The Date, Part 2

December 18, 2009

“So, do you know when you’re getting married?” I asked my daughter.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She said.

“Why not?” I said.

“Because I want to get married the first week of June and M wants to get married in February, and I can’t plan a wedding by February, and the whole thing is freakin’ me out!”

I was so lost.

Plan a wedding? Was that completely necessary?

I had a perfectly wonderful wedding, and I don’t remember doing any planning. Hundreds of people joined us to celebrate our blessed union. We greeted them, fed them and opened their gifts—what was there to plan?

I was in school and working, and I didn’t think much about the big day, though K did her best to involve me as much as possible. I think she asked my opinion on the wedding announcement—the paper, the lettering, that type of thing. I chose one. She chose another, which you can see today in our wedding album. 

“How many for your side?” K asked me.

“15,” I said.

“Never mind, I’ll ask your mother,” she said. My mother ended up requesting 125.

At some point, while we were driving down Interstate 15, K told me she didn’t know what to do about a photographer.

“A photographer? I don’t want anyone taking my picture. No photographer!” I said.

“We’re having a photographer,” she said.

Well, someone was taking pictures that day because I have the album full of pictures to prove it, but I don’t remember meeting with a photographer or posing much. I believe the pictures we do have came from the collective efforts of family members who happened to bring their instamatics that day.

Two days before the wedding I bought a black suit and put a rush order on the tailoring. I had some brown dress shoes, which didn’t go with my new suit at all. So I took the shoes down to a shoe repair place and had them dyed black. Rush order on that too.

I was given five months to get ready for my wedding, and I was confident that I had used those five months wisely. Everything was in place. Still, I had this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something….

I called a good friend.

“Hey, I’m getting married!” I excitedly told this friend.

“That’s great,” my friend said, “When?”

“Tomorrow. Can you come?”

After a few more of those phone calls, I had everything in place.

That was all there was to it.

“Your wedding doesn’t have to be complicated,” I said to my daughter. Then I proceeded to tell her all the possibilities, one of which included a big pancake breakfast. She didn’t like any of my suggestions.

“Then do a simple ceremony in February and have a blow-out reception in June,” I said.

“I don’t want to plan a reception for Utah while I’m living in Texas.”

“Why not? Mom and I will take care of everything. We were living in Utah and had an incredible reception in California, and grandma did the whole thing. We just showed up.”

We had been married close to three months when it came time for the California reception. We’d already had two: one in Utah and one in Idaho. But I was confident that the California reception would be the best. That was my side of the family.

The California reception was for family and friends who could not attend the wedding.  The drive to California should have taken us eleven or twelve hours. We had one stop to make in Las Vegas to pick up my sister. We started the trip at four o’clock in the afternoon, and the way we figured it, we would get to my mom’s house about two in the morning.

Traffic out of our valley was uncharacteristically at a standstill. No one was moving. I figured we’d have better luck on the surface streets and got off the freeway at the first opportunity. We were really moving then, until the railroad crossing gates came down. The train was travelling at five mph, if not slower. Car after car we counted. Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight. We waited for the train to speed up, but it never did. Forty-two, forty-three, forty-four.  We were boxed in with no way of turning around. Besides, I could see the freeway from where we were, and traffic still was not moving. Eighty-nine, ninety, ninety-one. It was the longest train we had ever seen, and we got a pretty close look. One hundred thirty-three, one hundred thirty-four. After an hour, we finally saw the caboose. We started our engines, very anxious to be on our way. Just as the caboose was about to pass, the train stopped. The wait continued.

After many minutes, the train gave a mighty oomph and started rolling…in reverse. One hundred sixty-two, one hundred sixty-one, one hundred sixty, one hundred fifty-nine. It was the slowest déjà-vu we had ever experienced.

Eventually we were on the road at highway speeds. By the time we reached Las Vegas, it was after midnight. We didn’t have cell phones in those days, so we hadn’t alerted my sister to the delay. Didn’t matter, when we got to her place, she wasn’t there. So we waited. At least an hour.

This was the second time K would see my sister. About five months earlier, I was taking K to California to meet my family. It was President’s Day weekend. We, naturally, got a late start, and my sister kindly let us stay the night with her in Las Vegas before continuing on to California.

“Whatever you do,” I said to K, “Act like you want my sister to come with us to California. I don’t really want her there this weekend, so if we insist, she will say no.”

We arrived at my sister’s place and sat down on her sofa to visit. She was smoking two cigarettes, one in each hand. She sounded nervous.

“You’re really getting married? You’re really getting married?” She must have asked twenty times.

“I’ll prove it to you,” I said. “We have our announcements in the car.” I got up from the couch and was out the door.

I wasn’t thinking. I left the two of them alone.

“Hey,” my sister said to K, “Are you seriously going to marry him?” She took a puff on each of her cigarettes. “You better be careful. Steve’s horrible with money. It burns a hole in his pocket. He can’t hold onto a dime.” Puff, puff, puff, puff, puff.

The next morning we packed up the car. Many times we begged her to go with us to California. She refused.  We were nearly home free, but I had to seal the deal. “Why don’t you come with us?” Please say no, please say no, please say no, please say no, please say no.

I didn’t like the look she gave me.

The ride down to California was one of the worst in memory. She had the back seat all to herself, but she chose to lean in towards the front, framing herself between the bucket seats. Her mouth was inches from my ear, and her face filled my rear-view mirror. For the next four hours she gave me a free driving lesson. I really lucked out.  It turns out that I wasn’t doing one thing right. My sister pointed that out, not wasting one minute of the drive. And it’s a good thing the lesson was free—the way I am with money…

Now we were sitting in front of her apartment a second time, and for reasons I can’t explain, I wanted her to come with us to our California reception. I thought we should all be together for this occasion.

I told K: “Pretend you don’t want her to go. Act annoyed that she coming.” When she finally showed up at her place, I could tell she had been drinking. She deliberately tried to miss us. She thought it was safe to come home, banking that we would have given up and gone on without her, but we had been delayed by the train.

I should have been glad. My sister had misbehaved horribly that President’s Day weekend. She yelled at everyone. She criticized me incessantly. She introduced me to old family friends as if we were total strangers. When they reminded her that they knew me quite well, she’d say, “Oh, I figured you’d never met the way he was ignoring you.” After all that, I still wanted her to go. Turns out we didn’t need her.

Our reception was at the family home, which at the time was being rented by my sister and her family. My sister planned to spend the morning of our reception at a friend’s house making us a wedding cake, so she did all of her housecleaning the day before. The place was spotless, and she wanted it to stay that way. As she was leaving to go bake the cake, she left specific instructions.

  1. “Do not leave any valuables lying out. R’s wife will be coming today.” (R is my brother)
  2. “Do not open this door.” (The door she referred to led to a well-stocked toy room. At the top of the door, out of reach from children, was a hook lock.”

Then she left.

Shortly after, my brother and his 3-year old son came by to say hello. He wasn’t quite used to the idea that my sister was renting my mother’s home. He plopped himself on the couch and, reposing, demanded Sunday brunch from my mother. My mother tried to explain there would be no brunch that day as we were preparing for a wedding reception. But he insisted, “we always have brunch on Sunday” he said, so my mother sent me to the store with a grocery list. When I returned home, my brother was still resting comfortably on the sofa. I heard a loud crack coming from the backyard. When I looked out the sliding door, I saw a large piece of wood flying from the roof, landing with a whack. My sister’s husband decided he’d finally get around to reroofing the covered patio, where the reception would be. My sister had asked her husband to fix the roof months before, and he didn’t want to get on her bad side. Another loud crack. Another whack. K was panicked. Guests would be arriving in five hours.  Crack. Whack. I told her not to panic. Everything would turn out.

“You’ll see,” I said.

I know most people don’t pray for rain on the day of their outdoor wedding reception, but I did. The next CRACK we heard was thunder, and rain it did. The reroofing would have to wait. Fortunately, my brother-in-law had not done too much damage to the roof, and I couldn’t see anywhere where the roof was leaking onto the patio. Neither could my brother-in-law. In fact, it was so dry under that roof that my brother-in-law decided to paint the railings and support beams.

Inside, my mother was frantically preparing sandwiches, which she hoped would pass off for brunch. My brother, at some point, got off the couch just long enough to lift the catch of the lock on the toy room door and give his son unfettered access. My nephew, the natural disaster in training pants.  Somehow he did a cannonball in the middle of that room, and the toys landed everywhere. Almost instantaneously the entire house was messy. Toys, newspapers, dirty dishes, and stuff. Everywhere. It all happened so fast. We never even noticed that my nephew got into K’s bright red nail polish and painted a big, solid square on a bedroom door.

We had table and chairs to set up, food to cook, and K wanted plenty of time to get ready. Now we had to add cleaning to the list. Before we could get started, the door bell rang. It was my uncle, my mother’s only brother. He was hours early. The last time I saw him was at his wedding a few years before. I think it was his third marriage. He was forty something.  So was his new father-in-law. He was still married when he came to see us that day. To a different wife. This one came with credentials. She was a former Miss California and rumored to be wealthy. We visited for about twenty minutes and learned that my new aunt had relatives in Provo, Utah where K and I lived.

It was so good to see my uncle. More importantly, they brought a gift. We waited for them to leave before we opened it.

“I heard she’s a millionaire,” my mother said as K unwrapped the present.

(to be continued)

The Move

December 11, 2009

So far, my daughter plans to live in Texas after she gets married. Her attitude: no big deal. Until she talked to her future sister-in-law, the one from Brazil who is currently living in Florida.
“How do you deal with being so far away from home?” my daughter asked.
“See this?” She showed my daughter a great big butcher knife. “When my husband’s at work during the night, this is what I keep under my pillow.”
My daughter immediately invoked the 10-second rule and removed her engagement ring.
I remember her first attempt to move out. She was barely eighteen, and it was the week after her high school graduation. I decided that I would quit raising my kids once they turned eighteen. They could come and go as they pleased, do whatever they wanted to; I wasn’t going to make decisions for them or pressure them. They would have to work for their triumphs and work out their mistakes, on their own. That was my rule.
I wasn’t the type of parent to interfere. Not much anyway. I proved that when my daughter was a mere seven years old. We were sitting on a little retaining wall by the driveway. My daughter was picking a scab on her knee.
“Don’t do that,” I said.
She looked at me, a little stunned.
Then I said, “No. I’m not going to tell you what to do. It’s your body. If you want to ruin it and make the cut worse and make it bleed and risk infection and leave a scar, go ahead. I wouldn’t do it, but if you want to, go ahead. It’s your choice.”
She never changed her expression or took her eyes off me. She reached down and ripped off the scab.
Eleven years later, she would disrupt my peace and express her independence a second time, which brings me back to her threat to move out. Her best friend at the time was told she would have to get a place of her own upon graduation. The friend was fine with the idea, and so was my daughter. They decided they would move out together. I never took them seriously. My daughter had no car and no savings. She worked part time at the Subway and no interest in the future. She was as aimless as a falling leaf, and I liked watching her hover, because I knew that a gentle, kind breeze would catch her and carry her someplace where she could thrive. I didn’t want to interfere with what I considered the “natural flow,” so I let her float. But instead of a nice, promising breeze, my daughter was swept up by a big, blustery, foul wind. To put it less poetically, she was being pressured by her best friend’s mother.
Weeks before graduation my daughter mentioned her plans to move out, and I continued to dismiss her. The more serious she became about leaving, the more logical I became about why the idea was bad. The more logical I became, the more adventurous and free spirited she became, and the more she quoted me.
“You said I should make my own decisions. You said I should take chances. You said I should run off to Paris.”
Yes, I did.
I’ve been to Paris, and let me tell you, my daughter was not going to find Paris in the direction she was headed. Her best friend’s mother found a place in a questionable part of town that was not safe for two eighteen year old girls to live—I called the area rundown, dark and scary. The mother called it affordable. They would have no furniture. To get to Subway, my daughter would have to take the bus—the mother’s idea, since my daughter didn’t have a car. I envisioned my daughter waiting at midnight for a bus, because that’s when she usually ended her shift. Then I envisioned her getting off the bus and walking several blocks in the dark to her apartment. I immediately noticed in my vision the letch in the back of the bus, studying my daughter’s daily pattern. Well, you can imagine the rest. Next, I did the math. Rent, food, bus pass –that’s a lot to ask of a part time income at Subway, and my wife and I were not in a position to help at the time.
“I can make it work,” she said.
Honestly, I could not understand why she kept insisting on ruining her life. Then, just hours before she had planned to move, it hit me. Her friend had a brand new car, a gift from grandpa. She had a decent paying job, at grandpa’s insurance firm. She had a financial safety net and the promise of tuition, if she decided to pursue education. What she didn’t have was a companion, and mothers don’t force their daughters from the home without a companion. She didn’t mind sacrificing my daughter’s welfare to see to the welfare of her daughter.
I realized that my rule to not pressure my children into doing things against their will or against good judgment was not universal. Just because I didn’t want to push them didn’t mean others wouldn’t, and when I realized that this mother was going to have her way with my daughter, I decided to push back, and I used the only weapon I had at my disposal. Tears.
Yes, I cried.
I yelled, “Why are you doing this? This is not a good idea. All you will learn from this is how to be poor. You will get good at going without, and struggling. And when your friend, who has money, wants to go out and eat or wants to go shopping, you won’t be able to, and you will lose her too.”
That mother was powerless against my moistened cheeks, and my daughter’s resolve washed away in a flood of her own tears. She stayed home that night, bravely breaking the news to her friend. Not long after that episode, she left Subway for a better job. Two weeks into the new job, she was fired. I assured her she would find her way. She decided to begin her job search at an employment agency. While the counselor was collecting profile information, another woman walked into the room and approached my daughter.
“Did I hear you say that you want to be a nurse?”
“Yes,” my daughter said.
The woman interviewed my daughter and hired her on the spot. The company was Beehive Homes, a group of assisted living residences. My daughter loved the work, and she grew to love the “olds” as she called them. And they grew to love her. One in particular was so fond of her that she introduced my daughter to her grandson, M.

The Cry

December 5, 2009

After M proposed to my daughter, there on a Florida beach, she cried.

She was so happy.

Then confused.

Then incredulous.

“You really want to marry me? Are you sure? Do you really, really want to? You want to be engaged to me?” Each time he said, “Yes, of course!”

After an appropriate length of time that tender moments like that require, M said, “We  have to hurry back because everyone is waiting to hear,” which made my daughter cry even more.

When they got back to the apartment where her future brother-in-law and his wife were waiting, my daughter burst into the room screaming, “Hey! I’m engaged!”

They came forward to honor them, then stopped. “Ooh,” the future brother-in-law said to my daughter, “You may want to wash your face before we congratulate you.”

My daughter, according to her, fit right into the beach scenery, as a castaway. The Florida humidity had not been kind to her hair, which poofed to eight times her normal volume and curl. Four great streaks of black mascara bobbed and weaved down her cheeks, beginning at the eyes and reaching the corners of her mouth. Her pants were folded up to her knees. And yes, M still wanted to marry her.

Over the last few years, my daughter has cried on several occasions in front of M, mostly when she leaves him to return to Utah, or when he leaves her to return to Texas. My wife saved most of her crying until after we got married, which I believe was daily for the first year. Before the wedding, I remember her crying only once.

We’d known each other for eight months before we starting dating in earnest, and that earnest dating lasted about a week before I was ready to dump her.  I really liked her, but she was thirty, and I was twenty four. The age difference was starting to bother me. I figured it was best to cool things before something more serious happened, like marriage. I wanted to end things while things were still at the casual stage. As I recall, we went out to a dance at the college, and afterward K took me to a secluded area of town and jumped me. I was extremely inexperienced, especially for a twenty four year old. I’d never had a real girlfriend, because I was at times too shy, too insecure or not interested, and most girls, I felt, did not seem to take an interest in me anyway, not like K did that night. So, there we were, parked. She didn’t say much. She just moved over close to me and starting kissing me. I was shocked. Up to then, I considered myself pretty repulsive. But since K was doing all the driving, I figured I’d go along for the ride. And what a rough ride it was! K was trying out this new French kissing technique, and I thought she was going to pull my tongue out by the roots. Still, I didn’t complain.

After that night, we were for the most part inseparable. We did everything together, and we talked. We had to. I had to tell her to knock off that new tongue technique. During that week, we agreed that we were perfect for each other. We laughed, we made out, we cuddled, we made out, we watched a movie, we made out. I was the happiest I had ever been. When the weekend ended, I went back to school and K went back to work. During first period, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I never wanted to see K again.

She called my apartment a few times to talk, but by then I had no feelings whatsoever towards her, and I think her cousin, who happened to be my roommate and best friend, told her how I was feeling…or not feeling. K persisted until she reached me by phone (which wasn’t hard to do in those days because there was no Caller ID and no cell phones.) She asked me if I wanted to go on a picnic.

“No,” I said.

“What’s wrong?” she said.

“Nothing.” I said.

“Then let’s go on a picnic.”

“No.”

“Do you want to talk?”

“No.”

“Are you OK?”

“Yes.” And so on and so on. I spoke as monotone and as monosyllabic as I possibly could.

Eventually she persuaded me to go on a picnic. K planned everything. She picked me up at 8pm on a very cold October night. I had no idea where we were going, and I didn’t ask. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember saying much at all on that half-hour drive. We ended up at Salem Pond, a place K learned about only a week or so before because someone had brought her there to make out. I remember the place was well lit. The grass was frozen, and the trees were anointed with frost. The trees, the lights and the little hillside where we sat reflected in the water, which only doubled the beauty of the place.

K set a blanket on the frozen grass. She had sparkling cider (neither one of us drank alcohol), grapes, some crackers and a couple of plastic champagne glasses. She was wearing her mink coat and pumps (that’s what she always called them), and she was doing her best to lighten the mood. I wasn’t biting. I sat there as stoic as can be. She decided to talk about us. I let her know, there was no us.

“How can that be? We had an incredible week. You’re trying to tell me that you feel nothing.”

“Yes,” I said.

That’s when K started crying.

“DAMN KENT! DAMN STAN! DAMN DEVIN!” With each name she screamed, she would wave her champagne glass full of sparkling cider to and fro. Sparkling cider was flying everywhere. I was a bit nervous for her mink coat. At age thirty, K was sick of the guys in her life, guys like me who didn’t feel like committing, and she wanted answers. So I gave her one.

“You have the biggest brick wall built around you, and no one can get through.” Looking back I think that was probably the dumbest thing I ever said. Frankly, I have no idea what I even meant, but I felt better for saying it. We segued into a deep, meaningful discussion. I can’t remember any of it. All I remember is before long, K was sitting in my lap, and we stayed on that blanket for close to two hours.

The Date

December 5, 2009

After we demanded to see the ring, we demanded to know when they planned to get married.

“I don’t know yet,” my daughter said. “I told M I’d let him know in a week.”

I figure they’ll get married sometime in the Fall. My wife thinks I’m crazy.

“I know they’re going to get married in May,” she said.

According to her, it has to be May. It’s perfect! After all, that’s when we’re planning a trip to Mexico, and something has to ruin our plans. And don’t forget about April 15, and don’t forget that we always owe taxes on April 15.

Oh, I thought. I forgot that we’re supposed to be worried about money.

I’ve never been good at estimating expenses. I remember years ago when I bought my first car. Not the green one that I bought for $300 when I was in college, the one I drove for three weeks, the one I abandoned in a downtown parking spot on the street because it wouldn’t start, the one I didn’t  repair because it never occurred to me to repair it. I don’t count that one.  I’m talking about the Honda Civic. K and I had been married for a couple of years and decided we needed a bigger car. Yes, compared to the car we were driving, the Civic was a much roomier upgrade. Anyway, we hadn’t planned on a Civic at first. We had budgeted $200 a month for a car, and K thought the Honda dealership would be a good place to start looking, which was fine by me. We had plenty of time to make it to the Cadillac dealership, where I was certain that with a $200 monthly payment, we would have our pick of any brand new Cadillac on the lot. To me, $200 was a ridiculous amount of money to spend monthly on a car, and anyone who could afford that kind of money must be buying Cadillacs. Imagine my shock when I learned that the Honda dealership wanted $210 for a stripped down Civic–$230 if we wanted air!

So a few months ago, when I was out running with a neighbor, we got to talking about my daughter and her boyfriend, M. My neighbor wanted to know if I had any money saved should there be a wedding.

“Enough,” I said.

She didn’t believe me, so she asked me how much I thought a wedding cost.

“$500,” I said.

She laughed.

“Do you think K’s family is going to be satisfied with a $500 wedding?”

Then I laughed.  “K’s family would be happy with a bag of Cheetos and some Pepsi,” I told her. I love my wife’s family, especially around birthdays and Christmas. They make absolutely no financial demands on us. They are not cheap, just easy to please.

I thought back to my own wedding reception, which was in my in-law’s living room in Driggs, Idaho. I vaguely arriving at the house only to see a small crowd gathered in a back room eating sandwiches, potato salad and maybe chips—these were the leftovers from our luncheon the day before in Utah. At least that’s how I remember it. When I asked K about it, she remembers a buffet of deli meats and salads spread across the washer and dryer, but she isn’t sure if it was fresh. At any rate, K and I, her sister and our parents (minus my father) later that evening lined up in the living room to receive guests. Guests came through what we referred to as the back door, made their way through the kitchen, wished us luck in the living room, then circled back for some strawberry shortcake. Along the way, they would stop to admire our wedding cake. Three magnificent tiers, the top layer strangely tall and ill-proportioned and Styrofoam. I have no memory of cutting the cake, though I’m sure it went to good use, eventually.

Yes, I think $500 is plenty.

I have many vivid memories of that night in the small hamlet of Driggs, Idaho. Two doors down from my in-laws was another wedding reception, so everyone in the valley was out and bustling about, and they came to see us, some more curious about the line than what was at the end of it. I only know that the stream of people lasted three or four hours, and we were in part responsible for one of the biggest social nights in the town’s history.

K remembers everyone who came; I remember only a select few. The year before we married, I worked one winter in Driggs, that’s how I came to meet K. She was living in Utah at the time, and I was working in Driggs to earn enough money to return to school in Utah. K happened to be visiting her parents on Thanksgiving, and I happened to be living across the street with her cousin. When he heard she was in town, he wanted to visit her, and I tagged along. We met in her parent’s kitchen. K was wearing a black, backless dress that was very form-fitting and very elegant for the surroundings. I was wearing glasses, and they were completely fogged (due to the extreme cold outside vs the warmth of the kitchen).  K turned abruptly to see us. She had a huge turkey leg in her mouth. We didn’t fall for each other til later. Anyway, there was another girl in Driggs who was away at school but occasionally would come to town to visit her parents. I saw her once or twice in the grocery store where I worked. I don’t remember speaking to her, but I talked to her parents often. I’m not sure if I ever knew this girl’s name, and I’m positive that she did not come to our reception that night. Her mother, however, did.

She first spoke to K.

“Oh, hello, K. Congratulations. You look so beautiful. You know, we have always liked Steve. He visited us often, and we just really grew to appreciate him. Say, you remember my daughter Laurie? Well, you know, Steve and Laurie, well, there were sparks, but she was engaged.”

Laurie’s mother made her way to me, congratulated me and hugged me. She told me how happy she was for me, then turned to K. “You know, there were sparks, but she was engaged.”

I introduced her to my mother. They made pleasantries. When they were through, Laurie’s mother turned to K again and said, “There were sparks, but she was engaged.”

All that was left to do was sign the guest book, which Laurie’s mom graciously did. She put down the pen, turned to face K, then, with a booming voice, said, “Just remember! There were sparks! But she— “ pausing to emphatically and repeatedly point at her ring finger “—was engaged!” Then she left.

Yes, there were others. I remember meeting two of K’s friends, one of which was quite beautiful. K introduced me to Marla, and Marla in turn introduced me to the lovely Juanita.

“She’s single,” Marla told me.

“He’s not,” K told Marla.

Another old friend of the family came through the line. “I’ll tell you,” he said to K, “I’ve gained all my respect back for you.”

“What do you mean?” K said.

“Well, I figured you’d never get married. Now that you have, I can respect you again.”

That comment bugged K the most.

 There was only one other stupid thing said that night. By me. After the reception, the whole family gathered in the living room to watch us open gifts. K comes from a large family, eight children in all, and it was the first time in years that the whole family was together, and they were together for only one reason: to celebrate our big day. I had met about half the family before we got married; the other half I was meeting for the first time, specifically one brother, the eldest, who came all the way from Seattle. We had so many gifts to open. I remember only one: a little ceramic bird that doubled as a night light. I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever seen, and I said so. I think my exact words were, “I hope this breaks real soon so we can throw this away.” I think you can guess who was giving it to us…

The Ring

December 2, 2009

We picked up the ring from the airport. When I saw it on my daughter’s finger, I think I said, “Well, don’t lose it.” My wife and other daughter made happy, delighted noises, and they all talked at once about its magnificence. I was driving at the time and couldn’t see the ring very well, so I asked, “How much did it cost?” which was my way of asking her to describe the ring to me in detail.

I was shocked. That ring cost a lot of money. I never spent that much on a ring before, to which my wife said, “I know.”

I told my daughter that I didn’t get Mom an engagement ring, to which my wife said, “I know.”

The truth is, I didn’t even consider buying a ring for my wife, to which she said, “I know.”

The conversation moved from the ring to the actual proposal. My daughter was completely surprised when M popped the question. They had planned for months to spend Thanksgiving with M’s brother in Florida, and my daughter didn’t even once consider that he might give her a ring there. “Too obvious,” she told us.  My daughter had been in Florida for only a few hours when M invited her to take a walk on the beach.  “I want to give you something,” he said. She knew he had an iPod for her but couldn’t understand why he would give it to her on the beach and risk her dropping it, however, she didn’t argue. They walked in the sand and talked. “I have to pee,” my daughter said. They walked some more. “Oops, I farted,” she said.  When M had recaptured the mood, he dropped to one knee and said, “Will you marry me?”  My daughter was dumbstruck.

 “Are you serious?” she said.

“Yes I’m serious,” he said. “And you’re supposed to say, yes.”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”

My wife’s smile couldn’t have been any bigger. “How does it feel?” she said, “because I’ve never experienced it.” And it’s true. No engagement ring. And no formal proposal. My wife and I had been dating for what seemed like a long time, maybe three or four months, and somewhere on the drive to her parents’ house for Thanksgiving, between Bountiful, Utah and Malad, Idaho, during a somewhat dry conversation, we agreed that if we didn’t break up, our relationship would likely result in marriage. And we did get married, more than 26 years ago.

Who needs the beach!