Fortunately for us, just as Andrea was getting ready to move in, our neighbor was moving out. Because the landlord knew our family, he didn't require the usual "precautions" and instead allowed me to rent the place for Andrea without even a deposit. I paid the money and still had plenty left over from Taco Bell.
On December 14, four months to the day after our tearful goodbye in Columbus, Andrea and I were to be reunited. I got the night off from work at Taco Bell. I had dressed up for the occasion, wearing my teal Sports Jacket. I had even gotten a manicure the previous evening to guarantee I looked my best for Andrea. This would be her first time seeing me without facial hair as well as the first time she'd see me with a hair cuts beside the flat top (which Andrea had referred to as "that stupid haircut").
I was nervous throughout the days leading up to her arrival. I was scared that she'd change her mind, scared that she'd miss her flight, scared that one of her flights would be shot down or flown into a building, worried about so many things. Thankfully, on the evening of the Flight, I found a site that the airline set up where I could view the progress of her flight. I found that at each stage, it'd been on time.
I drove towards the airport, super early and was so nervous that I ended up on the wrong side of the county. Thankfully, because I left early, I found my way there with fifteen minutes to spare. I was determined to give her a decent proposal and had bought a ring for the purpose. With me, I had a sign that said, "Andrea Hatfield, will you marry me?"
The plane landed and I waited for her to come out. I watched hopefully as dozens of passengers disembarked, yet there was no Andrea. They had stopped coming and she hadn't gotten off the plane. My heart raced and I asked if there was anyone else on board. The guard didn't know of anyone but a lady on the flight said that one girl had stopped in the bathroom to freshen up. I hoped and prayed that it was Andrea. I looked through the gate and I saw her coming. She was wearing a denim skirt and she had her light purple winter coat on. She was tired and when she finally reached the gate she saw me and my sign and nodded yes. When she entered the terminal, I fell to my knees with a ring in hand this time and asked her to marry me. She said yes.
Some people who had already had their loved ones get off the plane, remained behind to see my proposal. They applauded and one of them was kind of enough to take these pictures:
Andrea and I were together again, and by the grace of God, we were going to stay that way.