Our Story As Told by Christine
When people ask Gene and me how we met, we generally smile and lead in with the line “So, a blonde walks into a bar . . .” This response usually sparks some laughter and intrigue about the punch line, but it is where the joke ends, and the story begins. Our story goes something like this:
In August of 2012, I was a single mother of three children working fulltime night shifts as a registered nurse on a local cardiopulmonary unit. I had very little free time on my hands with all the responsibilities that I carried as a single mom.
My youngest son was in high school at the time, and though my kids were mostly grown and functioned fairly independently, it still concerned me that I would not be able pay the rent on time or have enough groceries in the refrigerator. To this day, I still have bad dreams that it is Christmas morning and I don’t have any presents under the tree for the kids. I had a mother’s heart that lent itself to worrying more about the well-being of her children than herself. But that heart could still feel lonely at times.
One night, a childhood friend reached out to see if I was interested in going out to dinner for some “girl time.” I was happy, having a few nights off in a row, and eagerly accepted the invitation.
Near the end of dinner, we started trying to decide what we were going to do with our time, as the night was young, and it was too early to retire. We talked about going back to my apartment to sip wine and watch a chick flick but ended up agreeing to go out for a drink. My only stipulation was that I wanted to go somewhere decent where the atmosphere felt safe and friendly.
That is how we ended up at Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor, Maine, that August night. Though I felt uneasy and awkward in the night scene setting, my friend and I pulled our stools up to the bar. We eventually found ourselves talking freely with a young bartender and with the owner himself, Gene Beck.
I never did fully relax that night, so my friend carried most of the conversation. But I did enjoy myself and decided that I would make it a habit to treat myself to a night out now and again. During our evening, one of the staff mentioned the live jazz music that was featured at Nocturnem on Tuesday nights. I was resolved to return on Tuesday for a beverage and music.
Gene recalls that he generally took Tuesdays off at that time in his business career. So, when I returned the following Tuesday, as I had previously determined, he was not present. I truly did not even notice because I did not return to see him but to detach myself momentarily from my immediate responsibilities and simply relax. I tucked myself in the corner of the room and lost myself in live, local music. It was fantastic.
It has been since told to me, that after I left that night, one of the Nocturnem staff called Gene to inform him that “the blonde came back.” Gene was apparently disappointed to have missed my return that he firmly informed his staff that if I was to stop in again next week, they were to call him immediately so he could drop in for a visit.
As the story goes, I did return. And so did he.
I had settled myself comfortably on a brown leather couch that was set up in the back of the side room at Nocturnem, where that night’s local jazz group was playing. I remember feeling a presence behind me and when I turned my head, Gene was standing there with his hands in his pockets, looking towards the musicians. When he glanced at me, I smiled and patted the empty cushion next to me and asked him if he wanted to join me.
I must interject here that Gene and I are both somewhat introverted, quiet people. We do not socialize or talk freely with just anyone. However, that night Gene and I opened up to each other with ease. It was not uncomfortable at the least, and by the end of the night we found ourselves so engrossed in conversation that we did not realize the music had stopped, most of the patrons had left, and the staff were closing up shop.
When I stood and walked to the bar to pay my tab, Gene followed and asked me “Do you eat?” I replied “yes” and left suddenly!
It is truly hilarious to recall. That incident alone demonstrates how unpracticed we both were with the whole dating experience. Neither one of us were even considering getting into a relationship. We had both been involved in long-term relationships that had not ended pleasantly and had subsequent short-term relationships that left us doubting that harmonious relationships were even possible.
Personally, I was prepared to be the single cat-lady. I had decided in my mind that I would rather be alone than in an unhappy relationship. The prospects of remaining single did not scare me.
But after much thought and contemplation, I decided that I had to get my contact information to Gene just in case his inquiry “Do you eat?” was his attempt at asking me out on a date. I am so glad that I did because Gene did take my number and invite me out for dinner, and we have been together ever since.
It has been eight years since Gene and I first met. We have had our ups and downs as does any couple whose lives are knit together with stresses and responsibilities. But what we have is a beautiful thing – one that I cherish and would not trade for anything.
Gene has become my best friend and life companion. I have learned to trust him, which believe me took many years. We both had protective walls that did not come down easily, and we were determined not to lose our individuality in our relationship. We often repeated to each other that we didn’t “need” each other, but we enjoyed each other’s companionship. It was a process that took much patience and understanding.
Three years into our relationship, in August of 2015, Gene and I had a commitment ceremony with just our children (all seven of them) and their significant others in attendance. Gene’s sister stood by my side and a young man whom Gene had mentored through his teen years stood as his best man.
It was a lovely ceremony that reflected our love for each other, but later I would reflect that it also showed that I was holding back to a degree. I still had some mistrust to overcome. I also had a strong desire to prove myself as a strong, independent woman that did not need someone to take care of me. If push came to shove, I could and would make it on my own.
Therefore, when Gene proposed to me in 2019, I initially accepted, then declined. It was a low point in our relationship. We experienced hurt and uncertainty. The depth and strength of our love was tested.
I took the opportunity to seek counseling, which was a big step in my healing process. It became clear to me, over time, that I would not be able to completely trust Gene with my heart if I did not take the time to heal some old wounds. Through that process, I was reminded that Gene was not the cause of my past pain, but rather he was the one secure anchor in my life that I could hold on to during the uncertainties of life.
This truth became more evident to me over time, and then, while riding the stormy waves of 2020, I knew in my heart that I wanted to unite myself fully with Gene through good and bad, through thick and thin, through the beautiful and the ugly.
This man, who is now my husband, proved to me in multiple ways that he is strong and steady to the core. He is caring, loving, and honest, which are rare attributes. Though it took time and effort, Gene and I finally joined our lives together in marriage this past fall.
And now I am proudly referred to as Mrs. Beck. Forever and always.