By Bill Fox/Columnist
So, my wife and I celebrated 46 years of marriage on the Victoria Day long weekend, and I started to reminisce about how it all started and how the Lord sometimes works in strange ways.
Forty-eight years ago, I was invited to go to a coffee house by a friend. Turned out that the coffee house was Daybreak, a L’Arche home for the mentally challenged in Richmond Hill. As I recall, it was a lot of fun with residents mixing with visitors, and while I was pretty reserved, I did notice a cute girl out in the middle of the floor who was so uninhibited, dancing with everyone and having a wonderful time. My first reaction was that maybe she was a resident.
After the coffee house, many of us were invited back to my friend’s house for hot chocolate, etc.
Upon arriving, I noticed the young female dancer from L’Arche was there too. She seemed to be very popular and, from what I had gathered, had a lot of personality.
As the night drew on, I became more interested in the girl that had caught my eye at L’Arche. We spent some time getting to know each other and as the night drew to a close I asked if I could drive her home. We exchanged phone numbers and talked about having a baseball game between St. Wifrid’s youth group that I was helping with, and her St. Edward’s youth group. Then, she rode off home on her bike.
Months earlier, I had bought great seats for the Royal Alex production of Godspell, and I wasn’t sure who to ask when I bought the tickets. Eventually, I decided to phone my new friend on the pretense of trying to arrange that baseball game between the two youth groups. She agreed and I said there was one condition. I knew that she would love Godspell and would not decline, but was it the show or me?
It was the holiday weekend for which I had reserved tickets, and when I got to Denise’s house, her father came up to meet me and said, “Jim, I’m glad to meet you, my daughter has told me all about you!” Damn, was there a Jim? Anyways, we got to the Royal Alex and they could not find our tickets. This first date was not working out well at all! I spoke to the manager and insisted I had reserved tickets for that Saturday night. They had wrongly reserved me tickets for the previous Saturday! Eventually, they gave me two tickets, three rows from the front, but at the side, not as good as the tickets I had reserved.
But, we had a wonderful time and as I recall, arranged to go on a second date to the Riverboat Coffee House to see Valdy perform the following weekend.
So, it was after dating for a year we started to talk about the possibility of marriage. I eventually bought a ring we both had liked, and the next step was asking Denise’s parents for permission to ask her hand in marriage.
After getting Pop and Mom’s approval, I waited for the right moment to “pop” the question. I carried that ring in my coat for a few weeks waiting for the right moment. Finally, on May 17, 1973, Denise and I were at a Youth Corps “Extended Team” meeting. We always ended our meetings with an informal Mass. I had told Father Tom McKillop that I had the ring and was just waiting to find the right moment to ask for Denise’s hand. He said he could help and told me that at one point during the Mass, he would wink to signal me, and I should “go for it baby.”
At one point in the Mass, Father Tom asked us to put our heads down and to think about how we are all gifts to each other, and I noticed the wink! Denise was sitting near the exit door and I was in the far corner. She could see through the corner of her eye that I was getting up and thought I was off to the washroom, but I stopped in front of her, went down on one knee, bringing out the ring and asked if she would marry me.
Now, in hindsight, in front of 18 friends, in the middle of Mass, how could she refuse? Thus, our year of engagement began.
I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your story with me.