I get asked this question fairly often: “How did you meet your wife?”
Sometimes it’s out of interest from a friend or colleague, and other times I think it’s out of sheer surprise when people find out that I’m married to a “normal” girl.
Even though society has been on this integration/inclusive kick for quite some time, it still seems out of the ordinary when a person with a disability hangs out with, interacts with or gets married to a person outside the disabled world. Our society has a lot of work to do in this regard.
So, here’s the story of how Joy and I met & fell in love. Enjoy!
Back in October 1999, I began “chasing” my wife. Not in some creepy stalker way, but close. (haha)
It sounds corny, but honestly – the moment I spoke to her, I knew that I was going to marry her. I didn’t know how that was going to be possible and thus – the chase began.
The very first time we met was at a little “party” that Joy had at her house after church on a Sunday evening when her parents were out of town. Shhh. I’m not sure if she ever told them…
I was invited to the party only because I was driving my friend Rick and his presence at the party was needed. I wouldn’t say it was a party, more than a get-together. Really; how much trouble can a bunch of Christian young adults get into after church on a Sunday evening when they were not forced to be there?
I recall watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” eating Doritos…I may have had a can of Coke. It was WILD.
For whatever reason, I didn’t talk to Joy that night and didn’t even know it was her house. I was just there, along with about 25 other young adults.
Fast forward a month or two and we met one night at the home of the Halliday family. That same friend mentioned above (Rick) brought Joy to one of our youth/young adult events in a little hamlet called Wanstead, just outside of Wyoming Ontario.
It was October 6th, 1999 to be specific.
Our church was small enough that youth and young adults sort of ran together and no one actually noticed that 12-year-olds and 21-year-olds were in the same group. My friend Rick was at University in London and he came back for our Wednesday evening get-together and he brought Joy with him. They had been hanging out at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship…and…Joy had a crush on him.
As Joy was sitting on the tailgate of Ricks’ truck by the campfire, I started to talk to her briefly and then we went inside. I learned that she was taking Music at university. I was just a little guy from Oil Springs – I didn’t even know one could take Music at university! I asked her “so like piano lessons?”
Oh boy… Jonny the country bumpkin. FYI – To my good friends and some family members, I go by Jonny. It keeps things simple, since my brother-in-law’s name is Jonathan. But please, don’t call me Jonny, unless you feel like we’re good enough friends. It’s a term I reserve for the people in my life who are closest to me.
After our time outside, we went indoors for more snacks and discussion. As soon as we went inside, I located the washroom and then went into the living room where everyone had congregated. There was nowhere to sit so I was looking for a spot on the floor somewhere, when Joy called out “You can sit here,” motioning to the empty spot beside her on the Piano bench.
And the rest is history! We got married.
Just kidding. There’s quite a bit more to the story.
And you thought you were done reading. Nice try. 🙂
I remember going home that night and my Mom was laying in bed watching TV when I went upstairs. She asked how it went and I told her I met this girl who was taking music at university. Joy had left quite an impression.
The next day Joy was all I could think about so I emailed Rick and asked if he had Joy’s email address. He got back to me with “[email protected]”
This was back in the day when every character mattered, and the IT department at UWO could not accommodate “ejnesseth”, so she became “ejnesset.” (For those that don’t know – Joy’s first name is actually Elizabeth, but she has always gone by Joy, from a young age.)
Once I had her email, I dashed off an email explaining who I was, something casual
and I waited…
I sent the email Thursday morning at about 9AM, and I didn’t hear anything back until Friday morning. Apparently Joy had to check with Rick as to why Jonny was emailing her. Rick vouched for me and told her I was not some kind of weirdo.
When I saw the email in my inbox, my heart leapt; Literally.
Joy and I started corresponding back and forth via email from that day onward. Each day, emails with a little bit of nothing, random discussion, current events were sent back and forth.
About one month later I was coming to London to do some shopping for the grocery store that I owned (that story is coming in a future post).
I told Joy I was coming into town and maybe she would like to go to a wholesale store with me. In my mind, this was our first date!
I picked her up in front of Talbot College at UWO (Western University today) in the circular driveway out front. I came around the corner and saw her standing there with her friend Laura. I was driving my Dad’s F150 4×4 and it was pretty huge for a little guy like me. I actually drove up onto the curb a little as I was approaching. They started to laugh. What a great first impression.
We went to the wholesale store and did some shopping. I was so nervous. I ended up buying her a huge Kinder egg while we were there. I was trying to impress her with my big wad of cash…
I don’t recall too much about that day other than that, but it was a good day.
In my mind, I had planted the seeds of our “relationship.”
After that day we became very good friends. We hung out every weekend, I drove the one hour from Oil Springs to London fairly often to go out for dinner or to attend church together.
This all happened over the course of a year until THE DAY.
The day I’m referring to is the day that I came down to pick Joy up to attend church on a Sunday evening at London Gospel Temple. It was the place where all the University kids were going at the time.
We had a little time before church so we were sitting at her dining room table, just chatting and she asked me a question that changed EVERYTHING.
Well, it was really my answer to this question that literally changed the course of our future forever.
Joy – “When we first met, what did you think of me?”
Jonny – “Excuse me?”
Joy – “You know, the first time we met what did you think? Did you think I was ugly? Fat? Just tell me, what did you think?”
Jonny – “Not exactly”
Joy – “OK, so tell me”
Jonny – “Are you sure you want to know?”
Joy – “YES”
Jonny – “Well…the first time we met…I knew that you were the girl that I was going to marry…”
Insert long awkward pause
At this time, Joy put her head down on the table and she honestly didn’t know what to say. She knew that her answer was going to change life for us, one way or another…
Keep in mind that when I was saying this, we were FRIENDS. There never was any talk of anything more. Of course, I wanted there to be more because I was absolutely in love with her, but at the time there was nothing else to the relationship. We had just become really good friends.
I had a little time to think during the long awkward pause.
Did I wish that I hadn’t said anything? Not really.
Do I wish she would have pledged her undying love for me right there? Yes and No. Not now, knowing what I know now…
After the long pause and the stumbling for words, I had decided at this point that I should just head home. Joy convinced me to keep the plan that we had, to go to church together.
It was an awkward evening. During the service, the Pastor decided to have everyone across the room join hands as he felt a need to pray for families. Joy turned to me in a somewhat mean way and said “haha – you have to hold my hand!”
We held hands, he prayed, I felt awkward.
After church, I drove her home. We didn’t talk much.
Joy tells me that the next 2 weeks were one of internal turmoil because she just didn’t know what to do. We emailed back and forth a few times and it was a bit strange, but I was hoping it would pass.
Little did I know, something better was coming!
We talked on the phone 2 weeks after, on Sunday afternoon and she said: “Why don’t you come to church with me tonight.” I thought it would be weird, but she said – “just come, it will be fine.”
I picked Joy up. It was nice to see her. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my entire life. We drove from North London over to London Gospel Temple, which is about a 15-20 minute drive. We chatted, nothing too interesting, but things seemed “ok.”
We pulled into the parking lot of the church, got out of the car and headed for the front entrance. And then it got WEIRD.
What happened next I can honestly say without a doubt, was the WEIRDEST & BEST night of my life. Without a doubt.
Up until that point in my life I had only ever dated 2 other girls. Both nice girls, but it just did not work for one reason or another. The thing is, both of them lived elsewhere – not in London and it had been quite some time since I had seen either.
That was about to change.
I walked in the door of the church and almost immediately I was greeted with a “Hi” from the first girl that I dated. I introduced her to “my friend Joy.” That was weird, given what had taken place just 2 weeks earlier with the whole “marriage” admission. It was a brief hello. I couldn’t help but think “What is she doing here?”
Then I explained to Joy that this was the girl that I told her about…and she thought it was funny!
The service was about to start soon so we went to get a seat on the main level of the church.
As soon as I sat down, I could hear a bunch of people yelling “Jonny…Jonny.”
I looked around the room, trying to zero in on where the sound was coming from.
It was coming from the balcony where it turns out, the entire youth group from my home church had congregated. They had driven from Oil Springs to London to attend church that night.
Some of them proceeded to make statements like, “oooo Jonny’s got a girlfriend,” referring to Joy, sitting beside me. It was such bad timing for this kind of thing!
I was so embarrassed. I gave them a wave from the ground level and tried to ignore the fact that some were still making noises. In this crowd of young people from my home church was…You guessed it….The ONLY other girl that I have ever dated, except the one I saw 5 minutes earlier.
So far this night is off to a great start, I pick up Joy feeling quite awkward, I see all these other people – the whole thing is weird. I just want to go home or at least go out and sit in my truck.
Thankfully the singing started and that diverted attention to what was happening on stage. We sang a few fast songs and then the worship became quiet and personal and we sang a few songs.
As is the case in many churches, between the singing the next part of the service the Pastor will instruct people to turn around and say hello to the people seated around them before taking a seat.
Right at this time Joys friend Sarah came in late and loudly whispered to Joy “how are things with you guys?”
Please note; Whisper yelling in a loud room full of people does not make your voice quiet enough for the people around you NOT to hear you.
It was at this moment that I heard Joy say “He’s the one!”
The one what? Like “THE ONE?”
Sarah gave Joy a quick hug, they said they would talk after and we were seated.
As we were seated, Joy sat down so close to me that I assumed the row must have filled up to the point of needing to squeeze in to accommodate everyone. I leaned over and looked down the row and there was plenty of room.
It would seem as though she wanted to sit that close to me! 🙂
I was so nervous, I turned to Joy and said: “I have to go to the bathroom!”
I went out to the bathroom, found a stall and sat in there for quite some time. Not because I had to go to the bathroom, but because I had no game plan for the next phase.
I never believed the next phase would come, so I was dumbfounded. I just sat there.
Here’s what happened to Joy that night
For those who aren’t Christians or are cessationists (you know who you are…) this is going to stretch you a little.
During the worship time, the Lord spoke to Joy so clearly indicating that I (Jonny Hyjek) was THE ONE. Like – the guy that she was going to marry.
And even more interestingly, in an instant, her feelings changed. In the blink of an eye, she loved me. Feelings that she did not have 30 minutes prior, were there and it was if they had been there forever. Talk about weird.
I don’t want to say weird, because that would diminish the Lord’s work in all this.
It was HIM who gave her those feelings.
I needed a miracle to find a wife and I got a miracle. I will talk about this in another post at some time, but I truly believed that I would not find a wife, because after all, how could a normal, beautiful girl like Joy, love a guy like ME? I walked with a limp, I was shorter than she was, had other random health issues.
After that evening, we went out to Crabby Joe’s and talked. We talked about our “relationship” and it was at that time that we both knew 110% that we would be married. We had been such good friends before that this next part seemed so natural.
And the rest, I will save for another day. It turns out that this post is over 2500 words, which is a little crazy. Just be thankful I didn’t have to tell this to you in person. 🙂
Also published on Medium.