I woke up early and packed our picnic lunch. Before I knew it, Mike was at the door to pick me up.
We visited for awhile and then headed out around 10:30 am. We stopped at Sonic for our drinks to take with us and then headed up Rich Mountain Drive. The fall colors were spectacular, such a beautiful background to such a special weekend. I had been on that drive so many times, but this time it seemed to be at the peak of its beauty. It was a rather warm October day even when we arrived on top of Rich Mountain at the state park for our picnic. We laughed and talked and learned more and more about each other. I talked about Charley and Caleb a lot (I always did). He had numerous questions about them and mentioned that he would love to meet these other guys in my life that were so important to me.
We took a hike down Lovers Leap and back, soaking in each and every moment together.
The more I found out, the more I was drawn to him; I wanted to know more. He was the best listener I had ever met, and I found myself talking comfortably about my life and some of the experiences I had been through. I had his undivided attention, and of course he had mine as well. Interesting how many things we talked about but never ran out of topics. There were also moments of silence, but not the awkward kind; for some reason even the quiet moments felt so comfortable.
Later we would return to Mena and go into Walmart to look around for something he had forgotten. I don’t recall that forgotten item, but I do remember we ended up buying a Lionel Richie “Truly” cassette tape 🙂 To this day if I hear one of those songs I’m immediately there again in my mind, and I get that same warm feeling. We also received a TON of stares from people, haha. I was constantly seeing someone I knew and introducing him. He was really intrigued by that part of a small town.
We drove out to the lake and parked the car while Lionel Richie sang to us :)…as we sat on the hood of his car. We spent the rest of the afternoon there until time for dinner, talking about dreams and plans we both had, and more about my boys. We laughed a lot but also had some serious moments, but not too intense. I felt like we had always known each other.
I would eventually find out that during these moments together by the lake, Mike realized he had fallen in love with me, even though he never mentioned a word of it to me. I also felt our hearts connect in a different way; for me it was a bit frightening. I was feeling vulnerable, part of me screaming, “Yeah,” and the other part screaming, “RUN!” Just went I would feel the unsettling thoughts, he would slip his arm around me and pull me close, almost like he was reading my mind.
We decided to go out to the Fishnet for dinner with, of course, more people to meet there as well.
A funny memory I have of that day is Mike asking me where an ATM was in town. I had no idea what that was and apparently I wasn’t alone in that because we drove by every bank in town (I think there were just two banks back then 🙂 and soon found out there was no such thing in Mena. Mike was so amazed at that….I can’t remember what we did for cash but we brainstormed something. I think he felt like he had stepped back in time a few years. Ha
Most places in Mena didn’t even take credit cards at that time much to his shock as well. We had some good laughs about it. Growing up in California, he had already been imprinted with the notion that people from Arkansas and Oklahoma, too, for that matter, were all missing teeth and wore overalls.
Dinner was over and we were back in his car, too early to part ways; so I suggested we go up to one of the lookouts on the Rich Mountain Scenic Drive, spots where you could pull over and park. Now I know what you locals are thinking, 🙂 but Mike didn’t know the town secret so he didn’t think anything (or expect anything ); he was always so respectful of me. We pulled onto the lookout area and rolled the windows down and sat outside of the car again while Lionel Richie played in the car. Typical of warm October days, as soon as the sun dipped behind the last mountain and darkness fell there was a definite chill in the air. He kept his arm around me and I couldn’t help but think how it felt like a perfect fit. He told me how it bothered him that I had gone through such a hard time, and that he was impressed how I had made the most of it. He told me later that he noticed I didn’t have negative things to say or dwell on, and he said it was obvious to him I was not bitter, which stood out to him. Of course I wouldn’t know that for sometime.
He told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever known; and he said, “The more I find out about you, the more I want to know.” He asked a lot about Charley and Caleb. I told him all about my little men, how precious they were and how important they were to me.
Before we knew it, it was very late (around 11 I think) and it was VERY chilly at this point up on the mountain; so we started talking about heading back down when Lionel Richie suddenly quit playing in the car. We both looked at each other with the same look as it dawned on us what had just happened. We had the windows down and the music playing softly that whole time on battery mode. We laughed and tried to think of what to do….of course no cell phones back then. By now we were pretty cold and we couldn’t even roll the windows up (electric). I was thinking what a very long walk back down the mountain that would be, but we could do it. I was about to mention it to Mike when he interrupted my thoughts by saying,”Hey, there’s a truck over there on the far end of the lookout; maybe they have some jumper cables? I’ll go ask them”. I started laughing so hard and he just looked at me like, “What”? “Well, I need to tell you something about the mountain and it’s reputation, haha.”
He said he figured that was probably the case but we needed to get the battery jumped so off he headed toward the truck. The closer he got, he could hear music blaring inside of it; and of course the lights had been off the whole time they had been there. He said he was prepared for most anything when he knocked on the window, but much to his surprise when the window was rolled down an elderly man with an obvious hearing loss (by the way his country music was blasting) looked at him and said, “What can I do for ya?” Of course he had jumper cables and gave us a jump start. We laughed all the way home about how glad Mike was to see that guy. 🙂
We headed back now as it was really late, and we were going to church together in the morning. He walked me in for a few minutes. A couple kisses and hugs later, he was headed out.
My heart was full…..I was falling in love. I knew I was, and little did I know Mike was thinking the same thing as he headed to his hotel. The weekend was passing by too fast. I wanted to freeze time and make it last forever. These were beautiful moments I would cherish the rest of my life, that we would both cherish.
We didn’t know yet….but we were God’s perfect plan 🙂
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
Our phone conversation on Tuesday evening lasted for hours; probably about half that time was actual talking, the other half just sitting in silence while I studied for school with neither of us wanting to hang up. 🙂
It was decided that night that I would come to Tulsa the following Friday October 26,1990. He told me the first thing he wanted to do was buy me an engagement ring. I could hardly wait!! We talked about possible wedding dates. With me in school and not wanting to quit and move until finished, we threw around the idea of a spring or summer wedding. I would be finished with nursing school in August so that seemed to be a great plan. I had already had the “big wedding” thing so I was way over that; however, I wanted Mike to have a wedding of his choice since it was his first marriage. Mike is extremely quiet and a bit of an introvert, so the last thing he wanted was a big wedding. We casually talked about possibilities of maybe just family, or family and a few friends. He had told his family about me, but I had only met his brother Jim and his wife Gail (my sister’s friend who set us up 🙂 and their little girl Jamie. I’m sure everyone was shocked that Mike was telling them we had decided to eventually marry; like I said in an earlier blog, this was not in his personality to be impulsive.
Between October 19/20 (the weekend of his proposal) until we would see each other again on October 26, it seemed like a life time. Seriously, that week felt like a month because of all the changes and planning. I had decided not to say much or really anything about marriage to the boys (or anyone else) until I had a ring to show them. With every day that passed, I grew more and more sure of my decision. I still had moments of fear (especially when I wasn’t with him), but just a phone call and hearing his voice was calming and reassuring. I could hardly focus on anything there in Mena. It was all I could do to keep up my grades in nursing school, but I did somehow. A few times before the proposal, but several times afterwards, Mike would ask to help me financially in some way, just to remove some pressure from me. I was so funny/weird about it, I just would not accept anything. With the exception of our weekend in Ft Smith, I always insisted I pay for my own gas to go to Tulsa! Even calling him collect (long distance was extremely expensive back then) was just something I couldn’t bring myself to do. When I was the one calling he would insist I hang up and let him call me back. I’m still not sure what I thought I was proving, but I’m sure it involved my wall of defense and self preservation. He was always so kind and offering to help in any way even though I felt I could not accept.
The boys talked about nothing to anyone but their fun filled weekend in Ft Smith. They always wanted to talk to him on the phone when he called, and he took time to talk with them both as long as they wanted. What a fun, light-hearted time in life it was for us all; worries seemed like a thing of the past. Heartbreak was all but forgotten, and I had not cried in months. In fact, I would go several years without crying at all which was so strange, because I wasn’t hard-hearted. I honestly think I had just ran out of tears, and nothing about my life was telling my body to replenish the supply 🙂
Friday could not arrive soon enough! After saying my sad goodbyes to the boys for their weekend visitation, I headed out as quickly as I could for Tulsa. Everything about this trip felt so different. I can still remember the feeling so vividly….the mix between butterflies and tranquility that comes with knowing you’re loved and that someone is just as excited to be with you as you are with him. He was crazy about me; and he always made sure to remind me of that, always made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. He just thought I was flawless. I kept saying, “I’m afraid you’re going to be let down at some point when you realize I’m not as perfect as you think,” but he would always remind me that every day those feelings were stronger and he had no doubts of the kind of woman I was. No one has ever made me feel the way he did…..ever 🙂
When I pulled into the neighborhood I was immediately picked up and we were off to dinner. We were so comfortable with each other by this time; I loved everything about him, including his quietness. For some reason it was so refreshing to me. I had never met someone so quiet. He was very confident (not at all shy), but his silence spoke volumes to me. He listened like no one I had ever met; and even though he wasn’t a talker, he never seemed to tire of listening to me. 🙂 I knew I loved him but I also was so aware of how much I respected him…so honest, so giving, so selfless. For me, he was everything; and I wanted to be with him forever, yet it still made no sense.
We decided to wait until the next day (Saturday) to ring shop. I had been looking at every married woman’s ring I came across, trying to decide what type and style I wanted.
He picked me up from my sisters house early that Saturday morning and we went to my nephew’s soccer game first. By then it was around 11:00 am, and we were officially ring shopping. We ended up at Moody’s (by Woodland Hills Mall) where Mike insisted I not look at the price but just pick out the ones I liked the most. Oh my, this was so hard for me. All my life I have always managed to like the most pricey things, so I was paranoid that I would pick something over the top. Obviously I knew the bigger the diamond the higher the price, but I also knew in upscale jewelry stores even the smallest diamonds were not cheap. Eventually I narrowed it down to liking the round stones which were very popular back then. Mike could tell I wasn’t comfortable picking out the size of the diamond so he did that for me and it was the most beautiful solitaire diamond ring I had ever seen. It was more than I had ever dreamed of wearing, and I was speechless for a moment. The size was perfect as well, so while they did a last minute cleaning and polishing on it we went ahead and picked out the bands that we liked. I picked out the wide gold band that went so well with the solitaire back then; and for Mike, we picked out a gold band that had sort of a basket weave look to it. Wow, my heart was full! This was really happening. I was going to be able to tell everyone I was engaged (I had waited to announce that until I had a ring). I snapped back into reality as I heard the lady who had helped us say “Well, Mr Feeley, here you go; here’s the beautiful ring. He took it from her, we were both all smiles and she was genuinely excited for us you could tell. Mike took the ring box, opened it, sort of grinned and said, “I guess I’m supposed to put this on you,” in a tone somewhere between a statement and a question. I just smiled as I felt myself blush a little and put my hand out toward him. He took my hand, slipped the ring on my finger and we didn’t say a word. It felt like a moment too big for any words. In that few minutes time stood still, and I cherished each and ever second.
Then there was a quick kiss, accompanied by lots of stares from people in the store, which helped make it quick. If there’s ever been a perfect moment in time, it was then. I had no idea how the end of this day would turn out; I could have never imagined! By now it was late afternoon; and we were headed to his nephew’s football game, where I would be meeting his oldest brother. It was a night of showing off the ring numerous times; but by the end of his nephew’s football game, everything had changed.
Those who sow tears shall reap joy.