I met my husband at the fire station near my house.
It’s one of those random chance meeting, star crossed lovers, fate filled, God breathed, kind of stories. And the anniversary of our first date is today (Feb. 15) so it seemed like a good day to finally share this tale.
February of 2002 I was finally finding my rhythm as a single mom,
working a 50+ hour per week corporate job and mastering the 5 o’clock hours day care dash with my just turned 2 year old. Although the divorce was not final, so much pain was behind me. My ex had lived in my house (unemployed) for 6 months of ugly stand offs and legal negotiations and had finally moved out. I had fresh paint, new (or rearranged furniture) and was feeling settled in as a “single mom”. Maybe for the rest of my life. I told myself, if that’s what God wants me to be, I’m going to love that life. After being hooked up briefly in the newly developing online dating world, I was appalled, humored and scared to death at what kind of men lurked for a young single mom with a good job. My girlfriends were dutifully entertaining me on the weekends I was not with my son and life was stable. Boyfriend? Who needs a boyfriend?
But the day care dash….ugh! Just exhausting. And my friend Sean, who landed on my side of the fence after the divorce (those who are divorced know that you pretty much split friends as well. It sucks. I never recommend it.) suggest I stop by the firehouse one evening to run some energy off my little boy. Sean had just finished fire school and was working part time at the fire department that served my neighborhood. He and his wife were super kind so I felt comfortable when he suggested this despite the fact that at this point in my life, I knew very little about firefighters aside from the fact that Sean had just become one. And Sean had done about a dozen different careers by that point in his life so in my head, this was just his next interesting stopover. It had never in my life crossed my mind that firefighters were “hot” nor that men in uniform were “sexy” as I had just spent 5 years with my nose in a book in engineering school living the sorority life, being one of “those girls” as my marine corps husband describes me. I fully expected that when I did start dating again it would be one of the least Rico Suave corporate suit types I spend most of my days around to earn a living.
So approximately Wed February 12,, my son and I popped in to Station 92 and immediately began checking out all those big trucks. Sean and I were standing in bay talking when the ambulance pulled in. Out piled at least 3 men, all of whom politely smiled, shook my hand and introduced themselves. One of whom said “well hello Mrs. R” thinking I was his wife. “Oh no!” I quickly corrected. Just good friends from college. But in that brief interaction I did notice a twinkle in his eye and kindness in his voice to speak so politely to whom he thought was Sean’s wife. Don’t ask me who the rest of them were because I have no clue. Only that “one” stood out to me.
We wrapped up our visit and headed home to a dinner of probably mac and cheese or hot dogs, two year old finger food favorites, when Sean called me. (On my house phone. imagine that. It’s the only phone I had back in the day. Him memorizing my phone number or having it written down somewhere and calling me from the station phone.) Sean wanted to ask if it would be ok if this firefighter, named Dan, could call me just to talk, maybe catch a movie. I gave the “I’m not ready for anything serious warning” but told him it’s fine.
What happened in conversation between the time I left the station and that phone call is sketchy for me and I will probably never understand the man dance that transacted.
I was told it went something like this.
Firefighters say: “Sean, who’s your friend?” (Brothers always interrogate brothers when females are involved.)
Sean says: “She’s a good friend of ours from college. Sweet girl. Going through a rough divorce.” (something something something I=still-dont-know-what-guys-say-in-these-moments)
Dan says: “I’d date her.”
(Insert some banter of which I’ll never know and somehow my now husband ended up with a slip of paper with my phone number on it. And Sean’s divorced sister in law as well but thank God he called me. Winner winner chicken dinner!)
So Dan called me promptly at 9 PM that evening at the very moment my 2 year old was having a massive melt down tantrum, screaming his head off about bed time.
That conversation flowed amazingly well with a grand total of 12 words.
Dan: “Do you want me to call back?”
Me: “Yes call in twenty minutes.”
Click. Well. That was lovely.
Guess what? He called back! The man who later admitted he had sworn off dating women with kids. Jackson and I must have really left an impression on him 😉
That night we talked for 2 straight hours. We rapidly and skillfully went through the informal checklists that two previously divorced people go through.
Family? Siblings? Parents? Hometown? Children? School? Psycho Ex Girl/Boyfriends? How did the last relationship end? What do you want to be when you grow up? Church? Smoke? Drink? Athletic? Hobbies? Career?
We tentatively planned a date for that Saturday after he explained to me the firefighter work schedule (What? You’re off for 48 hours and watch movies on the job? How fair is that?) Then I planted that test.
“Yep, Lots of guys say they’re going to call back and never do. Ha ha. We’ll see.”
We conveniently avoided any mention or planning around the fact that it was Valentine’s week even though it seemed we were immediately smitten with how much we liked each other by phone. So the plan was that he would call me on Friday and arrange final details for our date that Saturday.
Now imagine this. Dan is glowing with excitement about a date with this hot girl (I’ll embellish here LOL!) and drives 40 minutes from his house to his full time department that Friday morning. He starts telling one of the guys about “this girl” when he realizes. HE FORGOT THE PIECE OF PAPER WITH HER PHONE NUMBER AT HOME!! Game over. She’ll never go out with me if I don’t call her today. Enter the second firefighter who is responsible for our love story. John agreed to hold over on 1 unit so Dan could drive the 80 minutes round trip back home to get my phone number. Smitten I tell ya.
Our first date was hiking at Highbanks Metropark on a February day that hinted at an early spring. We walked and talked for a couple hours. Then, us two “loser” single people who had zero plans for the rest of the day, went on to lunch. Then a movie. Then dinner. Then rented a movie. Then made plans to watch Nascar at his house the next day. By then we were both thinking it but not saying it.
The billboard near the airport formed the words for us “Vegas. 8 non-stop flights daily.”
It was that Monday when I first realized what I was getting into dating a firefighter. He would be gone and mostly unreachable for 24 hours! And then free again Tuesday morning as I was heading in for another 8 hour day in the office. My boy-crush whom I had just spent the past 2 days with would be unreachable for almost another 2! I was counting the seconds. Perhaps this was the moment when I first learned I had more disdain than love for the fire service and even the hot guy in the uniform couldn’t convince me otherwise. (I’m good now but it took years. Too many. You can read those details here in our True Love Story series)
Want to know how much this was hand of God in our meeting?
My friend Sean and Dan were both part timers at this 4 station fire department, only working a few days a month each and usually at different stations. Yet the moment I’m standing in the bay for 15 minutes at station 92, Dan pulls in on the medic (which barely turns a wheel normally). I never would have dated someone I had not seen in person. This chance encounter was so necessary to setup our life together.
Although I was totally falling for him, l still resisted because the divorce was not final. So many little details over shared parenting agreements to iron out. Then a surprise. My ex settled rapidly and unexpectedly at my next court appointment that Wednesday. Bam! I was a completely free woman and Dan appropriately celebrated by sending me his first bouquet of flowers. (which I dried and still adorn our nightstand).
Within a week, the Vegas joke was on our lips as we more rationally planned a fall wedding…….assuming that Jackson approved as well. I still wanted to wait a couple of weeks before introducing him. Jackson initiated those early meetings with tantrums about not liking to poop in his diaper but not yet wanting to be potty trained. As well as dragging home various fever and bodily fluid laden ailments from daycare. It was clear. He loved Dan. And even more clear that Dan “I’ll never date a woman with children” Mercer was willing to walk through fire to be with me.
And that’s the story of how I earned the title Firefighter Wife. (The motivation behind this blog came around year 10 when I finally stopped resisting that title and embraced it 🙂 )
We will NEVER forget Sean and John who played simple but most necessary roles in the fated journey that brought us together.
Not “The End” but only “The Beginning of our Happily Ever After”.
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