19 years ago, at the age of 15, I was injured in an auto accident which left me paralyzed from the hips down and in a wheelchair permanently. It was a tragic event for someone of that age – friends changed, priorities changed and I learned life lessons earlier than most of my peers. But I was thankful – thankful that I learned the lessons I did and thankful that of the four of us in the car, it was me that was hurt. Why? Because I had the strength to move on. And move on I did.
I began to play tennis on the international wheelchair tennis circuit, which revived my athleticism. I then went to Dartmouth College, which revived my intellectual ability and provided me a chance at true independence – which I latched onto with no hesitation. After college, I played tennis professionally for three years and then left the sport to pursue a career in law. I received my JD, practiced for a while and then left the practice to try start a new career running my own business. I was content, but not truly happy. I had several relationships over the years, if you could call them that, but nothing long lasting and nothing earth shattering. I ran into all types – those who told me I was beautiful, but they weren’t comfortable with the chair, those who said they were comfortable with the chair, but really weren’t, those who found me too driven, too headstrong, too outspoken and those who found it intriguing to date someone in a chair for a time, but who left when the novelty of it all wore off.
So at the suggestion of a friend, I created an eHarmony account, not sure of what would come, but willing to give it a try. I was upfront in my profile and clearly stated that I was in a wheelchair, but also athletic, active, intelligent, etc. I was nervous, I was hesitant and I was jaded. But the process seemed very “real” to me so I also had faith. Faith that eHarmony would be true to their advertisements and find me someone who didn’t care about the wheelchair, or the superficial beauty and who would look at an independent, intelligent woman as a blessing and not a curse. So I perused the matches, began some conversations, and was generally pleasantly surprised. But no one blew me out of the water . . . that is until the end of November 2005 when I opened my eHarmony account and saw a new match – a man named Tom. His profile was intriguing and made me laugh and I was attracted to the photos he had posted. He was intelligent and outspoken and, for the first time in a very long time, I felt that “spark.” But how could that be? It’s just a simple profile, isn’t it? But it was much more than that – it was a glimpse into Tom himself. In that small snippet I saw an amazing man. Thankfully, he saw something in my profile he liked and we began the communication process. We sped through the communication stages and became more and more excited with each response. We laughed. We shared. We were honest in what we wanted and what we craved. We were also honest in what we termed “deal breakers.” We spent hours on the phone, hours on email. We had both been through enough to know to take our time at the beginning – to make sure we weren’t compromising what we wanted and the type of person we sought.
Then in December, just before Christmas, we met for our first date. I’d like to say the date lasted for days, but in reality we only spent a few short hours together at a local Annapolis pub. In those few short hours, though, I knew. I mean really, truly knew that I was going to spend the rest of my life with this man. Tom was interesting and intelligent and funny. We had so much in common and conversation just seemed to flow. There were no gaps or awkward pauses, no flitting thoughts of wanting to leave, just a sense of contentment about being around him. And best of all, he didn’t see the wheelchair, he saw me. Truly saw me – something I never felt had happened before. So I wanted more. More time, more dates, just more of Tom. Fortunately for me, he was feeling the same way but unfortunately, he was taking off for Christmas a few short days later. But that didn’t stop us. Thankful for cell phones, we talked every day, several times a day. We text messaged one another and we anxiously awaited his arrival home. He came home a few days after Christmas and from that day forward, with the exception of few days here and there, we have been together. We watched fireworks on New Year’s Eve, went to sporting events, museums, ate out, stayed in, watched movies, played cards, traveled, went camping and merged our families (three dogs). Most important, we talked, listened and understood.
Then, at the end of March, 2006, we flew to California for a week long trip – first to San Diego (a business trip for me) and then to Joshua Tree National Park where we camped for a long weekend. We arrived at Joshua Tree and Tom was nervous, but I was clueless as to why. We’d camped before and Joshua Tree is one of his favorite places on earth, so I wasn’t understanding the stress. He was also adamant that we go to this special lookout for sunset. It was cold, but we bundled up and made it to the lookout. When we got there, we found the perfect spot and Tom set up his camera on the tripod to take pictures of the sunset. He then pulled out of his backpack his iPod (with speakers) to play a CD he had made for me. The fifth song on that CD is a song by John Hiatt called “Have a Little Faith” which we had dubbed “our” song. When the song came on, with the sun setting in the background and much to my surprise, Tom got down on one knee and asked me to do him the honor of becoming his wife. With tears flowing from both of us, I said yes without a second’s doubt. Our dream was coming true. Five months later, on August 5, 2006, we were married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony with friends and family surrounding us. We had attained the dream – a beautiful wedding, a beautiful house and the prospect of a beautiful life together. We were in heaven. Marriage was wonderful and we spent the first months of our marriage basking in our happiness. And then, being a bit older and very impatient, we decided something else would make this dream even more perfect….
So here we sit, expecting our first child in three weeks – a symbol of our love, our commitment and our desire to share our love with another human being. We are truly blessed. Our road has been incredible. We’ve had our bumps and detours along the way, but with every one, our love has grown stronger. Every day affirms for me that I married a truly amazing, incredible and very special man (and I think he found the same!). We are compatible in every way. Our strengths and faults align and I believe we only make each other stronger, better people. We cannot ask for more. So thank you, eHarmony, for staying true to your word and for matching us from the inside out – two people beautifully aligned who would have never found each other but for you. For that, we cannot thank you enough.
Alison and Tom