There was a girl who had grown increasingly disenchanted with love.
She was worn thin by the lies, the secret Facebook pages and popped collars.
She was exhausted by the perpetual showering of cheap ‘I love you’s’, the mind-boggling pro’s and cons lists and the overlooking of flaws.
In her sad state, she fled hedonistic, superficial Miami to Tampa with high hopes of finding new meaning in life.
There was a man in the new city, lured by her song, A Sunday Kind of Love.
Their eyes met, or his met her profile picture, her tush squeezed into tight capris.
He made the not-so-bold move and wrote the girl a message. It was no love letter, but it was articulate, humorous and a breath of fresh air.
She was already dating someone else, a “Go Gators” kind of guy, but the “conversations” with this mysterious man were too compelling to ignore.
When they finally met, she saw him across the patio of a crowded restaurant. The jazz music played as she spotted him, looking cool and serious. A Cuban James Dean with nothing to lose.
There was some awkward conversation, mostly carried by her as he stared disinterested at the bar behind her.
She thought the date was over when he turned to her and said, “I thought you said you were going to drag me to some dirty blues bar?”
She grabbed his arm and smiled and they rushed to the bar where the thrill grew and the fun began.
He tried to give her a fist bump and she had flash backs to jocks past. She said she’d rather be spanked as a salutation, so he did.
As they closed down the bar, they ended up having a chat with the dirty blues band singer, his Captain Ahab beard catching the ash from his cigarette.
The Captain said unsolicited, “You guys are gonna make cute babies.”
The mysterious man performed an impromptu Judo throw on the girl as she walked to her car and they kissed.
It was brief, but the spark was there.
As he drove off in the opposite direction, the girl felt the rush of excitement, the feeling of knowing, the visions of a future all laid out like a dream come true.
She saw herself living in his loft in Ybor, nights spent cooking together, drowsy mornings cuddling in the dappled sunlight.
Once that became a reality, it wasn’t long before she saw the wedding, their 1920’s bungalow and a baby.
Before she could hardly realize what had happened, she was married to the man who spanked her on a first date and they were raising two very cute babies together in yet another home in the suburbs.
It hasn’t always been easy. Those cute babies can be demons. Work paired with infants can be a major impediment to romance.
But, she still sometimes has to pinch herself when she realizes she has married that mysterious man, who can still surprise her with his wit.
Now, there are day care date nights, sneaking “quality time” in before commandeering the jukebox at the bar and catching up over dinner and sometimes… sometimes, they still laugh so hard in bed at night their cheeks hurt and fall asleep soundly with the heat of their bodies to keep each other warm.
Working in news, you have to be detached, even jaded.
You must be bitter, hardened and borderline soulless.
People cope by making dead baby jokes and cracks about crackheads.
I am just as guilty as the next guy.
But, there are days when the stories we cover feel absolutely unbearable. The weight of cruelty crushes your spirit. The injustices, the death of innocence piles up and blinds you to the good in the world.
Today was one of those days.
An unthinkable crime. A father clutches his 5-year old daughter to his chest, lifts her up, then throws her off a 60-foot high bridge into the frigid water to her death.
I first read the headline when I woke up at 5:30 a.m.
It was easily shoved into the back of my brain as I worked out, showered, got dressed and drove to work.
Then, I arrived at work and had no choice but to listen to the coverage of the story. I could feel the tears begin to well up.
Then, I see the first pictures of the little girl. Her name is Phoebe and she’s a cherubic little blonde.
Then, I hear the owner of the daycare she attended talking about how she was terrified of water.
Now, I can’t STOP crying.
The terror she must have felt. Did she survive the fall? Did she struggle to swim? What went through her mind when she realized her own father had just sealed her fate?
MAKE IT STOP.
I could say this makes me want to rush home and hold my children. It does, but it doesn’t make up for the gnawing sorrow in the pit of my stomach, the grieving for a child I’ve never met.
The worst thing I’ve ever had the urge to do to my own children is drop an F-bomb in front of them.
This is unfathomable.
I did see a wonderful post on Facebook where a man similarly darkened by the cloud of gloom suggested everyone use it as an opportunity to post one thing they love about their child.
Just one? Impossible!
I love that my son randomly pets my arm while we sit together on the couch, then looks at me out of the corner of his eye and smiles so I will know that it’s no accident.
I love that my daughter asks every night if it’s my turn to put her to bed and when it is she shouts “Yesss!” and runs to hug me.
I love that my son really believes that if he wears Batman pajamas that he IS Batman.
I love that my daughter demands we call her “Flash.”
I love that my daughter wants to cook me with every night and when that’s actually a realistic option, she squeezes my legs and says, “I love you, mommy.”
I love that my son comes to his sister’s defense when we say she’s being naughty. “Alma’s not bad. Alma’s good!” (Even when she was in trouble for hitting him.)
I love that my daughter asks me if I’m “okay” when I lose at a game.
I love that my son doesn’t just give you a half-assed hug when you ask for one. They’re long and warm and heartfelt.
I love that my daughter is under the impression she can run incredibly fast when in reality it’s more of an awkward sprint.
I love that my son can’t sit still for more than a few minutes before asking, “Wanna play ball?” or “Want punching time?”
I love that my daughter asks a million annoying questions and when you finally give her a real and complicated answer, her eyes get big like her mind just got BLOWN.
I love that when she asks my son for a turn politely, he hands over whatever is, no matter what it is and without argument.
I could go on forever… and now I feel, only slightly better about the world, but fantastic about MY world.
My parents would probably both kill me for posting these pictures, maybe for different reasons. I stumbled across these the other night in a box of old stuff that’s migrated from house to house to apartment to apartment, traveling across an entire lifetime.
My parents were married for 23 years. They’ve been divorced now for 19. While it could make me sad to see these old snapshots, it doesn’t. Here’s why: it serves as a reminder that every couple goes through major changes in their lives and there is always the chance they can drift apart. But, every married couple was once madly in love and ready to conquer the world.
We should all remember that time, if nothing else to remember there’s somewhere to get back to when things have fallen apart. Don’t kill me mom and dad.
P.S. You were both so dang good-lookin’.