The Final Chapter. Don't forget to leave a comment!
High School was finally over. Had been for more than a year. Things got a little strange at work for awhile there. One of my dad’s top men had quit to move back east and that had left him without a parts man. He pulled me into his office one day and offered me the job. “Dad, I’ve got no experience! I’m not even 20 yet!” He came right back at me. “Think son. You’ve got more than 4 years experience with my entire inventory. You know where everything is, and you’ve planned for seasonal sales. You’ve even filled in while he was on vacation. You know the work and the people better than anyone here and I need someone to do it. Son, I wouldn’t have asked you unless I thought you could do the job.” “All right, Dad. I’ll take it on two conditions.” “And those are?” “First, I want some college. Business Management.” “Done.” “Second, I want a salary I can live on. Even be married.” “I figured on that. I know how you and your girlfriend are, and I’ve been thinking you’re probably getting close to it. You’ll be an officer in the company and get full benefits.” And there it was. At the ripe old age of 19 almost 20, I found myself with a real job and an officer in my grandfather’s company. Things were coming together.
Two weeks later, I was invited to dinner at my girl’s parents. She was home for the weekend, and they thought to have us all get together while we had the chance. Dinner at her parent’s house was always a treat as her mother was an excellent cook (and taught her daughter well too) and her father was no slouch, either. I liked her parents, too, and they seemed to like me. Well, we were going to find out. It was my plan to ask her dad tonight “for the hand of his daughter in marriage.” I’d tried my best to be a man to them, and to be a man for their daughter. As much confidence as I had in having done the right things by her in everything, there wasn’t anything like actually popping the question to her parents to find out for sure.
So I got there a little early and, as soon as my girl and her mother got going in the kitchen, her dad and I stepped out on the patio. To say I was nervous would be a massive understatement. I figured the best way to do it was to just do it.
“Sir, I’ve got something important to talk to you about.” “About time,” he said. “I thought it was going to be fairly soon.” “Sir?” “You’re going to ask me if you can marry my daughter, right?” I was stunned. How did he know? “You have my blessing.” “Sir?” “Look, you two have been stuck like glue since your first years of high school, almost inseparable. You’ve had your disagreements, but you, both of you, fight fair and you’ve gotten it settled and I might even say you came out the stronger for it. I’ve seen you take care of her same way I take care of her mother. You work hard, you've got a good job, and you’re making something of yourself. I can’t think of anyone I’d be prouder of having her marry. Of course, if you ever hurt her, I’ll have to kill you, but I’m sure you’d feel the same way. Is that about it?” I sat down and said, “Yes, sir. That’s about it.” “Answer your question?” “Pretty much, sir.” “Good. Let’s get to some supper.”
We headed back inside where my girl and her mom were just finishing setting the table. “It’ll be on the table in about 5 minutes.” “Great!” her husband said. “I’m starving!” Time came and went, and we all sat down to some great Italian. I was still recovering from the shock of her dad practically reading my mind, but I couldn’t wait to finally get my girl somewhere I could talk to her. Dishes were cleared away and we all retired to the living room to sit and let that delicious dinner settle. Her mom was sitting on the couch and her dad was messing with the TV. I got up and walked over to the side of the room and gave a quick hand signal for my girl to follow me.
“This was a great evening.” I said, just trying to get a conversation going. “Yeah, mom can really make some good meatballs.” “You know you can too.” “Well, I can make them; maybe someday I’ll make them like she does.” “Just takes practice,” I said, “the more you do it, the better you get at it.” “I could only do that if I was the only one doing the cooking. She owns that kitchen.” “Well, you could own a kitchen. If you wanted to, that is.” She looked at me like I was talking gibberish. “What do you mean?” “I was just saying. You could do all the cooking if you wanted to, well, lots anyway. I like to cook too, sometimes.” “What are you talking about?” “Hear me out, baby. I have something to say.”
Even though we were off to one side of the room (nearly in the hallway), I knew at least her mom had seen me talking serious-like to her daughter and was watching us, but the time was right and I was going for it. The noise and the people had faded out. The only thing in my world was the woman in front of me, the one woman I knew I wanted to be with forever.
Now I’d thought about working up some flowery speech to rehearse and repeat to her, but that wasn’t what she deserved. No, I figured she should hear what was in my heart at the moment the moment happened, and the moment was here, now. I took a deep breath and mentally crossed my fingers. Here we go.
“Baby, we’ve been together for a long time and it’s been good for us. I know in my heart there’s no one else I’ll ever want to be with. You’ve given me everything I’ve ever thought about, and much more besides, things I couldn’t have even imagined before you came into my life. Because of you, I’ve become more of a man than I ever thought possible, and, if you’ll have me, I’d like to be the man in your life for the rest of my life.”
As I went down on one knee, her eyes got really, really big. Her hands came up to cover her mouth and she just stood there looking down at me. She started to speak, but after a couple little noises her voice just seemed to die away before any words could form. I said her full name, hoping against hope that it was nearly the last time I’d ever use it. Taking the little box out of my pocket and opening it to show her the ring inside, I looked in her eyes, swallowed hard, and asked, “Will you do me the honor of marrying me?”
She didn’t speak, didn’t move a muscle, just looked at me and the ring and back at me a couple of times. She looked at me again and I could see her eyes welling up with tears. It seemed like a hundred years passed, and then she surprised me and got down on her knees with me to look me straight in the eye. She wiped her eyes, then wrapped her little hands around mine as I held the box. She looked at the ring once more and then back at me, and said, “From the first time we met, you’ve always taken care of me and I’ve seen you more than once deny yourself to do it. You’ve been there to encourage me in everything I do, and that more than anything has helped me to become everything I thought I could be. But even more than that, what I really want is to be everything to you as much as you are everything to me. I know in my heart, too, that there’s no one else I’ll ever want to be with.
“Yes, yes, I will. I will marry you.”
I took the ring out of the box and as she held out her hand, I slipped it on her finger. The jeweler had done a masterful job … it fit like there was no other finger in the world it was meant to be around. I held her hand lightly with her fingers extended. She looked at the stone sparkling on her finger and smiled, then back at me and said, “It shines, just like my heart shines for you.” “Every time you look at that diamond,” I told her, “remember that it’s harder and tougher than anything in the world, but it won’t outlast my love for you.” I kissed her more softly than I ever had, and it seemed like never before that our lips were perfectly matched to one another.
Suddenly there was a noise intruding on our world … her mother had come over and was standing over us. We both looked up to see that she was almost in tears. She motioned to her daughter (my fianc?!) and choked “Stand up! Oh, come here!” We both stood up, and mother and daughter held each other hard and tight. “Mama,” she said, “he asked me to marry him and I said ‘yes’.” “I know, honey, I know. I watched and heard the whole thing.” She turned to me, reached out to squeeze my arm and said, “I am so proud to have you in the family, and I am so happy. I can see the man for my daughter is a man who really loves her.” I respected this woman almost as though she were my own mother and had never so much as even touched her before, but it seemed to me that something a little beyond the ordinary was definitely in order here. I put my hand on her arm and said “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” She said, “Oh, you come here too” and dragged me into the little circle she shared with her daughter. “Cool,” I thought. About then her dad came over and stuck his hand out. I grasped it firmly, happily, and he said, “I heard it too. Well done, both of you.” “She deserves the best, sir, and if I can make it happen, I aim to see that she gets it.”
We were married 6 months later in a little Catholic ceremony that lasted about an hour. We spent our honeymoon in Yellowstone National Park; a good week of time to really be together and enjoy our new status. She’s my wife! I couldn’t get over it.
Almost 40 years, 3 kids and 5 grandkids later, we’re still married and we’re still very much in love with each other. You all have been really great, and we’re glad you enjoyed our story.