There is something amazing about ending up with your high school sweetheart. Twelve years doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a long time if you think about all the life stages I’ve gone through with John. Sometimes I look back and can’t believe how much time has passed! We’ve grown up so much over the years that I’m amazed we haven’t grown apart.
John and I started unofficially dating in May 1998, one month before my 16th birthday. Back then he had peach fuzz on his upper lip and smoked cigarettes, and although I’ve heard his voice practically every day for the past 12 years, I’m sure his voice was much higher then, too. John’s personality reminded me a lot of Dally, my favorite character from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. John wasn’t violent, but he was a “bad boy” nonetheless.
John transferred from a different high school because he got into a lot of trouble when he lived in the Oakland-Alameda area of the Bay. I never really noticed him around school because we were such polar opposites. I was goofy, innocent and hung out with a completely different crowd. And yuck—I didn’t like smokers! So, for almost all of sophomore year he didn’t exist in my world, and I didn’t really exist in his.
When mutual friends caused our worlds to collide, I didn’t gravitate toward his defiant personality. In fact, I didn’t even give him the time of day at first! John and I still playfully debate how it happened, but the very first night we went out with friends, he kissed me (although he claims I kissed him), and we’ve been together ever since. We had your typical whirlwind high-school romance, and with time, I stopped being such a goody-goody, while he softened up a bit.
Becoming Parents Together
If you had told me when I was 16 that I would eventually have children with the guy, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you’d told me the family we’d create would be a different kind of normal—that one of our children would die and another would be born with a rare bleeding disorder—I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I probably would have thought you were crazy!
Although he shaves every day now, I can still visualize how his teenage face looked. And I can still remember the way it felt when he sweetly hugged me while we waited for the bus together. We were so young and immature when we welcomed our first son, Kevin, on my 21st birthday. Just when I thought we were veterans at this parenting thing, we matured drastically as we learned to cope with Niki’s diagnosis. I also remember the look in John’s weary eyes nearly three years ago as we watched our son die. The way he held me when Ethan died was different from all those times at the bus stop. So, to say we’ve aged a lot in the past 12 years is an understatement.
I’ve read the statistics about the death of a child correlating with a higher chance of divorce. I’ve also heard of couples breaking up over the stress of raising a child with special needs. I may sound arrogant or idealistic for saying this, but I don’t worry about those things with John. We’ve lost dreams together, lost a child together, and through hell and high water we’ve persevered.
Both parents must carry the factor VII deficiency gene for it to be passed down to a child. Out of all the people I could have possibly had children with, I ended up with someone just like me—a carrier of a severe form of this disorder. Some people may perceive that as a curse, but to us it’s a blessing in disguise. We are far from perfect—we still bicker and fight when stress runs high—but there is something oddly reassuring about our “curse.” To us, it’s a sign that the life we’ve created together was meant to be.
The boy who was rough around the edges has turned into the man who is strong when I am not. It’s his eyes that meet mine during those sleepless, stressful nights when all we can do is worry. The boy who wouldn’t dare shed a tear in front of me for fear of “losing face” has transformed into the man I’ve held while sobs racked his body. So, though our life together has been difficult, I appreciate it for all its glory.
My high school sweetheart turned soulmate makes this journey run smoother, bumps and all.
Read more about Tiffany's life at The Art of Lion Taming.