It’s the same old story: Boy with the funny last name meets girl and they marry. Boy and girl have three children together. Boy has vasectomy. Boy and girl get divorced.
“After my divorce, I wasn’t interested in dating or having any more kids,” John Upthegrove said, twisting a curl on the head of his newborn twin son napping in his arms. “And I never thought I would fall in love again. But then, I met Holly.”
He placed one of the twins that he and Holly had created— Jack, or maybe it was Luke—on the floor, allowing him to explore the zebra rug while repeatedly smashing metal coasters against the coffee table. I cringed with each crash, but John, a veteran parent, easily ignored the distraction and engaged in the retelling of their story.
The couple met four years ago on a blind date. He sold pharmaceuticals and she sold office supply sales, often to the same OB/GYN doctors. One of their doctors, a part-time Cupid, had phoned an unsuspecting Holly, a recent divorcee, with John in the office during one of his sales calls.
“I was put on the spot and thought there was no way that this would work out,” Holly said. “I did it as a favor for the doctor.”
The couple agreed to meet at Kilkenny’s on Cherry Street. John spotted a “beautiful girl with a great smile” in the parking lot, and was thrilled with the doctor’s choice.
“He looked like Mel Gibson,” Holly said. I asked if that was a good thing and she laughed. “He had a great smile and he was very handsome, very attractive … so, yes.”
After dazzling her with a Kramer impersonation in the middle of a restaurant, John thought he had conquered the night. However, Holly had completed her favor to the doctor and was uninterested in any future dates.
“My guard was up and I thought we could be friends,” Holly said. “But I didn’t think I wanted to pursue anything further. The whole thing of him having three kids scared me a little.”
Misreading the “girl signals,” John placed several unreturned phone calls to Holly following the date, remembering she’d laughed at his Kramer portrayal.
“He was very persistent,” Holly recalled. “I thought, if he’s really that interested, let’s just see if he would cook dinner for me. So I said, ‘What are you going to make me for dinner tonight?’ ”
John could barely cook, so he kept the menu simple—meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. Even then, he needed help.
“He texted me from the grocery store and asked me how you make a baked potato,” she said. “I had never cooked one either, so I said, ‘Just throw them in the oven for like thirty minutes.’ They were rock hard.”
John laughed at the memory of trying to cut into the potato. “She doesn’t want me to cook for her,” he said. “That’s not where my talents are.”
He unveiled his talents after the meal, utilizing a classic romance tool by wooing Holly with a guitar and a song.
“I realized my reservation wasn’t because of his kids, it was my excuse,” she said. “My experiences in the past tainted my viewpoint. I had been married before and it was a bad marriage. I didn’t know if I would ever get married again. But, after that night I was more interested than I was before.”
John and Holly were engaged after two months of dating, and tied the knot eight months later. As the months passed, Holly, who had been quietly happy with no children of her own, suddenly felt the urge to procreate.
“When I saw him with his kids, I thought, ‘This is a man that I could have children with,’ ” she said.
However, there was a hiccup: John’s baby-making parts had been snipped during his first marriage, following the birth of their third child. He had no plans of making a fourth.
“Well, she changed my mind,” he said. “I had already had three kids, and kids are tiring. But do you ever hear about the constant drip of water that wears away the stone?”
After a year or more of dripping, the couple decided it was time to have a family of their own.
“We thought he could get a reversal, but it might not have worked,” Holly said. “So we decided to do in vitro fertilization. The second time we tried, it worked, and that was Jack and Luke.”
Luke pulled at the hem of his mother’s dress and began to fuss. Holly retrieved her son from the floor, buried her face in his neck rolls, and sighed a happy sigh.
“I told her that kids are tiring,” John said, as he flashed his “Mel Gibson” smile and began singing to Jack. Or maybe it was Luke.
John and Holly Upthegrove were married at People’s Church (now Sanctuary) on March 22, 2008.