Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

My husband and I met online. That’s not unusual these days, but in 1997, it was a rarer occurrence. We met in an AOL chat room – a place I was spending more and more time as my marriage fell apart. Dave was a divorced dad with full custody of three children. We were just friends – we talked online in the mornings while he waited for the bus to come pick up his son; we occasionally saw each other at the live events the people in our chat room, the “Idaho Room,” went to. I often coordinated the live events, as the official “party coordinator” of the Idaho Room, which included Thursday night karaoke nights and the occasional Saturday night dance night.

When Dave stopped showing up at the Thursday night karaoke nights – he was a great singer and one I looked forward to amidst the less sober, more enthusiastic crowd – I asked him why he was no longer coming. As it turned out, he was stuck home because he didn’t have – and could no longer afford – a babysitter. We chatted a bit about his situation – how his ex-wife was supposed to have 50/50 custody of the kids but had chosen not to, about how he’d quit his high-paying job to work at a restaurant so that his hours would match those of his kids when they were in school, how he’d missed two weeks of work because they’d all just had the chicken pox, and about how he couldn’t just leave his kids with just anyone because his son had special needs.

The perfect solution was clear: I would babysit and give him an occasional night out. I didn’t have kids, but my own sister had just had a baby, so I was perfectly comfortable playing the role of doting aunt to three more munchkins. We arranged for me to come over so the kids could meet me – which was when we realized we had been living just around the corner from each other for several years.

The next night, I went over to meet Dave’s kids. Derek, the oldest, was shy and sweet. Kyle was an adorable six-year old who had Down syndrome, was mostly non-verbal, and was mentally around 18 months old. Kira, Kyle’s twin sister, was a toothless wild child who greeted me from the coffee table she’d jumped up on. I spent a little time with them, then Dave and I sat down at his kitchen table to talk.

I never did end up babysitting those three kids, but they’ve been a part of my life and my heart since that night. Dave and I ended up talking all night and well into the next morning. Tearing myself away from Dave the next morning was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done. Looking back, I’m fairly certain that first night, talking together over rum and cokes at his kitchen table until the sun came up, was when we fell in love. And while there were complications – I was married, remember – my whole world shifted in that night. My divorce was final less than two months later.

Sometimes, you have to be with someone – or in a place or space – that is completely wrong, in order to recognize something so right when it comes along. I think that’s what happened with Dave and I – we had both struggled so hard and so long that when we found each other, there was no doubt – no questions – that we were so right. Dave and I were married in 1999.

The past 20+ years have been an incredible, amazing adventure – and we feel like we’re only getting started. I truly believe we were meant to cross paths, that we were destined to find each other, that all the pain and frustration and failed love that each of us had experienced individually only prepared us for experiencing such a powerful love that even to this day, the sheer joy brings me to tears.

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