My romance with Dan began long after we met, so it didn’t begin with “love at first sight.” It began with a friendship. It began with Dan seeing something beyond that friendship and convincing me to see it, too. It began with a risk. Dan and I took a chance at love more than ten years after we met.
The first time I laid eyes on Dan was in the fall of 1998. I was fourteen; Dan, eighteen – a generation between us in my adolescent mind. Dan had just played basketball with my older brother, his classmate, and was standing in my kitchen drinking a glass of water. I’m the fifth of seven children and my house had a revolving door of teenagers for most of the 90’s. I don’t think either of us took any particular interest in each other that day ( in fact, my friend and I said hello, giggled, and rolled our eyes before running to my bedroom, probably to giggle some more over Hanson or N’Sync). Dan and my brother became inseparable and I started seeing more and more of him around the house. He was a regular addition to the dinner table, joined us for movie nights, board games, and even attended our extended family reunions in the summer. Soon, I stopped retreating to my room when he came over. When he went off to college, we kept in touch through emails and visits over holiday breaks. Dan became a role model, a confidante, a friend.
Anyone who knew or has read about Dan knows he was a special person. He was brilliant, witty, kind, considerate, generous, handsome, and all around wonderful. He was one of the good ones. The thing about Dan is that he was always that way. He was one of those guys that girls knew they wanted to settle down with eventually, but only after the, so-called, “bad boy” phase. He did date a bit, but was ultimately searching for the girl who was “set aside” for him.
As for me, I was one of those girls who had to date a few of the aforementioned “bad boys.” I like to think I’m one of the good ones, too, but the thing about me is that it took me some growing up to find myself and to know exactly what I wanted in a spouse. Dating for me was fun and exciting. It was a quest to find the man who would make my dreams come true. And early one spring, nearly ten years after meeting an older boy in my parents’ kitchen, that very man came knocking on my door.
Dan told me he had feelings for me the summer before that spring visit. When Dan, a friend, told me he wanted to pursue a romantic relationship, I hesitated, having trouble imagining Dan, a boyfriend, Sure, I had had innocent crushes on him over the years when he’d come home on college breaks, but I didn’t think he was exactly my “type,” and, frankly, the attraction just wasn’t there. But, I was considering a more serious quest for The One. Besides, Dan had booked a last minute flight from his summer job in the Dominican Republic to my family reunion to tell me this in person. Was I blind? Love was staring me in the face and I didn’t see it. That summer weekend, we had a nice time together and then he went back to the Dominican where we promised to keep in touch. We emailed a lot and explored our feelings for each other with thousands of miles between us. Summer ended along with Dan’s internship so he moved back to New York while I lived in Pennsylvania.
“Should I go on a date with Dan?” I thought, “That would be a REALLY big deal. He’s part of our family, my brother’s best friend.” After several flirty phone conversations about possibly dating in the future and me spouting excuses about why an “us” couldn’t work, Dan finally took a more assertive approach and drove two hours to my apartment. Ever the hopeless romantic, he came bearing flowers, candy and a bottle of wine. Dan and I spent the weekend getting to know each other in a new way. He impressed my friends when he picked up the tab at our favorite pizza place and opened our doors. He wooed me on a proper date and demonstrated good, old-fashioned chivalry. Dan was a gentleman. He was the same Dan I’d met at my parents’ house ten years earlier, yet very different. Dare I say, boyfriend material? By Sunday I was falling for him. Suddenly, friend Dan was a person of the past.
I’m so glad Dan saw our potential and didn’t accept my excuses. He was a gambler, a risk-taker, and was always more adventurous than me. He convinced me to jeopardize our friendship for a chance at something more. Love didn’t come easy for us, at first. Our romantic connection came long after our friendly connection. It was risky to dive into something unknown, where the repercussions could be devastating, not only me, but my family. But we did, we dove in. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Hanna believes that love is the reason Dan fought as long and hard as he did. She believes that love heals, and hopes that through her story others will learn to find joy, big and small, in every single day.
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