Modern Love

Modern LoveThree fresh perspectives on what it means to love

Written by Lindsey Osborne

I can’t remember when it was. My best guess is the summer after I graduated college, while I was waiting for real life to begin. I had a couple of part-time jobs that lasted through the summer, my apartment lease didn’t run out until the end of July, and I was content to milk my one last summer of 2 p.m. naps for what it was worth.

That summer, I did a lot of reading. I was an English major, so the reading was nothing new, but after several years of having my reading material mandated for me, I felt free. I read all of the summer’s greatest new novels. I read poetry and blogs and old favorites. I took a particular liking to one online resource—the New York Times “Modern Love” column. The column is aptly named, for it explores all of the different ways we love and are loved. There are stories of dads loving sons and girls loving grandmothers and boys loving pets and boys loving girls and moms loving moms. I was smitten, and since all of my time had previously been spent up to my eyeballs in Jane Austen and James Joyce, these witty, bright essays were like breaths of fresh air. (No offense to Austen and Joyce.)

It’s been several years since I first discovered the column. I’ve read each essay posted at least twice, and some of my favorites half a dozen times. I almost always drop what I’m doing on Thursday afternoons when the week’s new essay is posted. James Joyce said, “Love loves to love love,” and while I once wrote a paper about it, I’m not exactly sure what he meant. In any case, Lindsey loves to love love, and each week, I am surprised to find that someone has discovered yet another definition for love or explanation of it.

We don’t all have traditional love stories, but that’s the whole idea—love looks like a million things today and a million different ones tomorrow. Another literary genius—Hugh Grant’s character in the movie Love Actually—says this about it: “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there—fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge—they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

On the pages that follow, read about what loves looks like for the people you’re sharing life with. These are people you’d run into at Post Office Pies on Friday night, and their stories are just as good as those in the New York Times. These stories, like the ones in the column, aren’t mushy or campy or saccharine. They’re real stories about real life. They’re about longing, about heartache, about fear—and about love, of course.

After all, aren’t they all?

Corey and Erin Blanchard, photo by Beau Gustafson

Corey and Erin Blanchard, photo by Beau Gustafson

Only Fools Rush In

Written by Cory and Erin Blanchard

Erin: Our story starts in a slightly nontraditional way. We met on an online dating website. Although we had grown up not far from one another in Louisiana, it took us moving to Birmingham and Tuscaloosa to connect. Cory asked if he could take me to dinner for our first date, and, being that the Saints were in the playoffs, I said he could watch the Saints game with me instead. So we met for the first time at On Tap in Lakeview and spent our first few hours together watching the Saints beat the Lions to advance in the playoffs. This is where I thought our date would end.

Cory: Little did she know, I like to shoot from the hip. I enjoyed how the first part of the date went, so I wanted to extend it in another atmosphere to learn as much as I could about her. To me, that gave me the best chance possible of reaching the second date. I could tell Lakeview was full of excitement, so I capitalized on some of it by jogging us across 29th St. in the rain, holding hands, to Innisfree, where I heard a decent live band playing. We went straight to the main bar for a round and a little more talking before I heard an awesome funk band called Excalibur hop on stage and start to tear it up.  After a Guinness or two, I had the courage to pull Erin to the small dance floor.  She claims to have been hesitant at first, but I don’t remember any hesitation between me starting to dance and her following suit. We danced a solid 20 minutes, if not more, before calling it a night and walking back to her ’96 Maxima for some last words that left me feeling very optimistic for a second date. I headed down to NOLA the next day for the Alabama vs. LSU national championship game and was on cloud nine the whole trip down. I told my friends I stayed with how hopeful I felt about seeing her again.

Erin: Fast forward three years, two dogs, a car, condo, and house later and our lives were seemingly perfectly meshed. We had recently purchased a historic home in Avondale and were excitedly making updates. We had talked about how the house purchase would delay the wedding we eventually wanted to have but felt the house was too perfect to pass up. Then in December of last year, we got some disheartening news. I was diagnosed with multiple thyroid masses and would need to undergo biopsies and maybe even surgery and radiation. Although I was not excited about the news, my medical background lent itself to me rationalizing that these masses, even if cancerous, should be highly treatable. That being said, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy road. After Cory and I shed some tears about the situation and had a heartfelt discussion, I looked at him and said, “Why don’t we go ahead and get married?” That was the start of our “what if” conversation surrounding what would happen if the biopsies came back as cancer. Then on January 6, 2015, one day before our three-year anniversary, we got the news that the masses were indeed malignant.

Cory: Erin received the news while I was at work, maybe 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.  As soon as she told me, I immediately began planning what must be done to have a wedding before her surgery on January 22, 2015.  I came home and we immediately drove to Levy’s to finalize our choices from an earlier perusing session. We then continued on to her parents’ place in Chelsea so I could traditionally ask her father, Phillip, for his blessing.  All went well on January 6, so we pushed on every day leading up to the wedding on Jan 17, making as many preparations as we could with the 11 days we had.  The day of the wedding, we had many family members assist in the setup at Trimtab Brewery.  About three times as many people as we had expected actually showed, which was awesome in its own right.  I felt almost overwhelmed with the love I professed to Erin through our personal vows, as well as from all of our family and guests who told us how much our vows affected them emotionally.  The whole night was somewhat of a blur, but I remember speaking to everyone I could and ending the night with Erin asleep on the red couch in the taproom after an awesome display from String Theory. Five days later, Erin had a total thyroidectomy. On March 24, she underwent iodoradiation to take care of any cancer that surgery did not remove.  We feel confident that this should be the end of her thyroid cancer experience, but only time will tell.

Erin: Much like our meeting, our engagement and wedding were nontraditional, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Throughout our relationship I have said that Cory is a saint, and I fall more in love with him every day. Our relationship is not perfect but we perfectly balance each other and everything else falls into place. I could not be more grateful for the love we share and the lifetime that we still have ahead of us.

Cory, a chemical engineer, and Erin, a registered nurse, live in Avondale with their pups, Nala and Charlie.

Derek and Rebekah Dupuis, photo by Beau Gustafson

Derek and Rebekah Dupuis, photo by Beau Gustafson

Love Is Patient

Written by Derek and Rebekah Dupuis

Rebekah: Love is patient. Love is kind. Love holds no record of wrongs. Fifteen years ago, I daydreamed of what my future family would look like. I have always wanted to be a mom. To be a confidant, protector, and spiritual leader first. To be a best friend second. Fifteen years ago, I never imagined a man being involved in the process of creating this family; I just knew I would be the mom of children from all walks of life and colors of the rainbow. I was the first person in my family to move away. College in a different town called to my very being. I yearned to be my own person. Becoming my own person solidified this dream of what family looked like in my heart. In the meantime, I met Derek.

Derek: Some people fall in love all at once; others ease their way into it. I happened to experience both of these extremes with my beloved. Rebekah and I met during the fall semester of our freshman year at the University of Mobile in 2004 in an honors literature class. I thought she was not going to make it through college because she had no goals other than fun, and she thought I was a snob because my only goal was my GPA. Over the years, an intense friendship developed. We “officially” became a couple May 29, 2010, and I fell in love hard and fast—so fast, in fact, that I surprised her with a sunset proposal July 30 of that same year. (We will leave her first response to your imagination, but I dare say it isn’t safe for print!) Somehow she agreed, and we were married April 6, 2012, at her parent’s lake in Helena. When we first started our life together, children were a very distant discussion that we didn’t plan on tackling for at least a year or more.

Rebekah: Derek was patient and kind. He held no record of my wrongs. He had my attention. He loved me in spite of the dents and dirt. He asked me to be his wife and promised to love me forever.

Eight years ago my long time suspicions were proven correct. I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I do not ovulate. To be a biological mom would take more than your typical boy-meets-girl activity.

Derek: My entire life, I’ve always seen myself in a fatherly role. As a teen, I was often asked to care for the children of family friends and even chose a line of work that allows me to have over 100 “kids” for 10 months out of the year. Recently I ran across a journal entry in which I wrote, “Fatherhood is at the core of my being.” I have always believed this, and I still do. I’ve always wanted to have a family and grow old in the bleachers of a ballpark or the seats of an auditorium watching my children thrive. And for a time, I thought they would look like me, talk like me, and act like me.

Rebekah: He wanted children. He yearned for a little boy to have his prominent nose and love for math. He desired to have a little girl to take to Alabama softball games. How do you tell your fiancé and new husband that giving him the child he yearns for will cost thousands of dollars and trip after trip to a doctor’s office? My heart broke. In the moments of experiencing the love I had longed for, I neglected what was beating deep inside—adoption. The conversation had to happen. As I sat broken, Derek still loved me.

Derek: I took the news with a bit of shock and maybe a tad bit of resentment. Over time, however, God has really changed my view of parenting and has put a call of adoption on my heart. I don’t see adoption as “the” answer to raising a family or as a last resort to have children. It is a calling to be the hands and feet of Jesus for children from all corners of the globe. It is raising a family who may not look or talk like me but will certainly be loved by me. And I could not be more excited to be on this journey.

Rebekah: Here we are today, getting ready to celebrate our third anniversary and adoption is part of what our true love looks like. Derek has sacrificed what his lifelong vision of what being a father means. I have had to surrender my pride and longings to be in unison with Derek and where we feel God is leading us to go. All at the same time we are learning to love a child we have never met. We have no idea who will physically give birth to our future children. It does not matter though. We continue to be patient. After all, love is patient.

Derek and Rebekah are both teachers. They are currently in the home study portion of the adoption process. You can support their adoption endeavor by sponsoring a $10 square on the quilt Rebekah is making—each square will be embroidered with the name of the contributor, so that Baby Dupuis can one day see all of the people who helped bring him/her home. To find out more about supporting the Dupuises, email Rebekah at [email protected]

Marc and Liz Parker, photo by T. Scott Carlisle

Marc and Liz Parker, photo by T. Scott Carlisle

You and I

Written by Marc and Liz Parker

Marc: I made a dramatic choice about Liz and my life’s direction not even a year after we first met. I was a flirty, over-confident recent college grad with definite plans to move to Oregon and start graduate school in 2010. I was on a year break in Birmingham, just working and living with three of my best friends. It was Halloween of 2009 when our mutual friend schemed a way to get us in the same room. Liz was going through a difficult separation, and this friend of ours knew I couldn’t help but try to sling some cheesy game at her once we met. She was right, because when I saw her, I thought that she was perfect and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try my damnedest to make something romantic happen between us. I didn’t know anything about her, but after she mentioned her wedding, I asked her if she was still married in front of three of her girlfriends. She looked frightened, stammered, and made some lame excuse to go into another room for a minute. I was a little worried that I had offended her, but really happy that I had gotten to her. I thought, “I’ve got a chance or else she wouldn’t have been so awkward!”

Liz: I was separated but not yet divorced, but Kristin, being puckish as she is, had started scheming to get us together. Halloween night, 2009, she arranged for Marc come over. After some laughing and chatting she said to Marc, “How old are you anyway?” and when he replied 22, she remarked, “I was 22 when I got married.” I mumbled, almost silently to myself, “I was, too,” and after a long pause, I realized the room had gone silent; Marc was looking right at me and asked, “So are you, like, still married?” I flushed, realizing he was flirting with me, and stammered almost incoherently about needing something from the kitchen, walked out, and dodged the question altogether. One thing stuck out to me about his visit though: My baby, an American Bulldog named Wilco, had taken a shine to Marc, and I took that as a very good sign.

Marc: I invited her to my Halloween party that night. She refused, but she came to another one about a month later with the same friend who got us to meet. I was usually talking to everyone at these parties, but that night, I kept going back to Liz. She seemed extremely cool, collected, and unimpressed by me and everything else, and I fell for her hard that night. I’ve felt the same way ever since. What I couldn’t get over was how sensitive and reflective she is and how she appreciates beauty wherever it is in the world—people, literature, fine craftsmanship.

She and I saw other people and each other for a while. I didn’t want anything serious since I was moving away soon, and she didn’t want anything serious either. We were both very clear about that, and it seemed like an unbelievably good arrangement. It didn’t last, though, because I was in love with her, probably even before we went on our first official date a few months after Halloween.

Liz: Marc and I saw each other more and more over the following weeks, but I refused to go on an actual date with him until after the court date to finalize my divorce. Around 7 a.m. that morning [that the divorce was finalized] he asked me out for our official first date. And so we dated, knowing all along that he was set to move to Oregon at the end of the summer to get his master’s degree in philosophy. He moved in somewhere around May and we spent the summer visiting his grandparents in Chilton County with Wilco in tow.

And then something crazy happened: the week before Marc was supposed to set out on a week-long, cross country trek in his 2002 Volvo station wagon, a drunk driver hit my parked car in front of our Avondale home with such force that it landed on top of Marc’s Volvo. The police never caught the man responsible, but the impact was so damaging it totaled both of our cars. That night, out of nowhere, over a campfire dinner with a few friends, Marc announced that he wouldn’t be going to Oregon after all. He wanted to be with me.

Marc: I cancelled my apartment and deferred my graduate school start date, never to actually attend. I had no other plans. Liz and I lived together permanently after this. Since I moved in with Liz, her dog, Wilco, become my adopted buddy. We played, went running, and laid around together constantly.

Liz: On March 3, 2013, somewhere around 6 a.m., Marc brought me a cup of coffee in bed. He sat at the edge and patted the space next to me where Wilco enthusiastically hopped up and began licking my face. It took me a few seconds to notice the white ribbon around his neck and two sparkly rings attached, but when I did, I caught Marc’s eye. He said quietly—almost in a whisper—“Wilco and I would be so happy if you would marry me.”

Marc: The first time I tied it, he shook it off, and I was incredibly nervous we would lose it after that. Our “buddy” had become so central to both mine and Liz’s hearts that he had to be there and be in our wedding.

Liz: We set a date for the following year and opted for a small service with a big after party. But a few weeks later, Wilco started acting funny; a few days after that, we took him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Without chemo, he would have maybe a month to live.

We had a serious conversation and decided to forgo a wedding party and use the money for Wilco’s treatment. The social media response to Wilco’s diagnosis was incredible. Friends began asking if they could pitch in, then friends of friends, then strangers as far away as California. We set up a Paypal link and within three days, we had raised more than $2,000. We knew Wilco was loved, but we never knew just how his story would touch animal lovers everywhere.

Marc: He responded very well to the treatments, but we began to accelerate our wedding plans because we knew his cancer would eventually return. Wilco had to be in our wedding as our closest family member. With the help of our closest friends, we had a September wedding on the beach and Wilco got to be there while still in remission from lymphoma. He barreled into the waves for at least an hour. We had never seen him have so much fun. He played until he could only lie down and pant.

Liz: We were married in a small beach ceremony where Wilco could be with us and where he saw the ocean for the first time. It was perfect for us and for him, as he played in the ocean waves harder than we had ever seen him play before. His cancer returned almost a year to the day he was diagnosed. Marc and I, along with our sweet vet and favorite tech at Nall Daniels, sat on a blanket in the floor with our boy as he drifted away. I miss Wilco every day, but I am thankful that for the sweetest moments he was, and in some ways still is, here.

Marc just finished receiving a second bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and started a new career as an engineer. Liz is a teaching assistant in an anatomy laboratory and is finishing her degree in psychology. The couple lives in Avondale with their one-eyed pit bull, Maya, and their cat, Tina.

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