HIS STORY... in his words.
I had the ring in my pack that I use to carry my phone, ipod, banana, & other various things to me with work when I ride my bike. I had bought her ring with full intentions of asking her to marry me while we were on vacation at the beach. Which already has cliché written all over it, but I didn’t give a fuck. That’s what I wanted to do. I looked at it a couple of times and put it away in the trunk that holds all my video games and accessories. [Clever hiding space, husband-to-be! love, k]
Then the tornadoes came on April 27. We began to watch the videos and pictures coming in of all the people who lost everything, including their lives. I began to think of their lost opportunities and chances. On Friday, we watched some more videos that I had not seen yet. The missed chances started weighing on me more and more. I decided the next day I would ask Kelly to marry me.
I woke up the next morning, thinking of how to do this. Without even five seconds passing, it hit me: Railroad Bridge.
The Railroad Bridge is no longer a railroad or a bridge. Its more pier/walkway than anything else. It starts on the Sheffield side of the Tennessee River, and goes roughly half way over the river, before abruptly stopping.
When Kell came down on one of her visits, it was one of the first places I took her. She seemed to really like it, and I’ve always thought it a neat place.
When she woke up, I told her that I wanted to go to the Farmer’s Market, which is also across the river. Thinking that we would cross the river and I would make mention that I would like to go down to the Railroad Bridge and check out how fast the water was moving.
We both got dressed, and while she was doing her hair, I retrieved the ring from the trunk, and put it in my pocket. We got in the Jeep and drove across the river. I said “Wow, look at the river, its really moving…I wanna go down to the railroad bridge and check out the water”
She said “Ok, but lets get an iced coffee from McDonalds, first.”
“DAMN!” I thought. So, we went through the Drive-Thru at McDonalds, she got an iced coffee, and I got a frozen strawberry lemonade. We went back to the bridge and parked. Got out and started walking towards the bridge. Noticed that there was a dick painted on the trashcan. I thought, “I’ll now remember that dick for the rest of my life.”
As we approached the bridge, Kell said “This would be a nice place to have a wedding” I laughed a little on the inside, and she said something about the logistics of being able to get everyone seated where they could see.
We continued down the walkway, and passed a man with a stroller. We stopped at the end, and just kind of looked out and about for a few minutes.
I didn’t rehearse anything over and over in my head. I didn’t want anything to come off as forced, or cheesy. I wanted this to feel and be real.
I took off my sunglasses, and said. “I didn’t really want to go to the Farmers Market. That was bullshit. I have something for you. I was waiting ‘till we were on vacation, but with all the death and destruction that we’ve seen this week, I keep thinking of missed chances and opportunities. I don’t want to miss another opportunity with you.” I pulled out the ring, opened the box, knelt down on one knee, and said “Kell, will you please marry me?”
Before I could get the ring out of the box, she pulled her current ring off, and grabbed the ring out the box, and put it on her self, and emphatically said “YES!”
We hugged and kissed. Then noticed the underwear stuck in the tree limb.
Great, now I’ll remember that underwear forever.
We walked back to the Jeep, and went to the Farmers Market. I don’t think either of us cared about what anyone was selling. We just kind of walked around, and then left.
I tried to call my mother, but she was in Illinois at the time, and I couldn’t reach her, so I called my dad.
Then we had lunch at B’s grandmother’s restaurant. [B is Mike's brother's girlfriend]
When we got home, I changed my status on Facebook to “engaged to Kelly W” Within 20 seconds the texts and calls started rolling in.
HER STORY... in her words.
It was a day just like any other Saturday. We had spent the night before drinking with our good friend Miss K. The vodka shots were flowing and the conversation was rolling. Most of the evening was spent talking about all the damage and destruction that had taken a toll on most parts of Alabama. How fortunate we were to make it through with little damage, how much our hearts ached for people in other areas who were not as lucky as we were. My mind raced as we watched actual tornado footage taken by people all over the state, with hand held cameras, most while driving and swearing and breathing heavy in fear and later posted on YouTube. It was unreal. You know that movie Twister... doesn't even touch this. We had laughs to lighten the mood but most conversations went right back to everyone who was hurt or left with nothing. We all knew we were truly lucky to have our homes, and more importantly our friends, family, each other and our pets with us. We got home late that night, full of booze and went to bed.
Saturday morning as I said started as any other. I was a bit more hung over than usual, so I skipped my workout, and knew I'd make it up on Sunday. I got up, got in the shower and tried to shake off the tired feeling in my brain. We try to not sleep too late on the weekends, I hate to miss the day. Long gone are the days of being 20 something and sleeping until the clock read PM. While I was in the shower Mike mentioned he'd like to head over to the Farmer's Market to see if we could find some good fresh produce for dinner. I thought that was a great idea. Spring has sprung here in the south, why not celebrate with fresh goodies.
Since I knew we were bumming around I figured I'd just toss on a comfy tshirt, some jeans and flip flops. I had no idea the day would turn into something so special. We hopped in the car and the need for more sleep washed over me. As we headed over the bridge Mike commented on how fast the water was rolling. I replied that "Yeah, it's so brown it looks like chocolate milk." He asked if I cared if we headed out to the railroad bridge and I said it was a great idea. We hadn't been out there in ages. I think maybe once, since the first time he took me there upon visiting him before we were officially dating. However I begged him to stop at McDonald's so I could get some coffee.
Once we got our beverages we took the winding road back to the area where the Railroad Bridge entrance was. This as Mike said is an old bridge, that used to be functional, they have since cut it in half, blocked off the end and kept it for a historical marker for the towns of Sheffield and Florence, AL. We hopped out of the car with our drinks and started walking.. "Oh look... what a nice spray painted penis on that trash can... wonder if the Superbad Kid was here?" I said. Mike chuckled. As we got down to the entrance to the bridge and started walking we couldn't have asked for a better day. The weather was cool, the breeze was blowing and the water was rushing faster than I have ever seen it rush before. It's amazing after they day of destruction that was before this day, the following days had been absolutely beautiful, weather wise. Nature is a mysterious thing.
After a few steps I made a comment "This would be a great place to get married." Mike chuckled again... after about 20 more passes I retracted that comment... "Nevermind, it would take too damn long to walk to the end and there isn't any where for people to sit." Again he chuckled. Mike kept walking back and forth stopping from time to time to comment on the water and chit chat.
We held hands as we walked, which we do quite often but something felt different that day. A few weeks ago I had emailed Mike and stated that my biggest fear is that we would become more like roommates, and less like boyfriend and girlfriend. That I didn't want day to day things to make us feel like our whole life was a routine. Little did I know what he was planning but the two of us have always been honest with each other and we don't hold stuff in. So I expressed my worry, since that day we both made it a point to be more affectionate... but like I said this felt different. In my gut, in my heart. Maybe it was the thoughts of all that had been lost during the storms for many people, or maybe it was my instinct, either way I remember my heart feeling really warm, and my mouth wearing a smile. As we walked and the breeze blew, I looked over the water and I took a moment to be thankful for all I had. I knew it was the right moment to take that in, and thank God for my many blessings. Hand in hand with Mike is the one place I was happiest to be, and I had that.
We neared the end and sat and looked over the edge. They have wooden railings all around the bridge so you can fall unless you jump, we rested or arms over the top and talked about the night before, and stuff we had to handle that day. Watched the water and discussed simple things... Mike then paused and took off his sunglasses, something he never does. He's always wearing them outdoors... he said "I got something for you, and I was going to wait to give it to you when we went to the beach, but given the circumstances and all that's happened in the past few days, I didn't think it was right to wait." [I'm paraphrasing obviously]. He explained a bit more about lost chances and opportunities for people all over and how he didn't want to have that happen for him. During all the storms and footage we both discussed how we would feel if we lost our home, our pets and loved ones, but for some reason we never discussed the thought of losing each other. Not that it didn't dawn on me, we were at our offices, it could have easily been us that lost a loved one. We weren't together. I guess it was just too hard to discuss. I would be lost without Mike. It hit me as he started talking how much I need him, want him and never want to be without him... just then he said as he started to dig in his pocket, pulled out a box and knelt down "Kelly, will you please marry me?" As soon as he started to kneel I could see the red box and I knew what was coming... my ears started to ring a little bit and I can't say I blacked out, that's not the right wording but I went into auto pilot mode... I started to rip off my ring on my left hand and move it to my right finger and while I was saying this said "YES!" in a quivering voice.... I knew when he said "I got something for you..." that the ring was coming but I wanted to be absolutely focused on what he said... once he got the words out... it was a daze... I apparently snagged the ring from his grip and shoved it on my hand saying "YES!" I feel horrible for that, it was a chance for him to slip the ring on my finger. I will have to be more calm at the actual wedding and allow him to take the lead. I know I said "WOW" a few times and I hugged him and held him tight and kissed him. I welled up, I didn't full on cry but I knew in my heart he was who I was meant to be with and it felt just right.
It was the perfect setting, the perfect person and the perfect reason and I couldn't have asked for anything more! I can remember shaking a little bit and while we hugged I thought to myself.. "Shit! Now I have to plan a wedding!" That's a healthy "SHIT" mind you not an "OH CRAP" shit. Just an overwhelming feeling but in a good way.
When we stopped to breathe a minute and admire my new ring... we looked down and noticed underwear stuck in the branches below... how romantic... a pair of BVD's... and a thong. Clearly someone else got engaged or lucky out here prior to our moment... but the basis of our relationship is our ability to laugh together and that is what sealed the moment, one question, one answer, a hug, a kiss, and a full belly laugh. We were engaged.
We walked slowly back down the bridge that he had brought me to so many years ago smiling and marveling at what had just happened. Now every time we cross the river we can remember that day. [And the underwear and the penis painted on the trash can, good times].
We chatted excitedly while driving over to the Farmers Market, he later told me that he didn't even want to go there it was just a way to get me over the river. But we enjoyed browsing and talking to others. I had a hard time not wanting to shout it out loud. The man and his son that Mike mentioned on the bridge were at the Farmer's Market it took all I had not to say, "DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU JUST MISSED?" It was odd to run into them again.
We went about our day, shopping for groceries and items for the tornado relief and went home. We made phone calls, changed facebook status and did all we could to get the message out. We decided to take a walk around downtown with our dog June to sort of celebrate. We started discussing our plans for where we'd like to have the wedding and reception. As we walked passed the park we noticed a wedding happening... I felt like this might be a sign. Our first choice was to get married in the park, it was after all the very first landmark Mike took me to when I visited, and I've always loved the park with the fountain surrounded by trees in the town center. I had another sign earlier in the morning as we drove through downtown to get to the bridge we passed the local bridal boutique. I've never noticed anything in the window prior to that morning but as we drove past a dress grabbed me by surprise and I couldn't take my eyes off it. I shrugged it off mostly because I didn't think a wedding would be happening for me anytime soon. Boy was I wrong.
We later decided to celebrate at our favorite bar, just the two of us. We sat down, and had a few rounds of beer chatting with one of the owners, our friend and other workers about our great news. We tweeted the good news and got wonderful feedback, thank you for that! Then we quietly brainstormed our wedding, sitting at the copper bar top, over our favorite brews and it all became clear to me... this is really happening.
A little secret: The first time I met Mike in person, after an hour of hanging out he kissed me on the cheek and I told myself, "One day you are going to marry him." I'm so happy I was right.
Mike and I at the Railroad Bridge during our first visit in 2005