29: The Key to My Heart

29: The Key to My Heart

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game

The Key to My Heart

Love is like playing the piano. First you must learn to play by the rules, then you must forget the rules and play from your heart.

~Author Unknown

“If we’d met in person,” he wrote, “I don’t think we would have hit it off.” After reading this, my father—who had signed me up for eHarmony—suggested I drop my new beau. Dad had encouraged me to try online dating after my short-lived marriage and subsequent long-term relationship ended. I was game and thought maybe online dating would give me a chance to reinvent myself. I felt my options as a thirty-something divorced mother of a special needs child were very limited.

So why not try eHarmony? It was fun each day to check my matches, from Alaska to Maine, and even to get to the point of meeting matches from Georgia or Florida in person. There was only one problem. My eight-year-old son with developmental delays always greeted my dates at the door with “BYE!” And he would push them away, literally, with both hands. Dylan is generally friendly, but he did not approve of this dating business. I had heard of single mothers who got back into the dating scene and had to work to win the children over to the new relationship, so I was prepared for this kind of reaction. But there wasn’t any way to win over Dylan. “BYE” was the repeated response to any contact with my potential dates.

So I decided not to follow my dad’s advice about ditching the guy who thought we wouldn’t have hit it off in person. Why? He was from Alabama, had also graduated from Auburn University, and was a pastor. I felt comfortable with the similarity of our backgrounds and intrigued by the idea of being a pastor’s wife. So I continued our communication via e-mails and progressed to phone calls. I have never liked talking on the phone, but with Stan conversation was easy. We would talk for at least an hour at a time. I had never even done that when I was a teenage girl. After a few months, we agreed to meet for a first date. My parents offered to watch Dylan, so that I could be the only one to meet Stan for the first time.

We enjoyed dinner and bookstore browsing. I was a former literature instructor, so he wisely chose to visit Barnes & Noble for coffee after our meal and asked for recommendations from the classics section. He even took notes. After coffee and a visit to a dueling piano bar that gave us a chance to listen to and discuss music—another strong interest of mine—we both wanted to see each other again, and soon. We agreed to meet at the tennis courts for a match the next morning, as he had to return home later in the afternoon to prepare for Sunday worship.

I was very attracted to Stan, with his dark chocolate eyes and gentle smile. Because of our many long e-mail exchanges, I felt I had known him for much longer than one evening, so I decided he should meet my Dylan sooner rather than later. I didn’t want to become attached to someone who would not be able to get along with my son or who was unwilling to be a partner in addressing my son’s numerous challenges.

The next morning, as I was dressing Dylan, he was very excited about meeting Mommy’s new friend. When the doorbell rang, he escaped from the bathroom wearing only a diaper. My tennis date did not skip a beat—he greeted my son with a warm smile and a kind voice.

To my surprise, Dylan replied with a “HEY!” instead of a “BYE!”

Amazed, I knew this man was here to stay. Stan was the only man to have been welcomed, instead of rejected, by my sweet and sometimes challenging son. And because of that, he won my heart.

~Ginny Layton

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