I started first grade when I was six. I was looking forward to it because so many others of my age would be there. But as I met the other kids, I began to get that anxious feeling of impending doom because I knew she was not there.
I know that sounds crazy - a six year old looking for that "someone". And that uneasy feeling rushed over me because I did not even understand what, exactly, I was looking for and could not find in that classroom. I was confused and scared. Scared that I might never find "her".
I told my Mom about it, but she did not understand any more than I did, because at six, you simply do not know how to explain a lot of things.
I vividly recall throughout school I tried to find a "girl friend". Most of the other kids had girlfriends or boyfriends. Not me. And even as I graduated High School, I still had never had a girlfriend - someone to share "growing up" with, because I could not find "her". And I still did not know who she was, where she was, or even if she existed. And that uneasy feeling was still there, and growing as time passed. With each passing year, the fear that "she" would never appear grew.
By the time I was 25 several of my friends remarked that I seemed to have a "death wish"; always taking huge chances that could easily have gone very wrong. There were few places in North America that I did not travel through on my motorcycle, forever looking for I knew not what. I was driven! And I did not even know what was driving me. I just felt, deeply, that I was not whole; that I was missing a big part of myself. It is extremely difficult to explain to anyone who has not "been there".
The only thing that kept me going was the hope that, whoever it was, I would someday I find her. And when I did, I would "magically" and instinctively know it. But would I really? Every night as I lay myself down, I would pray to God that He would help me find her.
The years rolled by. At age 42, I had given up, and I became homeless. I ended up in a homeless shelter in Manchester,New Hampshire. I resigned myself to living out my life on the streets. Without "her", there was nothing else I wanted, or needed. And each night as I lay my head down, I would cry silently. Not just for myself, but also for "her", as I envisioned she was going through the same agony.
One evening as I sat at a table in the local soup kitchen, I looked up as several guys came in, accompanied by a young woman. There is no way, or words, to explain it, but it was like getting hit by lightning! She was wearing an old leather motorcycle jacket and jeans, and as she walked up to the chow line, those guys followed her, like chicks following the mother hen. And I was completely taken by her - while she was apparently the head of that bunch of misfits, I instinctively knew that, in reality, she was a scared, lost waif. Like me. She surrounded herself with men who needed a "mother"; men who would protect her.
It was "HER"! I just knew it. There was no doubt in my mind. As unbelievable as it seemed, and after 35 years of searching, and traveling tens of thousands of miles, here she was, right in front of me, like some God-given miracle. And then my heart sank!
As I looked at her, I realized she had to be at least 15 years younger than me. The first 10 years I was looking for her she had not even been born yet! No wonder it had been so hard to find her. But what good would it do me - I had no chance with her! What would she see in a used up homeless guy almost old enough to be her father? It felt like I had been hit by a PeterBilt.
I left the soup kitchen, never even speaking a word to the woman I knew was my soul mate.
The shelter is above the soup kitchen, and I went upstairs and just hit the sack. I was felt empty. All those years. All that anxiety. All that hope. And in just three minutes it had all been wiped out completely.
I was earning my coffee and cigarette money by "canning" each night -I would get up at 2AM and walk all the back alleys, going through dumpsters and trash looking for aluminum cans I would get a nickle for. On a good night I might earn $5.00
That next night I returned to the shelter, and as I passed the manager's desk, I heard someone give me a "wolf whistle". Wise guy, I thought, as I turned to see who it was. I cannot explain the fluttering feeling in my gut that overtook me when I saw it was HER! And I just knew she was only making fun of me, because I was just another homeless bum. I quickly headed to the dorm.
The next evening, as I approached the manager's desk, I was just going to rush by, not knowing if SHE was there again. She was. And she whistled again, and she had the most wicked smile, and that look in her eyes that said "trouble". You know the look! That gleam...
Again I hurried back to the dorm. She could not possibly be interested - she was just teasing me, having fun at my expense. And it was tearing me apart because I dearly wanted to just pick her up, hold her close and never, ever let go. But I knew it could never be. Though she was 30, she was "just a kid" compared to me. And I was just a homeless man, with absolutely nothing to offer anyone. Everything I owned was in my right front pocket - a lighter and an old jackknife. (My Dad taught us to never be caught without those two items - they could save your life).
The next morning I was pushing "my" shopping cart full of cans and assorted junk down Maple Street when I heard someone well behind me yell "HEY!". I turned, and to my horror I saw it was her, leading her little band of lost losers. I was mortified because, though I knew there was no chance for me, I did not want her to see me like this. It was humiliating. And here she was chasing me down the street so she could tease me some more. I pushed my cart faster as I tried to out-distance her. But she would not have it - that little girl easily caught up with me.
"My name is Robin", she blurted out. I can't remember what I said, exactly, but I think I mumbled something like, "I'm Bill", and I turned and left. Filled to the brim with mixed feeling of confusion and the fear of forever losing that which I had spent my entire life searching for in vain. And more than ever I wanted to hold her close and never let her go.
Now the reader should understand something about me - while I was incredibly street smart and nobody's fool, when it came to girls, I was a lamb among wolves. If a girl wanted to get my attention, she would almost have to smack me with a 2X4. I never took the lead, simply because I had never found that ONE. And now that I had found her, I was running away - for her sake.
I could not believe it was possible to be so totally and completely in love with someone I did not even know, and who I had never said but two words to. But I was. And it hurt so bad, because I could do nothing about it.
But SHE could - and did! She "hit me with a 2X4".
I had been to the "clothing room" where the homeless could trade old clothes for clean ones, and I grabbed a really nice pair of baggie Calvin Klein's with big pockets on the thighs. As I attempted to quiety slink unnoticed by the Manager's desk, that little gal said, "I really like those jeans - can I have them?" And hoping to get the best of her in her teasing, I remarked, "Are you saying you want to get into my pants?" THAT would shut her up.
But she just gave me that oh, so sexy and wicked smile again and said, "Maybe".
All of a sudden I was not in any hurry to leave. We talked for what seemed like minutes, but it was hours. Robin was also living in that shelter on the women's side. And as we talked, I think we both realized that we had both spent our lives looking for each other.
And it was strange - we had both criss-crossed the country, staying in many of the same places, but always missing each other. It was as if the Good Lord was saying, "Not yet - you still need trials and tribulations, to grow and learn, so when you do find each other you will be ready to bond forever."
That was in 1991. And we have been together every day since.
About two months after we met, while we were eating in the soup kitchen, Robin (remember that 2X4?) proposed to me.
We married in '92, right there in the shelter where we had met. And though we had nothing, we had everything. We had each other.
We remarried on our 10th Anniversary. And on our 25th, I showed up at her work, and in front of her co-workers, about a dozen customers and in front of our grown daughter, I finally did the right thing - I got down on bended knee, put yet another diamond ring on her finger and then in a voice that cracked with emotion I proposed to her for a change.
Everyone cried, of course. Even me.
And just so you know - once we had found each other and joined hearts, life got a lot better. We worked together to form our own business and achieved a great deal of success.
Some of you will still refuse to believe in "love at first sight" and "soul mates", but I assure you, my sweetheart and I have no doubts. Nor do we have any doubt that it was all God's will - after all, an operation as a teen resulted in Robin not being able to have children. But on November 17th, 1990 Robin prayed to Him for a sign, to let her know for sure if I was the right one. That night, we got pregnant with our daughter.
Now THAT'S a sign!
"Mom, if you are looking down from your place in Heaven - I FOUND HER!"