Monday, November 08, 2010

Gretchen Meets Josh -- the start of our relationship

I've missed so many weeks of "My Young Adult Years" that I was linking up to on Mommy's Piggy Tales, so I decided to do 2 last posts -- one about meeting and dating my husband and another about our engagement and wedding. People want to read that stuff, right?? :)

Except for the first couple of months in college, I did not date anyone.  I went ON a few dates to required functions, and I was interested in a guy or two from time to time, but generally, I was a girls' girl.  I had a handful of guy friends, but being sort of a loud girl (in more ways than one -- all you had to do is see my colorful vintage wardrobe), I wasn't the greatest at making a good impression on many of the guys I knew.  I did go through a period of time feeling like I would never get married, and had to fight for contentment because quite a few guys were interested in my sister, or my friends. . . so I'd feel like "when will someone come along for ME?"

Gretchen Meets Josh
Second semester of my Junior year, I was signed up for a dreaded science class.  I had put off those classes so long because I was never good at science, and I was afraid of taking them.  When I walked in the door, a guy I knew said "GRINCHIN, come sit by me!"  He was a loud guy who liked to say my name wrong.  Sure, why not, I'll sit by him, I thought.  Moments before the class began, the prof came over and told him "Matty, you already took this class.  You were in it last hour.  You're not in it again!"  So all of the sudden, I was sitting alone in a class where you needed a science partner.  I saw another table with my friend Heather and this guy named Josh who dated a girl in my dorm.  "I can sit with them" I realized, and joined their table.  It only took a few minutes before I realized that this was Josh Neisler, a different Josh from the guy who had a girlfriend -- of course I didn't ever get them mixed up after that!  

Here are two things Josh told me the day we met:  "You're OLD!" he said when I said I was a senior (I was, credit-wise).  But I was 20 and he was 19!!  Not exactly old.  Also, when my long hair got caught on the bolts of my chair and a few strands ripped out, he said "sick. . . "  I sure thought he hated my long hair!  Well, no worries about having to make an impression on this guy!!  Nothing to lose!

I could tell right away that Josh was really smart, and that science was pretty easy for him.  Before our first test, I asked if he would mind helping me study, and we sat and talked in the library for quite a long time, which was great!  I liked a guy who could really talk!  Amazingly, I ended up getting a better grade on my test than he did -- probably because I was so freaked about it, and he figured he could wing it and do fine.

Our First Date
A few weeks later, our mutual friend Scott found me outside the library and asked me if I would go as friends to an event with Josh if he were to ask.  I told him I probably would.  Less than an hour later, Josh found me in the Student Center and asked me to go to the Symphony in Milwaukee.  I can remember right where I was standing, underneath the stairway across from the snackshop.  I was so flattered he was asking me to something GREAT like the Symphony, something that cost MONEY and wasn't required to attend!  When I told my mom about it, she asked me if I was excited, and I told her I bought a new dress for the date!  HAHA!  I guess so!  I still have that dress -- don't wear it, but I thought it was sort of special, so I kept it.  Black with little flowers on it, in a very popular late 90's style (I thought it looked 1940's -- whatever!).

The night of the symphony, the guys came to pick us up (we had to drive as a group to Milwaukee), and I could tell right away Josh was anxious.  We had to go back to his dorm because he'd forgotten our tickets, so he was ticked at himself.  We waited in the car for what seemed like QUITE  a long time. . . as they tore apart their room looking for the tickets.  Turns out, they were in Josh's suitcoat pocket the whole time.  So when he came back to the car, he was furious with himself. . . which translated to me that he wasn't thrilled to be with me!  We missed the opening movement, but as the music played, he relaxed a bit, and we were able to whisper a bit about the music.  I love Milwaukee symphony, and it was beautiful.  The man sitting in front of us told us we were very rude and we talked the whole time, but I am certain we didn't because Josh still was giving me (or himself?) the silent treatment for the most part.  We took a picture afterward. . . you can see his smiley face. . . We stopped for coffee on the way home, and he just drank water.  Wow.  I had been totally willing to enjoy this date, but it seemed like he was killing it in it's tracks.  
I'm so glad I made sure we took a picture!  We have it as a record!

Later that night, I talked to my friend Stephanie about it (she was back working for the school, and I worked as an RA in her dorm).  She suggested writing him a thank-you note just to let him know you had fun.  That wasn't as forward as a phone call or something, but still let him know you weren't mad or something.  She was so smart.  That started a series of note-writing back and forth between us.  AH. . . those were the days of free inter-campus mail, and it was so fun to go check your boxes between classes to see if he'd left a note!  Josh called me a few times as well, and one time, not long after our first date, he told me something I will never forget.  He told me that his roommates gave him a pretty hard time about asking me out.

"Gretchen BENZING?  Do you really think you can HANDLE her?" they had said to him.

"Wha. . what did you say?" I was afraid to ask.  I could only imagine he'd said "no" or worse, an arrogant "YES, I can handle any girl!"
"I said, what do you mean?  What's to handle?" he replied.  And I knew then and there that he saw me differently than other guys had seen me.  What was to handle?  She's not too much.  Not too loud.  Ohhhh. . . I think I started falling in love right then!

Other things we liked to do
Josh obviously got over the bumble on the first date, and we started hanging out a lot more, talking in the library, "studying" together, etc.  We didn't eat meals together or go to church together or sit in chapel together, though, which were the typical things dating couples in college did.  We generally took it pretty slow, and kept hanging out with our separate groups of friends -- until we really clicked with a mutual friend, Melissa Szydlowski (we called her "Sid").  She was the perfect person to hang out with both of us, because it took off a little pressure from trying to impress each other.  We mainly hung out in the Student Center and talked together. 

Josh and I would both go to the Nursing Home ministry together on Thursday nights.  It was my society's ministry (we had societies with ministry focus in college in the place of sororities and fraternities), but everyone was welcome to join.  I was so impressed with how well Josh interacted with elderly people.  I really admired how he was good with kids, too.  I had not met a whole lot of guys who was good with both ends of the spectrum.  It quickly became a requirement for my future husband.
A Dating Couple
Right before spring break, I had some doubts about a possible dating relationship with Josh.  We had had talks about moving forward, and he was planning to come home with me for Easter and talk to my dad about dating me.  But I was interpreting his easy-going laid-back nature as not being a good leader, and it scared me that I was getting in a relationship I should avoid.  I told him frankly right before we said goodbye for break that I was rethinking our relationship, and I was going to think things over while we were gone.  He looked really sad, but he just said "well, ok, let's pray together about it."  When I got home, I told my mom everything and showed him a letter he'd sent home with me.  I can't remember what the letter said, but Mom about cried and told me "I like him."  As that week went by, I had a big change of heart.  Josh was smart, and didn't call me until the end of the week, and by that time I was missing him big time.  I read a passage in Proverbs that said "With-hold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it." which convicted me that I was with-holding my affection from Josh just to protect myself.  I needed to do him good, and trust the Lord to guide my steps.

After his Easter visit, where Josh asked my dad if he could date me (Dad gave him a copy of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" in response), we considered ourselves a couple.  We felt like we had gone about things in a proper way, talking through whether or not we were pursuing marriage before we started "dating".  Josh's family came to visit us right after that, and it was fun to meet his parents and sister Melissa.  I had been SO nervous about it, but they were all normal and nice.  His parents took us to eat on State Street in Madison, and I remember we held hands in the van on the way there.  WOO WOO! (You have to understand that any physical contact AT ALL was not allowed at our school, so holding hands in front of his parents was really our only option).  

A Change in Relationship
From my college scrapbook
At the junior/senior banquet, Josh and I went together with Sid and Scott, and it was one of the most fun nights of my whole college experience.  I'd gone dress shopping with Sid for the occasion, and we found a fun 20's style swing dress for her.  I remember being so tired that night from staying up all night the night before, that I was drinking coffee at the banquet (coffee was new to me at this point).  Josh suggested adding just a tiny bit of sugar to take off the edge of the bitterness, and I told him that I would always remember him the rest of my life as I drank coffee because he was the one who taught me to like it.  He said "Maybe I'll be the one to pour your coffee for you."  I thought that was SO sweet and romantic!  You know how it is!  Saying those little things that make those big promises. . . 
The dynamic in our relationship changed dramatically when our friend Sid graduated.  Suddenly, the three of us was down to two.  We loved hanging out with Sid so much, and it took a bit of adjustment to just hang out together. We both stayed for summer school, and we started finding out how to hang out just together.  It was the start to a new chapter in our relationship . . . 

To be continued. . .


Sizzledowski said...

I made it into your life posts! YAY!

I will never forget when Josh told me he wanted to ask you out. I was so excited to get to know you better and loved every second of hanging out with you two!

And even though it was only for that one year, you two have had a major impact on my life. I love you both so much!

Ginny Marie said...

What a sweet post! It's so much fun to remember the beginning of a relationship when it's the guy that's meant for you! I doubt that many girls have a boy ask them to the symphony for a first date...I'm still waiting to go tot he symphony with my husband, and we've been married for eight years!

Hafeli Ever After said...

Youguys are KIDS in those pics! The comment Josh made about pouring your coffee is CUTE! Thinking of youguys dating reminds me of TUBE SOCKS! I remember you, Josh, and Misty all wore them back then! :)

Vicki said...

Hey Gretchen what a sweet story - loved reading it. My first "date" with Steve was actually to the Symphony as well - the San Francisco Symphony. Afterwards we bought a piece of apple pie from a restaurant that was closing and shared it sitting on a bench by the San Francisco Bay looking out toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

Donette said...

I laughed out loud when I read the comment about Matty. Just like him to try to take the same class twice!!

And Josh looks SO young! I don't think I would have recognized him. Of course, I didn't really know him at all, as he came to campus after I was married, I think. Either way, you two make a great couple and I'm so glad he got over the tough first date. It reminds me of Dan's first date with me. I'll have to blog about that one soon!

Sandy said...

It was fun to read about how you and Josh met. I remember you bringing him home from college, and that was about the time you seemed soooo skinny! Funny that Steph suggested that you write a thank you note, that part made me laugh!

Susan McCurdy said...

I can't imagine Josh being so nervous on your first date ...He seems so composed all the time. It was neat reading how the two of you came to be. Looking forward to the rest of the story! In that last pic. Sid's date looks alot like Scott did in our college days....I did a double take on that one!

Sizzledowski said...

random: I now work with Scott's wife. We both teach at the same school in Maryland!

Emma said...

Gretchen I loved this!
I dont know if its because I love Josh so much or if I'm just having an emotional day (maybe both) but I cried the whole way through it. You never know who all you impact through your various relationships, but Josh has always been a great friend and brother to me. :) I can't imagine if you guys hadn't gotten together.
I also have to say I agree about that being good with both ends of the spectrum thing, and I also agree that it is one of the criteria for a good husband.
You and Josh have always been my example of what I wanted in my marriage. I guess because you guys are such great friends! Seeing you made me realize that it wasnt all about a Prince Charming (not that Josh wasnt) but that its about having someone you just enjoy.
Its also sort of strange for me to read this, seeing as I'm sort of in it right now. Feeling many of those feelings I'm sure you felt while dating Josh...waiting around and wondering where its all going.

Thanks for an awesome post!


Emma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sara's art house said...

This is so fun to read, Gret! And I can picture most of it --the whole MBBC thing. So fun!!!!!

Eos Mom said...

Awww, I love reading how couples met--and yours had lots of twists--can't wait to read the rest next week!

Lynsey said...

This was so sweet to read! I forwarded the link to Lucas :)
you guys are so cute!