The Proposal

Posted by on July 8th, 2023  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I watch TV. Let me rephrase that…don’t own a TV, but my seven year old MacBook might as well be one. For 10 years I had netflix, but they kept raising the price so I switched to Amazon, and then added HBO. Fun fact: ten years from now these brands may not exist. I enjoy vegging out in the evenings, especially when I don’t have a painting or sewing project going.

I just watched a good movie on HBO called: “That Awkward Moment“. It’s about 3 guys who are roommates with commitment issues. They date girls, but don’t want to commit. In the movie, two of the guys finally “commit” to their girlfriends. It’s cute and moving, and it reminded me of that moment for Sue and I. I’ve been told (by Cass) that we have the last surviving long term marriage in America.

Now I have to say, Cass moves in different circles than Sue and I. In her world, that’s probably true. And with the divorce rate hovering around 50%, it does make you wonder. But Sue and I have it pretty good. When it’s good, it’s really good. And when it’s bad, it’s not that bad, we just wait until it’s good again. Out of 25 people that regularly play ping pong at the community center, we are the only married couple who play ping pong together, and definitely the only couple we know of who still climb and backcountry ski together. That’s saying a lot given our wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

The Story

If you know me in person you’ve probably heard this tale: When I was 17, I dropped out of high school, built a tipi from scratch and lived in it off and on for three years when I wasn’t hitchhiking to warmer weather in California. This was back in the days of free love and communes. Things got crazy and I lived in the moment. Truth be told I was a very stupid young teenager…the ‘recreational’ drugs didn’t help.

Me at my hand built tipi in 1971
Me in front of my hand built tipi in 1971

But after 3 years off the rails, at the age of 20, I realized I was heading down the wrong road. I sobered up, spent a year in trade school and got a solid blue collar job in printing that paid the bills. I met Sue in a hiking class and by our second date (hike) I knew she was special.

She liked me too and we mutually decided to date, or be what is now called exclusive. At that time we used to call it boyfriend – girlfriend…or maybe it was going steady? It was so long ago I can’t remember. I do remember the conversation.

We had just returned from a group hike out on the coast to Point of the Arches. Her ‘special friend’ was there. I thought he was her ex boyfriend, though she said he was just a good friend. At any rate, he liked Sue a lot, and they had spend a lot of time together at parties and hiking trips before she met me. I told her that he, or, rather the time she spent with him, made me uncomfortable…and that, if she was serious about us…she should cut back on the time she spent with him…because he clearly didn’t see himself as ‘just a friend’.

She got real serious and said OK, that he really didn’t mean that much to her. She wanted to be with me also. She may have even cried…maybe we both cried. It was a turning point for us, riding back to town in the back seat of that VW bus after a 3 day group backpacking trip. I put my arm around her for the rest of the drive, thinking that maybe we were a couple…that we had found something special.

Sue meets my parents 1976

Things just got better and better after that. We went on many hikes together, rain or shine we were outside eating up the miles and meeting for pizza midweek. I remember a day around the six month point. We were lounging around in her bedroom, upstairs at her parents house. She was still living at home while she worked her way through her second associates degree. She was 23, I was 22.

I was absolutely sure she was the one. 47 years later, when I think of how young we were back then, I’m really shocked at my clarity of mind, but not all surprised at her answer.

(Proposal #1, 1976)

“Do you want to get married?” I asked.

“No way, I hardly know you!!”

She didn’t say it meanly, but she clearly meant it. This just goes to show how different men and women are. Or maybe just how clueless I was. I had no idea what was going through her mind. We kept hiking, climbing and skiing together as if nothing had happened.

Two years later she had finished college, got a good job and moved out into her own apartment, conveniently located two short blocks down the alley from mine. Not counting work, we were spending all our time together. Every weekend we were climbing or XC skiing. We were sitting on the couch together one evening after dinner. I think she was sitting in my lap. Out of the blue she said:

(Proposal #2, 1978)

“Do you want to get married?”

I was kind of shocked. I’d asked her two years before and she’d said no. So I said:

“Why should we get married? We’re doing just great as we are. Besides you talk an awful lot, I think I might go crazy if we were married. But I think moving in together might be good. Do you want to do that and save some money?”

“No! Absolutely not. Not until we get married.”

So another year went by, lots of climbing, skiing and parties with our tight circle of Mountaineer friends. Finally, we were having a quiet moment in her apartment and she said:

(Proposal #3, 1979)

“We should get married.”

“Why, we’re doing just fine!” I asked.

“If you won’t marry me, I’m going to start dating Larry again.”

“Geez, OK, let’s get married!”

And so we did.

Sue and I, 1979