Head over Reels in Love

0 comments Posted on September 6, 2018

by Kathy Herman

When I fell head over heels in love with Paul Herman, part of me panicked. I had been through nothing but turmoil in a previous marriage and had no intention of ever marrying again. But love was stronger than fear, and Paul’s charm more convincing than the bad memories that had blocked my way to a happier future. Whenever we spent time together, I could be myself. We never ran out of things to talk about. He was adventuresome, romantic, strong, full of integrity. When we weren’t together, he was all I thought about. He seemed to be everything I would have ever asked for, had I been brave enough to ask God for a second chance. But I wasn’t. If I’d learned anything coming out of a failed marriage, it was that I didn’t know the secret to keeping love alive.

Yet what I lacked in confidence, Paul possessed in determination. Two days after Christmas in 1987, we were married in the midst of a Colorado blizzard, and thus began an adventure that we promised would last “until we were parted by death.” Our vows were sincere, but a key component to keeping our love alive was found in something so simple that I might have missed it, had I not been so desperate.

Let’s fast-forward to the summer of our second year of marriage when we left for the Cayman Islands on a two-week vacation that Paul delighted in planning himself. The first week, we stayed at the Hyatt Britannia on Grand Cayman, a five-star hotel on Seven Mile Beach. We basked in the sun, snorkeled, ate delicious local fare, took walks on the beach, catamaran cruises under the stars and just rested in the joy of each other’s company.

For the second week of our vacation, we would be flying over to Little Cayman and staying at a resort called Pirate’s Point that catered mostly to divers. Paul indicated it would be more of an adventure because Little Cayman was about ten miles long with an average width of just over a mile, and the resort was built right on the beach and was much smaller than where we were currently staying. The woman who ran the resort was from our Texas town and made the resort famous by preparing gourmet meals for her guests.

It sounded nice, though I would have been content to stay right where we were on Grand Cayman. It was heavenly, and I really didn’t want to move.

At the end of that first week, we boarded a tiny plane (affectionately known as a puddle jumper) and flew across the crystal blue green water to the island of Little Cayman. When we started our descent, I couldn’t see the airport.

I squeezed Paul’s arm. “Honey, where’s the runway? I can’t see anything but trees.”

Before he could answer, I saw the runway—which appeared to be nothing but a dirt strip in the clearing of a jungle. What had he gotten us into?

We landed on the crusty ground with a thud and came to a stop. I saw no buildings. Just a barefoot young woman standing next to an old pickup truck.

The captain looked over his shoulder and smiled at us. “I see your ride is here.”

My heart sank. Our ride?

Paul must have read my mind. “Don’t worry, darlin’. It’s going to be a great adventure. I’ve got a wonderful week planned for us.”

I was still speechless when Paul climbed out of the plane and helped me out while the pilot put our bags in the back of the pickup.

“Hello, Hermans. I’m Rita,” the young woman said. “Gladys is anxious to meet you and is preparing an amazing dinner. I think you’re going to love our little resort.”

Before I had time to process this culture shock, I found myself sandwiched between Rita and Paul in the front seat of the pickup, headed for Pirate’s Point.

You’re probably wondering by now what this has to do with finding the key to keeping our love alive. Stay with me …

When we arrived at Pirate’s Point, it didn’t look anything like the brochure, or at least not like I had pictured it. The resort’s pet iguana, Iggy, eyed us as Rita parked the pickup and Gladys came out of the main building to greet us.

“Welcome,” Gladys said.”We’re so glad you chose to spend a week with us. I’m sorry that the white sandy beach we advertise in our brochure was stripped away last year by Hurricane Gilbert. We’ve repaired the facilities, but haven’t been able to do anything about rebuilding our white sandy beach just yet. But never fear, what you will see in that gorgeous water will more than make up for it.”

I had my doubts.

“Let me show you your room,” Gladys said. “When you’re ready, I’ll fix you something delicious to drink and you can sit and relax or stroll the grounds until dinner.”

When Gladys opened the door to our room, my heart sank even lower. While it was clean and unusually spacious and had an island ambiance, it was a huge come-down from the elegant Hyatt Britannia on Grand Cayman. And to add insult to injury, a cricket sang from somewhere in the bathroom.

After Gladys left, we put our clothes away in silence. I wasn’t sure what Paul was thinking, but I was sure it was going to be the longest week of my life. I don’t remember saying anything negative. I didn’t have to. Paul could read me like a book.

“You’re a good sport,” he said. “I know this isn’t what either of us had envisioned, but you have to admit, it is an adventure. Wild parrots, iguanas, a sandless beach—and our own private cricket in the shower.”

I smiled without meaning to.

“Well, I’ve got a different adventure planned in the morning,” Paul said. “I’ve signed us up to go fishing.”

“Fishing?” Why in the world would you sign me up for fishing? “Where?”

“Our guide will meet us at five in the morning and take us out. It’ll be fun.”

Five A.M? On vacation? What’s fun about that? 

It was then that I remembered something I had read recently about husbands needing a recreational partner, that it was truly a need, not just a want. And I was determined to do whatever I could to keep our marriage interesting.

Okay, Lord. I’ll go fishing with him. It’s not what I would choose, but I’ll do it for him.

So at 5:00 the next morning, we met the guide and trudged through a portion of jungle, the trees all stripped bare by the hurricane, creating an eerie but beautiful path to the lake. I remember enjoying the nature sights and sounds, including a morning rain shower that soaked us and hung a gorgeous rainbow for us to admire. The hours ticked by without us catching a single fish. When our time was up, I felt relieved that the fishing was behind us, but surprisingly satisfied at all we had seen in the process.

Later Paul and I talked, and I admitted that I had enjoyed the morning.

“Oh, good,” he said. “I was hoping you would because I had already signed us up for another fishing trip tomorrow.”

Once again, I decided to be pleasant and do it for Paul. If fishing made him happy, then I would be a good sport.

So the next day we drove to the other end of Little Cayman to Southern Cross, where we met our guide, Simon, who took us to the tranquil, blue green flats to fish for bonefish. I knew nothing about fishing, but Simon explained that bonefish are translucent in the water and cannot be seen, but their shadows can easily be spotted as the school moves across the flats. He showed us how to cast while standing perfectly still in the water so as not to spook the fish. I waited until we saw the shadows moving across the flats, and then I cast my bait just close enough to rouse the curiosity of one lone bonefish. A few seconds later, the fishing rod nearly bent in two as that bonefish took the bait and ran with it.”

“Pull up and reel!” Simon said. “That’s it. That’s it.”

I just remember I could hardly hold the rod and stuck the butt of it into my gut and steadied it as I reeled in the fish. My adrenaline was pumping. Paul and Simon were laughing with sheer delight. And I realized I was having the time of my life! I don’t remember how long it took me to get that fish close enough for Simon to pull it out of the water, snap a picture, and then gently release it back to the sea. But it was so much fun!

That night, back at the resort, that’s all we talked about. The other guests got a big kick out of hearing the details. I was so glad I had decided to go willingly and fish with Paul. Think what I would have missed! And what I would have missed the next day when we went out on the big waves in a rugged wooden boat with a glass bottom—our island guide’s old-fashioned fish finder. We dropped our lines down the water and let them sink to the bottom. When the guide told us to pull up, we did—and had the best time discovering what we caught as we pulled each one in. We caught 175 lbs. of fish that day and brought it in for the guide to clean and freeze and use to feed his family. Another spectacular day of discovery and fun.

Oddly enough, on the flight back to Texas, it wasn’t the Hyatt Britannia we talked about, but our grand adventure on Little Cayman. We didn’t know it then, but we had discovered one special key to keeping our love alive. We now shared a mutual passion for the same thing, which not only opened the door to hundreds more similar adventures down the road, but also gave us much to talk about and share. Ultimately, it was deep sea fishing that took us all over Florida, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Venezuela. It wasn’t just the fishing, but also the whole experience of seeing new places and cultures that we enjoyed talking about and reliving through the years.

There’s no doubt that my becoming Paul’s recreational partner enriched our 29 years of marriage and gave us endless opportunities and experiences to share. But every couple is different, and the adventures don’t have to be like ours. We knew a couple that loved baseball and traveled to different major league stadiums, planning to attend a game at each one until they had seen them all. Another couple we knew loved sailing together. Others biking. The point is great relationships are better when the conversation is flowing. And what better way for a husband and wife to keep the conversation lively than when they share a mutual love for something fun and exciting. And when he has his favorite recreational partner alongside, and she enjoys the conversation she craves, romance needs no prodding.

Bestselling suspense novelist Kathy Herman has published 22 novels, including her latest release, A Treacherous Mix. She loves photography and lives in the Pacific Northwest with a rescue cat named Prissy.

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