VII. I propose, and learn that no matter how well you think you know someone,
sometimes you are in for a shock.
In the back pocket of my trousers I carried the small card I had filled out during the meeting described in the previous chapter. As the date on that card approached, as I mentioned, I realized that I had somehow gotten myself into a position that I could fulfill the challenge I had set for myself on that card and I determined that I would do it.
I was, of course, nervous about the whole thing. After all, I had only known Shauna for 6 months. We had only dated for 4 months or so and I had dated her exclusively for only a month and a half. There was, naturally, the possibility that she would react with absolute shock and say something like, "Don’t tell me that you are one of those nuts who goes around proposing at the drop of a hat? My answer is no! Absolutely not. Take me home right now. I never want to see you again." As I say, she could always say that or something like it, and I will admit that I would be hurt, deeply hurt, if she did, but, I confess that I thought it most unlikely.
I assumed that her most likely response would be something like, "This is a bit sudden. We need to date more and think about it while we get to know each other better." That, I felt, would be her most likely response, but I was determined to do all I could to prevent the first response. I made reservations at the restaurant rated by Utah Holiday Magazine as #1 in Utah, Balsam Embers. I sent her a dozen roses, and told her to be sure to wear a dress.
I picked her up and she was absolutely stunningly radiant. I think I said something terribly clever and wonderfully romantic like "You look nice", but I’m not sure I said anything that clever because I was terribly nervous. I probably said just "Hi."
At any rate, we went to the restaurant. I’m not sure what we talked about, or even what I said--if I said anything. As "the great moment" approached I became increasingly nervous, so much so that as I stood up to leave, I smashed into a trayful of glasses being carried by a waiter. Shauna burst out laughing, which was really a relief, because I was so nervous that were it not for the comic relief of the head-to-tray encounter, I’m afraid I might have crashed on the way to the chosen site to pop the question--temple square.
The plan was--i.e. my plan--to ask her to marry me as we strolled around, and gazed up at, the temple. Unfortunately, for my plan, as we stepped out of my car, we were met by Harold-----, a new convert from my ward. He was obviously glad to see us.
"Oh, you two came down to Temple Square. How wonderful! Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll just walk around with you. I’m sure you know ever so much about everything here."
Of course, I did mind, I minded very much, but what could I say? To my annoyance, Shauna was not only kindly, but encouraging. After walking around for a bit, it was evident that Harold had no intension of leaving us. Now, it is not always true, as they say, that three is a crowd, but when you are planning to propose marriage, it is.
After, what I deemed a rather decent interval, I said, "Harold, actually we are going to a dance, so I’m afraid that we will have to leave you." But, it became immediately clear that we were not going to lose Harold until we actually did leave.
They say that all the great moments of history--and of life--never turn out exactly as you plan. If Napoleon had not had a toothache at Waterloo, no one would even know who Wellington was, (of course, not many know who he was even with Napoleon’s toothache, but you get my drift). Anyway, just as a toothache botched Waterloo (for Napoleon, not Wellington), so Harold more or less botched my plan of proposing to Shauna as the two of us gazed blissfully up at the stars above the temple spires. But I was determined to go ahead with the proposal anyway. So just as I opened the door of the car and was helping her into it, I blurted out, "And by the way, will you marry me?"
I then closed the door, jauntily stepped around the car and braced myself for her response as I slid into the drivers seat.
"I can say it!" she exclaimed enthusiastically as she grabbed my hands. "I prayed that I would be able to say ‘yes’, and I can! Oh, yes! Yes! YES!".
When I was growing up going to school, occasionally I remember being shown a picture of a large hole in the ground. The caption below the picture reported that this was a large hole in Arizona where a meteor had struck. Someone in the class--possibly even the teacher--would say something like, "Just think. If you lived 300 miles farther south and 3000 years ago, you might have been struck by that meteor." This was undoubtedly true, but I must admit that I felt like this was not something I needed to spend much time worrying about. But I can honestly say that if I had actually been struck by that meteor, I would not have been more surprised than I was when Shauna said "yes" to my proposal.
I consider myself a rather astute observer of the human condition, and admittedly, that rather astute observation has led me to the conclusion--which I arrived at after a great deal of looking around with close (and again, astute) observation of what was going on around me--that there are a great many women who have said "yes" to marriage proposals. It just never occurred to me that Shauna might be one of those.
The meteor had struck. I muttered something like "Oh, wonderful." Then, having seen in a movie, or, maybe a play, or something, that you should kiss the girl when she accepts your marriage proposal, I kissed her. But I can say with some assurance that if the kiss had been filmed, it would have passed the strictest censorship by early Puritans, or Amish or my mother.
We drove to the dance in total silence. I didn’t know what to say, but doubt that I would have felt like saying it if I had. I sensed that I was supposed to be happy, but I wasn’t happy. I was miserable beyond words. Only 2 months since my 35th birthday and I was engaged to a girl I hardly knew.
We danced in total silence. Shauna, who earlier in the evening, in my mind, combined the best looks of Maureen O’Hara, Jean Simmons, and Audrey Hepburn, now looked to me like the Wicked Witch of the West--only worse.
After a couple of dances, I suggested we stand the next dance out. While we were standing together a young man (who neither of us knew) came up and asked Shauna to dance.
"I’m sorry," she said. "I can’t. You see, I’m engaged."
"Well don’t let that stop you," I said quickly, almost insistently.
She shook her head. "I’m sorry," she repeated softly.
I felt a little foolish, but I suppose I was sort of hoping that he would propose, and, although I had the prior claim, I would, at that point, have very quickly surrendered it.
At this time, I simply threw in the towel. I took Shauna home, said "good night" with a very mild kiss, and headed home with an unbelievably heavy heart.