Ralph and I met in a volatile time in both of our lives.  It was around Thanksgiving 2002, and my grandparents were visiting.  We ignited instantly, and for a week straight I walked him to work, stopping at Dunkin Donuts on my way home.  At night we’d discuss writing and theatre, we’d have dinner at the diner where we’d spend hours at a table just talking and goofing off, or we’d explore each other like pioneers blazing new trails.

Then I got the flu.  Ralph took care of me and inevitably got sick himself.  As a diabetic with no health insurance, I couldn’t afford to catch the same bug I’d given him, so I asked him to go home.  He fought me, and I put my foot down a little hard.  I came across as ungrateful, but I hadn’t asked him to take care of me.  I was perfectly able to take care of myself.  From that one incident we began to disintegrate as quickly as we had bonded.  Endearments became infuriating.  Idiosyncracies we had overlooked became unacceptable.  We erupted, parting ways like the grand finale of a fireworks show.

We didn’t speak for a long time, but we did.  As soon as we pushed past the ash and debris of the fire of our first relationship we were able to rekindle what had brought us together in the first place.  Our lives had changed.  Our attitudes had changed.  Our passion had not.  While we would meet up and catch up when the occasion arose, it would take us almost 11 years to have both the understanding and the opportunity to completely reconnect, and even now we sometimes carefully navigate our way through some emotionally charged waters. The difference now is that we have a better map and the skills to read it and discuss our course before we go barreling over a waterfall.

In the time since we gave it another go, we’ve had a lot of firsts.  We’ve taken trips and gone to the movies.  We’ve gone to parties, and we’ve put up a Christmas tree.  It still amazes me that we never did any of these things before, because we’ve known each other almost my entire life here in Philadelphia.  We’re working towards a life together, and he’s become a strong part of our household.  We’re learning to communicate our expectations and needs instead of assuming we’re entitled to them.  If anyone had told me a decade ago that this would be the person who came back full force into my life, I wouldn’t have believed it.

My lessons from Ralph have been patience and perseverance.  It took us a long time to cross paths with the conditions just right to cultivate a relationship, but we never really lost each other.  We never stopped trying, and we never stopped learning about each other.   We are not the same people we were when we met.  In fact, before I would agree to commit to this relationship I  asked Ralph for some time to really get to know each other.  For someone I’d known for over a decade there was a lot I didn’t know about this man.  I couldn’t date who he hadbeen.  I had to fall in love with who he was.  It hasn’t been easy, but we have managed to take something beautiful but shaky, see its potential, and pull from it something strong and even more beautiful.  We’ve still got some work to do, and we’ve still got some old programming to fix, but we’re doing it together this time, and that’s what makes all the difference.