It was a Good Friday. Both literally and figuratively. I was sure about the literal part as we were heading up North for Easter, and it was Friday, so, you know, Good Friday. The figurative part was going to depend on whether I could pull it off.
Joyce and I had been dating for a year. From the beginning, it was clear that there was a strong connection. We both had messed up our first marriages so we had some experience with not so good connections.
I had realized that this was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. A heart the size of an ocean, competent in everything she tries, and, well, lets just say that other things were awesome also.
And her eyes. Oh my her eyes. They were alive. They held all the world’s hurt when she cried. They sparkled like the sun on Lake Itasca when she laughed.
We had talked about marriage already. Maybe not marriage exactly, but certainly spending our future together.
I had the ring custom designed. Birthstones of all our kids. Diamonds from an old family ring. We had talked a bit about rings and I don’t recall her having an opinion other than not wanting to spend a lot of money.
My girls were with me when I picked up the ring. They liked the birthstones and the ring. Or at least they didn’t say they didn’t like it. Which, with teenagers, is sometimes the best you get.
I had a plan for the proposal. She had commented that Preacher’s Grove in Itasca State Park was one of her favorite places anywhere. We drove right by the park to get to her folks’ house. Occasionally, we would take the scenic drive through the park instead of the highway around it. Perfect. All I had to do was suggest we drive through and stop at Preacher’s Grove.
On the drive up, I was, of course, nervous. I was running all these scenarios through my head, trying to figure out how to handle it.
Of course, I wasn’t prepared for the one scenario that did happen. I drove right past the entrance of the park. It is actually worse than that. The route takes us past both the south entrance and the east entrance. I drove past both. The south entrance I drove past because the east entrance was closer. The east entrance I drove past because I was an idiot.
Ok, time for fast thinking. Truthfully, I commented that I had wanted to drive through the park but missed the entrance, would she be ok if we came back in the north entrance? It would be a a bit of backtracking, though, and she wanted to get home so she wasn’t a fan of the extra time. However, I knew there wasn’t a target arrival time, so, in the spirit of forgiveness rather than permission, I signaled and turned into the north entrance anyway. The drive down to Preachers Grove was a bit more than 5 minutes. She said she was ok with the detour as it was a nice day. A bit cold, being the end of March and all, but sunny. She might have been humoring me.
We arrived at Preachers Grove and did our usual walk down to the bluff overlooking Lake Itasca. There is a log bench facing the sun and overlooking the lake. Not very comfortable to sit very long, but good enough for a few minute nature break near the end of a 4 hour drive.
As usual, I sat on the left edge and she leaned into me with my right arm around her shoulders. It had become, and still is, one of our standards. The sun was bright, a cool edge to the air. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes and soaked up the sun.
Nervously, I pulled the ring box out of my jacket pocket, trying not to move too much and get her attention. I was able to open it up, hold it in front of her (her eyes were still closed) and then propose. She says she was surprised and I choose to believe her. The rest of the that moment, other than the fact that she said yes, doesn’t need further documenting.
I don’t remember much about the rest of the drive. I was also relieved that the news was received favorably when we arrived at her family’s gathering. I do remember that, all and all, it was a Very Good Friday.