Isabel and I met on May 31, 2013—exactly one year before—and I had half-jokingly texted my roommate at 5:11 p.m. saying that I had just met my wife. So here we were at retreat on May 31, 2014, and I planned on texting that same roommate at 5:11 p.m, one year to the minute, saying, "Hey, I'm asking her to be my wife." We were on the Park Slope parish retreat, and I knew I wanted to do it there, while we were serving as childcare workers together. I’d asked her if she wanted to go canoeing later, as I wanted to propose on the lake.
I had asked a couple friends to take pictures for us and to be a part of our special moment. But like the family we are, word spread the night before, and at breakfast that morning someone I had not had the privilege of meeting yet approached me in the breakfast line and whispered, "5 o'clock, on the beach" and winked at me. My southern upbringing kicked in and I politely nodded and smiled, and grabbed for some bacon.
The day was a blur, I spent it rehearsing what I was going to say, going over the timing of it, and dominating kids in ga ga ball. Free time had come, and before I knew it we were in the canoe paddling. Even the canoe guy knew, so he had her sit reversed, and didn't give her a paddle. I paddled away, I had told my friends to move down the river a bit so we could get a better picture, but no one on the beach was moving and 5:11 was approaching. So I took us on a big loop around aquatic playground, keeping the small talk up, when 5:10 hit. I took out my phone and began writing the text to send at exactly 5:11 as I popped the question. She, however, decided that a story about something my mom posted on Facebook should be our next topic of discussion. 5:11 came, the text was sent, but she just kept going on about what was posted on Facebook. I nodded and gave the occasional "Yeah..." giving the appearance I was listening, but inside I was like "Could you shut up for a second, I'm trying to do something here!" She finished the story, and I looked at her with that 'IT'S HAPPENING" look and said "So..." I honestly don't remember the words after that, as I had to skillfully walk down the canoe to her, while keeping us afloat, and drop to one knee. I asked some form of the phrase 'will you marry me', and she stood up offering me the wrong hand, the boat rocked, and a gasp was heard from the shore as all were eagerly watching for some sign of a yes. She sat back down, handed me the right (left) hand and gave a big nod. It was followed by cheers from the shore. I paddled in and celebrated with our Brooklyn Family.
I say all that to share that yes, the engagement was a huge memory—but it was so much more. Seeing all our friends on shore, welcoming us in and hugging and cheering is something I won’t ever forget. That night a group of men stood with me in a circle, and over funny stories and a metaphor from Zach Williams about how marriage is like making the perfect s'more, I was encouraged, challenged, and got to experience the beauty of this community becoming like family.