Let's Digress

Gabby and Adam: An Engagement Story

Gabby and Adam: An Engagement Story

Greetings, fellow humans!

Allow me to intro introduce myself. My name is Adam, I’ll be your narrator and one of the main protagonists in this story you’re about to read. This isn’t just any story, though. This is the tale of how two individual lives merged into one. It’s a love story. And like the best love stories, it’s a true one.

Let’s start at the beginning. Actually, no. Let’s start at the engagement day instead. That’s more exciting. We can go over the beginning later.

Once upon a time…

Gabby, the brilliant woman I had been dating for several months, and I were planning on going hiking in the woods one day. Specifically, the hike was scheduled for July 28, 2016, which just happened to be one day shy of our seven-month anniversary.

Oh, I should preface this with a brief two-part digression:

Firstly, in our third month of dating, we had “the talk.” That uniquely thrilling, sobering, clarifying, and culturally-dreaded “where do we want our relationship to go from here?” conversation. We didn’t say if we wanted to marry each other or not; it was just the basic “do we want our relationship to continue heading in the direction of more serious commitment with the intention of quite possibly getting married in the future? Because if we don’t then we should terminate our relationship here” talk. We both agreed to continue, obviously.

Secondly, I am not good at keeping secrets from Gabby, especially when those secrets involve me buying expensive things. In this case, I purchased a shiny engagement ring.

Digression over.

Since we became engaged, people semi-frequently ask me, “Adam, when did you know Gabby was ‘The One?’”

I usually reply with something similar to the following: Well, there isn’t such a thing as “The One.” That’s a fiction created by Disney. I don’t believe in soul mates, nor do I believe that there is only one romantically-inclined person for everyone in this highly populated world we live in; logically, it just doesn’t make sense, but that’s a delightfully different story for a delightfully different time.

So I never had a singular “a-ha!” moment where the clouds parted as metaphorical scales fell from my eyes while beautiful confetti simultaneously floated down from the heavens with embossed cursive writing on it that read, Adam, she’s the chosen one, as triumphant classical bagpipe music played in the background. Never happened.

It might have happened for Gabby—probably not—but it definitely didn’t happen for me.

What did happen, though, was I took innumerable long, hard looks at reality—where we both were in life independent and dependent of one another, behavior patterns apart and together, character compositions, long-term life goals, family histories and dynamics, spiritual growth patterns, etc.—and then overlaid all of that with the blueprint of how a Godly life ought to be lived out to see how closely the two lined up and to determine if she and I were headed in the right direction. Not to mention the copious hours of quiet time, prayer, family consultation, and writing things out on a four-feet-by-eight-feet dry-erase board.

Fast-forward four months to the beginning of July. As I was heading home by myself after one of our regular day dates, I stopped by Zales to pick up the ring that had finally been delivered to the store. It felt like the longest week ever, waiting for it to come in. I get antsy waiting two days for Amazon Prime packages to deliver, so a whole week was basically like watching Rocky V: Really long with no end in sight.

I walked inside, paid for it, had a few minutes of awkward small talk with the employees, and then headed back to my car. As soon as I sat down in my car I opened the silver box and stared at the incredibly shiny ring, the diamonds of which were brightly reflecting light from the setting sun. It was just like a dramatic scene from a movie, I swear.

As I sent a picture of it to best friend Zach, second best friend Kristen, who happens to be Zach’s wife, cousin Cindy, and cousin Elizabeth, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was somewhat similar to how Gollum felt while staring at The One Ring from The Lord of the Rings.

While sitting in the parking lot having my nerd moment, I realized that my heart had began beating substantially faster. I couldn’t figure out why for a second, but then it occurred to me: This engagement thing just became very, very real. This was happening; I was going to propose marriage to an absolutely wonderful woman who doesn’t close cabinet doors or put lids back on containers after she removes them.

Yes, that was the actual thought I had. And yes, she rarely closes cabinet doors, puts lids back on containers, or screws caps back onto bottles. She also has an odd enjoyment of all things pink and glitter, but I assume that’s just part of being a female. Can anyone say, “gender stereotype”? 

Fast forward a few days, two trips to Walmart, a business card order, two used book orders from Amazon, and I finally had the supplies needed for this adventure. I had spent the better part of two months working on different engagement scenarios in my head and finally, three weeks before the Day, I had a plan that was an odd mixture of nerdy, sentimental, original, and near-genius.

Oh, I need to back up again with another short digression: At the beginning of our relationship, and still to this day, Gabby and I leave random notes for each other. They range from loving words of endearment to off-the-wall Lord of the Rings quotes that may or may not apply to some event going on in our lives.

One time I found a note in my pocket that read, “What has it got in its nasty little pocketses? -Gollum <3 Your Precious” I swear, she’s such a nerd and it’s absolutely wonderful.

Anyway, she usually leaves notes on random pieces of paper. I was just clever enough to start leaving notes on my Let’s Digress business cards; the back is basically blank, save for the website information, so it’s a convenient space to write words and such. Actually, shortly after this note-leaving thing started, I ordered five-hundred business cards and had the backs redesigned to provide more writing room than the originals. Then I thought to myself, “Self, if this relationship makes it to an engagement, you have to work one of these cards into it.”

Long digression short, I had been intentionally plotting to use one of my business cards in the proposal to Gabby long before I even knew definitively that I was going to propose.

All that being said, Gabby and I had so many talks about marriage at this near seven-month point in our relationship that me whipping out an engagement ring box wouldn’t have surprised her one bit. Unlike me, she enjoys surprises, so I had to get covert and crafty with this proposal thing in order to pleasantly pseudo-blindside her.

The plan was to take an older, used-but-in-good-condition copy of The Fellowship of the Ring—the first Lord of the Rings book—and to cut a hole in the middle. Conveniently, the first chapter where the hole started was titled A Long-Expected Party. Approximately two-hundred pages down, I glued in a picture of the two of us as a backdrop.

Next, I drilled a small hole in the remaining pages, centered between our heads in the picture, and inserted a wooden dow. The ring would sit on the wooden dow to keep it in place.

This final piece was the most important: A few weeks earlier I had placed another business card order. Only these business cards had “will you marry me?” written on the back of them in a cursive font, where my notes are normally written. A business card was then placed in the book as a bookmark on that first chapter, which she would open the book to.

All of this was to take place at sunrise atop of a one hundred and ten foot tall fire tower that was built in the 1930’s.

There were a few different possible outcomes floating around in my head: 1) There was the possibility that Gabby would be so excited and accidentally drop the ring through a crack in the floor and it would plummet just over one hundred feet to the ground, never to be found again. 2) As mentioned by Kristen, I might say something offensive and she would push me out of the tower, and I would plummet just over one hundred feet to my doom and later be buried in the woods, never to be found again. 3) We might get to the top and there would be other people in the seven-foot square room. Sunrise would decrease the chances of that. And 4) All would go well and it would be magical.

She definitely did not toss me out of the top and it was magical.

About one week earlier, we set a date to have a morning hike and to watch the sunrise from the fire tower. Nothing special, just a routine morning hike. I purchased a new backpack and used that as my “valid reason” for wanting to go on a sunrise hike, to “test it out.” Gabby thought it was a great idea, and so we solidified plans for it. The weather even looked crystal clear one week out!

July 27th, the day before, I was making a list and checking it twice for what all I needed to bring. That list included my GoPro, because being in the fire tower also provided a nonchalant reason to have my video camera out and recording without causing suspicion, the ring and such, extra clothes, selfie stick for the GoPro, and snacks, because I get hungry sometimes.

That was the longest and most palpably anticipation-filled night ever. I was so excited that I didn’t actually fall sleep until after 0300. It was just like being eight years old on Christmas Eve again.  We needed to leave Gabby’s apartment by 0535 to make it in time for the sunrise.

July 28th, 2016, 0540. It was raining and thundering and lightening heavily outside, basically an Indiana monsoon. We were drinking coffee in her kitchen and looking at the weather radar, talking about how safe it was being at the top of a tall metal tower during a lightning storm. Fortunately, it looked like the storm was going to suddenly stop in about twenty minutes and then pick up again a few hours later. But if it was still storming by the time we arrived, we were just going to watch from the car or possibly take a hike in the rain.

Luckily, my new backpack was supposed to be waterproof. But then again, are twenty-six dollar backpacks ever truly waterproof?

Anyway, we grabbed our rain jackets, coffee, the quasi-waterproof backpack containing the ring and other supplies, and headed out the door into the rain. It was approximately a forty-five-minute drive to the fire tower, give or take fifteen minutes for the five-mile gravel road to get there. Sunrise was at 0640 and the lightening and thunder had eased up. However, it was still raining steadily.

Another concern we had during the drive was what the gravel road was going to look like. It had rained a lot over the past 8 hours and the gravel road was inconvenient enough to manage with its copious number of potholes when it was dry outside.

Fortunately, when we turned onto the gravel road the rain had completely stopped.

Twenty minutes of rocky puddles later and we were pulling into the parking lot. One other vehicle was parked there, a red SUV of some sort, which was a little odd to see at that time of morning on a Thursday. It looked like whoever owned it had been there for a while though, because it wasn’t nearly as muddy as my Jeep.

That also reminded me that washing it the day before was probably moot now.

Upon thinking that, the gravity of the situation hit me again: I was literally seven minutes away from proposing marriage to this wonderful, stunning, expert-amateur ecology aficionado. Seriously, she knows her environmental facts. And bird sounds. Lots and lots of bird sounds. The feather-covered birds that go ca-caw! ca-caw! do not make the same sound as the ones that go chirp chirp, which are different than the sounds of mocking birds, sparrows, red breasted nuthatches, and cockatiels. And vultures fly differently than hawks, which fly differently than eagles, and penguins don’t fly at all. Except underwater, which I guess would technically be swimming. Did I mention that this woman is brilliant? It’s basically like taking a much more attractive female version of Jack Hannah into the woods. Sure, the mountain lions might still eat us, but at least we would be eaten while knowing what type of buzzards were flying above us and which breed of squirrels were frolicking nearby.

But I digress.

Looking at the tower ascending into the foggy heavens above us as we were walking towards it, I couldn’t help but be thankful that this proposal was taking place in July and not in December. I made a mental note to share that amusing thought with Gabby about fifteen minutes later.

We made our way up the stairs, and after what felt like hours, we were at the top. In reality, it only took about three minutes to climb. But I was excited. Oh, and at this point, I still hadn’t decided if I was going to get on one knee or not yet.

The only emotional comparison I can think of that has any semblance to this climb is being eight years old on Christmas morning after waking up; sitting on the couch in front of the presents while still wearing pajamas with disheveled hair, just waiting for mom and dad to finish their morning bathroom routine before coming into the living room to start the festivities. 

The view became increasingly more breathtaking as we ascended. At the top we had at least a twenty-mile view in any direction; the sun had risen about fifteen minutes earlier. Lower, dark rain clouds contrasted against the slightly brighter, overcast sky, contrasting against the white fog, which only amplified the varying shades of green from the trees and hills all around.

It had been a particularly hot July and the morning was cool due to the rain, so the fog and mist were thick enough to have a rather dramatic appearance. The fog rose between the hills and trees all around, the smell of fresh rain, moisture in the air, and a slight breeze. It wasn’t something that will be easy forgotten, that’s for sure.

Gabby had started taking pictures of the landscape with her phone while I sifted through that new backpack to find my GoPro, being careful to keep an eye on her positioning in the metal cab and not to expose the book.

I assembled my camera and affixed it to the metal railing in the corner of the cab, checked the view to make sure we would be in it, hit the record button, and then made an awkward face at the camera.

Gabby had her back to me, not thinking anything of my GoPro because, well, it looked commonplace since we were being all outdoorsy and whatnot. Score one point for cleverness.

I reached into the backpack, took the rubber band off that was going around its circumference to keep it closed, and covertly checked to make sure the ring and card were still in place. They were. I still hadn’t decided to stand or kneel yet. I told myself I could think about it later and deal with it when the issue arose, which would be in about forty-five seconds.

Gabby was still taking pictures, immensely focused in her own little world at the top of the tall tower.

I should mention that when Gabby is focused, really focused on something, anything that happens and interrupts that focus is basically attacked like a mother honey badger attacking an innocent squirrel, trying to protect her honey badglet babies.

So, I pulled the book out of the bag. Gabby was still facing away from me taking pictures.

I said, “Oh! Gabby, I have a new book for you to read. Actually I—“

“Shhh! Wait a minute! I’m taking pictures!” Gabby said abruptly, cutting me off mid-sentence. I disrupted her focus.

Taken a little aback, I stuttered, “Um, I have it with me right now, in my hands, behind you.” She was still facing away from me.

She turned around, intrigued.

“It’s an older book, but I read part of it and thought it was interesting. I bookmarked it.” I said.

“You want me to read it now? Right now?” She said, slightly confused.

“Yeah, it’s bookmarked in the front. It’s part of the first chapter, less than a paragraph.” And I handed her the book.

She opened it, and as the pieces clicked into place in front of her, that’s when I decided to take a knee.

Her jaw began to drop as I said, “Gabby, will you marry me?”

She blinked repeatedly, trying to comprehend what I had just blindsided her with. Surprise factor: Successful.

Then things took a twist for the confusing; she started to extend her arms, trying hand the ring back to me, while I was still in front of her on one knee.

Looking at her, and with an awkwardly questioning voice, I said, “No?”

Not “no” as in, “I’m not taking no as an answer,” but “no” as in, “You’re not handing it back to me, I don’t want it back. It won’t even fit on my finger, you silly, gorgeous woman.”

So then she started to pull it back, jaw still dropped in amazement, taking everything in.

Still on one knee, I asked in a confused and amused voice, “So, is this a yes?”

“Oh! Yes! Of course it’s a yes! Absolutely!” She replied, laughing happily, to my relief.

Then she body-checked me with a jubilant hug like a hockey player during playoff game. We had a few romantic kisses, several more hugs, and even a happy dance. Three happy dances, I believe.

Fun fact: If you’re just over one hundred feet above ground in a metal tower with a seven-foot square cab and jump, you can feel the tower move. Or maybe it was just the events of the morning rocking my world. Both are a fair possibility.     

After a few minutes of such antics, she looked at me and said, “Too bad we didn’t get it on video!”

I looked back at her with a smirk and said, “Didn’t we?”

Then she saw my GoPro and its blinking red record light flashing behind me. Catching the proposal on video: Success. 

“So that’s what this whole date was about! And buying the backpack! Oh you’re good, you’re really good. I love you, you sneaky minx.” Gabby said joyously.

Yes, she really did call me a sneaky minx.

Then we took what seemed like a countless number of awesome pictures of us, the ring, the scenery, and every combination possible, while at the top of the tower.

After some time of doing that, we made our way back down the stairs, our lives being completely changed from how they were a mere fifteen minutes earlier.

Thursday, July 28, 2016, was a productive and lovely day. A very productive and lovely day indeed.

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