Tom Spier was mostly just going through the motions. He routinely checked his online dating profile and still went on first dates, but he’d long ago stopped believing anything would come of it.
It had been 15 years since Spier, now 49, had been in love. He always hoped to marry but assumed it was too late for him. Things never seemed to click with the women he met, and the ones he did like often gave him the brush-off — writing down fake phone numbers or promising to call and never following up.
But the real estate agent knew he had a lot to offer: He was caring, devoted and stable.
“I said, ‘I will be single for the rest of my life until I find the right one,’ ” he recalls.
So when Dinkinesh Getachew formally extended her hand at the end of their date in February 2011, he knew what that meant: she wasn’t interested. Spier’s business associates had set him up with Getachew, who runs a home health care firm. The conversation over drinks at Evening Star Cafe in Alexandria had gone well. Although Getachew said yes when Spier asked if she’d be interested in a second date, the handshake suggested to him she was just being polite.
Three days later Getachew e-mailed, saying she was surprised she hadn’t heard from him. Spier quickly called to apologize and set up plans to go to the movies.
By their third date, Spier was enamored. Getachew, who was born in Ethiopia, was petite and soft-spoken, but she was also beautiful, tough and warm. They dated for less than two months before he told her he loved her.
“You’re not supposed to tell them, I guess, but I did,” he recalls. “I was surprised because I had lost hope that it was ever going to be in my life, I really did.”
Getachew wasn’t ready to hear it. “I’m cautious. It’s just my nature. I said, ‘It’s not possible — it’s too early.’ But I was interested. He was a nice guy, very caring and gentle and hardworking — all the things that I’d been looking for,” remembers Getachew, now 46.
Getachew had never lost faith that she’d find the right one. For years she’d hoped it would happen “sooner rather than later,” and she filled her life with friends and family and work in the meantime.
When Spier took her to meet his father in Florida that Memorial Day, she began to think he really was serious about the relationship. They spent more and more time together, especially on weekends. It was Spier’s natural habit to eat standing up and race out the door in the mornings, but Getachew requested that he slow down, sit for breakfast and spend time investing in the relationship.
“She said, ‘I’m not doing this for casual things.’ And I said, ‘I’m not, either,’ ” he remembers. “She said, ‘If we’re going to get married we’ve got to build a relationship and that means we’ve got to spend time.’ It was very striking to me that she said that. It meant, ‘I want to build something with you.’ ”
In October, they spent almost two weeks together in China; by the end of that trip, she was convinced that what they were building would work. “It was his character. He’s got a love of family, which is very important to me,” she says. “He was looking for what I was looking for — someone to settle down with. And he was serious about it, so everything sort of fell into place.”
By early 2012, they began to talk openly about marriage. Spier’s mother died of cancer six years ago, and his siblings had been saving her engagement ring for him to one day give to his bride. He found a jeweler in New York who remade the setting, and on a Sunday morning in April, they walked Spier’s dog through Meridian Hill Park, as had become their tradition. Mid-way through the walk, Spier dropped to one knee and asked Getachew to marry him.
The couple knew they wanted children and visited a fertility clinic to see what their options were. They were told there was almost no chance of conceiving, even with in vitro fertilization.
Spier and Getachew were saddened by the news but knew there were a lot of children who needed homes, so they planned to pursue adoption.
In early summer, Getachew began to feel sick and frequently sore. She thought that taking up the practice of hot yoga had caused changes to her monthly cycle. When she told Spier something wasn’t right, he suggested she take a pregnancy test. It came out positive. “I said, ‘No, it can’t be.’ ” She tried a second test and a third. All positive.
Getachew, who will be 47 next month, didn’t believe it until a doctor did an ultrasound and she and Spier could see the baby. The two are expecting a boy in January.
On Sept. 15, Spier and Getachew exchanged vows before a crowd of guests and onlookers at Meridian Hill Park. After the ceremony, their friends and family toasted the couple with drinks and an Ethiopian feast at the Josephine Butler Parks Center.
The two are sometimes astonished by how quickly their lives have changed.
“It’s amazing, but it’s great change,” Spier says. “It’s exactly what I wanted and never thought would come. The rational part of me said, ‘It’s never coming.’ And it’s come, and it just gets better every day.”