The 20-year phone call

It took him 20 years to return my phone call.

One night in August, almost two years ago, just before beginning my first year of teaching at my hometown high school, I took a break from cleaning and checked my Facebook account. I scrolled through status updates, memes, and selfies, not stopping to give much thought to any of it. Then across my screen scrolled a list of suggested friends. This list included Ryan Renfro. Ryan Renfro was the first boy I had a real, true crush on. Ryan Renfro from 8th grade drama club. Ryan Renfro, who I was dared to call during a slumber party, on the landline, and had to ask his mom permission to talk to him (A thrill and anxiety that today’s kids will never know.) Ryan Renfro, who I am pretty sure I called a snob or something to that affect during our conversation because he hung out with the “cool” kids. He was the cute redheaded boy who made me laugh. Needless to say, after insulting him, there was not a follow up phone call on either of our parts.

I was certain I had not spoken to him since high school, which was going on 20 years now. Wait, did I even talk to him in high school? No concrete memories came to mind. With a shrug and a nostalgic chuckle, I sent him a friend request. It was accepted within minutes. When it was accepted, I did what we all do; I Facebook stalked him. There was not much on his page. I would say he had recently set it up and was not much for social media (which turned out to be true). At the top of his feed was a picture of two sweet little girls, making their best “bass” faces on a front porch. Which of course I liked. After a few moments, I received a message from Ryan. We had a few minutes of the usual catching up chit chat. How have you been? Where did you go to college? What do you do for work? Where are you living? Eventually, he asked if he could call me, which was surprising and mildly creepy.

His exact words were, “I think this could be good for us.”

This is crazy, I thought. He is probably going through some weird transitional crisis and I am the first person from home on his Facebook that he is reaching out to help him find meaning in the broken pieces of his life. He probably just needs a virtual shoulder to cry on.

Still, something propelled me to say yes. He called. We talked for three hours. And we have talked every night since.

Turns out, I was right. Ryan was in transition. He was newly separated, had just moved and had three kids, his now 10-year-old daughter, aka Shortstop (think the Sticky McSchnickens scene from The Ridiculous 6, and say it with the accent), his now 8-year-old daughter, aka Wind Tunnel, and his now 2-year-old son, aka Bam Bam. (Stay tuned for explanations of nicknames in future blogs.) Trust me, the red flags went up when I learned that he was newly separated. I thought, Man, it’s going to be a few therapy sessions and I will never hear from this guy again. Not that it would matter. He was from my hometown, but was currently living two hours away. I thought, Well, maybe someone I can relate to, at least…

Life has a funny way of changing course. At this point in my life I had been divorced from an incredibly unhealthy and abusive marriage for a year and half. I had attempted dating as a means of moving on. By attempted, I mean I suffered through one disastrous monstrosity after another. It was like the bug that flies repeatedly into the window. Maybe this time…no, this time…how about this time… I am not sure how one actually dates successfully. The entire process rivals a root canal. I tried to be open-minded. I tried online and mobile dating sites, all of which felt like a waste of my time. I went on blind dates. It was all awful. The awkwardness. The forced interest. The middle-school rejection when I didn’t get a second phone call. To top it off, if you think dating is hard, dating with kids is harder. I couldn’t just think about myself anymore. I had my now 11-year-old son, aka Smalls (as in, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls” and my now 7-year-old daughter, aka Snowflake. Literally two nights before Ryan called me, I sat on my couch, deleting all traces of online attempts to find Mr. Right. I said aloud, looking at my ceiling, “God, I am done! If you want me to be with someone, you are going to have to drop him in my lap!” I was at peace with this decision. I was going to be the perpetual single girl. It would just be me and my kiddos. And maybe a few dozen cats. I knew that I could at least have a meaningful relationship with Netflix. We had moved back to my hometown. I had just been hired to work at my old high school. We were in a rental house that wasn’t great, but would do. I was surrounded by the familiar and I was at peace with settling where I was. Until someone returned a phone call after 20 years that changed my whole course of life.

Fast forward to today. Saying yes, that Ryan could call me, was unknowingly the beginning of a new chapter in our story. Saying yes, I will marry him this past Christmas and moving to a new town to combine our families is the beginning of a new adventure for us; one that does not come with directions or a map, or some days, a chance at sanity. Ryan is still a cute redhead (with less hair and a few more wrinkles) and still makes me laugh every day, which I guarantee is the secret to our relationship. I no longer think that he is a snob. More like a misunderstood introvert – like a modern-day blue-collared Mr. Darcy. Our blended family is crazy, loud, messy and, at times, full of challenges, but I wouldn’t trade a day. Ryan’s prediction was right. This did turn out to be good for both of us.

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