The first time---or maybe it was the second time---that Don asked me to marry him we were on a playground riding pink elephants mounted on giant springs and not doing a very good job of it since they were designed for children and we were in our late twenties at the time. It was four o’clock in the morning. The moon was full making the trees surrounding the park look like an enchanted forest. But there might have been a little alcohol involved earlier in the evening so it could have been just our imaginations working overtime. It’s enough to say it was a memorable setting to get a marriage proposal.
The last time Don asked me to marry him was in the year after his stroke. We were living in an accessible apartment while I was getting his house ready to sell and I was also in the process of getting an auction organized at a large pole barn that he had rented for years. My house was sitting empty, waiting its turn on the sales block. I’d been fretting about the high cost of my health insurance and we were having major cash flow problems. Don’s language disorders---aphasia and apraxia---at that point in time had his speech limited to a few nouns that often took as long as four hours for him to get out. But he was determined and would keep trying over and over again until others around him understood what he wanted to say. By the time he finally got the word “marry” out, the conversation about the insurance had vanished from my mind, but not his.
“You’re merry?" I asked and with all the stuff going on during that time frame I was stunned that he could feel that way. "You’re happy?” It was a question that, of course, upset him because I misunderstood what he'd worked so hard to get out.
Besides the fact that it took me a while to recognize that single word proposal as a proposal, another thing that was different from the time he proposed while we rode pink elephants in the park was his reasons for asking. This last time, Don was asking because getting married would get me covered by his health insurance and pension plan. I don’t know why he proposed that first time, but my answer was: “Why we hardly know each other!” We’d only been dating a matter of months---and not exclusively at that---and I thought anyone with a lick of sense wouldn’t ask that soon. Strike one against Don.
In the decades in between his first and last proposals when ever people pressed for a reason why we didn’t get married, Don often repeated that line---“Why we hardly know each other!” It was a standing joke and only the two of us knew its true origin. But there was a deeper meaning as well. Over the years Don and I flirted with the idea that reincarnation of souls is real and we figured we had been soul mates since time began. It just took me a while to recognize that when we first met. And that brings us to the true meaning of the words that will be carved on our tombstone… "Happy trails to you, until we meet again." Our time together here was just a drop of water in the flowing river of life and we’ll have until the end of time for our souls to keep on finding each other. ©