If I’ve been silent lately, it’s only because things have been happening too fast for me to sit down and write.
I got engaged two weeks ago. Thomas and I are both divorced, both have children from previous marriages, and both carry our fair share of emotional baggage because of those marriages. When we’d been dating for about a week, he asked me how I felt about marriage. I was both happy and scared. Happy because he was even considering it. Scared because the last time hadn’t worked out so well. My ex-husband was a manipulative bastard and more than likely undiagnosed schizophrenic. My parents stayed married until they died (11 months apart after 43 years together), but they weren’t all that happy from what I’d seen. Marriage? Lifelong commitment? Shared responsibilities?
That’s scary stuff.
Even though we both knew at the get-go that we had found something amazing in each other, I was terrified. He’d bring it up in conversation now and then, usually starting with, “When we’re married…” and ending with something humdrum and domestic, like changing insurance policies or such. I never said anything in reply. I still couldn’t believe anyone would want to stay married to me. Ever. Not after having dated so many other guys who lost interest over time. That kind of rejection wears away at your psyche, especially when you’ve grown up thinking your own father didn’t love you.
So I waited. I had my massive PTSD meltdown which threw things into turmoil for several months, and I thought for sure we were over in January of last year. Done. Move out and don’t look back. He stuck with me through all that, even though I tried my hardest to push him away. I couldn’t speak to him for two weeks while I sorted out my anger and sadness, then got back on my feet and realized the one thing holding me together was being with him.
Once we were back on track, I waited. We listened to a summer’s worth of baseball games on the radio, bombarded by ads for jewelry stores and engagement rings. Then came the holiday shopping ads for MORE rings, syrupy commercials featuring stereotypically handsome young men down on one knee proposing to lovely ladies. By my derisive snorts and snarky comments he knew I didn’t care much for that. Still, no proposal. I thought, if he wants to marry me, why doesn’t he say something? He’s a traditional kind of guy, why no proposal?
Is there something wrong with the relationship? Is it me? Has he changed his mind like all the others did? Am I doomed to call my over-40 partner my “boyfriend” forever?
At Christmastime I decided to take matters into my own hands and do the proposing. We’d planned to attend the Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, and I’d spent quite a bit of time putting costumes together. My intention was to find a nice jewelers booth and ask him which ring he’d like, but we spent that weekend at the emergency room instead. I’d come down with an infection that was threatening to ruin our holidays. He was there for me the whole time, never once saying, “I told you so” after I’d been insisting I was getting better when in fact I was getting worse. I spent the rest of the week on antibiotics, but at least we had time with our families, and it was the best Christmas I’d had in years.
New Years came and went. January was filled with busy work. February rolled around, and the weather brightened up a bit. One day I got a bee in my bonnet that it was time, and I set out to find myself a ring. I chose a jeweler, headed out to the shop one morning, and 20 minutes later had found the very ring I wanted to wear for the rest of my life. It was the only one of its kind in the shop, and it fit perfectly. I asked the shop owner to hold it for a few days until I could bring Thomas in to show it to him. She said she could hold it until Sunday afternoon. It was Wednesday morning. I would wait.
When he’d asked me what I wanted for my birthday last year, I told him, “something shiny.” He bought me a Tiffany necklace. Shiny indeed. I told Thomas I’d found a shiny that I wanted to show him, and would he mind coming to see it?
That Saturday two weeks ago he took time off from his yard work on a sunny afternoon to drive out to the jewelry store with me. Once inside I found the owner and reminded her of the ring I’d put on hold. She looked at the both of us, smiled, and sent her husband to get it from the back. We sat down at the low counter all jewelers seem to have for couples trying on rings. Two chairs, with the full attention of a jeweler to talk you through the decision. I slipped on the band. “What do you think?” I asked. He said he liked it. Then I asked him, “Which one do you want?”
I knew he wanted something simple, plain, and comfortable. The jeweler brought out a set of simple bands, and I smiled as I watched him try them on. He kept his cool, but I could detect he was a bit flustered. To me it made sense to just go ahead with getting married. He’d talked about it, I was finally in a place where I was okay accepting it, so let’s do this already. I put a down payment on my band and we got ready to go. “Is that how it is, you’re paying for the rings?” he asked. “I don’t care how they get paid for, either you, me, or both. It doesn’t matter,” I told him as we walked back to the car.
On our drive home he said, “Is this your way of asking me to marry you?” I didn’t even think before replying, “Oh honey, I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. We’re getting married.” He laughed.
Later that day I gave him a card that actually said “So… Marry Me?” I’d felt bad that there hadn’t been a proposal before the rings, so I filled in the gaps the best I could.
Over the next few days I waited while he told his family. First his daughter, who is away at college, which took a few days to get a hold of. Then his mother, best friend, and brother. I texted my sister Ann after I got out of a dental appointment, my face still half numb. She called me immediately, saying, “You can’t just text me that! You have to call!” She’d been getting ready to go to work, and laughed as she told me I’d made her cry and now her makeup was running. I called my aunt Dee to tell her. She was shopping at Costco and I had to repeat what I’d said because it was too loud there for her to hear me the first time. We hadn’t talked in months, and spent some time catching up.
One day last week Thomas came home from work and told me he had a better idea of the sort of ring he wanted. Something black, maybe titanium or tungsten. “You? Mister Traditional?” I asked, honestly surprised. We spent the next hour pouring over websites, looking for the right ring. We haven’t found it yet, but the fact he was so enthusiastic about looking for it really warmed my heart.
We haven’t chosen a date yet. It could be this year, could be next year. It all depends on schedules and such. He’s a school teacher so I assumed summer would be best, but this summer might be too soon to have all our legal ducks in a row, and there are many, many legal ducks to sort out.
I’m still overwhelmed by how fast this is going. I waited a long time to say I was ready, and I almost wish I’d done it differently by being more romantic or something. Instead I did my usual flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants schtick, but it worked. I found a partner who supports me emotionally, cares for me in ways I’d never imagined possible, is exactly my kind of handsome, and I have no intention of losing him. He’s nerdy, silly, stubborn, creative, and warms my extremities at night when I climb into bed feeling like an ice cube. I’d be crazy to give all that up, and I know it.
Now he knows I know it, too.