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Friday, July 29, 2011

The Story of Hugo and Me

I got an email yesterday from a very dear Life Friend of mine.  She and I have been friends for 25 years. We were new brides together, and we used to meet weekly to pray for our husbands, and study about ways to be better wives.  We shared a determined commitment to our husbands, and that common bond was something that has kept us close all these years.

The last few years have brought both of us a great deal of pain, and as sad as it is, life has gotten in the way of our being able to really connect on a deep level through this time.  She said to me yesterday that getting to read my blogs has helped her tremendously, which was a beautiful thing to read, as this is one of the reasons why I wanted to blog in the first place...so that I could re-connect with all of the dear people I have had in the various parts of my life.

One thing she has requested, though, is one thing I haven't yet shared...the story of how Hugo and I met, fell in love, and married each other.  The story of our love, and how it came to be.  It made me smile.  Without even knowing it, Michelle played a big part in it.

She prayed with me for my husband.

It was a dark moment in my life when I allowed myself to see my now ex-husband for who he really was.  He wasn't the man I had prayed for.  And no matter how hard I worked at being the best wife I could be, he couldn't allow himself to receive any of it.  Instead, he took my attempts at honoring him as a means to keep me belittled, and under his thumb.  When the marriage ended, I was devastated.  Incredulous that all those years of prayer and commitment to my husband went away as painfully as the marriage itself.

We had been separated for nearly 4 years, and the divorce I allowed to drag on for years was nearing its finality.  I worked at a Hawaiian restaurant where I was the Marketing Manager and Special Events Coordinator.

My brother-in-law Joe is a musician and a music producer.  He was contracted by the restaurant to facilitate Saturday night entertainment.  Hugo, his friend from their teenage years, lent him equipment needed for the music gigs.  I had heard about Hugo in various stories through the years, and I had met Hugo's brother Luis, another friend of Joe's, before.  But never Hugo.  I was always kind of curious.

My first impression of him was that he was really, really cute.  With an engaging smile.  And a kind spirit.  I loved the way he patiently helped Joe out with whatever he needed.  He was funny, too, and very easy to talk to.  I learned quickly that he liked root beer.  Rather than have one of the servers keep him loaded up, I decided that as manager, I would be showing better hospitality of I just took care of him myself.  Oh, Joe?  Sorry Joe.  What did you want to drink...?

Every Saturday night I looked forward to seeing Hugo.  The kids would be with their dad every-other-weekend, so on the Saturdays that they were gone, I'd volunteer to work, even though my job was mostly a Monday-through-Friday job.  It was good for me to be there, but there were many Saturdays when it wasn't necessary.  But I'd volunteer to close, giving the younger managers the opportunity to go out and be with their friends.  Kind of a nice gesture, really.  They're only young once.  Should enjoy their youth.  Get out more.  What's that?  Hugo needs more root beer.

So on and on it went.  Saturday after Saturday.  OK.  It really wasn't that long--only about 6 or 8 Saturdays, I think, before I asked Hugo out.  Yes, I did.

I did the asking.  You see, some Irish guys my siblings and I know were coming to town.  Set to perform on a not-so-Sunday-Bloody Sunday at the Rose Bowl.  I wondered if he'd want to go too.  I asked Joe.  How would he feel if I asked his childhood friend to the U2 concert we were going to?  Oh, and how would he feel about the fact that I have a RAGING crush on said childhood friend?  He gave me his blessing, but not without sharing the very obvious elephant in the room:  If we made an attempt at a relationship, and it didn't work out, it would put Joe in a potentially awkward position.  I appreciated his honesty.  I couldn't pursue a friend of my brother-in-law without considering that.

But the truth is, it meant a lot that Hugo was a long-time family friend.  A whole lot.  We knew who the family was.  The history of the family.  Joe had eaten at Hugo's mother's table many, many times and if you knew Elaine Ambriz' cooking, you'd make darn sure you found yourself at her table too, by the way.  We knew that the family was a good family.  A loving, and committed family, with values that were so close to ours.  I felt safer for my children.  So I asked.

I stood in my parents' garage, and called him.  He seemed happy that I had wrangled his number from Joe and made the move.  And U2?  His brother and sisters had all seen them in concert--he was the only one who hadn't, and he'd love to see them.  His siblings like U2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Oh.  And he said YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He called me the following week.  Would I like to accompany him to a company Halloween party the night before U2?  Would I?!!!!!!  I mean, sure.  Thank you for thinking of me.  I'd love to.  (Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!)

The week before the U2 concert I textedLOL-ed, and I gushed to Christina, a co-worker.

But first things first.  The Halloween party.  He came to my condo to pick me up, with a make-up kit.  We were going as vampires, and he is an artist.  He painted his face.  It was horrifying, but from an artistic perspective, it was beautiful.  Greenish-gray skin, the illusion of veins under the surface, the obligatory drop of blood at the corner of his mouth.  And the bite marks on my neck.  *sigh*

We danced at the party, which was a big deal for me, the non-dancer (no rhythm, but mostly no dance-confidence).  Then we sat on a quiet sofa in a corner and we talked.  And talked.  And talked.  And talked.  He drove me home, and we talked some more.  At my door, he asked me if he could kis--Yes!

The next morning (U2-Day!!!!!!!), Danielle came into my room to ask me how my date with Hugo went.  She was "watching TV" when he came to do make-up the night before, and she loved his presence.  She had also met him at the restaurant I managed, where she worked as a busser.  She really, really liked him, and she was really rooting for us.  So she was eager when she came into my room.  When she asked me, I pulled the sheet over my head and cried.  My muffled reply was, "He's perrrrrrfect!!!!"

U2 was magical.  Seeing Bono on stage, one of the greatest humanitarians of our time, is a Spiritual experience.  The combination of that, and the hot guy I was with during the concert, made it a night to remember forever and ever.  We fell fast in love.

Another Halloween party, this time at my parents' house the following weekend, cemented our relationship.  The kids fell in love with him, even though we never expected them to so soon.  My family fell in love with him, even though we never expected them to so soon.  And he fell in love with all of them, for which I had secretly prayed.

As we trick-or-treated, my brother-in-law Matt put my nephew up on his shoulders.  Lee looked up at Hugo, whose hand he was holding.  "Can I go up on your shoulders?"  It was a position we would find them in every time we were out somewhere, until Lee got too big last fall.  Precious.

Before I knew it, my mom was cornering me, telling me to not let go of this guy.

I had already met Hugo's brother Luis, and a couple of his sisters had come to the restaurant on Saturday nights, so I had met them too.  By mid-November, I had met everyone but his sister Elsa who lives in Atlanta.  But we didn't let that stop us--we emailed & Facebook Messaged and got off to a great start.

On Christmas night, as we gathered in my parents' dining room, standing in a circle holding hands, my father prayed before we ate.  After his prayer, Hugo spoke up.  I can't tell you what he said.  Just that he was suddenly on his knee in front of me, and he had a ring...

I found out later, that he had asked my father's permission.  He asked my father's permission!  I said yes.

We took off to his parents' house to flash some bling.  There was a lot of energy, a lot of happiness.  And a whole lot more people in Hugo's childhood home, with all five kids and me.

We were in Big Bear with my family over the New Year weekend.  After all the kids were in bed, and the cabin was quiet, my mom and sisters had an intervention.  They told us we needed to get married sooner, rather than later.  They put the suggestion of eloping in our ears.  We pondered the possibilities.

Wouldn't it be fun if we eloped on Valentine's Day?  Hugo is a hopeless romantic, and as cliche as that notion could be to some people, to us, it sounded magical.  But remember, I managed a restaurant.  Managers didn't take time off over the Valentine's Day holiday.  We worked.  But, the night of February 13 found the restaurant easily managed.  Certainly nothing that required a hefty management staff.  Before we knew it, we ditched the restaurant, Joe, who was there for the entertainment, family friends who were there that night, and our own Danielle who was there with her girlfriends, all dressed up for their Winter Formal.  We left with everyones' blessings, and we were off.

It was 7:20.  Las Vegas was our destination for a quick wedding.  It is a 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive.  The courthouse closes at midnight.  We arrived at 11:20, with the help of the navigation of family as we conversed via text.

We thought we had it made, and that we could relax a little.  You can get married all through the night in  Vegas, so we kind of took a breather in the car while we waited for the clock to strike February 14.  There was a chapel right there.  How about we just go to that one?  So we walked on over to it, got in at around 11:50, and asked them if they wouldn't mind waiting until 12:00 so that we could have a Valentine anniversary.  We were married at 12:05, and the minister left.  We thought it odd, and then we saw other personnel leaving.  We discovered that the chapel closes at midnight.  In fact, all of the chapels in Vegas close at midnight!  Had we driven around looking for a chapel, we wouldn't have made it on time.  This would have been bad, considering we couldn't have stayed until morning--I had to work the next day, and Hugo had a Daytona 500 to watch with his sisters and brother.  Life does, after all, go on.

When the kids came home after their weekend with their dad, and Danielle was rested from her Winter Formal, we broke the news.  They were elated.  And thus began the healing of five wounded children, enjoying stability and love and all the things kids need in order to be well-balanced and happy.

We bought a house in Glendora, and even through our downs, we are counting our blessings.  The kids and me, because we have someone loving us and taking care of us.  Hugo, because he has the kids and me loving him and taking care of him.  We need each other.

Yesterday, another friend posted something on Facebook that caught my eye:

While you scream at your woman, there's a man wishing he could whisper in her ear.  While you humiliate, offend, and insult her, there's a man wanting to remind her how beautiful she is.  While you hurt her, there's a man wishing he could take her pain away, while you show her how low she is, there's a man wanting to show her how high she makes him.  Re-post if you're against Domestic Violence & Mental Abuse.

I thought about it, rather startled.  The writer was right.  There is a man out there wishing he could whisper loving words into her ear, reminding her how beautiful she is, wanting to take her pain away, who will show her how high she makes him.  He is the antithesis of Domestic Violence and Mental Abuse.  And to take it a step further, he even wants to take the lives of her children and make a positive difference for them.  He will take on their pain, and their needs, and he will be a healing balm to them.  I know.  I married him.

And it was this man who breathed in every prayer I ever prayed for my husband, for all those years.  The prayers weren't lost.  God heard every one, and he answered.  Thank you, Michelle, for praying with me.

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