You know the saying that wine gets better with age? That’s the cliche that comes to mind when it comes to Timothy Arthur Walsh and Catherine Amia Walsh’s relationship. For one, meeting the pair for the first time, it is easy to see how the two are comfortable with each other, often finishing each other’s sentences, throwing quick smiles at each other now and again and once or twice, lightly putting each other on the spot about their nine-year love journey.
Simply put, a 25-year-old Information Technologist two years into his voluntary work at a community library meets an 18-year-old senior four girl who often comes to read at the same library. One thing leads to another and the rest is history. However that will be doing a lot of injustice to a story so good, so, let us go back at the beginning.
“The very first time we met, we were having a quiz at the library (Kawempe Youth Center) and he [Timothy] was asking the questions and I was one of the participants. Out of about 10 questions, I passed only two and after the session, I went to him to express how hard I had found the questions. He told me I had to read hard and widely to enlarge my knowledge,” Catherine recalls.
To Timothy, it was through the various interactions they had during different activities at the Centre that he eventually expressed interest.
“Firstly, he invited me to dance with him when there was a ‘Bash’ at the Centre, and I told him I don’t dance with men,” [Laughing] “Now, here we are, dancing together!” Catherine happily shares adding, “I had already got a crush on him, so when he expressed interest, it was; ‘I am interested, you are interested, why not!”
One step at a time, one day at a go, months turned to years and after nine years, the couple did their introduction ceremony on February 23, 2019.
“If you asked me, I call it over dating, but it came due to circumstances along the way. There was a lot we would have wanted to do, but we couldn’t because Cathy was in school – we had the mind that it should be education and career first,” Timothy pointedly explains.
But ‘over dating’ also comes with its own challenges. Fears that the other person might get a better suitor and fears that the relationship could deteriorate into nothingness over the years. Timothy had no such fears.
“Cathy is someone careful, well brought up and she treasures herself. She knows who she is and what she wants and she is not the kind of person to be swayed, so that was never a worry. My only concern was on my part; whether I would be able to meet her expectations due to the many challenges in today’s life… whether I would be the kind of person she wanted to be with.”
School and the relationship
Lucky for them, Catherine was in a day school and her home was in the same neighbourhood as the Youth Center where Timothy worked. Better still, she was working as a volunteer at the same Centre. This meant plenty of time for the love birds to meet. Only her siblings, a few cousins and close friends knew about the relationship. Her mother only learned about it later; six years down the road.
“Personally, I am not an outgoing person, so the few times we went out, was taking a ride out of town and going sightseeing around Kampala. But we took walks, ate together, cooked together, worked together and that made up most of the nine years,” says Timothy.
But when all was said and done, her studies completed and the clock was ticking, Catherine started feeling the relationship needed to be taken to another level.
“I used to make a timeline for my life and by 25, I was supposed to be married. So, here I was, done with university, in a relationship and the wedding wasn’t any closer. At some point, I thought, ‘Maybe we are just going to be dating forever,” Catherine confesses.
Timothy too felt the pressure, “When she clocked 25, and it was not yet official, things got intense. She was asking for visitation to her parents, an introduction – all interesting things, but you can’t do such things without money. Since I was always looking out for her interests, I would always be bothered that we hadn’t made it official.”
What kept her going was the confidence she had in herself and her partner. However, when asked whether she even for a moment considered throwing in the towel, the librarian is not shy to admit,
“Of course, along the way you meet people who are interested in you and you start wondering whether you should keep the person you have or go with another, “But If I stopped this, meeting someone else, getting to know them would have been a very long process too. But we had moved so far, and I just couldn’t leave. The love and connection we have, plus I always wanted to get married to the first man I had been with.”
To the couple, there was, and still is so much that brings them together and makes their bond stronger. From simple things like having a liking for the same colours, their interest in technology, ‘experimental’ cooking and the fact that they both acknowledged Jesus Christ as their Lord.
With a touch of seriousness, Timothy notes, “One of the things that bind us together arise out of a genuine interest in each other, a strong conviction and comfort we get from each other. I know my weakness and I am glad my path crossed with someone who sees me for who I am – not many girls can stay with you for that long. So, however rough some days or hours we might have, all I know is that there is no other person.”
Braving the challenges
Away from the nature of their relationship, Catherine and Timothy also grappled with other challenges that threatened the existence of their relationship. To Catherine, it was the many girls that surrounded Timothy.
“He is an IT specialist and he was an instructor at the Centre, and he had these many girls around him! [laughing hard] Others would come skimpily dressed, others would take his number and text him [we have an open policy with our phones] and I would feel so bad. He would just tell me, but you know it’s you I love,” she shares. Next to this was a constant concern of whether she, being an Alur would be accepted by her partner’s Baganda family, even when they already knew her.
“My boss is his [Timothy] big sister, so, his parents only knew me as their daughter’s employee, and I always wondered whether they would accept me. But that doesn’t bother me anymore because I know they accept me for who I am,” she adds.
“On my part, they were mainly financial challenges. Again, it is one thing working with your girlfriend and another working with your girlfriend and your sisters, your big sister being your girlfriend’s boss. It becomes complicated because then, you see someone telling your girlfriend what they shouldn’t do or inappropriately communicating with her. At the back of my mind, I would sometimes think – ‘They should know better how to communicate with this person because she is going to be my wife!’ Timothy confesses.
Dating for a long time is popularly associated with knowing the other person better and so when the pair is asked whether they feel this puts them in a good place in terms of knowing each other better, whereas Catherine answers in the affirmative, Timothy believes that after dating for nine years anyone, one ought to put both their feet into the relationship. “This now is about holding jealously what we’ve got,” he notes as Catherine adds, “The formalisation of our relationship is the seal that this is going nowhere.”
At exactly 8:30 am on a bright Friday morning of November 22 [a day to Catherine’s 27th birthday] Timothy and Catherine were at St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe where they walked down the aisle at 9 am. By 10 am, the two had been declared one by Rev Samuel Muwonge, the head of the Missions Department at Namirembe Diocese.
At 2 pm, around 150 of their guests were at Greenfield Gardens Kanyanya for the wedding reception and at 6 pm, they saw them off. “We couldn’t wait to be married,” Catherine jokingly throws in, noting, “One of the people who graced our occasion was the Prime Minister of the Alur Kingdom, Jadipu Vincent Ochaya Orach carrying remarks from the King.[Her mother comes from the royal family]
The presence of a number of clergymen who graced our occasion highlighted the day in addition to the presence of our parents, friends and family. My only hurt was, he didn’t get to meet my Dad [He passed on]. I am sure he would have loved Tim. They have the same sense of humour and share a certain demeanor.”
Timothy is still taken aback by the fusion of both Kiganda and Alur cultures at the reception from the way both cultures expressed their joy.
Catherine is a librarian working at Kawempe Youth Center while Timothy is a social entrepreneur and founder of Liberty Emergency Care Collaborative, an organization aiming at providing first Response Services.