“Dear Abbie, I’m writing to ask for your hand in marriage,” the letter stated.
‘Oh no,” I said, as the index finger of my right hand scanned the Braille words on the page.
It was a Saturday evening in January, 2005. This was all a bad dream, I thought, as I sat in the living room of my apartment. Any minute, my alarm clock would ring; I would wake up, and everything would be the way it was before. Instead, the talking clock in the bedroom announced it was eight thirty p.m.
I read the rest of the letter detailing how we could live together. In shock, I tossed it into the wastebasket. I finished reading my mail and perused the evening paper with the help of my closed-circuit television reading system, all the while thinking about the letter.
How could I marry Bill? I’d only met him twice after corresponding with him for two years by e-mail and phone. We’d met through Newsreel, a cassette magazine that encourages its blind and visually impaired subscribers to share ideas and contact information.
Born and raised in Fowler,
I knew he was an expert at computers since he owned a computer store in Fowler for another twenty years after returning from
I received degrees in music from
I wrote my first novel, We Shall Overcome,with Bill’s support, and it was published in July of 2007 by iUniverse. I e-mailed him each chapter, and he sent me feedback and suggestions. He also encouraged my other writing endeavors and listened when I told him my troubles.
He was a good friend, but how could I leave my hometown of
Although I was tired after a long day of work, I didn’t sleep well that night. As I lay awake at four o’clock in the morning while my apartment building’s maintenance man cleared newly fallen snow from the sidewalk outside, I composed a Braille letter in my head. “Dear Bill, Although I like you and have valued our friendship over the past couple of years, I don’t see myself marrying you at this time. I hope we can still be friends.”
I was tempted to get up, write the letter, and mail it, but I decided to try and sleep some more since I had another long day of work ahead of me. I would write the letter in the evening when I returned home and mail it the next day.
After work, Dad picked me up and drove me to Grandma’s house for Sunday night dinner. It wasn’t much of a family gathering, just me, Dad, and Grandma, but it was something we tried to do every Sunday. Dad and I picked up sandwiches and chips at a Subway shop and took them to Grandma’s house.
Dad knew Bill because we’d visited him on our way to stay with relatives in
To my astonishment, Dad said, “Well, I’ll be damned. You should think about this, honey. He’s a fine fellow.”
“I’ve only met him twice,” I said.
“Grandma and I aren’t going to be around much longer,” said Dad. “Who’s going to take care of you?”
“I can take care of myself,” I answered. “I’ve been living on my own and holding down a job for years.”
“Ed, she shouldn’t marry him if she’s not sure,” said Grandma.
“Yeah, he wants me to move to Fowler,
“You don’t know that,” said Dad. “We’ve only been there twice and for a couple of hours at the most. Why don’t you at least go down there and spend some time with him before you make a decision?”
Maybe he was right. Maybe I shouldn’t be too hasty. I didn’t have to give an answer right away, did I? I composed another Braille letter in my head. “Dear Bill, I’d like to visit Fowler this summer to see if I would be happy living there with you.”
After I returned home and before I had a chance to write the letter, Bill called me. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Oh, just working on the computer and thinking about a marriage proposal I received in the mail yesterday.”
He laughed. I laughed. He said, “What do you think?”
“I was planning to write you a letter,” I said. “I’d like to come down to Fowler this summer to see if I’d like living with you there.”
After a long pause, he said, “Actually, I’m thinking of moving to
Did I misunderstand his letter? I thought he stated clearly that he wanted us to live in Fowler since his family and business were there. Living with him wouldn’t be so bad if I could stay in my hometown.
“Maybe I could come to
I panicked. I’d put off my trip to Fowler until the summer to give me more time to get used to the idea. “Wouldn’t you rather wait until June? You wouldn’t have to worry about bad roads.”
“I think the roads should be okay by the middle of March.”
It was obvious he didn’t want to wait. Maybe in two months, I could get myself in a better frame of mind about this.
My thoughts were in a whirlwind. One minute, I liked the idea of being married to Bill. The next, I wondered if I was getting in over my head. As a result of the shock and stress of Bill’s proposal, I came down with a bad cold which lasted for three weeks. When I told Bill, he said he wished he were there to take care of me, but this didn’t make me feel any better. I wanted my mother to take care of me and advise me, but she died several years earlier. I never felt so alone or confused.
In the meantime, Bill researched realtors online and found houses we could look at while he was here, much to my consternation. He e-mailed me at least once a day and called me every night. He even called Dad once or twice. “He’s got it bad for you, doesn’t he?” said Grandma.
On a warm spring morning in March, Dad and I drove to the bus station to meet Bill. He traveled all night from Fowler, but he appeared well rested as he emerged from the bus, kissed my cheek, and said, “Hello, sweetie.” He’d never kissed me or spoken to me like that before.
We drove to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. I sat in the back seat of Grandma’s two-door Cadillac while Bill sat in front with Dad. This is a bad dream, I thought. Any minute, my alarm clock would ring; I’d wake up, and everything would be the way it was before. Instead, my talking watch announced it was ten a.m. At the restaurant, Bill sat next to me in a booth while Dad sad across from us. During the meal, he held my hand from time to time which I found reassuring. No man other than Dad had held my hand before. My stomach was so tied up in knots that I didn’t think I could get anything down, but when we were ready to leave, my plate was empty except for one sausage that I offered to Bill and he accepted.
Bill spent the next week with me in my apartment. At first, he slept on the couch, but after a couple of days, I found myself asking him to sleep in my double bed with me, thinking it would be more comfortable for him. I didn’t know if I loved him. I alternated between wanting to spend the rest of my life with him and wondering what in the world I was thinking. When I expressed my doubts, he reassured me with kisses and caresses, and for the first time, I knew what it was like to be loved by a man. “You don’t have to marry me. We could just live together,” he told me. This seemed preposterous, but I didn’t say anything. I knew he meant well.
I’m not sure when I made up my mind. All I know is that on the day he officially proposed to me during dinner with family and friends at a local restaurant, I said yes. Since the ring was too small, he used a necklace. As he placed it around my neck, he said, “If you say no, I’ll choke you with this.”
I caught another cold as a result of the stress of his visit and the big decision I’d made. This turned into a mild stomach flu which confined me to bed for a day. Bill held my head when I threw up, applied a cool washcloth, massaged my forehead, back, and shoulders, and fed me. I was relieved I’d said yes to his proposal. It was nice having someone to take care of me.
I was over my cold by the time Bill left town. At the bus station, we kissed in the rain, as the bus thrummed nearby, waiting to take him away. I wouldn’t see him for another three months, and that time seemed endless. I willed the bus to leave without him, but all too soon, he was gone. I sat with Dad in his pick-up and watched the bus drive slowly away from the station.
After Dad dropped me off at my apartment, I walked into the living room and collapsed on the couch. The apartment was quiet except for the hum of the refrigerator in the little kitchen. For years, I’d been content to be alone here, but now, it felt empty. The next morning when I prepared to wash the bedding, I held the sheets and pillowcases to my nose and drank in his scent. It was the last reminder of him I would have for three months.
Those three months flew by, and then it was time to visit Bill in Fowler where he was in the process of packing his belongings for the move to
Since I hadn’t yet found a house in
Bill hosted a barbecue to celebrate our engagement. Many of his friends in Fowler and a few from out of town were there. Dad, Grandma, and my relatives in
This was in the beginning of June. At the end of the month, Bill planned to make the move to
I only had two weeks in which to pack. Since one of my co-workers quit during my absence, I had to work extra hours which didn’t make things any easier. This happened many times before, and it always irked me, but it didn’t matter this time. I planned to quit. My dream of writing full time was about to become a reality. The two weeks flew by, and before I knew it, Bill stood in the hall outside my apartment with his sister and a friend who’d come to help us move. We embraced with the knowledge that we were together for good.
At the end of July after we were settled in our new home, we took an early honeymoon trip to
As I write this, our sixth wedding anniversary is fast approaching. We plan to celebrate by attending my cousin’s wedding. I don’t think she planned it that way. She and her fiance liked the idea of 9/10/11, and it just so happens that September 10th was our wedding day. It’ll be a great way to celebrate our own marriage.
I’ll paste below a link to a recording of me singing “You Fill Up My Senses.” The link will be available for at least a week. As a Valentine gift in 2005, Bill sent me, among other things, a doll who sings this song when you squeeze her foot. We cherished that song ever since. I wanted to sing it at our wedding but didn’t think I could do it without crying so I’ll sing it now.
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome