Just over 26 years ago, I was as scared as I am now. As you’ll recall from Friday’s post in “Our Story,” I had just shared the first of my “triple positives.” It was New Year’s Eve, and I had picked up Maureen at Chicago O’Hare, after the Christmas break at Apple. It was the end of 1988, and we were about to usher in 1989 together. Little did we realize we were ushering in far more than a new year but instead a new life. There are a lot of stories I could share from the 6 months that followed New Year’s Eve, but I’m going to jump ahead a little bit.
The day is July 2, 1988. Six months earlier a dozen red roses had been sent to Maureen’s home in Ridgewood, New Jersey on Christmas Eve. This time, however, I am with Maureen in Ridgewood for the Fourth of July weekend, and as I said, I’m scared. I’m scared because I’ve carried with me a diamond engagement ring, and I’m about to pop the question while we are in New York together. As I have mentioned in previous posts on Our Story, family is tremendously important to Maureen. As a result, I knew that when it came time for me to propose, being with her family to celebrate (hopefully, she hadn’t said yes yet!) would be as important as how and when I popped the question.
The day of the proposal is forever etched in my memory. There were a lot of things that I had planned, from playing our song to another red rose to champagne. However, the way the day was playing out, I was not going to be able to pull all these things together ahead of time. You have to remember this was 1988. The iPod hadn’t been invented yet. Carrying a boom box to the Statue of Liberty to play our song would be hugely obvious! This had to be a surprise. I can still see right where I was standing on the ferry to Liberty Island on the way over to the Statue. It was a beautiful blue-sky Sunday, and I had excused myself to go to the restroom, so I could take the engagement ring out of its sleeve and place it in my pocket for easy access. My head and heart were both racing. I so loved Maureen and was so excited to tell her how much and how I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. My heart still races with the same power of love as I type these words, telling the whole world our story. I would ask her all over again, but knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t even wait 6 days to propose, much less 6 months.
We took a stroll around Liberty Island, and then we sat down to rest on the lawn. My head was racing… this was the moment… time had suddenly stood still. Everything was suspended. I knew if we sat too much longer, without me asking “the question”, the moment would pass. This was it. Apparently, the words racing in my head popped out in words, because as Maureen still teases me, my first words were, “I’m sitting up now.” My next words, however, were the ones that mattered. “Maureen, I’ve thought of a million ways to ask this, but it is ultimately pretty simple. Will you marry me?” Let me tell you… when time is suspended, the 2 to 3 seconds it took for Maureen to say yes felt like an eternity!!! I still see the same glow in her face from that moment every day we wake up together. Sliding the ring on her finger that day was an act of pure joy.
And, then, the day unfolded from there, with messages that the act we had just undertaken as human beings was being blessed by God. As soon as we got off the ferry, we headed to what was then still the twin towers. Showing the kids these pictures is a bit surreal with all that has happened since that day (another post on the twin towers is coming in a few weeks). On our way up to the top of the twin towers, we went by a florist, and I was able to purchase Maureen her red rose. As I told her, what started with 12 roses had now become one. With our path to marriage, we had just created something that no longer belonged to us separately. Maureen and I were part of something bigger than either of us now. After spending some time looking over NYC from the Windows on the World, we proceeded over to Southside Seaport, and enjoyed two little bottles of champagne, bottles that still set on our shelves in our bedroom to this day. The last message is one that still resonates to this day every time I hear the Talking Heads song pop up on the radio. Remember, this is before iPod, XM or anything else. We just had the radio, and I hadn’t pre-made a cassette tape. As we were driving back to Ridgewood from NYC, the song, “Once in a Lifetime,” from the Talking Heads came on. We just looked at each other. Smiled. Glowed. The rose, the champagne and the song all the triple-postive that flowed from our proposal. I may have asked the question, but our union has always belonged to both of us.
As I said at the top, I was scared that day. Maureen and I are scared now, because of all of the unknowns of metastatic breast cancer and what comes next. However, when we look back over the last 26 years, by taking a leap of faith, we catapulted ourselves into an unbelievable life together. We are taking that same leap of faith now, as the new cancer treatments unfold. We tell our stories not because we think they are unique, but because we know the ultimate gift any of us have to share with each other is love. By sharing our love, we hope to spark a revolution, where the love of all who read this will ripple out in to the lives you each touch. Together, we can change the world. On a Fourth of July weekend 26 years ago, my love for Maureen sure as heck changed my world.