We had enjoyed a lovely dinner with his family at Benihana in Concord. I had driven all of that way from Modesto just to have dinner with him, and I had to drive all the way back home, so our time was valuable. As we stood in the parking lot, kissing, embracing and saying our tearful goodbyes, he looked deeply into my eyes and said the most powerful three words an individual can speak. "I love you Shawnacee." There is something about someone uttering that beloved phrase and tacking your name on at the end that makes it all the more powerful, special.
"I love you too." I responded in kind as I buried my head in his shoulder and hung on for dear life. Here was this man who had the ability to make me laugh, experience things that I had never experienced before, push myself to limits I had never reached before. A simple man with a lot of responsibilities and yet so, so much to offer. He could make me laugh until I cried and hold me and comfort me when I cried tears of sorrow, sadness and grief. He had the ability to cause me, for small spaces of time, to forget the terrible tragedy and heartbreak that had annihilated my heart and soul for so long. AND HE LOVED ME! AND I LOVED HIM! What a feeling of freedom!
We reveled in our newfound love and either he or I made the ninety minute trip to see one another every weekend. He was my sounding board for the questions of life. When I was stressed or upset he was the one that I would call. He had a way of calming me, helping me to see reason and bringing something positive to the table. Speaking of the table, this guy could cook! He makes some of the best lasagna, chili and burritos I have ever had. That was enough to send me down the aisle right then and there! And, speaking of the aisle, we began to discuss marriage very, very seriously.
Unfortunately, well not really unfortunately, but something that did add to the stresses of the day was the fact that we both had to be patient and receive the blessings of our Pastor's before we could announce an engagement. So, I proceeded to attempt to make an appointment to see Pastor Keyes. With a congregation of over three thousand, attempting to get in to the inner chambers to see Pastor Keyes can be a very daunting task, not for the feint of heart. And, as I am sure you have gathered from my writings, patience is not my strong suit. In the meantime, I was downright itching for a proposal and a little thing called A RING!
Wedding rings are certainly controversial in our movement, and having been a ministers wife from the time I was seventeen years of age, Tim and I had chosen not to wear our rings once we began to evangelize. We felt that this would be a wise decision and would be more conducive to ministry. But, as any woman will, I had always dreamed of sporting a ROCK on my left hand.......no, let me clarify, a pebble on a band would have sufficed.
Thanksgiving came and went and Christmas time was nearing and we still had not had an opportunity to sit down and talk to my Pastor. I was antsy and quickly becoming absolutely, annoyingly impatient. And when I am impatient about a matter, it is unhealthy for all those within my vicinity. I tried very, very hard to be patient though, praying nightly for God's help and gazing at my left hand ring finger visualizing the sparkle and imagining the weight of gold, white gold, silver............who cares??
Thanksgiving came and went and we both spent valuable time getting to know each other's families and then, of course, before we could blink, Christmas time was upon us. Paul had instructed me to find a really nice restaurant to go to somewhere in Modesto for a romantic Christmas eve dinner. I found one, a place that I had been to once before in downtown Modesto. A place called Gallettos. The food has a Mediterranean flare and is quite delicious. It is a beautiful place with very high, punched tin ceilings, a formal yet casual atmosphere. I gave him the phone number and he placed our reservations. I dressed carefully for our date, spent extra time on "the hair" and paced around like a cat. Oh Lord, I hoped this would be a proposal! I wanted a ring on my hand for Christmas!
He picked me up looking so hot it should be illegal and off we went. I was so nervous! My palms were sweaty and my mouth was dry, I didn't know what to say! I had never been nervous around him before, and he seemed a little distracted and nervous as well. We arrived at the restaurant and ordered. The food was yummy and I started to relax a little as we finished our meal, finally coming to terms with the fact that I would probably NOT have a proposal since we had yet to speak to Pastor Keyes and finances were tight with Christmas and all. I resigned myself to my ring finger being shamelessly naked for a little while longer.
The waiter came and took our plates and asked us if we would like some dessert. I looked at Paul for direction and he suggested that we share the Tiramisu. I heartily agreed, having accepted the fact there would be no ring, I was relaxed. We were talking, laughing, holding hands across the table when a couple of waiters approached, trays in hand and set our tiramisu on the table between us. One waiter asked if we would care for a complimentary glass of sparkling cider? "Of course" we replied. And then, I choked on my espresso drenched lady fingers covered in mascarpone at what I saw!!