Today we celebrate Andrew’s 32nd birthday! I’ve mentioned a lot recently that Andrew was born with an immune deficiency and outlived doctors’ expectations of his life expectancy. His life story is always an inspiration and miracle to me – the fact that I still have this man to come home to every afternoon and go to bed with every night is incredible. And to celebrate his birthday, I thought it’d be fun to share some of my favorite memories and moments I’ve had with Andrew since we started dating at 16 years old.
Well let me start a little before the official dating period. Before Andrew and I became a bona fide couple, we enjoyed hanging “just as friends” on Sunday afternoons when we’d go fishing at a pond close to my house. While fishing, we spent our afternoons flirting and joking around with one another, but we were never more than friends. Eventually we moved past fishing and started going to movies, but again, still as JUST FRIENDS. 🙂 However, I recall that when Andrew drove me home from the closest movie theater, he took the longest way possible. We spent our time listening to the radio and CDs, and despite being a highly self-conscious teenage girl, I even became comfortable enough to begin singing and belting out tunes with Andrew. I didn’t comment on the long drives until after Andrew and I started dating, and when I asked him why he took that particular route home from the movie theater, he said it was so he could be with me for as long as possible. *sigh* How dreamy…
Fun fact: Andrew asked me to be his girlfriend on August 27, 1999, at a West Stokes football game. He’d been too shy and nervous to ask me prior to that, despite our “friend dates,” but one of his good friends, who was also my friend at the time, threatened Andrew that if he didn’t ask me out, the friend was going to! So I believe we can thank that friend for giving Andrew the motivation to finally make a move. I mean, I’d only been pining over Andrew and waiting for him all summer. 🙂
Another fun fact: I was Andrew’s first real girlfriend – definitely his first girlfriend in high school. I was also his first kiss and first love. Andrew valued love and kissing and had never wanted to just give away his first kiss or saying “I love you” for the first time to a girl. I joke that Andrew must have been way more stingy with his kiss because he actually told me “I love you” before he ever even kissed me! He professed his love after only a few months of dating, and he did so under the influence of drugs leftover from having his wisdom teeth removed. Not kidding… So his “I love you” was quite the surprise, and Andrew will say that I scared him because I didn’t reciprocate the expression. In my defense, I wasn’t sure if he meant it since he was slightly drugged; therefore, I didn’t want to say “I love you” back, only to be surprised when Andrew had forgotten the whole situation by the next day – which I was sure he would because of the narcotics. However, he was sincere the whole time and professed his love again the next day, when more sober of painkillers. I returned the expression and the sentiment hasn’t changed for 16 years. 🙂 When it came to the first kiss, Andrew neglected me on New Year’s Eve – the BIG New Year’s Eve of turning from 1999 to 2000. He refused to kiss me. The kiss came later in January, after we’d been out of school for winter weather and had been at a sledding party at a friend’s house. At this point – five months into the courtship – I’d quit expecting to receive a kiss, but Andrew surprised me with a peck on the mouth/chin when he dropped me off at home that cold and snowy night. Yes, he was a little off target, but I’m pretty sure he was nervous. He’s perfected his kissing aim since then.
My favorite memory or experience from dating would have to be the trip we took to Hawaii. Yes, when I was only 18 years old and simply just dating my boyfriend, his parents invited me on a family trip to Hawaii (our high school graduation gift), and I went! In July of 2001, we traveled to the big island of Hawaii, via San Francisco as a stop on the way there and on the way back. Along with Andrew, his brother, parents, and their family friend, I experienced breathtaking scenery and landscapes on the Big Island. I had a lot of firsts on that trip: first major flights, first time snorkeling, first time seeing or being in the Pacific Ocean, first time out of the continental U.S., and probably my first trip somewhere without biological family. It was an incredible trip, and I can’t believe how blessed I am that Andrew’s family pulled me in as one of their own so quickly and so thoroughly. Since that first trip, we’ve had many other Voss family trips (Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Aruba, and throughout the U.S.), and through these trips, my love for travel has been expanded and intensified.
Andrew and I continued to date throughout college. We went to Appalachian State University together and saw each other every day. During our junior year of college, Andrew proposed to me. He proposed on March 4, 2004 – so 11 years tomorrow! He followed the example of his grandfather, Rex (Grandy), by choosing his birthday as the occasion for his proposal because “I was all the gift he’d ever need” in life. 🙂 As part of his proposal, he gave me wedding-themed gifts in an order that led up to opening the ring and Andrew dropping to one knee. I don’t remember everything he said as part of the proposal but I do remember crying, screaming “YES!”, and then practically tackling him with a hug.
We got married on July 16, 2005 and honeymooned in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was a good honeymoon. We stayed on the all-inclusive resort and did a lot of relaxing, until I got food poisoning (probably the fresh fruit) and spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I hope that the trip we’re taking for our 10 year anniversary this summer will be less gastric…haha!
So as I just mentioned, this summer will mark 10 years of being married to Andrew. There are so many things that have happened and it’s impossible to remember it all. However, I do have a few moments that remain clear and vivid in my memory.
Let me back up: When we got married and the doors opened for me to walk down the aisle with my dad, I saw Andrew at the other end, sobbing and bawling his eyes out. My dad and I made it down the aisle with dry eyes and as Andrew and I continued to stand at the front of the church, the look on his face was one I couldn’t read. I’d never been so confused by an expression on his face as I was during our wedding ceremony. But I believe it was because he was feeling a lot of emotions and his face couldn’t keep up with them all! At one point during our ceremony, though, I whispered, “Are you okay?” to which he gave a quick nod. So I followed his nod with, “Well just don’t throw up on me…” Ah, the romance. 🙂
Other married moments: buying our first house at the ripe age of 23 and getting our first dog shortly after that. We traveled some more, worked jobs/careers, faced some health issues, and continued to love and build our marriage. After 5 years of being married and enjoying “us” time, we decided it was time to start a family. We consciously made the decision to try to have a baby, and after only 4 months of trying, we found out I was expecting in November of 2010.
On that morning of November 9, 2010, I woke up as I did any work day morning, but I knew it was my plan to take a pregnancy test first thing before taking a shower. I’d done this a couple of times before with negative results, so after peeing on the stick, I put it on the counter and began undressing to take my shower. I didn’t have contacts in nor glasses on, so I was in my natural state of highly impaired vision; however, even through the blurriness, I began to see a second pink line forming to join the standard first one. I continued to stand at the bathroom counter, naked as a jay bird, until I was for sure that there was a second pink line. I’d closed the bathroom door so as not to wake Andrew, as I did every morning when I began getting ready, but when I opened the door and said his name, Andrew bolted from the bed. He’d known I was going to take a test when I woke up, so when I called his name, he dashed into the bathroom to see the pregnancy test. I believe he said something to the effect of, “You’re kidding me…” We were shocked, overjoyed, but hardly knew how to react. I believe I stood naked in the bathroom for a few minutes before I could figure out how to proceed with life…haha. I did take pictures of the test after my shower, and I continued to look at the pictures throughout the day to make myself believe I was actually pregnant. After work that day, I then went to the drug store and bought every other kind of pregnancy test and took those, too. Andrew grumbled about the cost but I needed to be reassured by also seeing a plus sign and a digital read-out of the word “pregnant.” It was Andrew’s idea to wait from November 9 to Christmas Day to reveal my pregnancy to family. We kept the secret and had momentous reveals. It was during this time that I began to feel a closer connection to Andrew.
When my water broke on July 19, 2011, I was in our upstairs bathroom and yelled down, “Hey Andrew, I think my water just broke!” to which he replied, “You’re joking!!!” It’s funny that his reaction to my pregnancy and then an impending delivery were just about the same.
I remember bits and pieces of my labor but it was during the literal delivery of Ella Grace, via C-section, that I recall her first cry and Andrew subsequently saying over and over “Oh my God.” We were both likely having out of body experiences. We had a daughter. We were parents. We’d created another human being. It’s likely the most incredible moment I’ve experienced in life, and along with remembering the exact sound of my daughter’s first cry, I can also recall the tremble in Andrew’s voice – the sound of emotion, tears, and utter disbelief. “Oh my God, oh my God…” over and over. He instantly became a father in that moment, and I firmly believe that any nervousness he had about caring for a baby instantly fell away when he held Ella Grace for the first time. On numerous occasions in her first months, I felt that Andrew was far more steady in caring for her than I was. He became even more amazing in my eyes.
There are so many more moments and memories. We’re only a fraction through a lifetime together, but already Andrew and I have experienced so much and been so blessed. I do hope that in 30 or 40 more years I can still remember our youth so clearly. I know that as the years pass, we will continue to celebrate Andrew’s birthday on March 3, and each year, I’ll never cease to be thankful for every minute, every laugh, all of the tears, each night with him asleep by my side, and every second I can hold his hand or reach for him. He is truly a gift in my life. 11,688 days alive for Andrew and of those days, I’ve been by his side for 5,677. Thank you, God.