"Girlfriend, fiancée, wife." Spending a few hours at college with our daughter and granddaughter somehow brought those words to mind. Our conversations didn't deal with any of that, but on the way home, those three words were swirling around in my head. Three words, all referring to the same person, but each with a weight all its own.
Linda and I have different accounts of our first meeting, so we won't start there. I can't remember how it was that we first started dating, other than I had asked her to an opera. Yes, an opera, can you believe it? Tristan and Isolde, sponsored by the college artist series. At intermission, as we stood on the steps of Wesley Chapel, I asked her how she was enjoying it, and although I didn't know it at the time, she looked me squarely in the eyes and blatantly and deliberately lied to me! So we went from being friends to girlfriend/boyfriend on the basis of a lie. Go figure.
Things moved along for about six months, till she decided that she couldn't handle being with someone who was so serious. Just before Easter break, she broke up with me so she could date Roger, but that whole enterprise foundered when she told her dad about her decision. "Next time, why don't you go with some drunk I don't care about?" were his first and last words to her that entire Easter break. We saw each other at college later that spring, but when summer came, she went home, and I went to work at Miracle Mountain Ranch in Spring Creek, PA, which just happened to be only about an hour from her home.
One day that August, a big green 1961 Galaxie trailing a cloud of dust and containing Linda came roaring up the dirt road to the camp. We talked, and I gave her the ruby ring that had belonged to my grandfather. Friends to girlfriend to nothing to girlfriend again. The following December 1, the relationship deepened when I asked her to marry me. That's a whole story in itself, but she said yes...well, actually she didn't. But her response was affirmative, and she became my fiancée. That word had a nice ring to it, but it didn't have quite the punch of the next word: wife.
I can still remember how that word felt the first time I could claim it, and 46 years later, it still has that magical ring to it. That word still amazes me; to know that sense of belonging that it incurs. I look at my granddaughters, with all the uncertainty of dating yet before them; the questions, the wondering, the joy and heartache that we all endure to get to where Linda and I are today, content with each other, secure in a love that has passed the test of time, endured the storms of life, and now blesses us with deep satisfaction and joy. Three little words brought to mind as we shared time with our granddaughter; three little words that changed my life and make me very thankful tonight.