In 2014, I was living in Maui. At the end of the year, I flew back to Florida for the holidays to visit my family. It had been a very long year for us all.
It started with my beloved grandma, Nanny, passing away at the age of 88. Then, my Australian Shepherd, Kona, died quite horribly from a rare bone cancer at the age of 6. Next, my Dad suffered a massive heart attack on our yearly family vacation in Long Boat Key. My mom and I watched him flatline in the emergency room at Sarasota Memorial. Thankfully, they brought him back, after what felt like a lifetime. We spent the 4th of July watching the fireworks over the bay from the hospital. Shortly afterwards, I went through a divorce. That’s always fun. As if that wasn’t enough, my Uncle Tom passed away from a heart aneurysm. He was an extremely kind-hearted man with amazing musical talents, taken way before his time. Frankly, it was a shitty year — at least until the end.
By the last quarter of the year, I was putting the past behind me and enjoying my new found freedom.
I went on a surf trip to Costa Rica with friends. Dimitri and I spent the days surfing perfect 8-foot waves in Nosara, and the nights driving around the jungle in a golf cart, drunk on local tequila.
I spent some much needed bro-time with my brother, Elliott, in LA. We did a lot of drinking and talking. He took me to a roof-top Youtube party, and I forced him to drive me to Santa Monica so I could catch some waves.
I hung out with my cousins in Utah. We took a trip to Vegas for a WordPress conference, and some good old fashioned gambling. We went trout fishing, and combed the desert in a Hummer in search of a crystal mine. We found it.
By the holiday season, I was back in Florida. During that time, I found a killer deal on a 6-foot Jimmy Lewis twin fin surfboard. That’s gibberish to any non-surfer, but I thought it was fate finding a Maui made board in Florida. After picking up the board, my friend David and I left for a weekend of surfing at Sebastian Inlet. The waves were almost non-existent. So we spent most of the time fishing, listening to Alice In Chains around the campfire, and punching raccoons in the face that were trying to steal our Pringles. Good times.
All in all, the year had taken a sharp trajectory upwards. Thankfully, it kept moving in that direction.
A few days later, my Mom and I were enjoying the beach at Anna Maria Island while my Dad was out hunting. With a renewed lust for life, he was on the prowl to find me a woman. While sitting in his tree stand he stumbled across a picture on Facebook of his old friend, Dan. In the photo, Dan was standing in front of the Christmas Tree with his son and daughter. Unbeknownst to us, my Dad and Dan started making arrangements for his daughter and I to be introduced. Dan, like any good father, had his concerns. I was freshly divorced, and she was fresh out of a long term relationship. Even if I did like her, I lived in Maui and she was from Sarasota.
At first mention, there was no way I was going to be setup on a date by my Dad — until he showed me her picture. Whoa! I was blown away. Now I knew there was no chance. But, I figured there was no harm in meeting, right? Within another day we had a date in Tampa.
We planned to meet at Maloney’s Irish Pub for a few drinks. Nice, but not too nice. I mean, maybe we would just be friends.
Upon arriving, I ordered a beer from the bar to calm my nerves. I called to let her know I was there. She told me she was there too, and sitting at the bar. I walked around the place, but no cute brunette was sitting at the bar. Eventually, I put two and two together. I drove to the wrong Maloney’s Irish Pub — apparently there’s more than one! I shotgunned my beer, jumped in the car and raced to the right pub. She patiently waited.
I made it, and started that long walk across the parking lot. You know the walk, “Maybe it will be just another awkward evening, or maybe by some tiny chance this night will change the course of your life forever.” That kind of walk. No pressure.
Upon seeing her, I was instantly attracted. She was playing it cool — sitting at the bar with her legs tightly crossed, wearing slim fit jeans, already sipping on some Crown Royal. I introduced myself and sat down next to her. Immediately, we started talking like a couple of old friends. As it turns out, going to the wrong place is a pretty good ice breaker. Luckily for me, I didn’t bore her to death with surf stories, and she didn’t seem utterly repulsed by me. Normally, in the presence of such a beautiful girl, I would have been tongue tied. Not with Emily. It was completely natural. I knew I liked her. I liked her a lot.
It was like we had known each other for years. In a weird way, we kind of did. My mom went to high school with Emily’s mom, and our parents had all known each other growing up in Lakeland, Florida.
In fact, Emily and I had met briefly in passing on a couple occasions in our lives. Several years ago my family had a shrimp fry on Long Boat Key. Emily’s dad, Dan, was invited, and Emily and her ex-boyfriend dropped by the party as well. I was visiting from Hawaii with my now ex-wife. The time wasn’t right. We were ships passing in the night, until now.
After hours of chatting about our lives, the night was winding down. I walked her to her car, and gave her a little hug. I’m not a kiss on the first date kind of dude. As we were leaving, I watched the rail from the toll booth come crashing down on her car. If nothing else happened between us, at least Emily would have a nice dent in her car to remind her of that fateful night she met DAVID MORGAN!
I know how the dating game is played. You play hard to get. Don’t call back right away, if at all. Wait at least an hour before responding to a text message. Pretend you’re busy, and the other person is not a priority. That all went out the window with Emily. I knew I was interested, and I didn’t mind her knowing that. Besides, I was only in Florida for a few more days. We were on a tight schedule to gauge each others interest.
So, the next day we started making plans to meet again. New Year’s Eve was the following day, and my Dad’s best friend was throwing a party at his place. Not a small party. He’s a U.S. Congressman. It was a huge campout with travel trailers, bonfires, BBQ and hundreds of people I didn’t know. The perfect second date.
New Year’s Eve arrived, and Emily arrived with it. We started the afternoon in quaint downtown Lakeland at a small pizza joint. I hardly touched my pizza. I was so in to Emily, and wanted to learn everything I could about this gorgeous girl. We held hands and walked around Lake Mirror. We sat on a bench under the oak trees of Munn Park. Emily and I reminisced of our lives growing up in Florida, and the paths we had each taken. It was simple and romantic.
We slowly made our way to the New Year’s Eve party, enjoying every moment together in the meantime. Most of the evening is a blur of champagne and bonfires. We welcomed 2015 with our first kiss. That sealed the deal. She had to be mine.
We spent every moment together before my flight back to Maui. Each hour that passed was bittersweet as my flight drew closer. Leaving was so hard. The mood was somber. We didn’t speak much, other than me letting her know that I would return as soon as I could.
On the flight home, I was feeling smitten, and sad to be leaving.
We continued talking every day while I was in Maui, and every day the feelings grew stronger. She consumed my thoughts. Every moment I wasn’t surfing or working, I was calling and texting my girl. The distance was brutal, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Florida and see Emily. By February, we made our relationship official, and I was booking a flight to Tampa by March.
There was a lot of pressure riding on that trip. So much of our early relationship was spent away from each other. It could have been easy to have over romanticized our relationship. Instead, we picked up right where we had left off. We went together like peas and carrots. On this visit, we had our first adventure together — a Caribbean cruise to Mexico. It was awesome! Not because of the destination, but because of who I was with. Once again, the time had come for me to go back to Maui. This time, it was truly sad. I had never been so sad to leave Florida.
I knew I wanted to be with Emily, more than anything. However, flying back and forth between Maui and Florida was physically and financially draining. The only real option to give our relationship the chance it deserved was for me to move in together in Sarasota. Fortunately, I have a location independent job. It wasn’t even a discussion, really. It was just something we both knew. Although it was a big change, she was worth it. So I left my friends and lifestyle behind in Maui, and moved to Sarasota to be with Emily.
I fell deeply in love with this woman. Her beauty, kindness, humor, impatience, fiery temper and all. Emily is the perfect match for me. She is the one.
I don’t put a lot of stock in fate. However, one day Emily and I were sitting down with an old photo album at my parents house. We turned a page, and there was a picture of me at 5-years-old in a “David” costume for a church play. The picture next to it was Amy, Emily’s mom, pregnant with Emily while at Anna Maria beach. Crazy. It seems like more than coincidence.
After schmoozing Dan with a bottle of Crown Royal, and hoping I wasn’t going to be escorted to his gun collection, I asked his permission for Emily’s hand in marriage. Like my Dad, he’s a big man with a big heart, and welcomed me to the family. On September 19th I proposed. It was simple. No flashy public displays. Just a casual day of riding bikes around Sarasota, dreaming about a future together. Then, at home, I bended the knee and asked her to be my wife.
She refused. That’s the end. Dreams don’t come true, kids. We’re all just tiny blips in the infinite universe of time and space. You read this long ass story for nothing.
I lied. We married this day, July 24th, one year ago in Arenal, Costa Rica. The moment I saw her emerge on the tropical path in her wedding dress will be imprinted in my brain forever. I have no better memory. She might complain that her hair wasn’t perfect, or she had too much makeup. She could have fooled me. She was, is and always will be stunningly beautiful.
It’s not all peaches and cream. Happiness can’t exist without sadness. Emily and I have our bad days. You don’t enter into a relationship in your 30’s without bringing some baggage with you. The important thing is that we communicate and grow from those bad days. The good days vastly outnumber the bad days. The bad days are necessary to remind us how great all the other days are.
After a year of living together in Sarasota, we moved to my house in Maui. We’re loving life in Maui at the moment. However, we both miss our families and Sarasota. Our goal is to start a family of our own within a couple years, and make Sarasota our home base.
Every morning I wake up and see her laying beside me, I’m filled with happiness and appreciation. I love my wife, more than anything. We’ve been together for over 2 years, and there have been no dull moments. I’m looking forward to making up for lost time, having new adventures, and enjoying every moment together until I die. Although, I hear that becoming vampires is an option.