It's not every day you take a concrete, tangible step towards committing your life to something (or someone). In taking things 'one day at a time,' the prospect of forever seems like such an unimaginable concept. Nevertheless, sometimes we have to move towards 'to death to us part' with that kind of step, supported by trust, love, a healthy serving of trepidation...and a nice shiny rock.
Writing about getting engaged is such an awkward task, especially for a guy. Debbie and I had been talking about it for the past few months, but really the actual day started like any other Saturday. We got up lazily and played tennis. I lost 1-6, I think. We went out to breakfast at the Kozy Korner. Debbie ordered eggs and I ordered pancakes; the waitress gave me a free coffee. We came back and did some weeding, and watched 'A Beautiful Mind,' and both cried because of how close it touched home...marriage and mental illness, the topics of conversation lately. I paced back and forth in the kitchen as Debbie got dressed.
Since it was five months to the day since we first met, I suggested we go to Presto, the coffee shop where we had our first date. We shared a mozarella and tomato salad, and a strawberry smoothie. The place was pretty much empty on a nice Saturday afternoon. It was a nice day for a picnic, so we had packed a bottle of wine and Coke, a baguette and cheese and olives, and headed to Rockford State Park. I surprised Debbie with a dozen roses, and we laid in the grass on a blanket overlooking the field where we usually bring Suzy, her dog, to run around in. After we finished eating, I got down on my knee, and asked her to marry me. Debbie said she knew after the first date that things were leading to this. It took me a few dates, but I had a feeling as well that I had met my future partner for life.
When I told my friend Michael that I was going to ask Debbie to marry me, he said, "that ring is burning a hole in your pocket, isn't it?" Yes! We laughed. He was right...I had been afraid for the past few weeks that someone was going to break in and steal it from under my bed, or I would lose it, and flub up the whole thing, or lose my nerve. An engagement ring is not something you want to hang on to for too long, and besides, I don't keep secrets well. I had to ask her father's permission the weekend before, and we did it together, so it wasn't a huge surprise when the day came.
I don't have any illusions about getting married. Life is hard, and marriage, I think, tends to follow suite. It doesn't come with an instruction book, though we are trying to build our relationship on the foundation of Gospel values, and the wisdom of those who have gone before us. It doesn't come with any guarantees it is going to work; God is taking off the training wheels. But we are both excited, and hopeful about the future...despite my recent unemployment, despite my mental illness...and are doing our best to love and respect one another for who they are, and for who they have the potential to be. Debbie believes in me, and I believe in her. And we both believe in Love.
So...my Big Fat Filipino Wedding, here we come!