[Author's note: Most of my posts have been about poker. This one isn't, at least not directly, despite the title. I'll return to poker with my next post.]
5,174 days ago, my life changed. Looking back, I can't say I saw it coming.
On January 28, 1999, I was playing cribbage in an online cribbage league on Yahoo and something called Case's Ladder. I had scratched my way to the top of the rankings among the 50,000-odd players. Rankings were based on the rank of the person you played against - if you were #200 and played #100 and won, your new rank was 150. I was around #10, and the top 20 players were required to host games so lower-ranked players had a shot.
My daughter Bree and I used to play online cribbage regularly. We had played cribbage since she was a kid, and had played a lot more in the years since her mother and I separated and she lived with me. When she left for college in the fall (at University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia), we just picked up our games online.
On January 28, 1999, she was hanging out and watching me play, and playing a few games herself, when a player with the screen name 'meretseger214' challenged me to a match, which I accepted. I made some flip comment about serving cocktails, and offering some of the hors d'oeuvres that were over in that corner over there. Oh, charming me. But apparently it worked.
'meretseger214' promptly skunked me. For those who don't play cribbage, that means "kicked my ass." I probably made some graceful comment, although I may also have suggested how lucky she got. Bree, always there to defend me, challenged 'meretseger214' to a game. Bree skunked this upstart challenger, making me feel roughly 1% better.
Over the next few weeks, I learned that 'meretseger214' was in fact a player named Sharon. We played often, and were roughly evenly matched. We decided to start playing as a team in 4-person cribbage tournaments, and discovered we were a nearly unbeatable team. At one point, we had strung together 24 consecutive team wins, an incredible number given that, like poker, cribbage involves some degree of luck.
Sharon and I started chatting regularly online. I invited her to meet me in New York to see a play, and got this response (slightly paraphrased, as I don't remember the exact words): "You might just be some Internet Pervert!" I think I heard that very capitalization.
The problem is that I wasn't just some Internet Pervert. I was an Internet Pervert that had a lot in common with this woman, and really liked her. But I decided to let it rest for a while.
Not long after the Pervert Incident, Sharon learned that Bree lived less than 10 miles from her. For some reason, Sharon had been under the impression that Bree went to Penn State (several hours away). They decided to get together for sushi.
Brief interlude: Bree had not been a fan of the women I had dated since her mother and I separated. There was some parity here; I never liked one guy she had dated in her entire life, but then that's my job. But Sharon was different. Bree called me shortly after their dinner, and said, "I'm not sure if you're interested in this woman or not, but I really like her."
Wow, a ringing endorsement! I still had no idea what Sharon looked like, but I was reasonably sure she didn't have horns or extra limbs, as I suspected Bree would have given me a heads-up on either. So, undaunted from the Pervert Incident, I redoubled my efforts to get Sharon to meet me somewhere.
I tried the NY play ploy again, which failed again but with less resolve on her part. I suspected that, having met my daughter, she concluded that my Internet Pervert score was lower than she had originally estimated.
5,104 days ago, I was in Long Branch, New Jersey, attending a conference. As I had on several previous trips east, I told Sharon where I was going to be. I don't know what made this time different, but Sharon showed up in Long Branch. We went out for a drink, spent hours talking, even played a little cribbage.
5,103 days ago, we went out for dinner for the first time, at a restaurant next door to the hotel. I spilled a drink on her. Undaunted, after cleaning up the mess, I got up, walked around the table to her side, held her face in my hands and kissed her. I said something about "getting that out of the way." Dan, ever the romantic.
The waitress came to take our order. After she did so, she stood for a moment, looked at each of us and said, "It's really easy to spot the people who've been together for a long time. You have this shorthand. You seem really happy." There were a few moments of silence after she left, followed by semi-hysterical laughter.
After dinner, I decided to impress Sharon with my extensive knowledge of dessert wines at the restaurant's jazz bar. I had a reasonable excuse for extending dinner - rain was coming down in buckets, and even the 100 yards to the hotel would mean getting drenched. We worked our way through their entire dessert wine-by-the-glass menu. It wasn't until many months later that I learned that Sharon is disgusted by dessert wines (also by most things sweet). Apparently she liked me.
4,803 days ago, Sharon moved to Los Angeles to move in with me.
3,856 days ago, Sharon and I went to Las Vegas for a free weekend graciously provided to us by The Venetian. My best friend Randy joined us. We were really struggling back then, but hey, a free vacation is a free vacation. I carefully hid the engagement ring in my computer bag. I booked a gondola ride, which cost $50 for both of us. Sharon was - let's say, not amused. $50 was a lot of money for us. Have a look at the following picture, and note the three circled items: (1) Unamused look, (2) shit-eating grin and (3) engagement ring.
She said yes, by the way.
3,653 days ago, 10 years to the day, I married the love of my life. On that day, as part of our vows, I said we were embarking on the 'journey of a lifetime.' We honestly had no idea what that meant at the time, how true it really was. Since that day, we've traveled over 500,000 miles, made innumerable friends, lived in another country - and not a day goes by when I don't shake my head in wonder at my luck.
I love you, Sharon.