I was waiting for my “blind” date, Manny, to arrive. He was running late and I feared that any minute my stepfather’s mood would change and I’d be forbidden to leave the house. Never mind that I was 19 years old, working full-time and paying weekly room and board. When his temper went sour, I was the one who endured the physical or emotional consequences and I knew tonight the stage was set for total humiliation.
It was 9:00 p.m. when the phone rang and Manny humbly confessed that he’d been driving around our subdivision, unable to locate the address. “Stay right there and I’ll come and get you,” I said hesitantly, knowing my stepfather was within earshot. I held my breath as I got my coat and tiptoed out the door.
Manny was just up the road at a local pizza joint, so within minutes we were back at the house to drop off my car. I invited him in for the required introductions, which I made quickly, scurrying us out the door with a final sigh of relief that nothing had gone awry.
Although we’d spent three hours the day before talking on the phone, we hadn’t made any special plans for our first night out. Since I wasn’t familiar with his city, we drove up that way and he showed me the local sights. We stopped at a little restaurant, but I was too nervous to eat, so I just ordered coffee. Manny did likewise. The entire evening was spent talking and laughing and getting to know one another.
It was 2:00 a.m. when we pulled back into my driveway. For a moment there was silence, which Manny broke with tender words. “I feel as if I’ve known you forever.”
I smiled into his blue eyes. “I feel the same way.” It was love at first sight, without the bells and whistles, just a quiet sense of destiny.
“Well,” he continued, grinning like a Cheshire cat, “I think someone is trying to tell us something.” His eyes and index finger gestured toward heaven.
Before I could reply to the implication, the porch light began to flash. It was my mom’s signal that I’d better get in before my stepfather discovered I was still out. I shuddered at the thought. Oblivious to the flashing light’s dire warning, Manny asked, “Well, what do you think we should do about it?”
“I don’t know, what do you think?” I wondered if he could hear my heart pounding.
As the porch light began another series of desperate flashes, I explained the warning. He nodded that he understood, and then suddenly blurted, “Gina,will you marry me?”
“Yes, but not tonight. . . I’ve got to go!” I leaned in for his goodnight kiss, then jumped out of the car and raced inside.
When he called the next day, Manny asked if I meant it when I said I’d marry him. I assured him that I did. We saw each other every day after that and while I didn’t understand it, I knew in my heart that he was a gift from God – my knight in shining armor.
I waited two days before telling my parents that we were getting married. I’ll never forget the look of shock on my stepfather’s face as his brows furrowed and he sputtered, “Huh?” As he searched for his tongue, my mother wrapped me in a bear-hug of happiness.
We married three months later. I’m sure there were more “Huh?” reactions than we could have counted, as news of our pending wedding spread among family and friends. The idea of it being a shotgun wedding probably crossed some minds as well. But it was while celebrating our first anniversary in the Smokey Mountains that we discovered I was pregnant. The year after our daughter, Stacey, was born, we were blessed with our daughter, Nicole.
Last year we celebrated our 40th anniversary with a party that began with the renewal of our vows. Prior to the service, each of our girls surprised us by voicing their thoughts on the love and commitment they witnessed growing up. Stacey relayed the story of our whirlwind romance and said, “Now, I’m sure there were people that said, or at least thought “Huh? What are they thinking? They hardly know each other – it will never last.”
I wish my stepfather could have been there.
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