She said... He said...
I said, "I'm on the rebound from a serious boyfriend in Spain, so I'm not sure I can commit to anything right now."
He said, "Okay. I can wait."
I said, "I love to travel. Alone. Often. If you can't live with that, then this isn't going to work."
He said, "Okay. Go see the world. I'll be here when you get back."
I said, "That ex-boyfriend of mine, the one that lives in Portugal, he's getting married. I'd like to go to the wedding. And the ex-boyfriend in Spain, he's gonna pick me up from the airport in Madrid on my way back thru Spain."
He said, "Okay. I think you should spend time with your ex-boyfriend in Spain. I think you need to decide whether or not you are over him. I'll pay for your ticket. And I'll be here when you get back."
I said, "Are you for real?"
He said, "Yes, I am. I love you, Gail, and I want you to be sure that you love me, so I'll give you all the time and space you need in order to be sure."
In August of 1990, he picked me up at JFK Airport after I'd spent six weeks in Madrid. He drove me to the hotel he was staying at in Reading, Pennsylvania. (The GE Audit Staff sent my dear boyfriend to some exotic places during his years of service there...) As we got off the highway, he began to fumble with the cassette player in the car. (Yes, folks, there were still cassette players in rental cars way back then...) When "our song"* came on, I started to cry. I wiped my eyes, looked through the windshield and saw the hotel marquee that read, "Gail, I love you. Will you marry me?" I cried even harder.
We dragged my stuff up to the hotel room (yes, folks, it was still possible to check two bags that were as large and as heavy as we were without paying any bag fees way back then...) which he had decorated with balloons and gifts of various sizes, shapes, and colors. There on the bed sat the box, the little black box, the box that would instantly change my status from "single" to "engaged" - if Facebook had existed way back then... With trembling hands, I picked up the box, slowly opened it, and to my shock, surprise, and dismay, it was EMPTY!
In full-blown panic mode, I wheeled around on one heel, and there was my beloved,
down on one knee with the ring in his hand.
He said, "Gail, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
I reached for the ring. He wouldn't let go of it.
He said, "You didn't answer my question."
I said, "Yes, Steve, I WILL MARRY YOU."
Later that evening, we went back outside to sit on the railing across from the hotel sign and stare at it. Two women walked by, and one asked, "Are you Gail?"
I said, "Yes, I am!" They looked at Steve and said, "Nicely done."
And, of course, I showed them the ring.
Twenty years ago today, we faced each other on the small platform in the front of the sanctuary of the Williamstown Baptist Church, and spoke the vows to each other that we had written together. We listened to the music. We laughed. I cried. He handed me handkerchief after handkerchief. (How did he know that I'd need more than one?)
When my turn came, I said, "I do."
When his turn came, he said, "I do."
By the grace of God, the counsel of therapists, the support of friends,
through time together, time spent apart, sheer force of will,
buoyed on love, laughter, patience, and forgiveness,
despite my selfishness, discontentment, complaints, criticisms,
many screw-ups, transgressions, faults, and misdeeds,
for the past twenty years, this man of mine,
this loyal, generous, gentle, kind, and outrageously funny man,
keeps on saying,
"Okay. Go see the world. Do what you need to do.
I'll be here when you get back. In fact, let me buy your ticket."
Happy anniversary, Steve.
I don't deserve you.
* Our theme song was "Always," by Atlantic Starr