An Engaging (But Not Simple) Story

It’s simple in the movies. The guy bends down on one knee, pulls out a ring and asks, “Will you marry me?” The girl tears up, accepts and jumps for joy. Next comes a phone call or two, to parents who may be waiting for the call and to girlfriends, who respond by squealing.

It’s not so simple in real life, at least for us widows and widowers with children. That’s what my Significant Other and I found out last month when he picked my Valentine birthday to “seal the deal” and announce it to my kids.

“It’s going to be a very special day,” he kept telling me, and bit by bit began to leak out parts of a “birthday plan” that sounded only slightly less complicated than the Normandy Invasion.

It seems my younger son and his family would be coming over for dinner. The older son, his wife and their two dogs would be Skype-ing in from Arizona, and my daughter and her significant other would be Skype-ing in from Chicago.  What none of us knew was that he planned to use the call for an engagement announcement.

I was skeptical about commandeering such a crowd for an ordinary birthday. “It’s not even a landmark year,” I said, and pointed out that any plan involving six busy adults, two grandchildren, two granddogs, three time zones, and electronic equipment sounded dicey to me.

But he just smiled with the faith of an optimistic romantic. I love that in a person.

By the morning of my birthday, the flu and bronchitis had invaded the younger son’s house. (Guess who was not coming to dinner.)

The Arizona son and his wife would need to phone us the following day because their computer was down, plus they would be out celebrating the Valentine birthday of my daughter-in-law’s sister, who had traveled from Massachusetts for the occasion.

As for my daughter and her SO, they couldn’t Skype till 9 p.m. Her car was snowed in, so she had to take the bus home. Then she needed to finish making him a Valentine’s Rubik’s cube out of watermelon, kiwi and feta.

“Whatever,” I said.  “Valentine birthdays are always a challenge.”

“Oh, no!”  said my soon-to-be fiancé, who had shown up for the day wearing a bright red necktie to commemorate the way my dad had shown up at the hospital to celebrate my Valentine’s Day arrival.

For a guy who is used to the scheduling challenges of his own two adult children and five grandkids, he seemed unusually disappointed. I later learned that he had planned for my children, grandchildren and possibly the dogs to appear in person or via Skype wearing bright red neckties as they listened to our news. The thought of having the audience arrive piecemeal and not fully costumed was hard for him to bear.

To his credit or extraordinary faith, the next piece of the plan came off flawlessly: the presentation of a French-style cake with pink roses, to make up for one my dog had eaten on my 16th birthday.

By the time the 9 p.m. callers came in – snacking on the Rubik’s cube and wearing red ties – he had pulled off a poetic proposal as well as a homemade steak dinner in front of the fireplace. We made the announcement.

“Mazel Tov!” they said, and began the round of congrats and questions from family and friends and finally from legions of romantics on Facebook.

“Where were you?” “How did he propose?” “What’s the story here?”

And the only easy response is:  “It was complicated. And perfect.” Like life itself.

Copyright 2014 Pat Snyder

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2 Responses to “An Engaging (But Not Simple) Story”

  1. Bill Says:

    Love it! Or, as Robert Burns might say, “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men, gang aft agley …”

  2. Pat Says:


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