I got my engagement ring resized this week by a funny little man in an office building downtown.
I stepped out of the elevator and there he was- in a tiny cubicle with welding goggles on, and he offered to fix the ring while I waited.
We chatted while he worked, and he told me he’d been married for 37 years, and that on an average day he saw anywhere between 25 and 50 wedding and engagement ring repairs come through his shop.
“You must be a leading expert on marriage after all that.”
“Well,” he replied, “for the Mrs. and I, it’s always been easy. We’ve kept our health, we’ve always had enough. And we chose each other and we still choose each other every day. She’s the love of my life.”
“That’s the dream, that’s what we’re planning for.”
“It’s what everyone plans for,” he sighed. “No one comes in here for an engagement ring resizing thinking they’re ever going to remove this ring. But a well fitted ring sticks at the knuckles and with a little effort comes off. Marriage is the same way. Things happen- sickness and tragedy, job loss and things you couldn’t even imagine. I don’t judge. Nothing is a sure thing.”
Sunday afternoons are our time of rest, and we had a few hours between lunch and when I had to go babysit to relax. I suggested we go for a short walk, to the park nearest his house. It was unseasonably warm (a theme for this fall), and we were wearing church clothes, so I didn’t want to do anything too crazy.
We walked through the park and out the other side, past coffee shops and barbecue joints and ice cream parlors. I don’t remember what we were talking about, except that it was so hot that I asked if we could turn back earlier than he probably wanted to.
We started back through the park towards the car and I asked if we could stop and sit in the shade for a minute to cool off. He agreed, so I picked a spot on a rock near a man in a hammock listening to the radio. It was cool and pleasant in the shade, and I had left my phone at home. I felt free without the little electronic tether- peaceful and happy.
Josh started to talk about our future lives together. He told me he couldn’t wait to marry me, to spend the rest of his life waking up next to me and kissing me goodnight (he really is a keeper, y’all).
We’d talked about marriage for quite some time at this point, and I was ready to be engaged. I hate surprises and love control. If I’d had my way, I would have planned the proposal for Josh and just handed him a script.
So, of course, I didn’t recognize a proposal when it was staring me in the face.
Instead, I interrupted him.
“I can’t wait for that either. But do you know what you have to do before we can get married? Propose.”
(While he is a keeper, I, on the other hand, am clearly the sassiest. It is a miracle that Josh said these next few words.)
With a smirk, he got down on one knee and pulled a beautiful ring out of his pocket. “Okay,” he said. “Rachel Haltiwanger, will you marry me?”
I held his face between my two hands gently to ground myself as my head and my heart spun out in two different directions.
“Wait. Wait. Wait. You don’t have to do this. Don’t do this because I want you to. Wait. Wait. Are you sure? Are you sure? You don’t have to do this.”
And my gentle, patient man laughed at me and said, “Yes. I am sure. I want to do this. I brought a ring, you didn’t make me do this, as much as you might have wanted to. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Always. I am sure.”
I did at some point say yes and thank you and, well, let’s be honest, I asked him if he was sure at least 10 more times.
I was so afraid that he wouldn’t ever love me enough to ask me to marry him that I tried to make him love me, to control everything. But the moment I realized I might have succeeded, I wanted desperately for him to love me of his own free will, for him to choose me and promise to choose me forever. Because if I could make him love me, it wouldn’t be love.
Love isn’t a sure thing.
It’s not something you can control or mastermind, something you can force to happen through sheer power of will (if it was, there would be no more single women, I can guarantee it). It’s something you choose, and keep choosing. It sticks at the knuckles, but you can take it off. Or you can choose to keep it on.
I choose you, love. I’m sure.