Older and wiser, couple reunited after nearly 10 years apart
Published: February 26, 2007 | 5645th good news item since 2003
When Frederick Thrower saw Charlonda Mathis at a San Antonio military-base hangout, he decided he needed a plan to get her to notice him.
He’d certainly noticed her: “I remember she had on a white dress, and her hair was cut in a short bob,” says Frederick, now 37, of that night in 1992. “I started acting a little goofy to break the ice. She wasn’t too into me.”
That’s because she translated “goofy” into “tipsy.”
“Military men could drink a lot, so I thought, ‘He’s drunk,’ ” says Charlonda, now 35 and a transplant social worker at Medical City Dallas Hospital and a part-time Mary Kay consultant.
Fortunately for him, the two continued running into each other during the following weeks.
“One night, we were all playing cards, and here he comes again,” she says. “All of the sudden, I thought, ‘You know what? He’s kind of handsome.’ ”
By that time, she’d learned that he was divorced and had two young sons. And the goofiness? “That’s just his personality. Fun, exciting, silly.”
The two began dating, and soon things got serious. Fast-forward to 1995, when everything was still going smoothly. In Charlonda’s mind, anyway.
But Frederick had an announcement: He was going back to his ex-wife.
“I had two sons at that time,” recalls Frederick, who works as a logistics specialist with Total Transportation. “As a father, there was a point when I made a decision that I needed to be there for them.”
“So he basically wanted to be a better man,” Charlonda adds. “He said, ‘I have to go back.’ At that time, he also found religion, but he broke my heart in the process.”
It took her a long time to recover. Besides work and graduate school, “I did not go out of the house for nine months,” she says. “I wouldn’t date; I couldn’t look at another man. I was so devastated.”
Frederick stayed with his wife for nine years and fathered two more sons. But, in the end, their problems outweighed the good he was trying to do by staying, he says, pointing to verbal abuse as one of their issues.
“We decided we need to do something; the kids don’t need to see all of this,” he says. “It was better for me to go.”
Over the years, Frederick had often thought of Charlonda, “but it was in the sense of, ‘I had a good girl, and it’s over,’ ” he recalls. He’d heard that she was in a relationship and had a son, but he still felt the need to apologize for abruptly ending their romance.
In 2003, he gave her a call.
“I also let her know that the love she gave me made me a better person,” he says. “I said, ‘You made me feel like a stronger man, better, like I could do anything. You always had my back and were always there for me.’ I just appreciated the way she made me feel.”
“I wasn’t hearing it,” Charlonda says. “It was kind of, ‘Oh, OK, yeah. Whatever.’ ”
In 2005, he called again, this time to wish her a happy birthday. At that point, Charlonda had grown to view Frederick’s breakup from a parental perspective.
“His sons were in another state, and he’d told me, ‘I miss my sons,’ ” she says. “I didn’t know what a parent went through at that time. In 2005, I told him I didn’t blame him.”
Then Frederick told her that, by the way, he was divorcing his wife again. “I had to get off the phone,” Charlonda says. “I felt this flood of emotions I didn’t know I had.”
That call led to many e-mails, which led to a decision to meet.
Before the reunion, “he sent me a picture and he said, ‘I’ve gained weight,’ ” Charlonda recalls.
“I said, ‘I’ve gained weight. Who hasn’t? None of us look like we did in high school.’ ”
Frederick, who was living in Dallas, flew to San Antonio. When they met at the airport, “my heart was beating so fast and he was so nervous,” she says. “I felt bad for him.”
Still, “it was like everything I thought it would be,” he says. “She was looking beautiful, I’m nervous, but I’m wondering, ‘Could this actually be real? Is this real?’ ”
It was so real that they began dating immediately. Not that they didn’t have a few issues; Charlonda, for one, didn’t want history to repeat itself.
“I think I did a lot of testing of him,” she says.
“I’d make little comments: ‘If you don’t like the way I wear my hair, are you going to leave me?’ I was distrusting in the beginning. Because of the bad relationship I was in [with her son’s father], I’d lost a lot of trust, period.”
After they ironed out their doubts, it was time to discuss the wedding.
“We’d waited this long, so there was no ‘Let’s see if this will work out,’ ” Charlonda says. “We’re soul mates.”
They planned a big ceremony in San Antonio on March 4, 2006, but because Frederick’s father, a minister, couldn’t be there that day, he married them in a separate ceremony on Jan. 13 of that year.
“I tell her, ‘I love you so much I married you twice already,’ ” Frederick says, adding that his wife “encourages me to be a team. I can’t imagine not having her.”
Now living in Dallas, the couple is raising Charlonda’s 8-year-old son, and they see Frederick’s boys, ages 18, 14, 10 and 7, as often as they can.
The kids soon will have another sibling; Charlonda recently learned that she’s pregnant.
“We’d like a girl,” she says with a laugh, “but as long as the baby is healthy and beautiful, that’s all we care about.”
Looking back on their nine-year breakup, “I’ve thought, ‘Oh, we lost so much time,’ ” Charlonda says.
“But we’ve both matured. Now, we know how to appreciate each another. Time and experience have taught us that.”