My Second Proposal

My Second Proposal

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

My Second Proposal

Have you ever invited someone for supper and then wished you hadn’t? More than ten years ago, I answered a knock on my front door one evening to find A. K. on my doorstep. Clean-shaven, sporting a red-and-black plaid shirt tucked neatly into pressed khakis, and smelling of Aramis cologne, he held a package of hamburger buns in his hand.

“I need to talk to you,” he said, pushing his way into the front hall. “I have something to say. If you don’t like it, all you have to do is tell me to leave, and I’ll never bother you again.”

He dropped the buns on the hall table, squared his chin and said, “I think I love you.”

The next few moments blurred as thoughts whirled through my head. I had been a widow for two-and-a-half years after having been married for thirty years to the only other man in my life.

I was sixteen when we married; Bill was thirty. For most of those years I never bought groceries, paid a utility bill, or went anyplace by myself. I was loved, protected and cherished, but I had to ask for and account for every penny I spent and then give back the change.

Bill took care of our business. But, except for our financial disagreements, every day of our thirty-year union was sunshine, security and love.

Then one day, I came home from work to find a note on the kitchen table: “Gone fishing. Be home for supper. Get the skillet ready.” But he didn’t come home. He drowned.

How that happened, I’ll never know. But I do know that for the next two years, every day was a shadow and every night a nightmare.

Then, one Saturday morning in early spring, I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink and watching bluejays test the branches of the nonbearing mulberry in my back yard. From out of nowhere came the thought: This day is beautiful, Father. Thank you! I’m glad to be alive. At that moment, I began to heal.

Ten months earlier, A. K.’s wife, a good friend of mine, had died. I had checked on him and had taken food a time or two to “do my thing” to help him through the aftermath of death. Now that I was alive again, however, I wanted to encourage him, to assure him that “This, too, will pass away.” So I stepped up my baking and taking.

It wasn’t long before this forty-nine-year-old Good Samaritan became a silly, lovesick teenager. Whatever food A. K. mentioned he liked, I cooked it and took it. I went to him for help and advice—help in mending a chair I never sat in, advice for pricing my house for sale when I knew I would never have the courage to move away and start over. I kept a list of topics by the phone so that when he called me or I called him I wouldn’t stammer around, trying to keep him on the line.

If I didn’t see him or his truck when I passed through town on my way home from work, I panicked. I couldn’t concentrate on the homework I needed to grade, because I was listening for the phone and planning what I would say.

Finally one Sunday afternoon, I said a quick prayer, called him, and told him if he had the buns, I had the barbecue.

Now here we sat in my kitchen, the sound of his “I think I love you” echoing in my brain, while he munched scorched barbecue and talked about how wonderful Bill and Jayne had been.

Suddenly, A. K. stopped chewing and asked, “Well, are you going to marry me or not? If you’re not, there’s no sense in going on with this.”

I looked at him—a man I had known for thirty-two years, a man I knew to be independent, hard-working, brusque and a little intimidating; a man who, as far as I knew, had been a good father and a good husband. I couldn’t swallow. The only thing I could think of was: I started this, God. Now what do I do?

The great comeback of the year fell trippingly from my tongue: “If all my children say it’s all right.”

Less than three weeks later, we married. Our five children attended, a little hurt, a little embarrassed—a great deal shocked. Everybody smiled a lot, ate a little, and (I heard later) sat around saying over and over, “I didn’t even know they liked each other.”

It hasn’t always been easy combining two families. It hasn’t been easy sharing an intimate life with another person, but A. K. and I have been married ten years now. And every day has been lightning in a bottle—bright, exciting, intense, and sometimes filled with thunder. He insists I pay the bills and keep the checkbook balanced. He encourages me to read about insurance and health care, but he buys the groceries and programs the VCR.

Sometimes, when I turn a calendar page and find a note, when I open my desk drawer and find an inscription carved into a pencil, when I find a note taped to the steering wheel of my car, when I hear A. K. say, even in his sleep, “I love ya, Babe,” I thank God for a second chance at love. I thank God for giving me the courage to invite A. K. for supper . . . and for giving me the courage to answer that knock at my door.

Donna Smith

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