In late January 1991, I finally met Christine in person, and we were almost instantly inseparable. We became life partners in every way imaginable. We like telling people that we were comfortably codependent. Along the way we moved in together, traveled to Asia, backpacked across Europe, and fell madly in love. I was nineteen when we met; Christine was twenty two. Not long after we returned from Europe, I went to Indiana to meet her family. I think Christine's father had mixed feelings about me. On one hand, he knew I had at least a shot at the brass ring, and thus might be capable of giving Christine the kind of life he naturally felt she deserved, the life any father wants for his daughter. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure he thought I was a complete Hollywood idiot, because I had no education, no practical experience, and no formal plan for achieving any of my lofty goals. This was a no nonsense guy who had worked hard his whole life. A career firefighter, he had spent his life's savings and much of his family's emotional equity in a failed attempt to own and run a grocery store. When I met Christine, her family was finally coming out of the aftermath of that experience, so I was viewed by her clan as either the knight in shining armor or a flaky prince. Her family was nervous and scared and hopeful, all at the same time; I just didn't want to let them down.
As I think back, I realize that Christine's dad really wanted me to marry his daughter, which was good, because I never wanted to lose her. The life Christine had known and still does know in Indiana is one of stability, unquestioning love, loyalty, and support from her family and community. I revere that quality in her and them, and I am proud to consider myself a very real part of their family.
I always felt like I was destined for greatness on some level, even if I was afraid to express those feelings out loud, but I didn't mind expressing them to Christine on our first date. It meant the world to me that she didn't laugh. She believed me; she believed in me. She took me absolutely seriously, and I found that incredibly romantic. She was the sexiest woman I had ever met, and she was into me, which I found inordinately shocking. I remember a couple of rakes who were my friends at the time looking at Christine, and looking at me with utter stupefaction, and saying, "How did you land this girl?"
I had no answer.