Kasey Bergh had made her peace with love. Not finding it again, that is.
She was holding firm to that belief in June 2012, six years after her divorce.
Then she accidentally sent a text message to a stranger.
That set into motion an awakening in a woman who was settling comfortably into middle age.
Henry Glendening, the man who received the text, however, was a restless spirit, stuck in an unhappy relationship and a dead end job. He was days away from a road trip out West to “reconnect with the universe.”
Glendening received the text about 2 p.m. while driving to his job in the paint department at the Lowe’s store in Maplewood. Bergh was in Denver to work on a project for her employer, Nestlé-Purina. After one of her co-workers got delayed in St. Louis, Bergh was hoping to salvage the day by connecting with other employees. She started sending texts.
“Hey, it’s Kasey. I was supposed to connect w Maria @ the park but her plane was delayed so I’m at the Westin. Wanted to see if I could connect w anyone else.”
Instead of dismissing the text meant for one of Bergh’s co-workers, Glendening responded to it. He said he wanted to be courteous.
“Sorry youve got the wrong number. But if i wasnt headed to work i’d b down to hang ;),” wrote Glendening.
That led to an apology from Bergh, who went on to explain her annoyance with being stuck in Denver, unable to connect with co-workers and make progress on a big project bearing down.
“I was so frustrated because I couldn’t connect with anyone, and then the only person on the planet I connect with was the wrong number,” Bergh said in an interview.
Glendening then wrote back to say he was planning a trip out West, including a stop in Colorado, although it would be well after she was back in St. Louis. The texting continued. He asked her if she was familiar with “The Secret,” a best-selling book about the “law of attraction” and the idea that a person’s thoughts dictate the positive and negative experiences in life.
“It touches on the big principles that have always been important to me,” Bergh said. He was impressed.
“In my experience, a lot of people don’t believe in that kind of stuff,” Glendening said. “They think the world is what it is and they feel the law of attraction is a silly belief.”
For a week, they kept texting, recommending to each other books, movies and music. He favors electronica. She is a classic rock fan.
At one point, he asked her age.
“Well, I’m 25 in my heart,” she said, eluding the question the first time. But with plans in the works to meet in person, Bergh knew she had to come clean.
“Here it is. I’m 53,” she said.
Her text message popped up on his screen. He did not flinch.
“It really didn’t make any difference,” he said. “We were so connected at that point through deeper stuff.”
‘SUCH A DELIGHT’
One week after the first text message exchange, Glendening and Bergh met at Coffee Cartel in the Central West End.
“It’s not like she had an aura. I’m not sure how that kind of thing works. But there was this positive, open energy about her,” Glendening said. After coffee, they went to Fair St. Louis in Forest Park to listen to the band Third Eye Blind.
“He was standing behind me and put his hands on my hips, a slightly intimate gesture,” Bergh said.
That was a pivotal moment, she said, a relationship moving beyond friendship. They ended the evening with drinks at Vin de Set, a rooftop restaurant in Lafayette Square.
They agreed to meet two days later. She arrived early at the Kaldi’s Coffee in Kirkwood, ordering her usual, a Mayan mocha, getting it iced for the warm summer evening. When he got to the table, he had in his hand the same coffee drink.
“From the very, very beginning it felt like we were on the same wavelength,” Glendening said.
“We get such a delight out of these things,” she added.
It was a short date. He had to get on the road, headed for Great Basin National Park in Nevada, an excursion that would last about 10 days with a focus on being alone to figure out life.
“I was in this awful place. I didn’t want to do retail forever,” Glendening said. “I just wanted to take a week and half, go out West, go where I can see the stars really, really well. The whole trip was about solitude, reconnecting with the universe and myself.”
As Bergh recalls: “He had sworn up and down that he would not be in contact while gone.”
But when he made it to the western edge of Utah, about 30 minutes from the national park, he checked into a hotel and called Bergh. The next morning, before checking out, he used the hotel’s Wi-Fi to send a voice memo to Bergh.
“I love you.”
FOR A REASON
Glendening cut short his trip by a couple of days. He said it was because the forecast called for cloudy skies — not good weather for stargazing. Bergh, meanwhile, listened over and over to the voice memo left for her.
“I was just like ‘wow.’ Someone else might have seen this guy as over the top,” Bergh said. But in light of how the relationship started, and how quickly it seemed to be evolving, the three-word message did not freak her out. It did, however, reposition her mindset on having a serious relationship.
She had been divorced for six years, and the longer she remained single, the longer it seemed like that was the right fit.
“I had totally embraced I was single and that I never needed a guy,” Bergh said.
“Then I met Henry.”
Within two months, Glendening moved out of his parents’ house in Fenton and into Bergh’s Lafayette Square apartment.
“Kasey is a huge inspirer. She wasn’t recommending or advocating any particular direction I go, but she encouraged exploring, finding out what I want to do.”
He had gone to the University of Missouri in Columbia, but didn’t finish. He was interested in developing apps. She suggested he begin “informational interviews to find out how people got to where they got to.” A friend of his worked at a digital agency and agreed to introduce Glendening to the head of the company. After their chat, Glendening was offered an internship, which led to a job.
When the texting began with Bergh, Glendening was in a serious relationship. But it wasn’t going particularly well, he said.
“I wasn’t sure about the relationship, sure about my life, sure if I wanted to go back to school, etc.,” he said.
At the age of 23, it was time to figure it out, Glendening said. Meeting a woman 30 years older via an errant text was certainly not part of his vision quest. Or maybe it was.
Glendening and Bergh believe things happen for a reason. Even serendipity.
‘YOU AND ME’
On June 29, 2014, exactly two years after Bergh sent the text from Denver, they went to Vin De Set, the restaurant where they had gone the first night they met for their first drink together. At the restaurant, he excused himself to go to the bathroom. He handed his iPod to an employee. Wait 15 to 20 seconds before pushing play, he instructed.
He walked back to the table, dropped to one knee, pulled a ring box from his pants pocket and popped the question.
As he was talking, Bergh heard her favorite song playing quietly from the restaurant sound system.
“I knew he had arranged that too. It’s not a song you’d typically hear in a place like that,” she said.
But for that moment, Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” could not be a more fitting choice.
“If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me…”
Three months ago, three years after the first text exchange, Bergh and Glendening were married in front of the flood wall of the Mississippi River, along a stretch where graffiti artists have been showing off their work for decades. It’s one of Glendening’s favorite places in St. Louis.
Over lunch this week at a downtown restaurant, Bergh and Glendening mused about their relationship.
“Initially, there was that social anxiety, that people would think he was my son,” Bergh said. Working in the corporate world, it was something she said she had to consider.
When they are mistakenly referred to as son and mother, they both shrug it off.
“You can’t blame them,” Glendening said. “It’s not a relationship you see very often. One that defies the age stereotype.” Especially, added Bergh, when it is the woman who is significantly older than the man.
It was getting late. Bergh had to get back to work. She asked him to take care of the check. They kissed goodbye.
Nobody looked twice.