Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How I Met Your Father: How it took knowing the Blues to know you

I sat in the college Eucharistic chapel. It was ugly, really. Jesus on the cross that hung on the wall didn’t have a face. The tabernacle looked like the house built for Eeyeore by Pooh and Piglet out of sticks. But I loved it here. It reminded me a lot of the ugly church that had been my home parish growing up. It was quiet and peaceful, and I was usually alone. I found it easier to talk to God here. We were having the same conversation again. I was telling him if He really wanted me to be a nun, I would do it. But I didn’t mean it and He wasn’t answering.

I had a boyfriend at the time. He was charming: a big Louisiana chap from a family of thirteen who liked hunting and fishing. His goal in life was to have a tractor that he probably wouldn’t know how to use with his Political Philosophy Degree. He made me laugh and I loved to argue with him. I could see myself marrying him though I didn’t have that “You Just Know” feeling that everyone always talked about. I tried my half hearted offer again when it came to me. The realization: I knew that I would never be happy if I was not doing what God wanted me to be doing. I did not want to be a nun, but if that is what He had planned for me, it is what would bring happiness and fulfillment. And so I said it again, and I meant it: “If you want me to be a nun, I will do it!” And He answered. Not with lightening or thunder, He spoke to my soul. His wordless answer was: “I do NOT want you to be a nun. I want you to be a wife and mother. I just wanted you to give it up to Me.” We never had to have the conversation again. I was at peace. I knew my vocation and that was enough. In time, I would know to whom I would be married.

A few years later I was living at home. I met an acquaintance from High School and we became friends. Being friends was enough for me, but not for him. He wanted to go out with me. I had nothing better to do, so I agreed. Then he wanted to date seriously. I didn’t really have any other prospects, so I agreed. Before I knew it, we were engaged to be married. I had grown very fond of him but there was always a feeling that something was not right. I call it the claw on my heart: a gripping feeling at the center of my chest. If my heart were my head, the claw covered my ears. It would not allow me to hear.

I was teaching Theology at the time, and in many ways my relationship with God was at its height. I spent many hours in Eucharistic adoration. The chapel was right across the hall from my classroom. I also had to pass the cathedral on my way home. I often stopped and popped in to see Jesus. But our relationship was suffering. He was trying to talk to me, but the claw blocked Him out. I was telling Him who I would marry and that was that.

My sister was engaged too. Her wedding was planned for July, mine for December. I decided I really wouldn’t put much thought into my own wedding until after hers. Then the summer came and her wedding was only a few weeks away. The realization put a chink in my armor and God’s will, that old Realization seeped through. I went to Mary. I begged her for help. He was a wonderful man. I could not tell you one thing that was wrong with him. I just knew he was not the one God had planned for me. I did not want to hurt him, I really didn’t. I made a deal with Mary. I told her that I would wait until I was eighty years old for her to show me the man I was going to marry if she would help me out of this spot

While he was driving over to my house, I think I must have said a million Hail Mary’s. Though I sat on the porch in a folding chair, in my heart I was clinging to the hem of my Mother’s skirt. I was holding it so tightly my knuckles hurt. “I will wait, I will wait, If you help me do this, I will wait forever.”

She gave me the courage to break it off. I had boyfriends who had broken up with me. It was a terrible feeling to be rejected. But rejecting someone else was far worse to me. It would have been easier if there was a reason I could give, but I had no reason, no rational one any way. His reaction was the worst thing I could have asked for. If he had gotten angry, that would have been better. He was so kind. “Let’s just wait awhile. You keep the ring for now. There is no rush. You take some time.” “Please, Mother, tell me what to say. Please, Mother, Please if I don’t go through with this now, I may never have the courage again.” And then the words came:

“Do you know how you think I hung the moon?” I asked. He nodded. “Well, you deserve someone who thinks you did too. I don’t. I really wish I did and there is no reason I should not. But I don’t. In the end, we would not be happy. You deserve to be happy and I would make you miserable.”

He left. I was not sad. I felt such a sense of relief. I had no regrets, the claw was gone. I thanked Mary over and over. When I said I would wait until I was eighty, I meant it. I would never ever again try and tell her who I was going to marry. I would let her tell me.

We all went to Dallas for my sister’s wedding. I assured her that my broken engagement would not be a damper on her celebration in any way. It was her day and I was so excited to be a part of it. I told her I was so happy for her. Those words were truer than she could ever know.

I first saw him at the rehearsal dinner. He was so arrogant. The way he walked, the way he talked, the way he held a cigarette. Who did he think he was anyway? We ended up on the porch of the hotel where everyone was staying. It began as a large group that got smaller and smaller. In the end it was he, his sixteen year old brother, and I. We talked all night. We talked of books and plays. We talked of Latin and Shakespeare. We laughed at his brother. I could tell the younger adored the older. He was trying so hard to please.

“What is your favorite book?” I asked.
“Mr. Blue.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“It is out of print. I actually asked my dad to bring our copy from home to the wedding, so I could reread it. I will lend it to you if you want.”
“I would like that.”

We were both in the wedding party. The reception was a wonderful celebration. My “date”, my college roommate, and I went swimming with him and the other groomsmen in the hotel pool after hours. It was another late night, but I wasn’t the least bit tired.

I wasn’t quite sure what to feel. I did not want to make the same mistake twice. I was pretty sure he was not as wonderful as I believed. I was making him into what I thought was perfection. He would end up proving me wrong, and that would be fine. I expected it. “It is okay Mary, I will not fall into the same trap twice. If this is nothing, I will wait.”

My sister and her new husband had left for their honeymoon. The rest of the family had flown home. Mom and I were staying two more days before making the long drive home; the car now emptied of the mounds of ivy we had driven eight hundred miles to make the center pieces. She was staying at her friends, I at my sister’s apartment.

I tried to think of a reason to call him. I was in charge of returning my dad and brothers’ tuxedoes. That sounded like a legitimate reason. I left a message asking him if he would mind returning them for me along with his own. I wandered around the apartment doing nothing. I saw the light on my sister’s answering machine blinking. They would be gone for a week. No point in leaving the answering machine full before I left. I pushed play and prepared to write down the message for her.

“Hey, Sheila it is Chris. We are watching a movie over here tonight if you would like to join us.” He had called me first. I went over to watch the movie. It was just the two of us. After the movie we went and sat in his apartment’s hot tub and talked until two or three the next morning. My mind kept saying, “He is not really perfect. I am on the rebound. I am making him into what I want him to be.” The next day I spent reading Mr. Blue. The more I read the more excited I became. I called my roommate.
“I think he is real. I think he really is the man for me. If this is his favorite book, then he really is who I think he is.” To which she responded, “I think your hormonal.”

We spent the next evening together. I don’t remember how the conversation went, but on the drive home from Dallas it was clear to me. He believed I was the girl he was going to marry. I had that “You just know” feeling. He was the one.

“Thank you Mother, Thank you Mother…” I was not clinging to her skirt but hugging her in a tight embrace. I had told her I would wait until I was eighty for her to bring him to me. The Good Lady made me wait two weeks. TWO WEEKS! Six months later we were engaged. Eleven months after I had met him, I married my sister’s husband’s brother.

It was in May and my invitation read ‘In the Month of Our Blessed Virgin Mary.’ I was married at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Mary’s Home, MO. Every known Marian Hymn was a part of our Sacramental Celebration. The tradition at that time was to have a little bunch of flowers for the bride to give to the Virgin. I did not have a separate little bouquet made to leave at the foot of her statue. I gave her mine with my husband at my side.

That was thirteen years ago. I had put my happiness into the hands of Mary. I had given her complete control to work out God’s plan in my life. She did not fail me. She has never failed me.

I am still as madly in love with her choice as I was the day I finished Mr. Blue for the first time. We often joke that it was Blue that brought us together. And until this very second, as I am writing this account, it never occurred to me that the title of our favorite book is also her color. She continues to amaze me.

So in the end, my children, this is how I met your father. It was all because of a book and the Mother of the Author of Life: Mr. Blue and the Lady in Blue. May your lives forever be filled with such Blues.


  1. Hey Sheila! I followed your FB link to your blog to read the post on your farwell speech in Rome (which I thought was very cool, btw), but I continued reading when I saw this one. Wow! Not only do I think you have an amazing talent for writing, but I really enjoyed the story of how you met your husband. You are both lucky to have each other. Congratulations and thanks for sharing! :-)

  2. Michelle Brant ColeAugust 20, 2009 at 4:57 PM

    Sheila, I did the same - followed you link to the blog. What an amazing story and how eloquently your tell it - before you know, the story is over and a lesson has been taught. Thanks for sharing - I will keep reading!