Jerry had prayed that God would bring him a wife, so when we had our “appointment” (I didn’t want to call it a “date”) on February 3rd, two days after my much-rehearsed “Canwegettogetherandtalk” speech, he assumed I was the right one. I assumed just the opposite.
I sat across from him at Polly’s Restaurant, scared to death, and tried to explain that I knew he was waiting for God to bring him the right woman and I knew I couldn’t be the right woman because he deserved someone sweet and I knew I wasn’t sweet but that I was feeling drawn to him and didn’t understand why. I said I didn’t want to get in the way of the right one. He just smiled. I thought he was laughing at me.
I was too churned up to order lunch and it touched me when he told the waitress quietly, “Nothing for me, either.” How sweet was that!
He listened to my babbling, listened with his full attention, even his eyes, listened to the end of the sentence, and when I paused, he said, “Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?”
“Tell me about yourself,” I gasped. “You have a daughter, right? How about grandchildren? Can you show me pictures of your grandchildren?” I didn’t hear a thing he said as he started with, “Well, I was born at a very early age–” went through his school years and stint in the Army and his marriage.
Then he asked if I felt better. I did. I thought maybe I’d have a cup of back-burner soup. He signaled to the server and told her we’d have two cups of back-burner soup.Wow. I’d signed off men only because I didn’t know there was one like this out there!
When the soup came, Jerry won my heart forever. He extended both hands across the table to me like open cups. I knew this is what Christians do when they say grace before a meal. But immediately I was sitting again by Rick’s hospice bed. By then his entire right side was paralyzed and he could no longer communicate in words or with his eyes. The only connection we still had was his strong left hand. With that one hand, he could still grip mine firmly. Since losing that last touch on March 19, 2002 I had felt lost and floundering. Now, two years later, Jerry’s open palms were like a lifeline to me. I looked at those strong hands and I thought, If I place my hands in his, I am committing myself to him for the rest of my life!
So I reached out, shy and scared and awed, and put my hands in his. The marriage ceremony three months later wasn’t as symbolic to me as that moment. I placed my hands in his and they are still there.
We spent that Saturday in Laguna Beach. That was our first date.
I do have a bit of a bone to pick with God. Jerry asked God to bring him the right woman so he had no second thoughts about whether we were meant for each other. But no one told me!
When God reeled me in, I was terrified. I didn’t even know this man! I just knew I wanted him and I wanted him as soon as possible. I wanted him whether he knew Jesus or not. I wanted him even if he turned out to be an ax murderer or cheated on his income tax. I even thought if he turns out to be something terrible, I’ll just get a divorce.
That wasn’t me!
Jerry didn’t help a bit. I downloaded compatibility tests from eHarmony.com and had us take them separately. Every evening we’d sit at the table on my patio (I never have men in the house when I am alone), bundled up in coats, scarves and blankets against the February chill and compare our answers. Every question that should have helped me know him better, like “What quality is most important to you in a spouse?” or “What would you like to do on your ideal date?” he’d answer, “You.” I was shaking inside! All I knew was that he’d “pushed his disabled wife around” (in a wheelchair)–but that wasn’t enough to go on for a lifetime!
We began a series of pre-marital counseling classes which wouldn’t be through until after the wedding. The pastor who met with us said we were too much alike for it to work. Then, because we were both in our late fifties, he hurried over the part about dealing with sexual temptation as if it didn’t apply. Brother, it applied! But he was young, he couldn’t have known that.
Somehow, long before Jerry proposed (by Valentine’s Day I was wondering what was taking him so long), we began starting sentences with “When we’re married–” I remember pointing out one evening that he had a beautiful daughter and I had a beautiful daughter and they’d make great bridesmaids. I said his granddaughter Jessica was just the right age to be flower girl and his grandson could be ring-bearer. Jerry asked, “Do you know anyone you’d like to have sing?” and when I said, “No,” he volunteered his oldest granddaughter, who was in a high school for the performing arts, studying opera. I said, “Perfect.” So we plugged our whole family into the wedding party and everything was arranged, before Jerry had proposed and before our grown children even knew we were dating.