One of the best / worst things about grief is that it has a way of bringing old memories to the surface. This can be a bittersweet and painful process, remembering both pleasant memories that can never be repeated and others best left buried. I’ve been trying to focus on the sweet anecdotes, the ones that bring warmth to my heart and a smile to my face.
Today I was thinking about the day my husband proposed. We had been dating for four-and-a-half years at that point, which sounds like a long time, but I was not quite 21 when he “popped the question”. (Does anyone even use that term anymore, or am I really dating myself here?)
We had plans to go to dinner with a group of friends that evening and arranged to meet them at the restaurant. My then-boyfriend called me to discuss what time he would be at my house to pick me up. I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but I remember thinking that he was acting weird, and if I hadn’t known better, I would have thought he was drunk. (Neither of us were / are big drinkers and I’ve only seen my husband intoxicated twice in our marriage – both funny stories and perhaps I’ll share those another time.)
When I got in his car, a 1988 Trans Am – his dream car, he had an idiotic smile on his face. I kept asking him what was up, because he was just not acting normally. Not by a long shot. He was ordinarily so smooth and cool, but that night he was just acting so odd!
On the way to the restaurant, he kept opening the middle console, looking inside it, closing it again and grinning. I would furrow my brow and look at him funny and ask “What is going on?!” He insisted it was nothing, but he would not stop opening the console and peeking inside.
Finally, about halfway to the restaurant, we were stopped at a red light and apparently the suspense was too much for him to handle. He opened it one last time, reached inside, pulled out a little velvet box and asked, very politely and formally, “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Yes. He really did propose to me at a red light.
These days, proposals have become such a production, with many potential grooms trying to outdo the man before with an elaborate presentation and fanfare. While many of these are romantic gestures, others are done simply for the “wow” factor. And there are many future brides who wouldn’t think of saying “yes” if the proposal wasn’t right.
That wasn’t me. Naturally when he asked me to marry him, all I could think to say was “yes!” Then the light turned green and we were off again. At that point, I couldn’t stop giggling and he couldn’t stop grinning and now both of us looked like idiots.
When we got to the restaurant, he made me take the ring off and put it in his purse, because he didn’t want me to tell anyone yet. “What?! Why can’t I tell anyone?” I wanted to shout it from the rooftop and he wanted me to keep it a secret? “I haven’t asked your father yet.” He wanted to ask my father permission, very old school, and he wanted me to wait to wear the ring and tell anyone until he made it “official”.
While I was frustrated, how could I say no to that? So I kept the ring in the box and the box in my purse, but that didn’t stop me from going to the ladies room probably 2 or 3 times during dinner to take it out and try it on. Think about it. First I was proposed to at a traffic light, then I couldn’t even tell anyone I was proposed to at a traffic light, and then I kept sneaking into the bathroom stall of a Chinese restaurant to try the ring on, wave my hand around to watch the diamond catch the light and dream of becoming A’s bride. Every girl’s dream proposal, no?
When we finally got back to my parents’ house that night, he made me wait in the car while he went in and talked to my Dad. I’m not sure how long he was in there waiting for his opportunity, but it sure seemed like a very long time. Apparently, my father sensed his goofy mood, too, because he finally made some remark such as “got something you want to tell me?” My husband finally blurted out that he wanted my “hand in marriage” (seriously old school here) to which my father said essentially “About time” and “if you hurt my daughter, I’ll kill you”.
At that point, my mother came out of her bedroom, my father told her what had happened and the next thing I knew, she was flashing the front porch light and yelling at me to “get in the house!”
Some women may have thought this was a bad proposal and an even worse sign that the marriage was doomed. It wasn’t planned down to the last detail. It wasn’t documented in photographs. There were no witnesses. But I looked at it differently. He could have taken me to a romantic spot, waited until the precise moment at sunset, gotten down on one knee and used flowery words that had been practiced to perfection. However, nothing beats the genuine joy on his face as he prepared to ask me to create a life with him. Nothing can diminish my memory of that silly grin. Nothing can erase the humor of the situation. And nothing can ever make me see his proposal as anything but perfect.
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