Monday, October 13, 2008

Love Story, Part Four

Part the First
Part the Second
Part the Third

A week before finals, on a Friday night, I had a stomach ache. I met PR for a little studying before we went out, but the stomach ache got worse and worse. It was unlike any pain I'd ever had. We decided I'd better go to the campus infirmary, but there was hardly anyone on duty and they suggested I go to the emergency room. The pain was so intense that I agreed.

Papa Rooster borrowed a car from his landlord and drove me there. He stayed with me as medical professional after medical professional talked to me, trying to diagnose the problem. By this time, I had a new pain across the tops of my shoulders that I kept mentioning. Finally a nurse said, "That's referred pain! You may be bleeding internally!"

She was right. An ultrasound revealed that I had a ruptured ovarian cyst, and I needed emergency surgery--that was the topic of PR's first phone conversation with my parents! (I talked to them too, but for some reason he did also.) I had an initial laparoscopy, but a C-section-type incision was needed to repair the cyst, and I was kept in the hospital for several days afterward.

I don't know about the visitor's policy, but it seems like PR never left my side. He was there, with a little stuffed dog, when I was coming out of the anesthesia and could barely talk or lift a hand to open the present. He was there for so much of the next two days that I began to worry about his finals! He told me that one prof had told him he didn't need to take the final; he'd just give him the grade he was getting without it. "The same kind of thing happened to me and my wife, when we were dating, and it really accelerated our relationship," the elderly, eminent, compassionate professor told PR.

And that's exactly what this hospitalization did for us. PR felt he had come pretty close to losing me, if it weren't for one smart nurse and modern surgery, and he was filled with a love that was more possessive and protective than he had ever felt before. I observed how much PR sacrificed to stay with me at the hospital, sensed how deep his feelings were for me--and my heart responded. It wasn't long after that that we began to talk about getting married.

(My parents drove out from Ohio to take me straight home, while PR and my friends all had final exams. I took one of my finals over Christmas break on the honor system, another in January when we returned for the second semester, was forgiven one--the professor gave me the grade I was getting--and the due date on one final, a paper, was extended. PR managed to pass all his despite the big distraction.)

After spending Christmas break with his parents and brother in New York, PR flew to Ohio to meet my family and drive with us out to Illinois for the second semester of our junior year. In March, we both drove to New York to spend Spring Break with his family. In April, we were seriously talking about engagement, and I figured he would talk to my dad when we went there for Easter break. Call us old-fashioned, but neither of us thought for a moment about getting engaged without my father's blessing!

So I was not the least bit suspicious when on Thursday before Palm Sunday, he told me he had plans to go into Chicago on Friday night with a friend. They were leaving around 4 to go to dinner and a late-night jazz club, he said, and they wouldn't be back till really late. He'd sleep in on Saturday and call me when he woke up.

Late Saturday morning he called to suggest that we meet at the dining hall for lunch, where he told me all about his late, late night in Chicago, with many details about the jazz club and a fitness club in a downtown hotel that they went to afterwards with a friend of his friend. An old man chain-smoking cigars in the sauna was one of the more memorable details, I recall.

On Sunday morning, we went to an early Palm Sunday service, which meant we had about a half hour to kill before the dining hall opened for lunch. PR suggested we walk on the front lawn of Blanchard Hall, one of the most picturesque sites on campus, in view of "the Tower" which is used as one of the college's logos. Eventually he steered us to the stairway and porch at the bottom of the Tower, where we stopped and looked out at the view. It was a gorgeous morning.

"I have a confession to make," he announced, and my fellow Wheaties and Pledge-signers will laugh when they hear this, but my first thought was: He broke the Pledge while he was in Chicago on Friday night. (It seems like everyone did at least once.) I said nothing, however; I just turned blue eyes upon him and waited.

"I wasn't in Chicago on Friday night," he admitted.

That didn't compute.

"Actually, Jon and I drove to Ohio on Friday night, so that I could talk to your dad."

This information didn't sink in either.

He sank down on one knee, at the foot of the Tower which couples climb to ring bells and announce engagements, and asked, "Dear, will you marry me?"

My brain still seemed to be frozen with too many questions, like my laptop when I hit too many buttons in a row. But that query took priority above other tasks--and I was able to answer enthusiastically, "Yes!"

We kissed and he gave me a ring, which he had purchased over the phone from his jeweler uncle. It was a "starter ring" by anyone's standards, but I thought it was beautiful in its very petiteness. I loved the way the band fit together with the stone. I couldn't wait to wear both!

However, even an engagement ring couldn't quite unfreeze my brain. It was stuck, the little icon spinning madly, trying to replace one "truth" with another truth. "Okay...so...tell me...what happened? All that stuff that you told me about--the guy with the cigar--you made up all of that?"

"Yes! I'm so sorry...but I figured it was the only way to surprise you. Actually we drove straight to Ohio. On the way, we had trouble with the muffler of Jon's Volvo station wagon, so when we got there, about 10:00, the first thing we did was pull up in to the carport so we could see to wire the muffler part that was loose into place. Your dad helped us. What a great way start, I thought.

"We went inside and your mom served us some cake. Then Jon and your mom played Score Four in the kitchen, and your dad and I went into the living room."

"Did you close the pocket doors?" I asked, trying to imagine it all.

"Yes," he chuckled. "We talked...and then we left around midnight. We got back just before six on Saturday morning, so when you met me for lunch, I had only had a few hours of sleep. Oh, and your mom sent you a piece of cake--it's still in Jon's car."

That was what unfroze the spinning little icon in my brain's computer. Suddenly all programs shifted into normal again as my brain accepted the new reality. The muffler, the pocket doors, Score Four...these were convincing details, but if there was a piece of cake, here in Illinois, from my mother--that clinched it.

We headed eagerly to the dining hall to show my ring to all our friends and announce the news!

Stay tuned for Part Five....

11 comments:

mama said...

"Actually, Jon and I drove to Ohio on Friday night, so that I could talk to your dad."

Oh my goodness!!!!! When I read this, I let out a tiny little squeal (its after midnight here!!!) and got tears in my eyes!!!! This is so great Jeannie!!! It so well written, and I love not only that it's a true story, but one where I actually know the characters!!! (Holy exclamation points :)

This is so romantic. I love that it happened this way, and I love that you're sharing this with all of us. Thank you and bless you!

Love,

Gabi

Linds said...

Have I told you how much I am enjoying reading your story??? I love it!

Rosa said...

Wow!

This is beautiful! =)

Earthmommy said...

This was by far the best bloggy reading I've had in months! I was on the edge of my seat for this post, even though its obvious you are alive and well and you and Papa Rooster are married. LOL. Thanks so much for sharing this. It was so heartwarming.

Heather said...

Oh, what a great story! I am loving this. I guess we can assume by the number of your kids that everything with the surgery worked out okay :)

At A Hen's Pace said...

I am so glad everyone is enjoying this!

I didn't know what a good story it was until I started telling it. ;)

~Jeanne

Amy said...

Thank you so much for sharing all of this! It is amazing . . .

amy

Summer said...

Oh, I can so picture every little detail. And yes, you knew he had to be telling the truth -- how else would he know about "Score Four". Never heard of that game til I met Mom. Can't wait for the rest of the story!

Activities Coordinator said...

I've been out of the loop for a couple of days, and look what I missed! What a wonderful story!

You know, I'm kind of glad I got to read it all at once. I hate suspense!

Anonymous said...

i want to hear more! tell about the wedding planning and being married while still a college student!

Wildwood Mama said...

Oh, how sweet! I love how devoted he was to you in the hospital!