Love Is In The Air

How often have you been on a plane and struck up a conversation with your seatmate? How many times has that conversation confirmed, explained and supported a fundamental tenet of life? I recently had one of those experiences on the way to my cousin’s wedding in San Antonio.

I boarded the airplane and as I looked down the aisle I noticed that there were still a number of open seats. Instantly, I started crossing my fingers hoping the seat next to me might remain empty (when you have long legs these things are important). I arrived at my row and a handsome man stood up from the aisle seat, took my bag, helped me place it overhead and let me into my window seat.

We struck up a conversation as we both noted that the middle seat between us was still empty and we hoped it would remain that way. He was kind and his voice was soft. I could tell that he was years older than me and the band on his left ring finger was worn. Working through the small talk, I learned that Ray lives in Canada and was traveling back down to Texas, as the water slide company he works for is working with one of the main amusement parks in the area.

As we continued speaking, I told him of my love for sports and he asked what I played. Upon mentioning I was an ice-hockey goalie in a former lifetime, he let me know he had played minor league hockey. Over the next five hours, confined in our metal box, we whispered details of our lives, our passions and our dreams, as our fellow passengers dozed off.

What I loved the most though, was hearing of Ray’s love for his wife, Terra, and his two young children at home. He and his wife started dating just as he began playing professional hockey, which meant he was traveling constantly. He quickly realized, however, that this was the woman he wanted to spend his life with.

“Love is the best thing ever,” he told me emphatically. “When you find it and you know, then you’ve got to work hard to make it a part of your life. Nothing’s automatic. You have to put work into it for sure, especially if you’re married and have kids. Oh my God is it work but it’s the best thing in the world. It’s worth every bit of energy.”

Ray and I went on to discuss today’s generation of dating versus generations past. We also talked about the dynamics of having a serious relationship while being a part of a testosterone filled professional sports team. Even though the environment may not be the most conducive or supportive, for Ray it didn’t matter. He had found the love of his life.

When he first met Terra the connection was clear and he felt like he had known her forever. “I met her when I was 23 and that was it. Without even knowing that that was a decision I had made, it was like all other options went to the side.” She was clearly the one, but what about when you add kids to the mix?

Laughing he adamantly told me that everything changes when you have kids. “You know you walked in as two but you leave as three. It’s super profound. You think your capacity to love is at 100% but then you have a kid and it goes to 200%, and then if you’re lucky enough to have others it keeps growing.”

However, Ray also reminded me of the importance of enjoying the time you have as an individual, which is exactly what he and his now wife did when they were navigating long-distance during their time dating. “Don’t be in a rush to be in the bungalow with the kids and the dog and the minivan.”

Ray proposed to Terra in Central Park, New York City. She said yes. They have been happily together since.

Maegan Olmstead