I know this is going to come as a shock to some of you, but before I met Karen, I didn’t have much success with women.
No, no – it’s true.
In fact, the number of females I’d ‘known’ (in a biblical sense) prior to Karen could be counted on one finger, and the number of times I’d gained that knowledge of her could be counted on one hand. (Feel free to insert your own ‘hand’ joke here. I’m far too mature to go there.)
And believe me, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Throughout my teens, I wanted desperately to be rid of the albatross also known as ‘virginity,’ and would gratefully have given it away to virtually any female humanoid who was so inclined.
Not that I was after meaningless, physical gratification. I very much wanted to have a girlfriend – a beautiful, witty pal to serenade with Kiss and Scorpions ballads, to hang out, play basketball and watch Saturday Night Live with. And before, between, during and after these activities, we would enjoy each other’s bodies as much as was humanly possible.
In high school, there was no shortage of suitable candidates in my circles of friends, and empirically, there was nothing wrong with me. I was tall and reasonably thin, but with a few muscles and gelled, non-mulleted hair (at least in Grade 12); I was on the high school basketball team and student council; I showed my sensitive side in Drama Club; I played lead guitar and sang in a rock band and I had dozens of friends – male and female.
But for a multitude of reasons (some quite understandable in hindsight), I was never able to move beyond that F-word with anyone the maddeningly long list of girls who liked me but didn’t like-like me.
This pattern more-or-less continued in college and the early part of my 20s – other than that short-lived lust affair I had with that nice girl from Didsbury. Therefore, for practical purposes, I was essentially a virgin when Karen King entered my life, and became the pretty red-headed girl to my Charlie Brown.
She was the Fort McMurray Today newspaper’s new community reporter. I’d been there for a year already, and was covering education and aboriginal affairs. Even in those days, single women were scarce in Fort McMurray and I wasn’t the only pathetic single guy in the office, so I decided I had to act quickly.
My colleague and friend Mark Cooper, who was well acquainted with my loneliness and reluctant celibacy, saw me perk up at the sight of a new prospect, and he immediately called me from his desk on the other side of the newsroom.
‘Rob, that’s the girl you’re gonna MARRY!’ he whispered into his phone. (He still has no idea where that bit of insight came from, by the way. He was supposedly just goofing around, but he never said something that specific, yet that prophetic, to anyone else – as far as I know.)
But whatever it came from, I couldn’t let Coop be a liar, could I?
I set out to woo her. I took advantage of every opportunity to show off my rapier wit and masterful understanding of the local, provincial, national and international events of the day – not to mention any moment in recorded or theorized human history. I told clean and dirty jokes, I told funny and unfunny stories, I successfully and unsuccessfully inserted Star Trek, Simpsons and Seinfeld catch phrases into virtually every circumstance, and in a thousand other ways, I oh-so-subtly let her know that she was the object of my affections.
And somehow, she liked me anyway.
Karen and I started dating within a week of her first day at the paper. A few weeks later, we were officially a couple.
I was bursting to tell the news to John Leuck, who’d been my steadfast bosom buddy since Grade 11. Wanting the best for me, but fearing that the relationship wouldn’t last, asked two very important questions. ‘Has she seen you drunk?’ and ‘Has she seen you dance?’ Yes, and yes, I replied. ‘And she still likes you? Wow, you’d better keep her. Don’t screw this up, man!’
So far, so good. Almost 17 years and two children after our first date, we’re still extremely happy together. We have so much in common — we like the same kinds of humour, movies, music and even most of the same video games. I even converted this dyed-in-the-wool Newfie gal to like Big Rock Beer!
Given my absolute ineptitude with the entire female gender (minus one), how could I have connected so successfully with that one? How is it that after eight years of almost nothing but strikeouts, at Age 22 I hit a grand-slam home run and am still running the bases from that one, incredible crackerjack?
Simple: God made it so.
You see, in her life before we met, Karen had experienced some difficulty with people in general, and men in particular. I’ll leave it to her to expand as much as is appropriate in some future blog (http://karenpetkau.wordpress.com/). But I think I can say without violating spousal confidence that she felt significantly under-appreciated by the human race in general and men in particular.
I was able to offer her something she hadn’t really experienced before – genuine, deep appreciation from a man who only wanted the best for her.
I cherished her. I treasured her. And I still do.
I not only told her that I thought she was beautiful inside and out, I helped her to see herself as beautiful. And, of course, she filled similar and yet different needs for me.
Initially, our mutual appreciation for each other was fairly superficial, but as we got to know each other, it grew taller and stronger and deeper. After about two weeks of dating, I wondered if I’d somehow found the best woman in the world. Maybe a month later, I was absolutely convinced I had.
And nothing has happened yet to make me think otherwise.
God knew that Karen needed me, and I needed her, and He made sure we found each other at just the right time.
If at any point, during my B.K. Era, He had let me connect successfully with other girls/women, I can’t say for sure that I’d even have met Karen – let alone been the man she needed, right at the time she needed me.
In my youth, I’d have said the notion of ‘saving oneself for marriage’ was laughable. But in hindsight, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that God was saving me for Karen.
And I’m a much happier man because of it.
Peace be with you.