Jessie had planned to visit Franklin the following weekend, so the plan was to propose on Sunday, January 22. The six days between getting the final blessing of her parents and the scheduled time for bended knee were long. Patience is not always a virtue that I possess.
After Googling for proposal ideas and reading absolutely every dumb and cheesy idea out there, I came up with one on my own. There is a quiet, secluded and practically secret park just inside the Lakeland city limits along the river. There is a beautiful canopy of trees that covers the property, a pond with a few resident ducks and a house up on a hill overlooking it all. Jessie & I had been there once before and enjoyed our visit. I thought it'd be the perfect place. Of course, I couldn't just settle for a proposal.
In honor of Jessie's mom's quote, I launched "Operation: It's About Time."
I made plans with her parents and my mom for them to drive up for the event. I gave them directions to a spot just down the road from the park and the plan was for them to drive in just after everything went down. Although I think I caught a raised eyebrow at first from Jessie's mom, all three parents were on board. That was the important thing. I figured that I could get Jessie out there without a problem. As it turns out, we had a couple of obstacles on the radar -- one of which really was on the radar. On the day that I wanted to propose, nature decided to monsoon. The other was even harder to control -- my little brother.
Little Brother had driven down for the weekend to go out with us to a concert Saturday night. He stuck around on Sunday to get help from Jessie & I on his resume. How long can it take to beat out a resume? Well, enough time that he nearly had to be dragged out of the apartment shortly before the 4 p.m. engagement deadline without telling him the secret or letting Jessie figure out that something was up.
With the brother finally gone, I made up some lame excuse for us to drive out towards Lakeland. Once we got there, I made up another for us to detour down the road with the park. As Jessie told others the story later, these things were not suspicious. I'm prone to have mini-missions that take me to a variety of places for reasons that normal folks might find strange. After driving up the tree-covered path to the house, I suggested that we get out and check things out in the rain. The house has a long back-porch that would shelter us from the rain. As we began our quick run to cover, I grabbed my camera bag. She thought it was so I could take pictures. I knew that it was where the ring had been hidden a few hours earlier.
I'd never been in the park on a stormy day. The view from the back porch of the house was a good place to take in the monsoon. Well, at the least, it was a dry place. I can't remember the small talk that we had at first. I do remember making mention that when the home and land had been owned by a private citizen, the owner had his daughter's wedding on the property. I then said, "I guess the second best thing to a wedding here might be an engagement," and I dropped to one knee.
She obviously knew what was coming as soon as I hit my knee and it didn't take long for her tears to come. I had a speech of sorts that I'd repeated a few times in my head over the course of the day. However, I found the words interrupted several times with absolute and overwhelming emotion. I displayed feelings at a level that I'm not sure existed to me before that moment. Regardless, I did my best to tell her that her presence was one my greatest blessings in life. And I asked her if she would multiply those blessings by becoming my wife. Between the two of us crying, I'm not sure she heard what I said and I didn't hear her say yes. Of course, she let me put the ring on her finger and I took that as a good sign. I stood up. We hugged. And I got verbal confirmation of a yes.
As we walked back around to the front of the house, I asked her if she thought it was time to call and tell her parents. She agreed. About that time, I pointed through the trees to their car driving up the path. Despite a couple of hiccups, the plan had been carried through to fruition. A round of hugs and handshakes between future spouses, their parents and their future in-laws commenced. That night, the new extended family joined together for dinner and a new era for all of us began.
* * * * *
After all was said and done, I came to realize that I was literally inches from having my plan foiled. I hid the ring in my camera bag while Jessie was in the shower before lunch. That night, she asked me how long it had been hidden in there. It seems that during the afternoon, she saw some medication that I usually keep in my bag lying out on the bar. So, what did she do? She put it back where it belonged -- in the same compartment the ring was in. She was literally a inch or two from the ring box and never noticed it. Whew.