a few weeks after i decided i wanted to marry michael, things in manila seemed to get very intense. looking back, it’s tough to determine how heated it really was. but, two of my four teammates and i felt very unsafe. after a lot of thought and prayer, the three of us made the decision to return home. a week later, we boarded a plane bound for the states.
and like that, i was going to be near to my boyfriend for the first time in our dating relationship.
i was able to move to west lafayette and our relationship continued to deepen. through our rushed decision to return to the states and the situation surrounding that, i had spun through an emotional cyclone. i struggled for months to get my bearings.
to say that impacted our relationship would be an understatement.
add to that the fact that aside from the four months we dated before i left for manila, we’d built our entire relationship from a distance. learning to communicate face-to-face and work out differences in person was challenging.
but we persevered and one week, at the end of july, michael asked me if i’d go on a date with him before his schedule picked up with the start of classes. we planned to spend the weekend in indianapolis with his family and have dinner together on friday.
that morning, i distinctly remember sitting at my desk wondering, i bet he asks me to marry him soon. i bet today is the day.
we’d never talked about us getting married. he’d never told me he loved me. little did i realize how soon that moment would come.
on our way to indianapolis, michael informed me he had plans to hang out with andy when we arrived. i would need to find something to do at his parents’ house for an hour or two. i was annoyed. he wanted to take me on a date, right? not andy. but, i didn’t complain. instead, i hung out at his family’s home while his sister and parents flitted in and out of the house. it was weird, but we’d been dating long enough that i felt comfortable there, even when no one else was around.
finally, michael came back and cleaned up for our date. he’d uncharacteristically insisted that i wear a specific dress and he got more dressed up than normal. we took a picnic basket and blanket to our favorite park where we sat sweating in the muggy july sunset slapping buzzing mosquitoes.
at the time, i thought it was extremely romantic.
as we ate, michael asked me what types of things i find romantic. walks on the beach. picnics in the hot sun. small gifts. notes. and gazebos, i added as we packed up the picnic basket. i find gazebos romantic.
the entire evening, michael made odd decisions that flew by me without notice, especially after he’d insisted on seeing andy before our date. when we arrived at the park, he settled us in the middle of a sunny field instead of under the shade of the trees on our favorite hill. we talked and laughed and as the sun started to set, we took a walk. when he held my hand, he removed my bulky ring which bothered his hand and tucked the ring in his pocket. our conversation was light, skimming and jumping along the surface. we walked around the tall “weedy” grass instead of along romantic paths near the lake.
but, i was so engrossed in the ruggedly handsome man near me that besides a fleeting thought about our picnic location, i hardly noticed.
as we rounded the corner of weeds and “our” grove of trees came into view on top of the small hill, something out of place appeared. something large and white with small lights dancing on the ground. something i’d never seen before.
a hundred yards away, i looked suspiciously at michael. what’s that?! i asked.
i don’t know, was his stiff reply. let’s check it out. and that’s when i knew something big was in store.
as we approached, i began to make out the shape of a gazebo. a gazebo tall enough that michael’s 6-foot-one-inch frame fit comfortably inside. wide enough that he could stand inside with his arms outspread and not touch the walls. he made it, he told me.
i was astounded. i kept repeating, you made this?!
he’d left a dozen roses on the middle of a small blanket decorated with other rose petals. small tea light candles lit the walkway to the gazebo and danced around the edges of the blanket. a small radio played quietly a cd of our favorite love songs.
we danced. under the stars surrounded by twinkling light. we danced to several of our favorite songs. and i kept asking, you really made this? i still hadn’t figured out how he had created such a work of art without my knowledge. it must have taken hours. actually forty-seven, i later found out.
after we danced for awhile, michael stopped. there’s something i want to say.
before i could grasp what was happening, my knight was on his knee, holding my hand. even though i knew it was coming, i was stunned. oh my gosh! this is it!
i love you, he said. i’m a poor college student and i can’t afford a ring. but i want to know if you’ll be my wife.