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The Proposal - The Long Version

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:51 pm

Okay, this is rather long, but I wanted to get it down on paper before I forgot some of the details.

Cast of characters:
Donna - my wife
Cory - my son
Carsen - Cory's girlfriend
Amanda - my daughter

So, Cory asked Donna to help him find an engagement ring a few months back. It was quite the ordeal and they looked at a lot of rings, but he finally ended up finding the perfect one. Then, the planning for the engagement started. Cory wanted to ask her on the beach and Carsen had expressed in the past that she wanted pictures of the event, so plans were made to do it at Marco Island where my daughter lives. Amanda knew the perfect place and someone that could take pictures so it all seemed to be coming together. Unfortunately, Carsen couldn't make it on the weekend that was planned and they just couldn't get the dates worked out. Amanda even tried to guilt her into coming by making up a story about a family picture, but that didn't work.

Cory called up Carsen's mother to see if she could help. Out of that conversation came the plans to do it at St. Augustine. There are two things that make that location really special. For one, that is where I proposed to my wife, but it is also the place where Carsen's Mom and step-dad were married and where they had their honeymoon. Actually, there is one more thing that makes it special because it was at St. Augustine, on the grounds of the old fort, on the 4th of July, 2007, that a certain young man asked me if he could marry my daughter . Needless to say, my wife and I both were pretty excited about the location.

There was a lot of chaos leading up to the event. For starters, it really didn't start coming together until Wednesday, but he wanted to ask her on Friday. In addition, Cory had orientation all day Thursday for Fire College so he wouldn't really be around to help plan it. So, to make it easier to work out the plans Donna went to orientation with him on Thursday so that they could discuss everything between his sessions. In between all the planning and Fire College sessions Donna was texting her sister and Amanda to help with our hotel reservations and to find tourist information and maps of the St. Augustine area. Between the four of them they finally came up with a plan. Now we just had to do it.

A big part of the plan included setting up a tent on the beach with sides that would allow Donna and I to hide inside and take pictures. When Amanda got married in December of 2007, we bought a beautiful tent for the occasion. After the wedding we moved the tent to our back yard, but I failed to secure it properly and the next day a windstorm blew it up against a fence and destroyed all the metalwork. We were devastated, but we saved the canopy and all of the sides because we knew they could be used again. This was our opportunity to use them. We have a 10X10 pop up tent and the sides would fit perfectly. My job on Thursday after work was to get the tent sides out of storage. I thought I knew where they were, but after over an hour of looking I finally gave up. I hit up Lowe's and Home Depot, but didn't have any luck. Finally, out of desperation, I bought some flat sides at Wal-Mart and headed home. Donna was just getting there when I arrived, having purchased the food for Cory and Carsen's lunch that would be served in the tent. I knew it when I bought them, but Donna let me know that the sides that I had purchased at Wal-Mart just wouldn't do. In her mind the sides had to be at the storage, so after taking care of some things around the house we headed back to the storage. Two hours and what seemed like hundreds of boxes later we still couldn't find them. I came around the corner about 10:00 that night and found Donna sitting on a cardboard box, nearly in tears. She looked up at me, "We have to have sides. The whole plan revolves around it."

So, It was back to Wal-Mart, this time to find curtains. My wife, being the creative, resourceful person that she is managed to find four tan shower curtains (not the plastic ones) and six sheers that she thought would work. We also purchased shower curtain hooks, a ball of twine, a couple packs of wooden clothes pins, zip ties and some rope. Then we headed back home to pack it all up. They had checked the time for high tide and determined that the proposal had to take place somewhere around 11:30 am. It's a two and a half to three hour trip from our house to St. Augustine and we figured at least two hours to set everything up. With that time frame in mind the alarm clock went off at 4:15 am on Friday morning.

A couple of things happened to jeopardize the proposal before it even started. It seems Donna had developed a urinary tract infection and she was in terrible pain by the time we finally got to St. Augustine. In addition, I have this weird thing with my left side that gives me sharp pains sometimes. Of course, that started acting up. So, picture us getting out of the car at Publix in St. Augustine. Donna is doubled over in pain and I'm jerking like a some kind of spastic freak because of the sharp pains that keep shooting through my side. With both of us in so much pain I wasn't sure how we were going to pull off setting everything up. We got Donna some medicine, picked up the croissants and flowers and made our way to the beach. Thankfully, just walking around Publix helped my pain to subside and although Donna was still in some pain, she felt like she could go through with it.

We made it to Anastasia State Park where everything was to take place around 9:30 am. We scouted the area and found that there were two wooden docks that meandered across the dunes and out onto the beach. We decided to use the second dock so that we could tell Cory to park by the first one. What I didn't realize was how long that blasted second dock was. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to bring a moving dolly with me because I had to carry the popup tent, a cooler, 40 pounds of weight (to keep the tent from blowing away) a wooden table and chairs and a few other odds and ends. I piled as much as I could onto the dolly and started up the dock. By now the sun was up and it was getting hot. I'll bet the dock was at least a half mile long. When I got to the end of it my heart sunk because there was a small flight of steps leading down to the sand, which was much thicker than I had anticipated. Using the dolly was out of the question, so I threw the tent over my shoulder, grabbed something else and left the rest sitting at the end of the dock. Donna managed to find the perfect location, but it was a long ways from the dock. Carrying all of that stuff through the thick sand was a bear. I drug the cooler because it had a handle, but it definitely wasn't easy. What almost killed me was the weights. Like a dummy I didn't put them on the dolly to begin with and I didn't think that I would need it so I carried them the entire way from the car to the tent. I definitely had to take a break after that.

So, after reinserting my lungs back into my chest Donna and I started setting things up. The tent was easy and the shower curtains weren't really that bad. Actually, we had all of the sides up in a fairly decent time. The problem we ran into was that the wind kept blowing the sides back into the tent area. The twine proved to be invaluable because I was able to string a couple rows of twine that kept the curtains from blowing in. We also used a heck of a lot of the clothes pins. When we were done it looked rather nice. We set up the little wooden table and chairs that Donna had purchased, covered the table with a table cloth, set up the good china and viola', the tent was done. Next, we set her camera on a tripod and found the perfect hiding spot that allowed us to view the beach. I walked out and she did a couple of test pictures. It was around 11:15 and we were done. Only fifteen minutes to spare… or so we thought.

About that time Cory sent a text that they were running about an hour behind. At this point Donna and I were hot, tired and she had to go to the restroom. We really hadn't wanted to make the trek back to the parking lot where the bathrooms were, but the tent was just a little farther away from the beach than we had anticipated and I had forgotten to grab her large zoom lens out of the car. Since they were running late we decided to head back, go to the bathroom and pick up the zoom lens. We had just gotten back to the car when Donna got another text from Cory – they were there!! In fact, I looked up just in time to see them walking down the sidewalk to the second dock. We both dove into the car and she texted Cory to stop and turn around. She had told him to go onto the first dock, but unbeknownst to us there wasn't really a first dock that led to the beach. The dock we had seen only led out onto the sand as an outlook. There was a path that led to the beach, but no dock, so Cory was confused by the directions. Well, she managed to get him going in the right direction and then we made a mad dash to the dock and headed to the tent.

By the time we got back to the tent we were both red faced and drenched with sweat. Unfortunately, we didn't get the zoom lens. Cory had been told to go twenty feet past the tent because that was where we had the camera pointed and where we had made the test shots. I watched them walk up the beach and gave Donna updates on how far they were. They were walking and talking. 300 feet… 200 feet… 100 feet… 50 feet… 25 feet… then… they stopped 20 feet before the tent instead of 20 feet after. Was this the moment? I wasn't sure. Then, I saw Cory turn Carsen around and I knew it was about to happen. I let Donna know and she had to hustle to get the camera turned around in time. She somehow managed to get in position and started taking pictures.

I watched the whole thing happen from my little peep hole in the tent. Carsen had her back turned and Cory wrote something in the sand. Then, he told here to turn around. He was on one knee now and he was holding out the ring. I saw Carsen's hands fly over her mouth. I haven't told anyone this, not even Donna, but the whole thing almost moved me to tears. There was just something about seeing my son down on one knee, proposing to the woman that he loves that really got to me. Finally, after what seemed like forever I saw Carsen slowly nodding her head up and down and then they were hugging. It was very special to watch and I am so glad that I got to be there.

Afterwards, they walked up to the tent. She was definitely surprised to see us there. We hugged them, sat them down and then served them lunch. Nothing really spectacular: chicken salad sandwiches, fruit, bottled water… and of course a bottle of champagne. Donna and I made the long trek through the thick sand and down the never ending dock one more time. We sat at the picnic tables in the shade by the restrooms until they called us. Cory said they didn't do much but look at each other most of the time… and Carsen kept looking at her ring a lot. I think they were both pretty much in shock over the whole thing. We spent a little time with them and then they left to do other things. Then, we got the joyful opportunity to clean everything up. Actually, it was easier to tear down than set up, but the trips back and forth were still grueling. At 3:30 pm, six hours after first arriving on the beach, the car was finally packed and ready to go.

We made our way to our hotel, took showers and collapsed, totally exhausted. At approximately 6:30 pm Donna woke me up. Cory was going to surprise Carsen with a carriage ride through St. Augustine and she wanted to be there for pictures. I somehow managed to shake the sleep out of my eyes and we headed on another adventure…

Last edited: Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:37 pm

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waretrop wrote on Fri Aug 08, 2014 9:12 pm:

Wiping the tears from my eye, I decided that was a very beautiful story. I am glad I got the long version.

I do hope everything turns out for the kids. I can't believe you are so sentimental...


eclecticgarden wrote on Fri Aug 08, 2014 9:18 pm:

Glad that you liked the long version waretop. As far as being sentimental, I learned a long time ago to make the best of the time that I have with my kids. I haven't always been the best at that, but I try. I am truly blessed.


waretrop wrote on Fri Aug 08, 2014 10:20 pm:

Oh yes. Make the best that you can with your kids and the wife. They make life so precious. You are blessed.


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