Note: This afternoon, Sidney takes over Don’t Blink and writes a very special blog post in honor of Valentine’s Day.
I am sure you have all heard the old adage “There are three sides to every story…his side…her side…and the truth.” To celebrate Valentine’s Day, I want to share with you MY side of the story. You’ve all heard and/or read his version..but now it’s my turn…
A very integral part of my version of this story is anything but happy. In the months leading up to the moment that Brent proposed, my grandmother was very sick. She was ailing from cancer that was found at a time when she was much too frail for treatment. She celebrated her 90th birthday in April of 2015, and for a couple years her mind had started to give way to age. Her memory was spotty. While she could recount endless stories from her childhood, she could never really remember meeting the love of my life.
Now let me be more specific. Brent had (on dozens of occaisions) been in the presence of my grandmama. He’d been introduced to her. She’d called him very handsome and well mannered, but she truly never met him. Every time we visited her, she shook his hand as if it were the first time. She never remembered him. It pained me, but Brent always made light of the situation, because he liked being called handsome each time he saw her. Now in June of 2015, her health had made a progressive decline and she was spending all of her time sleeping soundly in bed under the watchful eye of my Aunt Martha (who I lovingly call Mema) and my own mother. I knew in my heart that her days were drawing closer to the end of her fulfilled life and because of this I had been spending much of my free time at my Mema’s house with my grandma.
Brent and I had planned a fantastic two week vacation to the Pacific Northwest to spend some well-deserved time with his family. He had all sorts of activities planned and I was eccstatic! The day before we departed for our cross-continental flight, I was desperate for help in packing. I needed the help of my aunt and mother. My mother who is a phenom with an iron, gladly offered her assistance, but she said I needed to bring my suitcase and clothes to my aunt’s house. She couldn’t leave my grandmother’s side, but she welcomed a chance to preoccupy herself with the mindless task of ironing. So that’s just what I did. I threw all of my clothes in my suitcase, hauled it out to my car, and went to my Mema’s.
While packing and ironing, my Mema causually asked about where I saw my relationship going with Brent. I very quickly announced that I wanted to marry him. My mother and aunt both had eyes the size of saucers and asked when I presumed all of this martial bliss would come to be. I told them I thought he’d pop the question while we were on holiday in the northwest. Furthermore, I proclaimed my fear that Brent would ask me at the top of the “M” in Montana (a mountain that overlooks the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula). Why was it such a fear? Because I was afraid I would not make it to the top of the mountain, in which case Brent would realize what a helpless gal I am, and scrap the entire proposal altogether. My aunt burst into a fit of giggles, and throughout the rest of the day teased me about the mountain.
We continued packing, and as I placed my final articles of clothing into my suitcase, my mother says “Your sister is making pancakes for dinner tonight. What are you going to eat?” I glanced up and quickly replied “Pancakes sound good. Count me in.” She exchanged quick glances with my aunt and then replied very slowly “ooooooookaaaaaayyyy?” I thought the moment odd, but continued zipping my oversized luggage. My phone pinged on the coffee table—
Brent: Have you looked at the menu for Wahoo’s tonight? Everything looks so good.
Shit. I thought. I totally flaked and forgot Brent had some dumb work fundraiser at the Marshwalk (I would later learn that the “fundraiser” was something Brent made up to make me go to dinner with him). I told mama and Mema about my blunder and told them I would have to skip the pancake dinner. At which point, they both tried to push me out the door.
My mother said I needed to go home and shower, freshen my make-up, and do something with my mop of hair. Jeez mother.
I wasn’t ready to leave my grandmother’s bedside. I had been wandering in and out of her bedroom that day, taking my time laying beside her and having brief chit-chats when she felt strong enough to talk. I told my mama that I had a whole suitcase of clothes, I could wear one of my old dresses. What about my hair? I could tame it into a low bun, that would be presentable. My make-up? I had my make-up kit and would freshen it up before I left. She seemed to ease a bit with my plan, but was INSISTENT upon the fact that I NOT wear an old dress. She picked out a new one I had purchased for my trip, and I obliged. I called Brent, asked if we could meet at the restaurant instead of riding together, and he kindly agreed.
As I was leaving to meet Brent at the restaurant, mama and Mema both were fawning all over me. I would never complain of such a thing. I loved all the extra attention. They were saying I looked beautiful, they loved me, they thought my dress was gorgeous, etc. Yadda-yadda-yadda. I gladly welcomed all the praise, and sashayed out of the door floating on a cloud of compliments.
I arrived at the restaurant, parked, and waited for Brent, who called to say he was just a few minutes away. As I sat in my parked car, I saw Brent drive by and hopped out the car and walked to meet him near the door. As I walked toward B., I mentally took note of his new outfit. He was wearing a fitted collared shirt with orange trim-detail that matched my dress. He was also wearing a pair of jeans that made his tushy look nice, but I noted his pockets were bulging. I rolled my eyes. Brent and I have had many-a-conversation where I have criticized him for carrying a nonsensical amount of CRAAAAPPP in his pockets. Not wanting to ruin the dinner, I made a concious decision not to mention it.
We proceeded inside the restaurant. We waited for a while before we were seated. Brent was clearly perturbed because he’d made reservations. When we were finally seated the service was anything but spectacular. The restaurant was packed. We were sitting on the porch outdoors, where it was muggy and humid. Our food took fooooorrrreeevvver, and when it did arrive, Brent inhaled his burger. He was fervently tappinig away at his phone, to which he made off-handed apologies that he was finishing up last minute work before we left the next day. I could feel the tension radiating from Brent. He seemed anxious. I asked if he was okay, to which he responded he was excited, but in a hurry to get going, because he needed to finish packing. As we waited for the waitress to bring us the check, I tried to ease Brent’s nerves by posing for a picture. He seemed to simmer-down for a few beats, until we headed for the door.
As we left, we took a back door out onto a ramp that led to the Marshwalk pier. The vantage point from this ramp was unbelievable. It was such a good view that as Brent held my hand (basically dragging me) I spotted a silver SUV with a black liscense plate pulling into the parking lot. “Hey! Brent….wait. That’s mama and daddy!!” Never skipping a beat, he continued to pull me along and replied “Really? No way? Call and see.” So I fumbled for my phone and dialed my mom. Here is the transcription of our 30 second conversation:
Mama: Helllllloooo???( the dragged out the word in an unnatural manner.)
ME: Where are you? Are you at the marshwalk? I swear I just saw you and Daddy.
Mama: No honey. We’re here with Grandma. Where is Brent?
Me: He’s right here. We’re walking up the Marshwalk. We just finished dinner. It was really good. I had crab cakes..Brent had a bur—-
Mama: Okay sounds good. I have to go. I love you. Byeeeee.
Click of the reciever.
Anyway…Brent and I continued down the Marshwalk. He had evened his pace more with mine. As we strolled through the throngs of tourists, I could hear a live band across the marsh playing the song “My Girl”. I lovingly started singing along with band, and Brent squeezed my hand as we walked. As we neared the end of the Marshwalk, I noted a woman with a teal CCU t-shirt taking photos of the wild life. I asked Brent if he was going to pester her, much like he does with other people he sees in public wearing Coastal gear. He gave me a very curt “No”. We inched closer to the end of the pier.
When we reached the end of the pier, Brent took my to-go box from the restaurant from my hands and placed it on a bench. He took both my hands into his own. In that instant my mind snapped into high drive. Is he going to propose. Is this it? Is that CCU young lady taking my picture right now? Am I hallucinating? Did my mother just lie to me? Why are all of the people on the pier slowly retreating to the other end? Oh My Gosh! OH MY GOSH! OOOOOHHH MMYYYGOOOSSSH!
And then it happened. Brent shared sweet words of love and commitment, dropped to his knee, and pulled out a ring. No doubt the buldge in his pocket from earlier. My only reaction was to take his face into my hands. I needed to feel that this moment was in fact REAL. As I leaned forward and grabbed his face, my hands were quickly met with the warmth of his skin, and the unbelievable confirmation that it was real. He had asked me to marry him. I said yes!!
My recollection of the rest of the night is very much the same as what Brent has outlined before. It was indeed my parents in the parking lot, and they met us at the end of the pier to celebrate.
The next day, I woke up from a dizzy haze of excitement, and made my way to Mema’s. I wanted to share this exciting news with her and my grandma. I showed my ring to them both. Mema “oohed” and “ahhhed” and asked if I was relieved I didn’t have to climb the mountain. Ha. Ha.
I gently roused my grandmother from a nap to share with her the news, to which she was in disbelief. She told me she loved me and was happy for me. I crawled next to her in bed, and rest my head near her shoulder. I hadn’t noticed that my mama and aunt had slipped out of the room. I was laying there next to her and I told her that I loved her very much. I told her that I was going on a trip and would be back in two weeks to plan a wedding. In my heart, I knew I wasn’t telling her goodbye for my trip. I was telling her goodbye forever. I know that these were my last moments with my grandmother. She would not make it through my two weeks out west. She kissed my hand, and slowly drifted back to sleep. And I silently wept holding her hand.
When I emerged from her bedroom, my eyes met the tearfilled eyes of my mother and aunt. They had watched the whole ordeal transpire on a video baby monitor that my aunt had set up a few weeks earlier. I ran for my mama and buried my face deep into her shoulder. Both Mema and mama assured me all would be fine, to enjoy my trip and that they’d see me when I returned.
All be it tumultuous, Brent and I made the cross country trip and landed in Spokane. Upon landing, Brent’s mom, Mary, greeted us. We loaded our luggage into her car, and headed for home.
I turned on my cell phone, and was immediately greeted with the happy ping of a voicemail. I listened closely to the sound of my dad’s voice asking that I call him when I had a chance. My heart sunk. I knew what he’d say. For a split second I considered avoiding the call. If I didn’t call him back, then I didn’t have to confirm the inevitable. I decided against those thoughts, and dialed his number. On the other end of the line, on the other side of the country, he confirmed what I dreaded. My grandma had passed away quietly in the middle of the night. Her funeral service would be in the next few days. He demanded that I not worry. He assured me that grandma would have wanted me to enjoy my trip and not think twice about what was happening in South Carolina.
As I ended the call, I shared with Brent and Mrs. Mary about my grandmother. My head was reeling. What was I going to do? Return to my family? Book a flight back home? And then I raised my head from staring at the floorboard to find Brent’s hand weaved around the passenger seat into the backseat, searching for my hand. I reached out and grabbed it. I then turned to look to his mom. She was trying to very sneakily wipe tears from her cheek. I knew right then. And I will know forevermore. This was family too. I was where I needed to be. I had a new family to take care of me, and I could never have been more thankful.
So as I write today, on February 14, 2016, I am counting down the days to my wedding. It’s under four months away and coming much faster than I had ever expected. In writing this I think I’ve also found my own truth. The truth is that I have found an amazing man. And that I have not one but TWO families who will always be there to love and support me when I need it most. Happy Valentine’s Day. Don’t Blink.