Bonnie and I had been dating for eleven months when I seriously started thinking that I might actually be willing to give marriage another shot. I knew without a doubt that I loved her, but considering the amount of baggage I carried with me from my first marriage and subsequent divorce, I was gun-shy to say the least. Even so, I knew we weren’t just going to be boyfriend and girlfriend forever. Bonnie deserved better than that.
It was our last night of vacation in Mexico with my family when I implied to Bonnie that I was ready for the next step. I didn’t explicitly say I was ready to get married nor did I officially ask her to marry me, but I implied that it was coming. The next morning, she flew back to Florida and I continued my travels for another month or so. When I finally arrived back in Florida, I had a terrible case of cold feet about the whole marriage deal. On one hand, I was so glad that I hadn’t explicitly proposed to her because I was still scared to death about getting married again. More accurately, I was scared of being twice divorced far more than I was scared of a second marriage. Either way, I returned to Florida with cold feet, hoping that Bonnie might have forgotten our whole conversation in Mexico, so we could go on simply being boyfriend and girlfriend forever.
Such was not the case.
We were driving around town one afternoon just a day or two after I had returned when she first brought up the topic.
“So, I talked to my Mom about having her send me her old engagement ring” she said. In the past we had talked about how if we ever did get married that she wanted to use the diamond from the ring her Dad bought her Mom when they were first married, so I knew exactly what she was talking about.
I had so much to say, but at the same time I was speechless.
I wanted to tell her I was scared, I wanted to tell her I wasn’t sure, but I knew deep down that I loved her. And yet, I was so scared of going through it all again. I’m not sure exactly what my response was in that moment, but I quickly changed the subject.
Over the next few days, I decided that I truly did want to ask Bonnie to marry me. But for some reason, I got the idea stuck in my head that I needed to sell my motorcycle so that I could afford a super fancy engagement ring, even though we had already discussed using her Mom’s. So for the next couple of weeks, I worked on selling my motorcycle.
I polished it, I charged the battery, I took pictures of it in the perfect sunlight, and posted it on the internet. And absolutely no one responded. There I was, a bald man with no job, a dwindling bank account, and a motorcycle that wouldn’t sell. Where did I get off thinking that a wonderful woman like Bonnie would want to spend the rest of her life with a guy like me? I was so bummed.
Another few days passed and my depressed attitude was really starting to get the better of me. Then one morning, Bonnie and I were sitting on the couch in our pajamas when she finally asked me what was wrong. At which point, I completely broke down.
I told her how much I loved her and how scared I was of getting hurt again. I told her how I was struggling to sell the motorcycle and how I couldn’t really afford to get her the ring she deserved. I told her how I didn’t feel worthy of marrying her since I didn’t have a job… And then I pulled a route out of my Dad’s playbook.
“I know I don’t have much, but I do have these” I said as I gave her my hands, palms up.
“No matter what, I promise to work my fingers to the bone to provide for you and our family. No matter what, I promise to break all the bones in my fists protecting you and our family, and no matter what, I will use these hands to lift you and our family up at all times.”
On my knees in front of her sitting on the couch, in my pajamas with tears streaming down my face, I made my closing statement: “I know it’s not much, but these two hands are all I have and I’m offering them to you if you’ll have them.”
Without a diamond engagement ring or flowers, without a fancy dinner or even shoes on, I asked the most wonderful woman in the whole world to marry me.
And she said “yes”.
Years before, my Mom had told me that she married my Dad because of his hands. Unlike my keyboard-typing, computer-engineering hands, my Dad had rough, working-man hands that my Mom knew my Dad would use to provide for her and their family. Thankfully, that’s all Bonnie was looking for too.