Twenty years ago tonight, she said yes. And oh, what a difference that affirmative response has made in my life.
It is no exaggeration to say that I am a man saved by God’s grace and a woman–the latter being a major manifestation of the former.
She said yes . . . in spite of the fact that my meticulously planned and lavishly produced proposal of marriage was horribly mangled by a confluence of cruel circumstances and incompetence, all — beyond my control. Let me explain.
In the Summer of 1987 I was working for a Washington, D.C.-based public policy organization, doing grassroots field work in Oklahoma. As a side-venture, I had helped to launch a contemporary Christian music radio station in Oklahoma City. I was one half of a daily morning show team.
That was the same year I got to know the most amazing and fun and beautiful woman I had ever known, and had come to hope she would become my wife. By late June, to my amazement, I had grown fairly confident that if I asked, she would say yes. So I bought a ring and started crafting my question-popping scheme.
I decided to use my connections at the radio station to do something novel. I wrote out my proposalâ€”bringing all my wordsmithing powers to bear on the task of expressing my love, devotion, and earnest desire to spend the rest of my life making her happy.Â I’m telling you, there was some serious “woo” going on there. It was something.
I went into the radio station’s production room and recorded the proposal, using the Love Theme from the movie, LadyHawk as a music bed. I dubbed the proposal to one of the tape cartridges (a “cart” in radio lingo) used for playing commercials. I then went to the radio station’s log book to schedule my proposal to air at precisely 10:31 pm, July 3, 1987. It would be the first spot to play in the bottom-of-the-hour commercial break.
Then all I would have to do is make sure we were in the car with the radio on in a romantic spot at the appointed time. Very simple. What could go wrong?
Almost as an afterthought, I dubbed a copy of the proposal to a blank cassette and slid it in my pocket as I left the station.
On the night of July 3, I took my intended to one of the nicer restaurants in town. It was in the top of a circular, 20-story tower and slowly rotated. We watched the sun set during the appetizers andÂ saw various fireworks displays off in the distance during dessert. It was a great evening.
Then, around 10:15, I drove to a secluded spot by a lake where the moon was sparkling on the water. We chatted and listened to the music my station was playing. As the last song before the commercial break began to finish up, I grew quiet and turned the radio up a bit. The big moment had come.
Have I mentioned that small Christian radio stations are staffed on the weekends by part-time DJ wannabe’s who don’t have a lot of experience? Or skills? No? Well, we called them “weekenders.”
In the first one to three seconds after my proposal began playing, several very bad, very wrong, very unhelpful things happened all at once. It is difficult to describe. And painful. But I’ll try.
First of all, weekenders aren’t supposed to talk coming out of music and going into a commercial break. But they can’tÂ help themselves. There’s a microphone hanging right there in front of them. So as the song ended, Mr. Weekender opened up the microphone and did some cheesy DJ banter. A comment about the song. Time. Temperature. “Hey! More music ahead. . .Stay with me! Comin’ at ya in stereo!” And all that.
Then he pressed the button that launched the airing of the most important question I had ever asked or ever would ask.
And then he took a telephone call.
On the speakerphone.
Without turning the microphone off.
Which produced hellish, screeching feedback along with the sound of him yelling to be heard.
Back in the car at Lake Overholser, my date was. . . confused. She had heard my voice on the radio and that I had said her name. But immediately my voice was subsumed by the death screams of a robot-banshee being stabbed in the heart with a white-hot curling iron, puncutated by the bellowing of very large man. “Hello! SCREEEEEEEEEEEEE! “The Light 105! Hello!” SQRAAAAAAANCK!
Somewhere, faintly, beneath the cacaphony and chaos she could still sort of hear my voice and some music. Just not what I was saying. Not that it was important.
Never, in all my years listening to radio before or since, have I ever heard anything quite like that perfect storm of noise that spewed forth from my speakers that night. It was truly and singularlyÂ remarkable.
I stared at the radio, blinking, for a few seconds. “That did NOT just happen,” I muttered. My date still had that very puzzled look on her face. Then I remembered the cassette backup. I had thrown it in the console. With the ring.
I grabbed it and threw it into the car’s cassette player. “Here. . .this is what you’re supposed to be hearing right now.” And once again the she heard my voice, and her name, and the opening strains of the Love Theme from LadyHawk.
A ring was produced. Tears were shed.
A hug. A kiss.
Thank God for that yes.