Monday, August 17, 2009

Engagement Story Part I: How We Met

Now that it is more-or-less public knowledge that my fiance' and I are in fact engaged, I will share for your reading pleasure the story of how the whole thing happened; but first, I should start at the beginning, long before the proposal.

Late March, 2007

This is the story of when and how Rebecca came into my life. Spring break had just ended, and it was time to return to the daily grind of being a first-year graduate student. I had made the mistake of taking two core classes rather than one, and the workload was borderline oppressive. All of my time was going into the homework for these two classes--neither of which was particularly enlightening, rewarding, or enjoyable in general. Much of my remaining time was spent teaching physics labs, which were at least more fun than the boring theory classes through which I had before, was then, and would for another year continue to suffer.

It seems like my one activity--apart from school--was what many people might call "church." This of course was really two things: the Mass, which was what kept me going through this time; and my weekly attendance at the Catholic Longhorns for Life ("CLFL") meetings, at which I might see most of my non-physics friends at UT. This effectively meant that the high points of my week were Sunday morning and Monday night, with occasional peaks during the week when I was able to attend the daily Masses. Life may not have felt exactly "nasty, brutish, and short," for this felt an insufferably long time, and there was cause for despair as to whether I would ever finish with the boring theory work required to begin the more fun lab work which was to make this whole grad-school thing worthwhile.

Another way of saying this is that my life was lacking in something. Some might argue that I merely needed a better sense of purpose; certainly, I was going through a rough time of discernment. In spite of this, I recognized then and still believe now that the missing element was joy rather than certainty. I certainly found no amount of joy in that stage of graduate student, for the first two years are the purgatory through which one must pass to be considered for the relative paradise of research work; though, of course, this is a fickle paradise at best.

All of this should be kept in mind as the backdrop for my first real encounter with Rebecca. The hand of fate was at work in one of those strange "coincidences" which one never expects, and which one never recognizes save in hindsight. It certainly seemed an odd coincidence at the time, that both she and I arrived an hour or so early for the CLFL meeting that Monday: I, because I had grown tired of the Robert Lee Moore Math, Physics, and Astronomy Dungeon; she, because she had forgotten the meeting time (she was only an occasionally member).

I had just sat down at the table and begun to unwrap the burrito I had purchased for dinner when she approached and asked if I minded if she joined me. I consented, and so there we were; after brief introductions and a quick grace for the meals, we sat and ate and conversed. As I had previously mentioned, this was the week after the spring vacation, so we talked a bit about what we had done with our week off. For me, it was mostly studying for the midterm which I was to face later that week, though I had a break to see my parents (they visited at the end of the vacation). I also had gone with my brother to see the Notre Dame Glee Club perform at the local Holy Cross parish. This last point was very interesting to her, of course. She is, after all, a singer, and she was in choral studies.

We had a mostly pleasant conversation which centered on music in general and the Notre Dame Glee club in particular. The meeting for which I had been waiting all day now seemed so unimportant, though it did come at last, and put a tragic end to our conversation. Fate is, after all, a bit ironic. I got her name in the introduction, but never her number; four years of hanging out with the Campus Crusade crowd at OSU taught me (and virtually every other guy involved with that group) that it would be a futile gesture anyway.

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I didn't see her again for a couple of weeks--we were both quite busy with midterms. In the meantime, I had begun to pray more earnestly for some joy in my life; this is something which I would recommend to anyone--though he who does should beware! For joy you will find, but usually also an adventure of sorts, or a challenge, or at the least a commitment. Pray for joy, but not for an instant fix, for joy is rarely merely instant, rarely fast in coming, and when it is it cannot last.

The Triduum came and went, and I certainly found much to do then. But it was At the Easter vigil when Providence at last seemed to take notice of my prayers--for "Providence moves slowly [while] the devil always hurries." I cannot now remember what drove me to celebrate Mass at the vigil rather than the next day; I drove through the rain that night to the vigil Mass and found, much to my surprise, that Rebecca was there as well. She was to sing a part of the Mass, the part in which the history of the Patriarchs and the Jews--salvation "pre-history"--is told.

We thus visited briefly before Mass, and then she vanished to go sing. There was a celebration for the new Catholics after the Mass, and we met up again there. We spent a good deal of the time at that celebration talking, and she asked if I could drive her home; she didn't have a car at that time. I again consented, and on the way there she asked if I wanted to come back the next day to dye Easter eggs. I told her that I would love to, but that I might also try to get together with my brother; we had, after all, made plans to do so.

I walked her to the door, said good-night, and this time exchanged numbers, just in case. And, as fate would have it, my brother got sick the next day. Easter eggs it would be! That was to become the first date of many, though not as a "couple" per-se. And on Monday, I awoke with a profound sense of joy.

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That is the story of how we met. If this is our "origins" story, then there is certainly more to be told. We have crossed many milestones and made many memories since then: but they are to be saved for another day.

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