It was the fall of 2001. We had graduated, gone on our senior trips and were both now living in Logan, Utah. A small town an hour and a half north of our hometowns. We both decided to live in the dorms. Steve was living with two of his buddies from high school and I was living with 5 random girls that I had never met before. We lived a short walk away from each other and needless to say, we were making that short walk multiple times a day! Read More
The 4th of July has once again come and gone. It has always been one of my favorite holidays. When I was little, I went to an elementary school that drove patriotism hard. Every day began with the class standing, with our hands over our heart and reciting the pledge of allegiance in unison in both English and French. I am not quite sure what speaking the pledge of allegiance in French has to do with being a proud American, but I can still recite it, nonetheless. “Je promet une allégeance au drapeau des États-Unis d’Amérique….” See, I am such a patriot. But, I digress. I have studied the beginnings of America and have read up on our founding fathers. I recognize the sacrifices that have been made for me and my children. My dad was a soldier in the Vietnam war. I really am proud to be an American, whole heartedly.
When Steve and I first got married, his hero was Pat Tillman. He was amazed that someone in the NFL would give up a million dollar contract in order to sacrifice and fight for our country. In this day and age, it is extremely uncommon to see someone forego fame and fortune in order to serve. So needless to say, Pat Tillman quickly became a hero to both of us. So much so for Steve that he wanted to name our first born Tillman. While I appreciated the meaning and hero behind the name, I just couldn’t jump on board with that idea. When we were pregnant with Wes, Steve once again tried to push for the name Tillman, and I shot it down again. Finally, when we were pregnant with the triplets, Steve convinced me it was time. So we agreed on the plan to give baby B, Heath, the middle name of Tillman. The problem I soon realized was that our sweet baby C needed a strong middle name as well.
Hayes needed a patriotic middle name to match his brother, so we brainstormed. But, nothing felt right. How can you top Tillman…one of Steve’s greatest heroes?! One night, near the end of my pregnancy, Steve took me on a date to the movie American Sniper. I cried through the entire thing. It was beautiful and powerful and the story of Chris Kyle truly moved me. As the credits rolled at the end, I remember so clearly, leaning over to Steve, wiping the tears from my cheek and whispering, “Hayes’ middle name needs to be Kyle.” It was like the stars had aligned and it all made sense. Both our boys would be named after men that were true heroes.
It is incredibly inspiring to me that Hayes was named after such a legend. So fitting. We obviously had no idea at the time that Hayes was going to change the world, but how perfect that one hero be named after another hero…both of their names etched in stone, forever. Hayes Kyle Tate, my own little 20 month legend.
After we had our first kiss, our relationship quickly morphed into one of those relationships that I had always made fun of. I was crazy about Steve. He made me laugh, he was confident, athletic and he was the best kisser! I couldn’t keep the butterflies at bay. Along with our love for making out was our equal love for the show Survivor. It all started 18 years ago when we would get together to watch our favorite reality TV show. Because of our friendship, we found excitement in the mundane and seemingly small things. At this time Steve was trying to decide where he wanted to go to college. He was an amazingly talented football player that had played quarterback and was being recruited to play safety. He had offers from a few universities and was trying to make his decision. I had already made mine. I was going to Utah State. A school 2 hours north, in Logan, Utah. Although Steve had a scholarship offer from Utah State, I assumed he would go to the University of Utah and that we would be going our separate ways for college. I stayed out of his decisions for where he would go because this was his future and his possible future career. I didn’t want to sway him one way or another so I mostly listened to him as he expressed the pros and cons of each opportunity. The idea of going our separate ways gave me a pit in my stomach. I had known for a long time that my feelings for him were deeper than a typical high school relationship but I had zero desire to freak him out with my expressions of love, so I kept them to myself. I had never seen a high school relationship work out long term so I braced myself for our inevitable goodbye.
I remember one night in January of 2001, I drove my little, red, Ford Festiva up the winding streets to Steve’s house less than a mile from my own. It was a cold winter night and I rushed to his house. I only had an hour to spend with him because it was a school night so my parents liked me home by 9:30. I parked on the street and walked up to Steve’s front door. He opened the door before I even had a chance to knock. He was excited to see me and clearly had something to tell me. He welcomed me with a hug and as he wrapped me in his arms he said, “Guess what?! I am going to Utah State!”
This may seem like a small thing, but it was a major turning point. We were going to college together. Our love story didn’t have to come to an unwanted end. All of a sudden a future with him was a real possibility and not only was I ecstatic but Steve was as well. We were falling, HARD, and I was letting myself embrace it. I had never planned on falling for someone while I was so young, but I couldn’t help it and I felt propelled toward my future with him. We went to dances, spent countless dates together and shared so much laughter. It really was sweet and beautiful and innocent. A relationship built on a solid friendship.
Oddly enough, I knew I loved him. I had loved him since we were juniors, but I never had the guts to tell him. I was so scared of losing our friendship so I quietly kept it to myself. The months went by and our friendship and relationship grew deeper with each passing day. Graduation was quickly approaching and I wanted to tell him before we graduated because now I knew I had to take the risk…he needed to know that I took him seriously.
I decided to be really mature and write him a long love note finally putting into words that I love him, in his yearbook. Yep, his yearbook. Because in high school, the yearbook is the ultimate sign of lasting love. As they say in the high school flick of our senior year, Can’t Hardly Wait, “The yearbook is memories frozen in time, people!”
Steve and I exchanged yearbooks and I got to work on revealing my actual feelings. Putting it into words wasn’t hard. My feelings flowed. I had so many emotions that had been building for years. I knew exactly how I felt, the fear I had was letting him in on my feelings. Tonight, as I reminisced, I found his yearbook buried away in an old dusty box. Reading what I wrote is actually super sweet. It stirs up those feelings of newness. I genuinely cared for him:
Well, there is no one place to begin. You are so amazing! I have so much appreciation for you and it grows every moment we spend together. There is not a second that passes by in the day that you aren’t foremost in my thoughts. Thinking about you helps me realize how worth the wait through our friendship was. I knew from the first time we talked that you were someone worth fighting for. I knew we had something special and the potential for an incredible friendship from the beginning. Our friendship has far surpassed my expectations. The thought of you in my future makes me happy and I can’t wait to see where Utah State takes us. The best is ahead of us, I am sure! There are times you look at me and I honestly melt. I know that sounds cliche, but you make me feel special without saying a word…it’s what you say in your eyes. You make me happy and because of that, I love to be around you! Thank you so much for your friendship. You have made high school the most memorable time of my life thus far. I know I am a wuss when it comes to telling you my feelings, but I am sure you know how I feel. I couldn’t hide it if I tried! I care for you more than I can put into words; I love you, I really do! Thank you for the memories, I can’t wait to experience life ahead with you.
Love you always,
Cheese ball central, but real. Love comes to anyone, at any age. That is the beautiful thing about love, it intertwines with everything we experience in life. It is the root of happiness, sadness, passion, and anger. Love is everywhere. What is amazing is that our love has grown exponentially with every moment and every experience we have had together. I believe that it is because of this base, this beginning, that we are where we are at now. He knows me at my best and he knows me at my worst. He accepts me and actually helps me feel appreciated through the weaknesses that I have. Can’t wait to see what is ahead! Here is to a lifetime of anniversaries ahead! I love you babe!
On a side note, for those interested in seeing the full story, KSL news did a story on us last night. Best surprise ever. I am thankful every moment for the love and support I get from Steve! Here is the link!