Today is Ring Day! Twenty eight years ago today, June 13th, Jeff put a diamond ring on my finger. I was the happiest woman in the world. But wait, I’ve given you the happy ending before telling you the story.
I was clueless. Naïve. Dumb. I had no idea he was thinking of marriage. We had just met in January, and it was only August of 1986. Jeff asked me to go on a date, and said I should dress up. He took me to a very nice Chinese restaurant in the downtown area of Augsburg, Germany. During dinner he handed me an envelope containing a letter he’d written, a poem actually. It spoke of his love for me, comparing it to a rose. He talked of being together eternally. Here’s where the word dumb fits. I still wasn’t seeing where this was going. I’m sure my response to his letter was not what he was expecting, but he pressed forward.
After dinner we walked to a nearby park and sat on a bench. We talked, and then he asked me to marry him. I was stunned. I didn’t realize we were at this point in our relationship, and I wasn’t prepared to make such a commitment. I also didn’t want to say no, as he was a pretty great guy. I told him I needed some time to make a decision. Unbeknownst to me, Jeff considered this response to be a no.
The next week, Jeff left for a month long army field exercise. While he was gone, I worked to receive an answer to his proposal. Upon his return, I said, “Yes! I want to marry you!” But the question had been withdrawn.
Our relationship would spend the next two years on a roller coaster. At the high points of the ride we were dating and it was fun, whereas the low areas were heartbreaking and confusing. We were on the last peak of our ride in June of 1988. I would be leaving Germany within the next two months, either to another army assignment or into the civilian world. All I wanted was to marry Jeff and have a family. It was very difficult to consider anything else.
I thought the moment had arrived. We were at a Single Adult Conference sponsored by our church in Berchtesgaden in the German Bavarian Alps.We had been to several of these events over the last few years, and had fond memories of them. On Saturday evening we were alone, walking the grounds of the General Walker Hotel. It was a beautiful setting, our relationship was on very good terms, and I just knew he was going propose. He didn’t. We went back to Augsburg the next day, with me feeling as confused as ever.
Jeff invited me over for Monday night dinner and Family Home Evening (a program our church has where you devote Monday evenings to a spiritual lesson, an activity, and, of course, refreshments with your family). When I arrived at his apartment, I found his place was a bit out of sorts. He cooked a frozen pizza and served it with some rusted lettuce as a salad. Then I realized that he had not prepared any type of lesson or activity. He certainly wasn’t trying to impress me. I sat at his piano and started playing. He then began talking about how he wanted to upgrade his entertainment system by adding a TV and video player. Now I was beginning to feel agitated. Was he toying with me? He knew I had those items. Two could play this game. Without even looking at him, I held up my left hand and said, “Put a ring on this finger and you can have my TV.”
“You mean like this one?”, he asked as he sat down next to me on the piano bench. In his hand was an open ring box with a sparkling diamond inside. I nearly hyperventilated as I exclaimed, “You did it! You did it! You really did it!”
“Where did you find the ring? It’s beautiful!”
“I stopped after work at the base exchange, and said a little prayer that I would find one for you. I didn’t have time after that to shop for groceries.” All the stores in Germany closed by 6:00 pm.
“I didn’t see this one on Friday when I was looking. They must have just stocked their cabinet today.” You can’t blame a girl for dreaming.
The next day I signed the paperwork asking for a release from the army. We were married seventeen days later. For a short period of time, I was known as CPT Butcher. It took the army about three months to complete my out processing from active duty.
Looking back, Jeff and I would agree that it was best that I didn’t say yes to his first proposal, and that we rode the roller coaster. In other words, God’s plan is always better than any that we design.
I almost forgot to mention what’s for dinner tonight. Pizza and salad, just not the frozen or rusted kind. It’s a tradition.