I entertain the thought of our inevitable engagement daily. In my mind, it’s like a toy that gets tossed around with both gravity and listless levity, frequently hot-potatoed between friends and family: everyone wants to know when it is coming. Admittedly, I am the completely-beside-myself kind of excited. But also, at least most of the time, I find myself asking if I will ever be certain that this man is the future-husband that represents forever—my particular brand of forever. I frequently fall to the nagging sense that maybe the disagreements and arguments over folding towels and getting our schedules right, that his incessant inquiries from a brain locked in the world of engineering, could someday drive me just off the edge.
But I think perhaps acceptance sometimes comes from unexpected places.
Just days ago—long before vows and ribbons and dresses and budgets—Ryan was involved in a massive motorcycle accident that very nearly took his life.
When the phone rang, I thought that, obviously, some contractor was calling about the new counter tops we were trying to order. The stranger on the phone told me his name, and he indicated that Ryan had been in a motorcycle accident and had hit his head. He told me where they were and then held the phone to Ryan. Nothing really registered as Ryan’s voice reported that he had “fallen off his bike” before he either lost consciousness or the phone cut out. Maybe both. Either way, standing there in my living room suddenly became the most ridiculous possible thing to do.
The accident had happened close by, and as I peeled my car onto the side of the road next to the sirens and lights and backed-up traffic for miles, I suddenly understood absolute and unconditional love. As I ran toward the stretcher and crowd of EMTs and police officers, the motorcycle and shredded parts flashed in my periphery.
When I saw him, this man oddly stretched out and half naked with his neck braced and eyes rolling about, I knew that this man could not die. This man could not be crippled or lost. Because this man was my future. This man was my joy and my anger and my angst and my indelible commitment. I don’t think I will ever forget the moment the wind rushed into my lungs, because it was immediately locked somewhere deep inside, and I could not push this gasp out. In that moment I was helpless. There was no say in whether or not I would receive that ring he had so carefully planned, or whether we would be married or ever argue again or that I would get to watch him do any one of a billion mundane things.
It was not until the following day at the hospital, when he was glancing at the hospital menu, chewing his lip in false and silly consternation, that I realized the future just did not matter. No amount of fear or doubt or anxiety or arguments could change that he was right there. Reading a menu.
Ryan recovered fully just days later with only a mild concussion, an outcome I credit in entirety to the extremely well-designed head gear he has always worn in our dangerous decision to ride motorcycles. During a lane change he had glanced behind him while another car merged into his path. We believe he flipped his bike over the trunk of the car and landed alongside it with the bike on top of him. The bystander that called me had lifted it off of him.
Perhaps not everyone gets to experience such a stark moment of realizing that they have found the person they love. Growing up, I would report almost daily to my parents that every day was the “best” or “worst” day of my life, and they would remind me that I had no idea what I was talking about. Watching that one person being lifted into an ambulance, I suddenly knew what the worst night of my life could feel like. Maybe a few years from now I will also know the best.
I don’t remember exhaling that gasp I drew when I first saw him. Maybe it wrapped itself around the uncertainty and fear that we are never right about the person we choose, and it is holding it there indefinitely. I believe I still haven’t let go of that gasp.
I hope I never do.