Mary Kaczmarek and Bill Soukup

Mary, 51, met Bill, 50, when friends introduced them in a Cleveland bar on New Year's Eve 1987. They thought they had met the one they would marry – it just took nine years to get down the aisle.

The tensions: We took an immediate liking to each other. We spent most of the night talking and exchanged phone numbers when we parted company. A few days later, Bill called and we started seeing each other. We enjoyed each other's company, but there were tensions. I was unhappy in my work, and Bill had a serious drinking problem. Within a few months, we broke up. We saw each other about a year later and both expressed sadness that our relationship didn't last.

The letter: Fast forward to 1996. We were emotionally in very different places than when we first met. Neither of us had married. In March, I received a letter from Bill. He had recently found an old Scrabble score sheet from a game between “Bill and Mary.” It reminded him of how much he had enjoyed our relationship. He wanted me to know he had been sober for three years. Would I be willing to get together for lunch?

The curiosity: I read the letter with mixed feelings: Joy and gratitude that he had quit drinking. Hurt feelings from things we said when we broke up. Curiosity about whether I would find him as fun and interesting as I once had. And deep conviction that my life would never be the same again.

The amazement: We met for lunch – and were engaged two months later. We were married in October 1996, surrounded by friends and family who were too polite to say how amazed they were. We moved to Charlotte in 1999 and have expanded our family to include two daughters adopted from China. We still feel amazed and humbled by the wonderful direction our lives have taken.

Kathy Haight