At this point in my life, I had thought I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up. I based this career decision on participation in a co-op program in high school between our campus and a local hospital. I worked at the hospital every day after school for a semester rotating through all the different departments and wound up with enough training at the end of the year to be able to qualify as a nurse’s aide. My favorite rotation was the emergency room. I loved the variety…the having to think on your feet to adjust to whatever came your way, never knowing ahead of time what that would be.
And here I was, taking nutrition and microbiology and allied health in preparation for the day I would be accepted into nursing school. Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what was happening that semester. The real truth? I was an 18-year-old college freshman who spent more time dreaming about a certain dashing young aviator than just about anything else. And why not? He was handsome, he was driven, he was living his dream, he was a man of integrity and high moral standard and strong faith. What more could a girl possibly want?
And while I was dreamily floating along, Flyboy was seriously contemplating his life, in which he, by the way, was well-positioned to pursue the future. He was not the type to string a girl along if he didn’t think he had a future with her. He may have been happy enough for a while longer the way things were, if the arrangement had not so dramatically changed in such a short period of time. In the beginning, I was in California and he was in Texas and there was only the getting-to-know-each-other-over-the-phone part to deal with – not the face to face realities of a relationship. But this wasn’t just about expensive phone bills any more. We were together (though 200 miles apart) and the fact that I was in Texas, in the flesh, in his life meant he had to do something about it. As he prayed through the circumstances of our meeting, our instant attraction to one another (though neither of us believed in love at first sight…until now, that is), our shared values and beliefs, and more, he was further convinced that he had a decision to make. It was not in his nature to casually date. It was all or nothing.
Meanwhile, back at the dorm, playing princess and white knight, I was busy dreaming about living happily ever after. In my fantasy, I imagined myself baking chocolate chip cookies in my own kitchen, wearing an apron, kissing my prince at the door when he came home from slaying dragons at the end of the day. It was all so romantic…and besides, for me, in my dream I got to skip the drudgery of college and career altogether and just dance to the altar and into the life of a grown up. I was in love with the idea of being in love, and at the age of 18, I had no idea what it was like to live on my own, much less with another human being, and much, much less with a husband.
This was all happening way too fast. It was like a runaway train careening down the track, headed for disaster. Flyboy knew I was too young. He knew it was too soon. And he knew that there was no way he would make it through one more weekend without proposing, because in his heart, he knew we were meant to be together. Did he wish I was a bit older? Yes. Did he wish I had some more life under my belt? Certainly. His parents had been divorced and his last fiancée had betrayed him with another man. He had spent the last four years believing to his core that he could never trust another woman. And yet he knew this was it. And while the timing wasn’t the best, it was what it was and he had decided.
Friday finally arrived, and I packed the car for the weekend trek to see Flyboy. In a few short weeks he would be on temporary duty in San Antonio learning how to be an instructor pilot for the next three months. Then, he would only be 40 miles away, instead of two hundred. My driving days were almost over, and then, we would find reasons to see each other during the week instead of just on the weekends. I sang to the radio as I drove, remembering the first time I made this drive. The miles of desolation had mirrored the desolation in my heart as west Texas seemed to go on forever. Now, watching the sunset, I was lost in the pink and orange sky, seeing the purple of the sage and the yellow wildflowers along the road, and the miles flew by.
I arrived at Flyboy and Roommate’s trailer just in time for dinner. The three of us settled in front of the television with steaks pan-fried in butter, baked potatoes, and sweet corn. The evening was easy and relaxed and perfect. Then, rather abruptly, Flyboy announced he had to make a phone call and quickly disappeared to the back of the trailer. I couldn’t imagine what that was about and why he closed the door and spoke so as not to be heard. I shot a questioning glance to Roommate who sort of shrugged it off without saying anything. I tried to push away thoughts of “another woman” or something terrible happening that he couldn’t share with me. A few long minutes passed and he returned, not offering any explanations.
What west Texas lacks in flora and fauna, it makes up for in magnificent starry nights. Flyboy suggested we take a walk in the moonlight and we left Roommate with the dishes and headed out into the open field nearby. I was starting to forget the earlier mysterious phone call and relax again. He was holding MY hand and we were walking in the moonlight at HIS suggestion and so things between us MUST be all right again. He pointed out a constellation, stopped walking, turned to face me, took both of my hands in his and said, “You’re probably wondering who I called tonight.” I nodded. “I called to talk to your dad to ask for your hand in marriage. He wasn’t there, but your mother said they would both give their blessing. And so, I’m asking you now…will you marry me?”
In that instant, I realized that it was he who had been carefully calculating this decision while I had never given it any serious consideration; for me, it was only a romantic notion. He was asking me to be his partner for life and I hadn’t even begun to think this through. Sure, I’d thought about chocolate chip cookies and even candlelit dinners but what did I know about this man, really? What did I know about being married? I had wonderful role models in my parents, but…me? Was I ready? Could I commit to him forever? I was panic-stricken, and for all the dreaming I had done about my white knight, I was so very glad he couldn’t see my face on that dark night, because I had no idea what to say.