Go West Old Men: A Travel Memoir. Part 5

Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park

One Ring to Bind Them

This is Part 5 of the story, follow these links to see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Vanessa and I dated my senior year at Asbury.

This is a true story. I had a couple of significant leadership positions in student government. A certain professor that I love dearly, and who I will not name, always encouraged the gentlemen to have a date to all of the main campus events. I am told that on a certain women’s hall when the community phone was answered the question was “who is he calling for this time?”

At the end of my junior year, one of my best friends and I rode home from the student leadership banquet with the college President, Dennis Kinlaw, and his wife, Elsie. Mrs. Kinlaw was known to be faithful in praying for the students.

As they let me out in front of my dorm, Mrs. Kinlaw asked “Mike are you dating anyone?”

“No, Ma’am.”

“Then I’ll pray for you.”

Back on campus for my senior year, I was at the homecoming banquet with a young woman. Vanessa was playing piano as background music. I’m pretty sure the dress she was wearing was green, but we have disagreements over those subtle blue-green colors. She had a flower in her hair. I believe it was yellow. I am not making this up, my heart skipped a beat.

We dated later that quarter and became something of an item that winter quarter. Then I got cold feet and called it off. There’s no real reason. I was twenty-one and stupid. That’s what twenty-one year old boys do. Stupid things.

Vanessa had another year or so to go in school, so we would see each other when I would return for campus visits. Occasionally I would see her elsewhere. She had family in town and once our church went to a revival service in North Carolina. She joined us for dinner afterwards. She’ll have to tell you how weird that whole experience was.

We both know that, if I’d stayed at the home church, we would never have been together. That would have been wrong.

After I moved away and worked my second campaign, I went down to North Carolina to see the same friends I had worked with on the congressional race. They were running another race out of Winston-Salem. On New Year’s Day, Vanessa had an open house for several friends. I visited and, while there was no green dress or flower in her hair, I was smitten.

We began to correspond on a regular basis. In the meantime, I accepted a job in Washington, DC working for an association of state legislators. Vanessa told me she would like to visit for spring break. I hatched a plan.

Actually, I hatched it, and my entire office helped me to plan it. I proposed to her under the cherry blossoms at the Jefferson Memorial. We set our wedding date for November.

That’s where Scott comes back into the story. He was to be my best man.

We were on a budget and paying for most of this ourselves. So we planned a simple southern wedding. Only ten attendants of either side. When you wait a few years to get married, you have more and more people from significant points in your life that you want to share in that special day.

Finally the day came. We were at the church and the prelude had begun. The pastor wanted to pray with me and with Scott before the ceremony. Just before he did, Greg, another dear friend that we lost to a dreadful rare blood disease some years back, came in to join us. I was touched that he wanted to join in the prayer.

What I didn’t know was that Scott had left the rings at the hotel. His wife made a mad rush back to find them and delivered them to Greg just before things began. Greg joined us for prayer. But as he put his arm around me, he passed the rings to Scott. I didn’t know until after the service.

Partially thanks to Scott and Greg, Vanessa and I are still married some thirty-seven years later.

And we’re still pretty darn cute.



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