Young people today seem to keep coming up with evermore creative ways of “popping the question,” some have even video taped and posted their elaborately choreographed proposals on the internet. In the previous post I recalled an elaborate cliff-side picnic atop Pigeon Mountain. Readers of this blog may have thought that I missed the perfect opportunity to propose to Libby during that picnic, but the truth is, I did propose (sort of).
Libby and I talked about getting married as we sat next to that cliff on that gorgeous Sunday afternoon; but then, we talked about getting married on the date before that picnic and we talked about getting married during the date after that picnic, and nearly every date after that. Libby and I became so comfortable together after our first few dates that we were able to discuss marriage as easily as we discussed which desert we were going to split after a meal. The good thing about so many frank discussions is that we learned one another’s opinions on so many different things that it helped us better understand the other’s point of view; the bad thing about so many discussions about marriage is that afterwards, when you look back, there was never a definitive time that can be pinpointed as “the proposal”.
Libby and I discussed a variety things during the two years that we dated including marriage, children, finances and, ironically, what each of us would do if the other one died first. We thought it was important to share our opinions on these and other things because we both believed that if you decide ahead of time what your standards will be in any given situation then you are more likely to stick with your convictions instead of allowing circumstances to sway your decision.
An example of one such discussion happened while Libby and I were on a date in a restaurant when a family sitting next to us began to deal (unsuccessfully) with an unruly child by explaining logically why she should not lie in the floor and scream at the top of her lungs as she threw a temper tantrum. That lead to a discussion between Libby and I (when we could finally hear one another) about how we would handle the same situation when we became parents. For the record Libby said, and I agreed, that the little darling needed a firm hand to her backside, instead of her parents attempting a logical discussion with a 4 year old about manners.
During the discussions that Libby and I had about marriage there never really was a specific time when I asked Libby if she would marry me, nor was there a specific time when she said yes. In fact, we talked about getting married so often that during one conversation in the summer of 1978 we decided that we should get married the following summer on June 9th. At some point during the conversation, a realization came to Libby’s face slowly as she looked up at me with a grin and gleam in her eye saying, “Well, I guess that means we’re engaged…”. Ever the romantic wordsmith, I said, “Yea, sure looks like it”.
We never really thought about it at the time, but afterward, I always felt bad for Libby when girls eager for a romantic story would ask her, “How did he propose?” she would say, “He never really did.” followed graciously by, “We both just decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together; and after that it was really only a matter of setting the date”. In hindsight, Libby deserved better, she deserved one of those elaborate proposals that are going viral on YouTube, but the truth is we were both so concentrated on our relationship and our life together as a married couple that we viewed the proposal as more of a mutual decision than a single question, asked and answered.
After we decided that we wanted to get married in such anti-climatic fashion, I went to ask Libby’s dad for permission; that conversation, much like the proposal, was more like the culmination of a process than a single event. For a year or so, Pastor Willis and I had been having discussions about religion, marriage and responsibly, so when I finally asked for his permission to marry Libby his response was something like, “I thought you would never ask!”, followed by, “Of course you have my permission to marry Libby, now lets go tell her mother before she has a coronary.”
The ring, however, was another story altogether. We had so little money that we had both decided we would not get an engagement ring. but instead we would put all of our money toward getting a house. I bought an older house from my uncle that had been vacant for 5 years and it needed a lot of work. It was my idea not get an engagement ring so we could put more money into the house before we moved in, and even though Libby agreed, I later had second thoughts about it (the ring, not the marriage).
In the next few months I spent all of my savings, nearly everything I made, and almost all of my time working on the house to make it livable. In addition to working on the house, many nights I was sneaking away to take on extra jobs so I could save up enough money to buy Libby an engagement ring. Missing out on several dates and/or opportunities to work on the house paid off in the end as I was eventually able to save up $500 toward a ring that I picked out from a Bennett Blue Book mail order catalog.
On Christmas Day 1978 I surprised Libby Willis with at diamond engagement ring, now we were really engaged!