It was the most graceless proposal anyone could imagine. When my friend Loren planned to propose, he took his girlfriend to the place where they first kissed. Kara’s husband-to-be arranged everything ahead of time with one of the Fourth-of-July balloonists. But when I asked Lynn to marry me, she was stretched out in her recliner (supposedly purchased for my use), toying with one of Na Ki’o’s little rubber finger puppets. (Not that he has fingers, but he likes to bat them around.)
“Here,” I said, dropping a ring on her. “Put this on your finger instead.”
This Hallmark moment was 14 years in the making. Lynn packed up everything she knew and arrived from Wisconsin on Oct. 1, 2002, to live with me in my house. My first house-warming gift to her was a collapsed sewer pipe that introduced her quite well to my long-time friends Jim and Judy Barry, since we went down the street to their house for a number of days to use their bathroom.
Over the years I contemplated marriage, but it never seemed necessary. Her mother, to whom Lynn was quite close, contracted pancreatic cancer, and I thought maybe we should get married while her mother was still here, but I didn’t do anything, other than assure her mother — who didn’t ask for any assurance at all — that I would always look after Lynn and love her. And I did, but we still didn’t get married.
We did take ballroom dance lessons, lots of them. Lynn didn’t want to, at first, and like many a modern woman, didn’t do so well at being told what to do, which is the only way ballroom works, if one partner leads and the other follows. We’ve met lots of people through our classes, which sadly came to an end once our teacher moved from the area. But it’s a skill we can still take out in public, and we’ve had several people tell us they like to watch us dance together.
We watched the American remake of Shall We Dance, and bought the soundtrack. Every time I played it and Peter Gabriel sang, “You ought to give me wedding rings,” I contemplated matrimony. But I still never moved off the dime. I kept another song in my back pocket. I found it on one of Pat’s (of Pat’s Screen Printing) mix tapes, and it came without a title or singer’s name, but through the miracle of the internet, I eventually tracked down both: I Will Love You, and the plaintive version Pat had was by the Irish group The Fureys.
No less a light than Newton Cole urged marriage. This gracious man, a man of the cloth who summered in Tincup and served as that community’s pastor, made a point of coming to see me one day at work after he had been at Lynn’s bakery, his point being that I should marry Lynn.
But not until 14 years had passed and Lynn was working for the Post Office did I act. The postal clerk union (they’re good for things, whether you believe it or not) had made it so the employees who are purposely kept, year after year after year, in part-time temporary mode, were eligible for health insurance. Employees, their children and spouses. Spouses, not domestic partners. (The Post Office is not always the most progressive place.)
Lynn was twisting herself into knots trying to figure out how we could declare ourselves common-law spouses, and one morning I finally thought to myself, “Why don’t we just get married?”
Which you would think would not be a difficult thought after nearly 14 years together, but it still gave me pause and caused a full day of extreme angst, and I can’t tell you why. Long, long ago (very much pre-Lynn) I had decided I was never getting married, a decision I was not only okay with, but quite content about. Things change, I loved Lynn — why not get married? But still I had a day of heartburn before I realized this would be Just Fine.
I went ring shopping. Bob Mann at the jewelry store (which was the last place I checked after looking at galleries) showed me a couple options that weren’t options at all before turning to the exact perfect ring: a band of sapphires in a rainbow of colors. Lynn loves rainbows, both the refractions in the sky and spinney things that twirl in the wind in an assortment of bright colors.
And then I gracelessly plunked this perfect ring on Lynn three or four weeks before our “anniversary,” the 14th October 1 since she moved in with me. In 2016, Oct. 1 fell on a Saturday. It wasn’t a lot of time to plan a wedding, but that’s what we did.
The biggest casualty was the guest list. Most of the people Lynn wanted to invite were from out of state, and this wasn’t enough warning for them, although her brother and sister-in-law made the trip and promptly got incorporated into the ceremony. We weren’t sure how many people we could fit into our chosen venue (the answer: many more than we thought), and I still regret leaving about six people I had wanted to invite off the guest list. No brothers-in-law on my side could make it (including Tia’s brother-in-law whom I claim too), although three Gaylens drove from Illinois and several other friends came in from Colorado’s Front Range.
Sometimes the weather in October can be adverse, and sometimes it’s glorious. It rained mid-afternoon, right after we set out all the chairs, and then the sun came out and made it one of those glorious days, warm and sunny, the sky cerulean and the leaves golden.
So there we were, outside under a bright sun, all our guests packed behind me (because the sun was shining into people’s eyes behind Lynn — another thing we didn’t take into account), and the day was perfect. Until someone in the house behind the fence started weed whacking. Kara’s husband of one year served as the unsung hero of the day, going over to ask the person if their lawn maintenance could wait half an hour.
My sister Tia and almost-sister Kris sang, including a lovely, Furey-like version of I Will Love You. My sister Terri and Lynn’s brother Kent officiated as we stood with her sister-in-law Laura and my friend Dan and reaffirmed what we already knew to be true: we love each other.
But now we’re all official about it, three years to the day today. And that seems worth dancing about.
I upgraded to a “premium plan” to be able to share with you all this video from my stepdad of our first dance. In theory, I should be able to share an audio file from Tia and Kris as well, but due to time constraints that will have to remain a theory today.