It is my first week at the new job that brought me across the country and away from all things safe and familiar. Yet, I am excited to be starting a new life.
I have a big challenge ahead of me, not the least of which is a new team. They are a seasoned, wise-cracking, east coast crew with a lot more tenure than I.
I am “that woman from Texas” who’s their new boss.
A few days in, I am walking the sales floor with my showroom manager, asking him questions. We are in the midst of the yearly showroom remodel. It entails a huge amount of construction and activity.
As we walk by a particular room, a carpenter is on his knees laying a wood floor. Although I have met a lot of people in the last few days, I don’t recognize him.
“Who’s that? What’s his story?”
“Pete Lyberg. Married, with children.”
“I don’t need his life story, I mean what is he doing on my sales floor. I don’t recall him being a part of my carpenter team.”
“Oh. He’s not. He’s a sub contractor who comes in from time to time to help us .”
I forgot about him and moved on to more pressing matters.
For a few months, there is a lot of tension between my crew and I. They want a more relaxed atmosphere than one I expect. Staff members show up to work at different times because they are on ‘flex time’. They aren’t in dress code, and they challenge me every step of the way.
There is no structure within the department. Everyone takes a break when they please and I can never seem to get them all together in a room at once. I call a department wide mandatory meeting a month in advance. I lay down some rules, establish structure. There is resistance in the beginning; they test me at every opportunity. I have to resort to disciplinary action with some.
Ultimately, I win them over and we are all learning to work together as a cohesive team.
Over the course of the next two years, we hire Pete and other subcontractors for work from time to time. I find him to be pleasant enough, but on the quiet side. I never view him as anything more than the preppy urban husband and father of two kids. No surprises; a normal guy. You know the type. Watches football with the guys on the weekend, in a perfect house with a well maintained yard on a quiet street. Mini van parked in the driveway. A dog in the back yard.
One afternoon, it’s almost quitting time, so I go down to check on the construction crew. John, the smart-talking young carpenter from South Philly is the only one in the shop. Early on, he was by far my biggest challenge. Once he understood this Texas woman couldn’t be pushed around, we got along fine. We talk about personal things without it getting in the way of our work relationship. I have come to value his opinion as he has a unique perspective on life. And he never fails to make me laugh. It was a day I needed a hearty laugh.
“What’s up?” he asks.
“Nothing much, a little sick and tired of dating these young fickle guys with commitment issues. Aren’t there any good men left out there John?”
“Pete Lyberg’s available. He’s getting a divorce.”
“What? No way, I thought he was a lifer.”
“Nope. Want me to set you two up?”
“No John. I don’t need you to play matchmaker.”
“Well, okay. But you know we have that remodel coming up, and we should all get together and talk about it.”
“Fine, but this conversation never happened.”
Next thing I know John has set up a ‘meeting.’ At The Boathouse for Happy hour, of all places. For a business meeting. Right.
Several of us meet there, discuss the remodel, have some wings and beer. I have to go pick up a friend at the airport, so I say my goodbyes early. Pete walks me to my car, and asks if we can go out sometime. I say sure Pete, you know where to find me. A quick kiss on the cheek and I am on my way. The date is March 22,1996.
On March twenty-sixth, Pete asks me out for Saturday night. On March twenty-ninth, I’m in my kitchen and the phone rings. It’s Pete, cancelling our date because he has his kids, and he has a race so he has to eat a lot of pasta and it isn’t a good time.
I hang up, call a guy I have been casually seeing, and we enjoy dinner Saturday.
Fast forward to May 2nd. Once again, we meet at the Boathouse for the final discussions about the remodel. I see through John’s efforts regarding Pete but give him credit for trying. The evening winds down, and Pete walks me to my car. Asks me out for the second time, dinner on May fourth. I agree.
On the morning of May fourth, my phone rings, and of course, you guessed it.
Pete. Cancelling. Again.
The reason this time? He’s fasting and he’s stinky and not much fun to be around.
Exact words, I swear to God.
Okay. Sure, if you say so.
After two cancelled dates, I am about done. Over it. OVER IT.
I decide I am not going to go out with him, even if he has the nerve to ask again.
I tell my friend and colleague Tracy that I am going to say no if he should dare to ask. I am steadfast in my conviction.
On Monday May thirteenth, Pete is working in the showroom helping my staff. I walk by the room he is in and he says, “Linda, dinner Tuesday or Thursday night?”
I am dumbfounded for a moment. But out of my mouth comes, “Sure Pete Tuesday sounds good.” Tomorrow? What did I just say?
“Great, I will pick you up at 6:30.”
I walk away, shaking my head.
I have no idea why I said yes. I intended to say no, but yes came out.
The next day at work, every time the phone rings I know it’s Pete, cancelling for the third and in my mind, last time. Three strikes and you are out buddy. But the call never comes.
I rush home to get ready. I am as nervous as a pig in a bacon factory.
What do I wear? How do I fix my hair?
What on earth is wrong with me? I never get nervous, especially over a date.
I get dressed, fix my hair, freshen my make-up.
I am now agonizing over the shirt. Should I wear something else? I hate to even admit it, but this is how crazy I am. I contemplate cutting the shirt off so I don’t mess up my hair and make-up. I say to myself, STOP.
I go downstairs and call my mom, trying to distract my mind. I tell her I don’t know if I want to get involved with this guy at all, he is recently divorced, he has kids, emotional baggage, he’s cancelled on me twice, etc.
Ever so sensible she says, “Linda, it’s one date. Go have fun, don’t think about anything else.”
The doorbell rings.
“Mom, I have to go, he’s here. Love you.”
Now I ask you, who takes a person on a first date to eat one of the most laborious foods that exists? Have you ever eaten blue crabs? Do you know how much you have to work for one satisfying bite? But being the good sport I am, I go with it.
We talk for hours over trays of steamed blue crab and ice-cold pitchers of Yuengling Black & Tan. I notice small things as women are apt to do. His shirt is wrinkled, she must have gotten the iron in the divorce, his eyes twinkle when he smiles, his voice is deep and mesmerizing and every word is measured before it is uttered. The couple across from us keep glancing at us and smiling as if they know something we don’t.
A mere 32 days later on a tiny porch in Ambler, Pete, once the eternal procrastinator where I am concerned, proposes. I say yes.
We marry on September 28,1996 at our favorite spot, The Gypsy Rose restaurant. Outdoors, on the banks of the Perkiomen Creek. Pete wears black leather pants, a white shirt and vest. His shoulder length hair is slicked back in a pony tail. I wear a simple pink dress-the color of universal love of oneself and of others. Friends and family surround us.
Some may have whispered, he proposed after only 32 days. It will never last. They don’t even know one another. We didn’t know one another, true. But we do now and it has lasted for almost 21 years.
Look, I don’t know for sure why I said yes after he cancelled on me twice. Or why a seemingly insignificant moment turned out to be something bigger than the both of us.
But this I do know. I prayed to God for a good, kind man to come into my life.
My prayer was answered in the form of a hard-working man down on his knees in a room laying a floor two years before I recognized him as such. And then again, down on his knees proposing after only 32 days. But this time, I heard the Lords whisper in my ear (say yes, my child) and knew what was being offered to me: A God-fearing, fun-loving, big-hearted, handsome Norwegian carpenter who can fix anything you put into his capable, calloused but gentle hands.
I love you.