On Love

"Make sure you do today what you can't do tomorrow"

Between work, travel and kids, life just got in the way of Edward Urbaniak and Erwin Lobo getting married. It's just a piece of paper, right? But after tragedy touched the couple, that piece of paper and their union seemed pretty important.
By Ellen McCarthy
Sunday, September 5, 2010

By January 2000, Ed Urbaniak knew what he wanted: not just a relationship, but the kind of love that could sustain a family.

He set up an AOL Web site, "My Next Man," plainly spelling out his criteria: a guy under 6 feet tall who considered himself a Christian and was interested in eventually having children.

"My degree is engineering -- you have to understand that I have lists of things," says Urbaniak, who graduated from West Point Military Academy, spent nine years in the Army and is now a real estate agent.

Erwin Lobo had just moved to New York City from the Philippines that February, so he was new to a lot of things, including Internet dating. When he spied Urbaniak's Web page, he was impressed by Urbaniak's forthright deliberateness, and the two began chatting regularly, discussing their lives and hopes.

In June, they decided to meet and set up a date at a coffee shop in Chelsea. And an hour after the appointed time, Lobo -- new to the subway system and without a cellphone -- showed up, greeting Urbaniak briefly, then rushing to the restroom. "I have a very small bladder," he explains with a shrug.

No matter: By the time they moved on to dinner at a Thai restaurant, all was forgiven. Urbaniak reached across the table to hold Lobo's hand, and Lobo says, "I suddenly felt connected to him."

It was mutual. After two weeks of dating, Urbaniak invited Lobo to meet his parents back home in Buffalo for the Fourth of July.

That October, Lobo, a marketing professional, got a job offer in Washington. Urbaniak, now 45, signed on with a D.C. company the next month to be with him. They bought a house and began their lives as a unit.

"Right from the very start, I felt like we'd been doing this for a long, long time," says Lobo, 37.

"Our souls felt connected," adds Urbaniak.

On their one-year anniversary, Urbaniak asked Lobo to marry him. Lobo declined, saying he didn't want to go forward without the blessing of Urbaniak's Catholic parents. So they shelved the idea, reasoning that it was just a piece of paper. "In our eyes, we felt like we were married anyway," says Urbaniak.

By the end of 2002, they started planning for children, and in August 2003 they were sent a picture of a young boy from Guatemala. "We fell in love with him and decided right away that he was the one for us," says Urbaniak. The boy, Leon, wasn't able to come to the United States until March 2004, and then, at almost 17 months old, he didn't speak or know how to eat on his own.

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