I spotted him at a high school swim meet when I was 14. I found him quite attractive so I was just watching him from the balcony while he knelt beside the pool cheering on his teammates. Then he looked at me and I was caught - I quickly averted my eyes elsewhere. The following day, I noticed that there was a picture from that swim meet in the paper and he was in it so, naturally, I cut it out, drew a heart around his head and hung it on the fridge.
One of my good friends, Sarah, had a boyfriend who was on the swim team and my other good friend, Amber, was a swimmer herself so I had a couple "connections", so to speak. The Valentine's Day dance was coming up and, so I was told, Matt was waiting for me to ask him (the girls ask the boys to this one... how cruel). We had been introduced through Amber and Sarah after a swim meet; we all met in the athletic foyer. I was VERY shy; being that I had never had a true boyfriend before. But I eventually called him up one evening and asked him to the dance, as scared as I was (even though I knew he was going to say yes). I still have those Sweetheart Swirl tickets. We ended up going on a few dates between then and the dance and Matt asked me to be his girlfriend.
I remember our first kiss... we were leaving the school and it was in the entrance to the athletic foyer. I think one of my parents was there to pick me up or something. But he gave me a kiss before I left. Like I could ever forget my first kiss. I was wearing some Bonne Bell lip gloss. Razzleberry, I believe it was called. He commented on the flavor later. :P
We went to a place called "9 Ball Joe" a couple of times. It was a hangout spot with pool tables and such. I remember leaving one time but Matt stayed behind with his friends, and as we drove away, Matt flashed the "I love you" sign - what a romantic. A 16-year-old Cassanova.
We also went on a "triple date" to see Toy Story 2 together. I still have those movie theater ticket stubs. We held hands through the movie and I remember he was caressing my hand with his thumb. I never wanted the movie to end.
The Sweetheart Swirl dance came and it was like my teenage wedding day. My first high school dance with my first boyfriend with whom I shared my first kiss. My dress was a light pink empire waist chiffon dress. The top was beaded. We went to a friend's house to take pre-dance pictures. Matt looked so handsome all dressed up in his suit. It was seriously the best day of my life and it was only the beginning.
We went to dinner at Pietro's, an Italian restaurant with the best bread ever. This restaurant will come to hold some very special memories for us, this being the first. I remember being extremely giddy and excited. I'm sure Matt might have thought I was a little bit crazy, which I am, and he clearly adored it. ;) After dinner, it was off to the dance and I still treasure that night to be one of my favorites. I remember dancing to "Amazed" by Lonestar and "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith. Matt would sing into my ear while we danced. I was completely in love at 14. We went to his house, just the two of us, after the dance. We just cuddled on a chair in the living room. We just cuddled and talked. It was getting quite late... I think it was around 1:00 and he drove me home. I really did not want to leave ever. It was the best night of my life. He sent me an email afterwards, and I just remember reading what he had thought when he first saw me, "... she looks SO PRETTY".
Our spring break was coming up - Matt went to Steamboat, CO and I went to Pensacola, FL. I remember missing him terribly during that week. But when we got back, he had gotten me a pearl bracelet... that I lost not too long after. I am still mad about losing that.... VERY mad, of course. But it won't be the last piece of jewelry from him that I lose.
My 15th birthday was in April. My parents called a few friends of mine over as a surprise to me and Matt was included. I was so happy to see him there. One of my presents was a guitar. I wanted one because Matt played. I guess I wanted to impress him even though I never actually learned how to play. :P I was wearing a blue graphic tee that day that said "Angel" on it. I bought it at a store called Anchor Blue. I bought it because Matt always called me his angel. I even went so far as to create an AOL screen name, "MattsAngel4Evr". Or something like that. Now he is my angel.
Some of the guys on the swim team would dye their hair crazy colors before shaving it off for State. I remember telling Matt NOT to do it. I couldn't have a boyfriend with blue hair, after all. But he did it anyway. I also didn't want him to shave it off... but I suppose after he dyed it multiple colors, shaving it off was probably a good thing.
I went to almost every single swim meet - any one that I could get a ride to... no matter how far away it was. Sometimes I would beg my parents to take me. The state finals were in Muskegon (I think). I went with Amber to watch Matt. I think this is where our first "major fight" happened. I was an insecure 15-year-old girlfriend and I was "checking out" another swimmer on purpose to see if Matt would notice and what would he do (I'm not sure I ever told him this). Teenage girls. He noticed alright. He confronted me in front of his teammates and I could tell he was so upset, I just started crying and walked away (serves me right). He thought I was laughing so that didn't help matters either. The team was leaving so they started getting on the bus and one of his teammates, Dan, approached me and told me to go out to the bus because Matt wanted to talk to me. I did. And Matt came off the bus and asked me what I wanted because he was told that I wanted to talk to him. It was a big setup. I'm not even sure how the conversation went at that point. All I remember is a big French kiss right in front of the entire team. "My first French kiss"! I was proud and mortified all at the same time. :D I quickly walked back inside to find Amber so I could tell her what just happened. Matt received a mock "Cassanova" award at the end of the season for that.
I remember on June 2, 2000, I had to stay after school to make up a math quiz and Matt had to stay after school for something, too. When I was finished, I looked for him in the hall and I remember jumping up and giving him a playful hug when we met. He kind of shied away... and we proceeded to walk out to his car where he broke up with me in the parking lot. I was supposed to get a ride home with my friend but she bailed so I had to call my mom to come get me. When I got in the car, I just remember saying "Matt broke up with me" after she asked me how I was. I was DEVASTATED. My "true love" just dumped me. Right before final exams. It was a Friday and final exams were the following week.
I laid low that weekend... heartbroken. Then I received a call from one of Matt's friends. He was at the hospital and he told me Matt had been in a car accident on June 3. I didn't know what to think - I guess I was in shock. I basically uttered the words, "Okay," we hung up... I didn't even ask any questions. Then I went upstairs and saw that my parents had the newspaper article. I then realized just how bad it was. I lost it. Matt was in a drug-induced coma with a head injury and I soon came to find out that his odds didn't look good. On top of an already broken heart came a sledgehammer for the final blow.
I went to the hospital as soon as I could. So many of his friends and family were there. I remember his mom just giving me the biggest hug when she saw me... and they allowed me to come back and view Matt in the ICU while he was in the coma. I didn't even know what to do. There was bruising, swelling on his face. Wires connecting him to machines. And he was just laying there. All I can remember saying was, "Hi, Matt"... I had no idea what to say. I may have touched his hand, I'm not sure. Many days of hospital visits followed. I wanted to stay there 24 hours a day. His parents kept journals for friends and family to write in - I made quite a few entries. I told him about driver's education... among other random things. Some days his outlook was great and then it would falter again. It was like a roller coaster. But Matt the fighter eventually came through and he was transferred to Mary Freebed to start rehab and the long road to recovery.
I have asked him about it often. Like what was his first memory - he said he was trying to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. I asked him if he knew what was going on... how he got there. He said he just always sort of knew what he had to do. I asked him what was the hardest thing to re-learn - he said walking. I wish I could just give him a hug right now and never let go.
One particular visit to Mary Freebed... before Matt could talk. He wrote to communicate. I walked in and sat down. He was watching The Matrix. I watched it, too... I guess I wasn't really sure what to say. So there I was... watching The Matrix. I think part of the awkwardness... or all of it... came from the fact that he had broken up with me the day before the accident. Once the movie was over, I said bye to him and left. Later, I was told the following continuation of this story: Matt's brother, Tom, was there, too. After I left, he looked at Tom, confused... because I hadn't given him a kiss goodbye. He didn't remember that he broke up with me.
A while later, once Matt was back home, he told me to call him... he must have sent me an email saying this. So I did. When I called, he was trying to make macaroni & cheese. It sounded like he was having some trouble. I don't even know what the purpose of this conversation was... maybe he just wanted to say hi. But that was pretty much it.
We ended up in the same math class in high school a couple years later... he was a senior and I, a junior. We didn't really converse... ever. Maybe some small talk here and there. We also had run into each other at a couple of parties throughout the years. I remember at a friend's birthday party, he was in a room playing with matchbox cars. That was Matt.
After he had gone off to college and I was a senior in high school, he invited me over to his dorm for a visit. I went after school and hung out with him. We went for a walk and chatted. So it's fair to say we remained friends through the years... not besties or anything. Given the extreme lack of closure after our breakup, despite my young age, I think I always had feelings for him. It varied between friendship and love interest but there was always something there, nonetheless.
After I graduated high school, I got a job at a grocery store, working in the cafe. Matt would occasionally stop in for a Starbucks and come over to say hi to me.
That summer was the last time I saw him for a while. I went to Grand Valley State University and Matt was at Aquinas College. But then he transferred to GVSU in the middle of his junior year and he invited me over to his apartment for a visit, along with a mutual friend. He came to the door rocking (or not so much) some spotty facial hair. I always teased him about that look later.
Come the New Year, Matt had a resolution to get back in touch with some of his old friends; especially those who stuck by his side through his car accident that he had lost touch with. I guess I was first on that list.
I think it was January 8, 2005. Almost exactly five years after our high school relationship. It was Christmas break and I was at home on the computer. I received an IM one evening (gotta love technology) from "AquaBlade Omega". Yes, his screen name was AquaBlade Omega. I think AquaBlade was a model of swim goggles and Omega came from the Bible.
"So what the f--- is up?"After five years, that's his opening line. I loved it. I know I smiled. There's no way I didn't. I know I had butterflies in my stomach right away. One thing led to another and we ended up meeting for coffee at the Starbucks in D&W the next day. Since he died, I have been back to that same spot. Where it all began (again).
I wondered how he was and I was really excited to meet up with him again. We were now both single, as I'm sure was established during this IM conversation. So we met. And he was sporting the gigantic MP3 player in his cargo pocket... headphones around his neck... but I didn't see the headphones at the time. I honestly thought he was wearing some kind of medical device because all I could see was the wire. :D I told him this, too... and then we started listening to music together. We had the same taste. He asked me if I had seen the movie Garden State and the answer was no.
"What?! You HAVE to see it. What are you doing right now?"I'm pretty sure my answer was... "Having coffee with you." His point was... I was to accompany him to his parents' house immediately so that we could watch it together. So I did. And he also told me he wanted to take me out to dinner sometime. We did that, too. Very shortly thereafter. We went to Pietro's. Because we both agreed they had the best bread ever. In fact, we later once went to Pietro's solely to eat the bread. I don't think the server was too impressed with us but I'm pretty sure we left more in tips than what the actual bill was. Maybe that helped. We also frequently bought the bread as take-out.
Our first kiss... we watched one of the Blade movies at his parents' house. He had his arm around me... I'm not sure I really paid too much attention to the movie itself. I was just happy to be there. After the credits started rolling... we just turned our heads to look at each other and transitioned smoothly into our "second first kiss". It was a fireworks kiss. It was, in fact, awesome.
I remember getting up from the couch and wandering over to look at the giant family tree that was on the wall. Matt came up behind me and put his arms around my waist, rested his chin on my shoulder and looked at it with me... telling me about it. I miss him so much.
Mr. Romantic wanted to wait until Valentine's Day to make me his girlfriend but he couldn't wait that long. I remember him saying one night, I think it was January 14, "Now is just as good a time as any." I was just so happy and elated that we were together again. Five years later. There were song lyrics we sort of deemed as "ours"... we just changed them up a tiny bit:
And after three (five) long years I think that we both need thisThe song is Sunsets & Car Crashes by The Spill Canvas.
So we seal the deal in the parking lot with a kiss
The first time he told me he loved me was in the middle of a party that my roommates and I were hosting. I'm pretty sure I was seated... and in the midst of dancing and drinking games, he knelt down to give his "I love you" speech. He told me afterwards that he was nervous I wouldn't say it back. I had though. He was wearing a black striped button-down shirt with khaki cargo pants. I was wearing a floral button-down shirt with jeans.
We had to spend the following summer apart because Matt was accepted for an internship in Boston. However, that allowed us to experience what became our favorite city and we ended up going back there to spend Independence Day with our baby boy, Noah, in 2010. I will never forget that one. I think that will forever be my favorite 4th of July. We had also spent the 4th of July there together in 2005 when he was working as an intern. Other Independence Days were spent in Washington, D.C. (2008) and Disney World (2009) when I was pregnant with Noah.
The proposal (in my words)... well, we had oftentimes talked about getting married and had even looked at rings. Despite that, the proposal was totally a surprise to me. He wanted to take me to dinner one night (not an uncommon thing). We went into downtown Rockford so I could do a little shopping beforehand. I stayed back in one of the shops and... being that it was this cute little boutique filled with feminine things, Matt said he was going to head outside to "call ahead" to the restaurant and I could meet him out there when I was done. Cool. I met him outside and we were off to our favorite restaurant, Pietro's (that has since closed... did I mention that already? Probably.). When we arrived, it was packed (Friday night).... but we got right in and our table was ready and waiting. One of my good friends worked there and she was our server. Yay for that! Matt kept looking past me... like he was looking at someone. It was weird. I jokingly said, "Are you proposing to me?!" Well, I was totally kidding because... we were going to go look at rings together the next day. We weren't to the point of proposal yet. Or so I thought. He just looked at me like I was crazy and said, ".... noo...". I assured him I was kidding and that was that anyway. So we ate dinner and then it was time for dessert (the best meal of the day, in my opinion). Stephanie (my friend) brought out the dessert accompanied by a dozen roses! Whaaat? Although I think my attention was drawn more to the tiramisu... meanwhile, Matt was getting out of his seat to assume the position of "proposal". I think my heart skipped a beat when I realized what was happening here. He said this little spiel that concluded with "... will you marry me?" And between happy sobs and tears (I'm such an ugly crier), I said "Yes" and he decided that my ugly crying was okay and put the most perfect ring on my finger. That I'm still wearing. I never take it off.