(The first post of this story is here)
The Plain in Spain
We began our last leg of the journey back to Lisbon, Portugal. The sky was blue, the temperature was warm (as behooves the plain in Spain in summer), and I was thoughtful. The van was humming along in a south-westerly direction. I had a ticket to that would take me to Kennedy Airport in New York, and I was scheduled to fly due west in two days. Would he, or wouldn’t he? I wasn’t sure that Harry himself knew at that point.
Don’t Wake Sleepy Teens
The Portuguese teens, who occupied the back of the van, were talking and joking as we rode. At some point along the way, they became quieter. When silence reigned, I turned around to look at them, and they were all sound asleep.
Harry and I began a conversation about “back in the day.” The memories made us smile as the miles flew by. We talked about the long silence (seven years) in our friendship, and the time we passed on the street in Philadelphia where we both attended college after a long pause in our friendship. I came to the conclusion (for about the fiftieth time) that I would be content no matter what.
And. Then. It. Happened.
There was a pleasant lull in the conversation. Then, Harry suddenly gripped the steering wheel, sat up straight, and said, “Oh, Susan, if I could marry you tomorrow, I would.” I sat there, thunderstruck. I wondered if I had heard him correctly. Then I began to wonder exactly what that meant? Was it a proposal? Was it a goodbye-sorry-it-didn’t-work-out? Was it meant as a question? And if it was, what was the appropriate response? Finally, I managed to squeak, “I would like that.”
I looked over at Harry, and he was grinning from ear to ear (still with eyes on the road – you durst not take your eyes off the road in Europe). Then, until we stopped for lunch, we talked and talked of “shoes, and ships, and sealing wax; of cabbages and kings.”
At the lunch stop, Harry announced that we were engaged to be married. Almost no one was surprised, but his roommate was worried that we didn’t know one another well enough. Really? We had known each other from when we were wee tads. (The roommate, one year later, went back to the states and married a woman he’d known for only two months.)
Before we reached Lisbon, we had settled on a wedding date, and discussed having me stay another week so we could begin making plans. One of Harry’s plans was to put a ring on my finger before I left Portugal.
The Transatlantic Phone Call
In due course, we arrived in Lisbon. It was too late to call the states when we got home, but the next day, Harry manned up and called my dad. Transatlantic phone calls were pricey back in the day – and no cell phones. Harry successfully connected to my home phone in Pennsylvania. It was a tense conversation. Harry navigated the greetings, then got down to business. I heard him say he had called to ask my dad if he could marry me. Dead silence on the other end for at least a minute. Wait for it. Dad: “How soon do you want an answer.”