Today is the big 2-8 for me. I would probably feel older and weird about it if I hadn’t mistakenly thought I was 28 for most of the past year. Bizarre.
Dani took me to Monterey where we stayed in a cute little bed and breakfast in Carmel. It was a wonderful, beautiful weekend. We spent much of Saturday in Big Sur, doing a little hiking in some of the most gorgeous country I’ve ever seen and eating at Nepenthe. Yesterday, we walked around Monterey, which is just our absolute favorite place to be together, and enjoyed a beautiful day. When we approached a spot along the shoreline with some significance to us, I pulled her over, dropped to one knee and finally made this engagement officially official. And, damn, does that ever feel good.
Dani now wears the ring my grandfather gave to my grandmother when he proposed to her. I had resisted asking my mother for that ring because my grandparents had a far less than perfect marriage. But, after some thought and encouragement from Mom, I decided it was the right thing to do. My grandfather was madly in love with my grandmother when he proposed to her and had apparently placed quite a bit of importance into that ring. My grandfather was one of the kindest, gentlest men you’ve ever met and was just a terrific guy. If that ring was good enough for him, it is definitely good enough for me.
Mom FedExed the ring down to me on Tuesday — missed sleep all that night worrying — and it arrived here Wednesday. I hid it, got home early from my training in Pleasanton Friday so I could clean it up and go buy a ring box for it, then carried it around in my pocket all weekend waiting for the perfect moment. The plan was to do it Friday night — Valentine’s day — after dinner at our favorite restaurant, but we didn’t blow into town until about 11pm, so it was too late by then. The next day we went to Big Sur. My plan was to have an enjoyable, romantic day, finish with dinner at our favorite restaurant (The Whaling Station off of Cannery Row) and then go for a nice little walk where I’d pop the question. Dani, however, had been feeling ill for a while and, rather than ruin my special birthday weekend, decided to keep it from me. However, it was apparent that she wasn’t feeling well throughout the day, so we went back to our room where I let her rest.
Now, one thing Dani says about me is that I can never keep something a surprise. This one was a big one, and I played it close to my chest. I said nothing about a big surprise or any special plans or anything. I didn’t want her to know what I had in store. At the room, though, she asked me why I seemed so disappointed. I responded with something like, “It’s not something I can talk about right now.” Apparently, in the deep machinations of her scheming mind, that translated to her as, “I had planned on proposing to you this evening.” She said nothing about it, but expected it most of the next day, when she was feeling much better and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunny Monterey day.
We walked along the path that connects Cannery Row to the Wharf, which is a path we like to frequent when we’re down there. Dodging the pedaled surries and bikers, we came to a spot where, about two years previously, we had gazed into the waters and seen jellyfish just swimming around (OK, floating). I got all excited, exclaiming that I had never seem “wild jellyfish” before. She thought the wild jellyfish thing was hilarious and, whenever we pass that spot, I always want to go down to see if I can see more wild jellyfish. As we passed the spot, there was a loving couple looking out to the sea. I didn’t want an audience, so I sort of let it go, but I guess my excitement over potentially seeing the jellyfish had now given away the spot to Dani, who promptly dragged me away from the spot, just to be a snot.
We walked the wharf, got some caramel corn and taffy and checked out the old monkey that shakes hands for a quarter and poses for a dollar. All the while, I felt the ring in my pocket grow heavier. I had spent much of the week likening myself to Frodo Baggins, desperately wanting to put the ring on and disappear at times. It was now heavier than ever as I fingered the ring box in my pocket.
We started heading back to Cannery Row. I watched as a different couple got up from the park bench at the spot and started walking away. Fearing someone else would take it, I immediately began charging toward it. Dani walked to the edge and looked out to the sea, knowing what was about to come, while I sat on the bench and prepared myself. I called her over, told her I loved her, dropped to one knee and pulled out the ring. We both cried. She immediately said “Of course I’ll marry you”. I was so caught up that she had to remind me to put the ring on her finger. It just sparkles on her finger. I’m just beyond happy about it.
So, the engagement is now official. To be honest, it was sparked by a recent wedding Dani and I attended. One of my best high school friends, Bobby Knowlton, married a wonderful woman he met in college named Lani last weekend in Palo Alto. It was like a mini high school reunion. Several of the folks from old crowd showed up and it was just terrific to see the, Jeremy works in the NOAA as a Marine Archaeologist, a position he helped create. Jenny and Lisa both work in the Tustin school district — Jenny at THS, our alma mater, and Lisa at Foothill, our rival — and seem to be enjoying it, though both sound like they want to move on soon. Nalu got married to a wonderful woman named Jenn some time last year and still works at Stanford in the mechanical engineering school. All in all, everyone seems to be doing extremely well. Bobby’s father became very sick shortly after we left for college and there was a distinct fear that he may pass due to it. I saw him for the first time since then and, let me just say, *nothing* will kill that man. He’s lost a lot of his eye sight and it seems to have affected his vocal chords and possibly his lungs, but he is as smart, strong and sharp as he has ever been. Mr. Knowlton is one bull of a man and still one of the top five coolest guys I know.
During the ceremony, the minister read two essays written by the bride and groom describing their point of view on the day that Bobby proposed. It was amazingly cute and sweet and, as I sat next to Dani, the woman who would soon become my wife, I strongly felt the effects of what I had been denied in rushing into planning for the wedding. Before losing my job in December, I had been saving my money to purchase a ring and finally pop the question. When I lost my job, I had to shift that money into what I call “The Survival Fund”, praying I’d get a job soon so that I could take that money back out and, combined with my severance, get one hell of a perfect ring. By April, the prospects looked amazingly dim. I had only had a single nibble that panned out to nothing. I was already beginning to feel the effects of depression from four months of unemployment with no light at the end of the tunnel. Dani was upset because it was prolonging our nuptials. My mom had planned on coming up for Dani’s birthday. A week before, Dani asked me if I would agree to marry her in Reno. We could get her parents and my mom, drive up for the weekend and do the ceremony at one of the little chapels there.
I didn’t like the idea at all. When Dani and I became serious, discussions of weddings came up, as they often do. Dani had envisioned dream wedding, one in which all of our friends and family gathered together to witness the event. She knew the colors she wanted, the bride’s maid dresses, everything. She had been close to marrying someone else once before, but he broke up with her before he ever got around to proposing. I knew it was important to her and didn’t want to let it just go. Many women dream about their weddings all their lives. It should be a fairy tale moment. Besides all that, I wanted to ensure it was something we took seriously. I’m a big believer in ritual as a key component to the spiritual side of human life. Ritual gets to the heart of our soul and subconscious, making even the mundane seem enchanted. Few things should be more ritualized that a wedding, the moment when two people declare to the world that they will join together as a single entity and forsake all others in favor of each other. Most of all, I didn’t want my perceived failure as the provider of the household to take something so important away from her.
For her part, she just wanted to prove to me that she’d be willing to marry me no matter what.
Despite that, I told her no, but essentially said that it was OK to pick a date and begin planning a wedding provided that it was far enough in the future that I would be employed and have our life more or less back together. Together, we chose November 15th of 2003. I began trying to save for a ring again when I got my new job, but the more than 30 percent cut I took in pay significantly affected my ability to save money. The ring became something of a burden to me. After hearing Lani and Bobby’s story, though, I came to the conclusion that the proposal was something I needed to do as soon as possible, no matter what. Nothing bothered me more about the way we decided to get married than that. Just as every woman dreams at one time or another of their perfect wedding, every man, when he falls in love, dreams of the moment that he asks his partner to join him forever in the journey of life. I had been denied that and felt resentful. The time had come to just make it happen, no matter what. I called Mom as soon as I could that following Monday.
So now the ring is on her finger, and it glows. It feels wonderful to have this be official. And so, because of that, the State of the Rob is solid. There’s a lot of other stuff I could talk about — terrorist threats freak me out, I positively despise my job, and I’m spending every possible free moment trying to get myself back to the point where I was more than a year ago when I had hope for my career and I was respected and being paid what I was worth. But all of that — all of it — is completely flooded out by the fact that she said yes — for a second time — and wears the ring on her finger to prove it. November is looking much, much better to me.