That’s Not How It Was Supposed to Happen. Group Writing: Surprise!

 

Aug. 15, 1981.

I’m waiting at the front of the church for her to walk down the aisle for our wedding. But I only met her 20 months ago. And for all but seven of those months, we were a thousand miles apart. That’s not how it was supposed to happen. I always knew that I would need to know a girl for several years (I figured about five years ought to suffice) to be sure she was the one to marry. Surprise! Met Dec. 26, 1979. Engaged September 1980. Marrying Aug. 15, 1981. Isn’t that too fast for me?

I am very methodical. I think linearly, as is probably apparent from the pedantic style of most of my writing. I have a degree in electrical engineering. Algebra made a lot of sense to me. Solid linear processes to get to a solution. Geometry did not make sense to me. Too much spatial visualization that eluded me. At the time of this surprise, I was in the middle of law school. Law is the methodical application of precedents to new circumstances. So of course I was going to be slow and methodical about deciding whom to marry. God (or fate or just circumstances if you prefer) said otherwise.

We met because neither of us skied, yet we were on a ski trip organized by my home church for young adults between Christmas and New Year’s. She belonged to a different church but had come on this trip as a favor to accompany a friend. I was one of the group’s van drivers.* Between my shuttle runs to the ski slopes, while most of the group was skiing, she and I were among the few hanging out at the church facility at which the group was staying. My mother had come on the trip as chief cook for our group of about 50, and she was intrigued watching us. After the trip, we had exactly one date before I had to return to school 1,000 miles away. Daily letters were our communication for spring semester 1980 and the 1980-81 academic year. We each wrote about 250 letters over those three semesters, many of which we still have. (For you kids, at that time telephone calls were very expensive, and there was no email, no phone texting, no Facebook. So letter writing it was.)

Our families got along with each other. They got together even while I was away at school. She passed my father’s interrogations with flying colors. My mother threatened to disown me and adopt her if I didn’t ask her to marry me. My brother told me I needed to marry her. A [female] lifelong friend of mine (we were infants in adjacent cribs in the church nursery, and during our teenage years, she unsuccessfully tried to explain girls to me) told me she was the girl I should marry. My doubts, “We’ve only known each other for a few months,” were met with “But we who know you and love you have seen enough to know that she is right for you.” Finally, one evening in late summer 1980, instead of our planned dinner date and walk on the beach, she was hanging on my mother’s garage door (as was my mother) to provide leverage so I could attach new springs to replace the one that had broken that morning. If she could put up with that, maybe we could make a lifetime together work. It took me another six weeks to work up the courage to actually ask the question during a sudden very brief trip home from school to do some work for my father.

More months were spent apart while I finished my last year of law school. More letters. I did splurge on a telephone call most Sunday afternoons, when phone rates were the cheapest. But strictly limited the time to 60 minutes. I was a student on a budget.

Marriage only 20 months after meeting was not the way it was supposed to happen for methodical, pedantic me. Surprise! And the time would likely have been even shorter were we not separated by 1,000 miles for most of that time. So much for my expectations. We celebrated 40 years of marriage on Aug. 15, 2021.

*There’s a separate fun story about the first time we actually “met,” which was along the shoulder of US Highway 395 between Big Pine and Bishop (California), on the trip from Orange County to the Lake Tahoe area. The van I was driving (which was full of people and was pulling the luggage trailer) ran out of gas. She was in the van following me, and next to her was the only empty seat for me to ride in to take me to a gas station. I was too embarrassed to even introduce myself at that moment.

[Not all surprises are “October” surprises. (: This is what you get when @she  mentions “getting to know you” in connection with encouraging write-ups.]

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Aw, ain’t that sweet. An arranged marriage. It’s not like you really had any say when everyone else had already decided.

    • #1
  2. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Lovely!  Where did you get the idea that you needed 5 years to know someone well enough to marry?  Seems like 6 months to a year would be enough if you found the right match.  As, apparently, you did.  Tardy congratulations to both of you on 40 years of marriage.  May you have many happy decades to come, in serenity, good health, and financial security.

    • #2
  3. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Full Size Tabby: [Not all surprises are “October” surprises. (: This is what you get when @she  mentions “getting to know you” in connection with encouraging write-ups.] 

    And I love it, thanks.  What a great story.  You two got married exactly three weeks after I did. Congratulations!

    • #3
  4. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Caryn (View Comment):

    Lovely! Where did you get the idea that you needed 5 years to know someone well enough to marry? Seems like 6 months to a year would be enough if you found the right match. As, apparently, you did. Tardy congratulations to both of you on 40 years of marriage. May you have many happy decades to come, in serenity, good health, and financial security.

    As a 23 year old, the idea of a commitment that could last 40 or 50 or more years was so scary that I wanted to be really, really sure.

    • #4
  5. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Aw, ain’t that sweet. An arranged marriage. It’s not like you really had any say when everyone else had already decided.

    Probably why I don’t find the concept of arranged marriages as horrifying as many do. The family input was key to getting me over my fear of commitment. Plus the knowledge that those family members would be there to support and to reinforce the marriage and help to keep it going. 

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    A sweet story, FST. It sounds like you were meant for each other!

    • #6
  7. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Caryn (View Comment):

    Lovely! Where did you get the idea that you needed 5 years to know someone well enough to marry? Seems like 6 months to a year would be enough if you found the right match. As, apparently, you did. Tardy congratulations to both of you on 40 years of marriage. May you have many happy decades to come, in serenity, good health, and financial security.

    As a 23 year old, the idea of a commitment that could last 40 or 50 or more years was so scary that I wanted to be really, really sure.

    A couple of other points of possible interest as to why I thought it would take years to decide: My parents had divorced after they were married 20 years (I was 13 at the time), so that made me more conscious that I should take a lot of time to decide. As to my fear of commitment, I like to keep my options open. I chose law school because it provided more career options than business school. A lawyer could always enter the business environment. A business school graduate without a law degree was not going to be permitted to enter the law environment. 

    • #7
  8. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    The advice I give my students is to marry by 22.  There are always exceptions to a general rule.  

    • #8
  9. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    The advice I give my students is to marry by 22. There are always exceptions to a general rule.

    Good advice.  My wife and I met in college and were married the year after graduation.  We celebrated 42 years in August.

    • #9
  10. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Full Size Tabby: We met because neither of us skied

    I was completely delighted by this turn of phrase!

    • #10
  11. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    The advice I give my students is to marry by 22. There are always exceptions to a general rule.

    Although I didn’t do that, nor did either of my children, I have heard that suggestion. Although the popular view is that early marriages are subject to failure, I have been told that early marriages that are made with real commitment allows the couple to build habits and patterns together, rather than two 27 or 30 year olds with already established habits and patterns trying to rearrange those two sets of individual patterns and habits into something that works together. 

    That suggestion is often accompanied with advice to have kids early, pointing out that it is easier (for women) to dedicate herself to a career at age 40 or 45 after raising children than it is to have children at that age after having a career. Too many women insist on building a career first, waiting until well into their 30s before starting to have kids. That rather limits the timeline for multiple kids if the woman discovers she likes having kids.

    • #11
  12. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    The advice I give my students is to marry by 22. There are always exceptions to a general rule.

    Although I didn’t do that, nor did either of my children, I have heard that suggestion. Although the popular view is that early marriages are subject to failure, I have been told that early marriages that are made with real commitment allows the couple to build habits and patterns together, rather than two 27 or 30 year olds with already established habits and patterns trying to rearrange those two sets of individual patterns and habits into something that works together.

    That suggestion is often accompanied with advice to have kids early, pointing out that it is easier (for women) to dedicate herself to a career at age 40 or 45 after raising children than it is to have children at that age after having a career. Too many women insist on building a career first, waiting until well into their 30s before starting to have kids. That rather limits the timeline for multiple kids if the woman discovers she likes having kids.

    This is very good advice.  It’s too bad more young women don’t take it, though I’m sure it’s driven by fear of failure of the marriage and finding herself a single mother with a deadbeat ex and no marketable skills.  My best friend married young, had 4 kids, and started college when the youngest started school.  She graduated college the same year the eldest graduated high school.  She went on to a multi-decade career with a big company and recently retired.  I waited and then couldn’t.  So, stuck in my not-first-choice not-quite career, no kids, several cats, great husband, but many regrets.

    • #12
  13. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    The advice I give my students is to marry by 22. There are always exceptions to a general rule.

    Although I didn’t do that, nor did either of my children, I have heard that suggestion. Although the popular view is that early marriages are subject to failure, I have been told that early marriages that are made with real commitment allows the couple to build habits and patterns together, rather than two 27 or 30 year olds with already established habits and patterns trying to rearrange those two sets of individual patterns and habits into something that works together.

    That suggestion is often accompanied with advice to have kids early, pointing out that it is easier (for women) to dedicate herself to a career at age 40 or 45 after raising children than it is to have children at that age after having a career. Too many women insist on building a career first, waiting until well into their 30s before starting to have kids. That rather limits the timeline for multiple kids if the woman discovers she likes having kids.

    That folks, is distilled wisdom. 

    • #13
  14. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Caryn (View Comment):

    Lovely! Where did you get the idea that you needed 5 years to know someone well enough to marry? Seems like 6 months to a year would be enough if you found the right match. As, apparently, you did. Tardy congratulations to both of you on 40 years of marriage. May you have many happy decades to come, in serenity, good health, and financial security.

    As a 23 year old, the idea of a commitment that could last 40 or 50 or more years was so scary that I wanted to be really, really sure.

    A couple of other points of possible interest as to why I thought it would take years to decide: My parents had divorced after they were married 20 years (I was 13 at the time), so that made me more conscious that I should take a lot of time to decide. As to my fear of commitment, I like to keep my options open. I chose law school because it provided more career options than business school. A lawyer could always enter the business environment. A business school graduate without a law degree was not going to be permitted to enter the law environment.

    Exactly my thinking Tabby. And very similar circumstances. Parent also divorced when I was 13 and it was devastating.  Both parents remarried and then divorced again while I was in law school.  But it worked out with a law school classmate who also had divorced parents and wanted to take it slow. So two years to the nuptials. And 51 year later it worked out.  

    • #14
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This post is part of October’s group writing theme: October Surprise. Join in with your own expression of surprise, good or bad, mild or great.

    You are invited to play off of “surprise,” “October,” or both. Stop by today to reserve a day. Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #15