“Back in the day, I didn’t realize I’d have to tell this story so many times,” he said. “You come home from work every day and have all the stories and mine doesn’t compare to those. It’s not like the ones you write on your blog.”
“But it’s YOURS,” said I. “I need to know it. Won’t you tell me?”
“I had to go through enemy fire, did you know that part?”
I shook my head. Shocked.
“Nope. You’d better start at the beginning….”
And this is how it goes. My parents love story. Their proposal story. (Oh, and the story that is the reason I even exist.)
It started in Guatemala. Yes, Guatemala. My Dad roadtripped down there (I didn’t even know it was possible by car, did you?) and was spending time helping missionaries in various villages. (And, yes, I now understand where my travel bug comes from. My adventurous spirit. It’s ALL my dad.)
But, no. It didn’t actually start there. By that point he’d known my mom for six years. She was part of the family. Best friends with Dad’s older sister. The little sister counted her as one of the crew; “I have three brothers and three sisters,” she told her kindergarten teacher. When, in reality, she only had two sisters….the third was my Mom. Not a sister just yet.
They hadn’t actually dated. Jim and Lois were just friends. Hanging out, canoeing down the river in canoes they’d built themselves, feeding the camp pony together (that is a story I’ve heard many times), hiking up the mountain.
But in Guatemala, it all changed.
With Lois two thousand miles away, Jim was hunkered down in a missionary home trying to clean it out from a previous guerrilla attack. The missionaries had escaped alive — through the native foot trails in the jungle — and now two American boys were trying to clean up the wreckage. But it got a little more harrowing than just tidying up; the village’s one truck was set on fire and a peaceful summer day turned sour too quickly to notice. And next thing they knew, the two twenty-two year olds were in hiding…listening to gunfire around them.
And in those moments, wondering if he’d ever make it home alive, Jim decided that when he did, he wanted one thing and one thing only: to marry Lois.
“I can’t just die and never tell her that’s what I want!”
And so, he didn’t.
A few weeks later he spent his last $360. (Aside: this is where he paused to tell me that he was NOT exaggerating. He was literally broke.) But if he didn’t have any money, at least he had a plane ticket home. Kind of.
The ticket took him to Miami, Florida.
Just in case you’re wondering, Miami was 850 miles away from where Lois was, and the poor boy had no money.
But apparently love really is all you need.
Because twenty four hours later and too-many-cars-to-count, he had hitchhiked to Virginia and Lois was coming to pick him up at the interstate.
“I kind of lost all my nerve,” he admitted. Somewhere between Guatemala and Miami and Hillsville, my resolve was shattered.
Instead, the two best friends chatted it up on the way to his parent’s house. Just catching up on life. Like best friends do.
It was either weeks or months later, the time line gets a little fuzzy, and the path took them to Lake Norman.
[“See?!” My Dad was excited: “We were on the Lake! That was romantic, right?”]
But they weren’t actually on the Lake. They were near it. In a grove of oak trees. At dusk. In the pouring rain. Yes, rain.
“I want….I want….”
Yeah, he was stammering. He had at least halfway worked up the nerve to tell her.
“I want…I want to marry you.”
There. It was out. And she – well – she’d been waiting a LONG time for him to figure this out.
So in the pouring rain near the Lake, he’d finally told her what he decided in Guatemala.
And that is why I am here today. Daughter of two adventurers. And now it suddenly makes sense why I am such a traveler myself. 😉
(And if you’re wondering, Dad’s lakeside proposal was actually at an interstate rest stop. Fitting. Especially since their early years of marriage were spent taking weekly cross country trip in an eighteen wheeler.)