6: A Month to Change Your Mind

6: A Month to Change Your Mind

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

A Month to Change Your Mind

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

~Martin Luther

Walter and I had been seeing each other for about a year and a half when his father, Gus, became very ill. Gus was in his eighties, and although he was a tall, skinny drink of water like his son, he was also an insulin-dependent diabetic. The very first time Walter took me to meet Gus, he had a low blood sugar “incident,” and I found myself calling 911 while Walter tried to revive him. So it was not really a shock when Walter got the call that his father had once again had an “incident” and was in the hospital. I requested some time off work, and we drove the hundred miles south from Boulder to Cañon City, Colorado, where Gus had moved when he retired. It was the last day of March 2002.

It turned out that this time the “incident” was very serious. Gus had been found on the floor of his house by a friend who’d stopped by. The doctors guessed that the night before, he’d accidentally taken a double dose of insulin. By the time he was found, he was in a coma. Although his numbers got better for a few days, by the end of the week he was slipping away from us.

Just after 6:00 A.M. on Saturday, we got the call from the hospital: Gus had died around 5:00. Walter and I had been staying in his father’s house all week, looking after his dog and visiting the hospital daily. Walter’s parents had separated when he was a child. His mother had died several years before, and his father had never remarried or even dated anyone, as far as we knew. He just lived with his dog, saw a few friends, and enjoyed fishing and hunting until the diabetes destroyed his eyesight.

We dressed quickly and went to the hospital. There, Walter spent a long time sitting beside his father’s body. Finally, he said he was ready to go. Back at the house, he suggested that we change into hiking clothes. We took the dog, Molly, with us, and drove into the Rocky Mountains, up to Marshall Pass, one of the last places Walter had gone with his father.

There was still plenty of snow on the pass in early April, and I was glad I’d dressed warmly. We parked on the side of the road just before where the snow got deep, and I walked down the road a bit with Molly, exploring. When we returned, Walter said, “Let’s climb up on this rock here so we can sit and talk.”

This was unlike him, since he normally preferred hiking to talking. A Ph.D. engineer, Walter is typically stoic and no-nonsense. But it was a strange day, so I climbed up on the rock and prepared myself for a talk, perhaps about life and death and his relationship with his father.

Instead, Walter knelt down on the rock and said, “Margaret, will you marry me?” My heart sank.

I had been teasing him about the possibility of marriage for several months, but he had always rolled his eyes or changed the subject. Under any other circumstance, I would have been thrilled to finally hear those words. But not then. His father had just died. I was deeply afraid that Walter was asking me because he was in shock, not because he loved me. But on the other hand, how could I say no?

“Y-yes,” I stammered. “But I don’t think you should be asking me now. How about if we say you have a month to change your mind?”

“I’m not going to change my mind,” he said, clearly offended.

“No, but you can, okay? Let’s wait a month before we tell anyone, just in case,” I went on.

“Don’t you want to marry me?” he asked.

“Of course, I do,” I said, feeling desperate. I so badly didn’t want to hurt him on this sad day.

We drove back to Cañon City a little subdued. The next day, we returned to Boulder and our respective homes. I was very worried about what we’d gotten ourselves into. I didn’t tell a soul about the proposal, not even my mother.

The next weekend found us back in Cañon City for the memorial service, and we were to go back many more times over the course of the next year as we cleaned out Gus’s house. At the lunch we hosted for his family and friends, I wanted to mention our engagement, but I didn’t because I was still waiting to see if Walter would change his mind.

The weekend after that, we stayed in Boulder. It was a quiet time for a change. We hung around his house, doing some cleaning and just relaxing. In the evening, as we snuggled up on the couch, I felt brave enough to bring up the subject again.

“Why did you ask me to marry you the day Gus died?” I said, trying to speak gently. “Why then?”

Walter sighed. “I just thought, I don’t want my life to be like his,” he said.

“In what way not like his?”

I thought Gus had had a rather pleasant life, with his dog and his friends and his hobbies. His house was full of books and music.

“Just living alone all those years, no family, no love. It’s how I’ve lived my life up till now, but it’s not how I want to live the rest of it. I don’t want to die alone. I want to have a family. With you.”

The month wasn’t up. It was only April 21st. But I didn’t need to wait any longer.

“How about next weekend we look for a ring?” I suggested.

I knew he wasn’t going to change his mind.

~Margaret Luebs

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