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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.]Published in