Speaking of Valentine’s Day and happenings like this Best Marital Proposal Ever, maybe the only other thing to say is this.
We think we’re in charge of our lives, and in a way we are. We’re in charge of what side of the bed we may get out of in the morning and what sort of cereal we pour our milk on and if we leave the house out the front door or through the garage.
In other ways, though, we can’t take a stitch of responsibility for, say, where we’re born or where we attend our first school or what exact selection of friends or neighbours may encircle us at that time.
In between there is an entire array of decisions both in and out of our hands, marriage, it seems to me, being chief among them.
For example, when I met the woman I would eventually marry – you know her as My Babe – l didn’t have the slightest right to claim even an inch of space that was surrounding her.
As the story goes, one day I made a phone call, a cold call, to invite her to a group getaway. A male friend of mine who knew her suggested that she’d like this group experience and that she knew many of the people involved, even if she and I had never yet met.
What I had, only, was a picture in mind from a photo my friend had shown me from a previous group event, a houseboat party. There she was, on the boat’s deck, showing a certain energy.
“Sorry,” she told me. She couldn’t attend the event – it was a weekend camping retreat – and that was pretty much the sum of our conversation. Except that her parents happened to live not so far away from me, and she mentioned this, that she was back home in the area at her parents’ home once in a while and maybe we could have a coffee sometime.
This (My Babe still insists women say this sort of thing to get men off the phone) is what led me to her parent’s front door one other day when I was to pick up said young lady, the one I hadn’t even met yet, to take to a nearby ball game. Like before, this event also involved a larger group. The two of us were were to meet up with them all at the ball park.
A funny thing happened at the ballpark, though. Nobody else from the group showed up. The two of us waited and spoke a few words and waited some more and I was gobsmacked with the surprising fortune of the moment.
(The group, by the way, was a fun gang known as the Over-30 Unclaimed Precious Jewels Club. But to this day, nobody ever claimed any of this was a set-up as much as simply their characteristic spontaneity, if not unreliability, with plans.)
In either case, this fine young lady and I then had our first date. In fact, we skipped the ballgame and went out for dinner. And then – as had been originally planned with the still AWOL, group – she and I saw some fireworks. It was Victoria Day, after all.
The rest is, as they say, history. But, really, who’s history — who’s story — is it?
Surely it’s mine. And My Babe’s.
But it’s all of our stories too, because how often does this happen, even in the less consequential events of life, where we plan one thing but something else unfolds?
In our case, after the dinner and fireworks, I took Fine First Date one town over to see the newsroom where I worked at the time. It was late and the newsroom was empty and it was an opportunity to, in my own way, show off. Journalism, after all, offers a wealth of chances to meet people of all sorts, chief among them fine women who might make a fine second date at one point or another.
In this case, there was something else, though. This interesting young woman, a doctor, was the perfect news story for the local daily. She was, in fact, a hometown native and was now gone overseas some of the time in a sort of back-and-forth life to help the less fortunate on the other side of the world.
She just happened to be speaking at a local high school about some of her overseas experiences. And Froese just happened to be the education reporter.
“Are you dating this woman?” asked my city editor when I pitched the story idea to him.
“Not yet,” I said.
So Froese’s stories – there was more than one – were written about My New Doctor Friend. And the presses rolled. And it was all good. It was all very good.
And while I did have to put one foot in front of the other to make some of this happen, the deeper truth, and mystery, is that I didn’t. No, not any more than you or I can give much effort to wake up day after day from our slumber, no matter how deep that slumber may be.