By Kenneth Stepp
As a child I heard a lot of stories. They all began with, “once upon a time”. When I was a parent I would have story night with my kids. Keeping with the tradition. I started the stories with the same line. I’ll never forget how my two youngest would ask me to tell them a story. All of mine were originals. The Kentucky Seven was a group of men with special, almost super human talents that righted wrongs. Others were as ridiculous as these stories as well. I’d make them up as I went along. One was about a knight that would save the day.
All were lessons in doing the right thing, it meant so much to me that they admired valor and truth, and people with integrity. Fast forward many years, after 24 years with their mom, I found myself single again, it seems like a lifetime ago. I was happy back then, or for most of those years at least. I loved being a dad, I loved being married, I loved my wife in a very special way.
I tried daily to let her know how amazing she was. We grew in wealth and had what most would perceive, a blessed life. I owned a very successful business and we did better than ok. We had it all by today’s standards. One day that idyllic existence would be shattered. I kept around seventeen employees most of the time. Something was wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I was to learn that $1.3 million was stolen over a fifteen month period. The recession had begun. I couldn’t save the business, we lost everything. After trying and failing to make a comeback, I finally lost my marriage. Once upon a time happened, and it hurt…After twenty four years knowing I’d never be with another. Suddenly, I found myself single again.
My how things had changed. The first thing I noticed was there were thousands of others on the same journey. I did what most do, I opened a couple of online dating accounts and crossed my fingers. I met a lot of girls while there, or at least I met them digitally. The first girl I actually met was amazing, we shared hundreds of emails, texts, and messages. I fell so hard. After leaving a relationship that was cold as ice, someone wanted me, it was an incredible feeling. Addictive really, I can see why some become serial daters.
What we had wouldn’t last, but I learned some things about myself. The first was that I had a capacity to love beyond what I’d ever imagined, the second was to take things slower. The third was that even though I was alone again, I knew someone was out there who would be my forever love. My search continued.
A couple of months after one of the hardest breakups of my life, I found a lost cat. I met a girl online who had a farm in beautiful Madison Georgia. She was also an animal rescuer. I called her and asked if she would take in my new furry friend. Sure, she said, I was off. We saw one another a couple of more times. Distance and my lack of focus meant we would drift apart, but we remained friends.
I spent a Summer a couple of years later on my family’s farm in Kentucky. On the way back to Atlanta I learned the new home I had secured fell through. My old friend called me at that very moment. I told her what happened. Just come stay here, she said. I stayed six months on her farm. I was falling for her. We were developing feelings for one another. I knew I was not right for her, so I moved before I got in too deep.
Those feelings I had for her grew. After a year apart, with the exception of occasional lunches. I knew I was in love. I had been writing about her for over a year. I called her and we met for lunch again. That day confirmed to me that she was my “Her”. A couple of weeks later, I admitted it to her. I was encouraged by friends to get honest with her about how I felt.
Not much changed. Our friendship meant so much to me, I dropped it, but I knew. About a year later she invited me to dinner and a movie for my birthday. My girl was ready for a man in her life. That man was me. My life will forever be devoted to making her happy that she made that decision. You see. Once upon a time was always a moment, a happening, a certain time in history for me.
It turns out my once upon a time was really a girl. A wonderful, smart, strong, beautiful girl. Once upon a time had a name. I knew her all along the way, her name was etched into my heart years ago. Far far away was on a small farm in Madison Georgia.
Our story is both unique and beautiful. It was a lesson in patience and endurance. God has a path for us all. Your once upon a time is on at the end of your path. When you love fully. That’s your path, stay on it…
“Classic fairy tales do not deny the existence of heartache and sorrow, but they do deny universal defeat.”― Greenhaven
For those reading this. I found these words in my notes. She and I did not stay together. We are and always will be best friends. We shared a meal the other day and reminisced. We loved and still love. Some things are meant to be and not meant to be at the same time…