I don’t expect you to know what the future is going to bring,” I told him. “And I’m not asking for a commitment right now. But I do want to know if it’s possible for us to be something long term. If it’s not a possibility, I’m not interested in doing this.”
Chris didn’t answer right away, but when he did, his answer was perfect.
“I love you,” he said. “And I don’t want to spend a day of my life without you.”
Instead of feeling happy and confident, I suddenly felt something like fear.
In my mind, what he was saying was that he wanted to marry me.
Was I ready for that?
But I loved that I heard that he wanted to marry me and was so confident and open about it.
I quickly warmed up to the idea. But as the days and then weeks went by, I began to wonder. Did his answer really mean he wanted to get married? We didn’t talk about it, and our relationship didn’t change in any meaningful way.
So, were we headed toward marriage, or not?
Then came 9/11. The tragic attack, and the implications that going to war would have for Chris, pushed me to think harder about my future-our future.
One day I called him and said, “I just had this crazy idea-let’s get married.”
I thought he’d say, Hell yeah! Let’s do it!
His actual reaction: “What?”
As in, What the heck are you talking about?
“Oh, it’s just an idea,” I said, quickly retreating. “I’m kind of kidding. We can talk about it later. I have to go.”
I tried to hide my disappointment: not so much at his answer-well, there was that-but at the fact that I had read him so wrongly. I was mortified.
A few days later, we were driving on the 405 Freeway, which is the major north-south connector between Los Angeles and San Diego.
“You want to talk about that thing?” he asked out of the blue.
“What thing?” I said.
“That thing you said on the phone?”
“The thing?” It took a moment before I got which thing he meant. “Oh, that thing. Getting married?”
“Um, uh, yeah.”
“I don’t know. Do you want to?”
“Yeah,” said Chris. “If you do.”
“So?” Chris looked at me. “Are we engaged?”
“Well, yeah,” I said. I wasn’t about to lose an opportunity like that-if that was the way he was interpreting it. Maybe this was the first of his many records-the record for most awkward marriage proposal ever, courtesy of me.
“I need to get you a ring,” he told me. “And I have to ask your dad.”
That was pure Chris: old-fashioned enough to actually ask permission.
He did NOT want to do it over the phone-he wanted to go all the way to Oregon and ask in person. But I convinced him to use the phone. I was too excited to hold on to the news until we could get up to see them.
I was sitting on the bed when he called my parents a short time later. My father came to the phone.
“Mr. Studebaker,” said Chris in his most humble and polite voice. “I want to ask for your daughter’s hand.”
“Her hand?” asked my father, not losing a beat. “What are you going to do with her hand?”
Chris got a little flustered, but it all worked out. We were getting married.