In our last episode, which spanned almost five and a half years, our young widowed heroine moved to Alaska and worked several jobs and cried a lot and worked through grief and moved on with her life.
And met a guy.
After The Fishing Trip, I noticed that he called me a lot and tried to make ways to spend more time with me. And I found myself at his parent’s house quite a bit. (He had moved back home at some point that summer.) We ended up spending lots of time together. There were hiking and fishing trips and movies and eating out and playing card games and hanging out with friends and always lots of talking. I was amazed, as I’d always heard that guys don’t often talk much.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
I was also amazed at his heart. For some reason I got the idea that men are big brutes and have no feelings. But as I talked with him, I definitely learned otherwise. As he shared some of the hurts he had experienced, I could tell that they had impacted him deeply. I realized right away that if I was going to date him I needed to be very serious about it, this was not a guy who wanted the “let’s have some fun” kind of dates but more of a “do you think we should marry” kind of dates.
He said so, in fact.
One afternoon we went fishing with a dear lady and her son and I caught my first trout (it was big and beautiful and later we were disappointed to find out that the camera with which The Bull took my picture with my catch had no film in it. Gotta love those pre-digital camera days!) Before our friends left, we made plans to go hiking with them a few days later.
That night The Bull and I stood on his parent’s front deck in the late evening dusk talking about little things. Then there was a pause in the conversation and he asked me, somewhat nervously, what I would say if he asked me out on a date.
I was a bit taken aback. “What’s a date?” I asked. It had been a long time since I had been on a date, after all.
We talked about dating some more. This was a serious moment. And I felt quite comfortable. We decided that our first date would be to go bowling.
A few days later I met The Bull and his friend’s family for the hike. A gal friend of mine was going to join me but backed out at the last minute. But our fishing friend’s husband was able to go hiking with us this time. It was a fairly easy hike that I done before once or twice. We all talked and laughed as we picked our way through the many trails which climbed up to the top. I felt like The Bull’s friend was checking me out, not in a romantic way of course. It almost felt like a job interview.
After the hike we stopped in at a local diner for a late dinner. We ate and talked and laughed until it was so late that the restaurant was empty and closing before I knew it.
Later that night I found out that The Bull’s friend was, indeed, evaluating me. He was wondering if I would be a good wife for his buddy. I was somewhat disconcerted to learn that even my choice of sandwich and bread at that restaurant had been scrutinized.
Thankfully, I chose the sourdough instead of my usual rye and made the cut.
When we realized that the Alaska State Fair started the following weekend, we decided to make that our first date instead of the bowling alley. This didn’t bother me much at all; I am not much of a bowler. (I don’t think we got to the bowling alley until over a year later.) Mr. Big Spender (that would be The Bull) paid the big bucks so we could ride on the slingshot ride (or do they call it an “ejection seat”?); it wasn’t as scary as it looks from the ground. We enjoyed talking and walking through the fair and ended the night visiting his friend at his job. His friend tried to play a small practical joke on us, but it backfired. Good times!
We laughed a lot and talked about everything, from our childhood memories to child rearing and discipline strategies to God and the Bible and faith and theology. I cooked dinner for him a couple of times. He returned the favor a few times. It was a grand time and I don’t even remember any difficulties during that time. We went to a really fancy restaurant for my birthday. It was really a fun time.
And then one day, after visiting with Aunt Mel and Uncle Ben, we stood by my car in the driveway and he told me those three magic words: I Love You.
And I panicked. We said goodbye really quickly before he could kiss me and went our separate ways for the night.
Now I still don’t understand why this would shock me so much. We had started out to find out if we would want to marry each other. Why would those three little words scare me? Wasn’t this what I wanted? I’d just spent years wishing I would be a bride when each of my friends got married.
I remember talking to Mel about it. “How do you know when you love someone?” Even when I was dating and marrying her brother, JK, I wasn’t quite sure. There were the good feelings, true. But there was also an element of setting one’s mind to it. JK used to say that it was more of a “I choose to love you” than a mushy gushy feeling.
So after about a week of thinking, praying, and talking with others I decided that I wanted to reciprocate. I realized that I loved him.
Surprisingly, after our mutual confessions, it still took a while for him to initiate the next step, like three weeks. On Thanksgiving weekend, he had bought tickets for The Nutcracker ballet. I hadn’t seen it since I was a little girl! We sat up in the balcony and almost had the place to ourselves (although when we were leaving we ran into his ex-fiancée and a friend of hers.) I so thoroughly enjoyed myself that I balleted out of the building.
We met up with his sister and a friend of hers for a late snack after the performance. Over potato skins and sodas, he shared with them how he was so impressed with me and one of my newfound skills. (Do I dare say what it is? It’s somewhat embarrassing.) They laughed, rolled their eyes, and his sister’s friend asked, “So, when is the wedding?”
This was followed by a slightly uncomfortable pause. While we had started out our relationship towards this goal and had crossed over the “I love you” mark, we hadn’t exactly decided on the next step. It was very late in the evening when we started out for home; all the way home we talked about marriage. Since we’d been to many different weddings, we both had ideas of what we wanted at a wedding. We’d also seen enough marriages to know it wasn’t all fun and knew that we needed to get some help in advance.
I dropped him off at his youth pastor’s house (he was housesitting that week) and we started saying our goodbyes. After ten minutes or so, he took off his hat and finally popped the question.
I remember being a little shocked. (Shocked? what? how could I not expect that?) but of course I said “Yes.” He laughed, relieved. (Later he told me that, although we had talked about it all the way home and he’d all but asked me and I’d all but said “yes,” he was still nervous about the actual asking and wondered if I would say “no.”) Finally we said goodnight, promising to keep this secret to ourselves for a little while.
And then after I left he got into his truck and drove over to his buddy’s jobsite (the buddy with whom we’d gone hiking) to tell him. His buddy told all his co-workers and within minutes it was all over town.
I, of course, had gone home elated. Determined to keep our good news to myself, I did not share this with anyone.
The next day he called my dad and my mom. It was sort of our intent to get their permission or blessing on our marrying, but, as I hadn’t lived with either of them in over half a decade and they had never met The Bull, it wasn’t as if they would have any reason to refuse his request. As my dad said then, “If that’s what my daughter wants, then it’s okay with me.” (Then again, my dad did offer to fly to Alaska to hold the ladder so that we could elope. )
He also asked Ben and Mel, as they had taken me in and took on the role of parents for me when I was floundering after JK’s death. I remember Ben laughing. “Of course!” Later that night we told our friends and the general reaction was, “What took you so long?”
We set a wedding date almost immediately and began to make plans for our big day. Plane tickets were purchased for family members who were out of state to join us (although two of my siblings were not able to be here.) We met with The Bull’s pastor for premarital counseling sessions and made arrangements for flowers and music. He asked his friends (including the check-me-out hiking friend) and I asked my sisters to stand with us in our wedding. Invitations were designed and addressed and mailed. I sewed my dress and his tie. A friend sewed my sister’s dresses.
We discussed having him move in with me and making my house our house. We continued working. He had moved from one job in another town to job in our town to be closer to home, and ended up leaving that job when they asked him to go against company policy on a matter. I continued the job that I’d been working for nearly three years. We put in our requests with our respective employers for time off for our wedding and honeymoon. The seven months that we were engaged flew by quickly.
And then–I woke early on a Saturday morning, about a month before our wedding, to the ringing of the phone. The Bull was calling to tell me that his friend–the one we’d hiked with and had dinner with, the one who was looking out for him to see if I would make a good wife for him, the one who first heard of our engagement from The Bull, the one who was going to be The Bull’s attendant at our wedding–had been killed at work the night before.
It was horrible!
My heart ached for his wife, now widowed, and their son, who was so young to lose his daddy. We spent some time with his wife and their friends and co-workers that week and participated in his funeral and burial. It was a terrible, ugly situation that is still difficult for his family to this day.
We tried to get back into the swing of getting ready for our wedding. Eventually, we asked the friend’s brother to stand in his place at our wedding and included in the wedding program a memorial for his friend.
At one point towards the end of our engagement, I felt that I was drowning in all of the details! I even had to-do lists to keep track of all my to-do lists! I was looking forward to the wedding, if for no other reason that it meant we were done with planning the thing.
Our family arrived from out of state. My co-workers threw me a shower and other friends put together a co-ed shower/party for us a few days before our wedding. We felt very loved. It was a nice weekend.
The morning of our big day finally arrived and the weather was beautiful. This was the second week of June, and it was nearly 80 degrees (which is really hot for that part of Alaska.) Not a cloud in the sky. We opted to take our pictures before the ceremony, so he got to see me before the wedding (we kinda broke some traditions with our wedding.)
Except for the tradition of starting the wedding late, sadly. But I want to say that it wasn’t my fault. I was all ready! I had to wait for the wedding guests to find seats.
Happy Valentine’s Day, honey. I hope that we have many, many years left in our story together.
Flowers are nice,
But you make me complete.