Part 2 of my Valentine story.
(Read Part 1 here: In Which My Husband is Thinking About Another Woman)
In the next few weeks, I found myself thinking about Pete and this possibility that was an impossibility. A couple of months passed before I sent a card with a little note, something along the lines of, “I’m not interested in going to your school, but would come up to get to know you better. Let me know if you’d like me to visit. Otherwise, I’ll pray for you in the Philippines.”
All Pete read was an opportunity for company, and he is always up for a party. “Sure, come!” he responded, with his standard exuberance for anything or nothing in particular. He closed with his full name, middle initial included, like he was writing a check or signing a contract.
From the moment I arrived on campus, I could hear the whispers and see the sidelong glances. Not only was it a small student body where nothing went unnoticed, in this conservative community of navy suits and skirted women, I was conspicuous in my torn, whitewashed jeans and knee high motorcycle boots.
Except for our love for God, Pete and I were as different as any two people could be. I was an alien in his strange world where people called each other “brother” and “sister” and punctuated sentences with “Amen.” I couldn’t picture Pete, nor any person I met that weekend, in any scenario that was normal to me.
On Sunday, the men and women sat on opposite sides of the chapel. But since I was Pete’s guest, I sat with him, a lone woman on the men’s side and definitely the only woman in the building wearing pants. The preacher was reading about the Proverbs 31 woman. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing,” he said. Pete says God told him, right then, I was that woman. Though I didn’t find that out until much later.
Before I got on the train we gave each other a friendship hug. Pete handed me a tiny seedling in a little styrofoam cup. That gave me some indication how well he knew me. I can’t even be trusted to nurture an artificial plant. I hoped the seedling hadn’t been intended as a picture of our relationship. I managed to kill it within a week.
Though I thought I might be falling in love, I actually wasn’t sure how he felt about me. But when I opened my bag, there was his senior sweatshirt. One morning it had been chilly and Pete had let me wear it. He must’ve stuffed it in my bag when he was putting it in the trunk. That must mean something. But who knew? Maybe he was still promoting his school. He was weird like that.
A couple of weeks later, he was going to be preaching in the area. Did I want to come? We did a double date weekend with my sister and brother-in-law (who I found out later were counseling him to beware the man-eater, but Pete is not easily put off once he gets an idea into his head).
We were in that awkward stage between friends and maybe something else. I got an inkling I might be special when he invited me to his senior prom. He could’ve invited anyone, even Lindy, but he had invited me. I still had no idea how our relationship would ever work out logistically — or in any other way, for that matter. I just kept giving it back to God.
The invitation to his senior prom turned into an invitation to Senior Week, a whole week of class trips and activities. By the end of the week, I was an honorary member of his class, even though I still couldn’t call anyone “sister” or “brother” with a straight face.
A month later, we were picnicking on the grounds of the “castle house,” a whimsical fairytale cottage. “I have something to show you,” Pete said, leading me upstairs to a tiny, round room inside one of the “towers.” He handed me a rectangular package, which turned out to be a leather bound Bible. “Open it,” he said.
On the front page, large calligraphy letters said, “Will you marry me?”
I would’ve been disappointed if he’d left it at that, but Pete’s not one to let the written word — or anything else — speak for him, when he can say it himself. He got down on one knee and did the whole thing with dramatic flair. Then he opened a small door in the wall and pulled out a cooler with glasses and champagne.
“I’m glad you didn’t get a ring,” I said. “I much prefer this Bible.” I actually meant it.
We celebrated by going out to dinner. The waitress brought a covered bread basket. When I lifted the napkin, there among the rolls was a velvet ring box. I guess I had spoken too soon.
“You’re marrying who?” my friends said, scratching their heads. I was known for logical, well thought out decisions, not harebrained impulsive actions. I had never been so sure about anything, and yet so unable to offer a reasonable explanation anyone else could understand. “This is different,” was all I could say.
Before he left for the Philippines six weeks later, Pete and I saw each other every weekend. He was gone for six months, half of what he had originally planned. I wrote long letters, lined pages torn from yellow legal pads. Pete, more of a talker than a writer, sent cassettes describing his adventures — raw duck embryo, heavy rains, sleeping on mats, and dirt floors.
Finally he came home.
Nine months later we were married on the lake, in front of that same fairytale house. We hardly knew each other.
Neither Pete nor I would’ve probably picked each other out of a crowd. I can’t say definitively, in every case, there’s such a thing as “the one,” and I’m fairly certain it’s not quite as simplistic as finding the single interlocking piece in a puzzle.
Maybe we created our own self fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps we just got lucky, or opposites attract. Or maybe it’s all of the above. But twenty years later, Pete and I still believe ours was a match made in heaven.
What is/was on your marriage checklist? What do you need to know about a person before you would agree to marry him?