“Tell me about your proposal to Anne,” Charlotte said to Chris. For a moment, I thought Chris would decline, but he nodded and said, “I bought the ring about two months before I actually asked her. I had been thinking about marrying her almost from the first time I saw her. We met in a bar, believe it or not. She was there with a couple of her friends and I was there with some of my fraternity brothers. I caught her eye. She was the prettiest girl in the bar. I had a couple drinks, so I had enough courage to talk to her.
“Anyway, about six months later, I bought the ring and waited until the perfect time to ask her to marry me. We went to a Fourth of July celebration in Virginia Beach, walking up and down the boardwalk, looking at the water and the tourists. I had the ring in my pocket and almost asked her at least twenty times that day. Finally, during the fireworks, Anne said she loved to watch them, because they were exciting and beautiful. I said, “Just like you are.” I actually got to one knee beside her and pulled the ring out of my pocket. She didn’t notice at first because she was watching the fireworks. Anne turned to say something to me and saw me beside her. I couldn’t speak because I was afraid I would start crying or something.
“She looked at me, at the ring, and then she said, “Are you asking me to marry you?” All I could was to nod. She didn’t say anything for a couple of minutes and I thought she was going to turn me down.”
I laughed. “I was waiting for Chris to actually ask.”
He smiled at me and said, “I finally figured out what she was doing. Then I said, “Will you be my wife?”
Charlotte said, “That is a lot more romantic than Ernesto. We were at an art show and looking at a painting by some local guy that looked like that painting by Klimt, called The Kiss. The artist told us it was called The Proposal. Then, Ernesto said to me, “I don’t suppose you want to marry me, do you?”
Ernesto blushed and then said, “She said to me, “That’s the way you propose marriage to a woman? Where’s the ring?” Then, the artist guy says, “I would have sprung for the ring if it was me.” I told them both, “I have the ring. I just didn’t bring it with me.”
Charlotte said, “Then, the artist guy says, “You have that ring,” and pointed to Ernesto’s class ring. Ernesto said, “I’m asking her to marry me, not to go steady.” The artist guy says, “It’s temporary until you can give her the real ring.” Then, Ernesto looks at his class ring and says, “I like that ring.” Then, I told him, “You ask a girl to marry you, you should offer her a ring of engagement.” Ernesto says, “It’s a class ring. It’s stupid.” Then he said. “Wait right here. Don’t move an inch,” and he ran away from me. He was gone almost an hour, then he finally came back and took the engagement ring out of his pocket and asked the artist guy, “Will this work?” The artist guy says, “That’s a much better ring than the class ring.” Then, Ernesto turns to me and says, “Do you like it?” And I said to him, “Yes, I like the ring. Can I have it?” And Ernesto said, “Of course you can have it, you daft woman.”
We all laughed and I found myself wiping tears from face, again. “That is the most romantic story I think I have ever heard,” I said. Then I raised my Margarita glass and said, “To Charlotte and Ernesto.”
My family replied with, “Slainte.”
Matt said, “To Lillian,” and we said Slainte again. Ernesto said, “Arriba.”
Matt rose to his feet, picked up Lillian’s urn and walked out to the desert behind the house. We followed, one at a time. He stopped about 100 yards from the house and we lined up, shoulder to shoulder. Chris stood to one side of Matt and Charlotte was on the other. She held Barbara up on one side and Ernesto held her on the other. I stood beside Chris.
The evening was chilly, as evenings in the desert tend to be. Barbara visibly trembled even with my afghan wrapped around her. Stars peeked out from behind the high clouds and the half moon sailed across the sky.
Matt stared at the urn a long time and then said to it, “Mom, I am so sorry I didn’t make it to Virginia before you died. I feel like I should have been there just like you were always there for me. You listened patiently when I called you on the phone. You never pulled any punches when you told me where I was screwing up. You always told me what I needed to hear, even when I didn’t want to hear it. I will always love you, Lillian Archer, my beloved mother.”
Chris stood beside Matt and took the urn from Matt’s hand. “Mom, I am so sorry I wasn’t a better son to you. I resented you telling me what to do. Many times I thought you were nothing but a certifiable old woman who had no clue about my life or about living in a modern society. I laughed at your attempts to use an iPhone and a VCR. But, you always told me what I needed to hear, even if I didn’t like it. Even if resented it and got pissed at you for weeks afterward. Now, I just want to hear you tell me anything, good or bad. Now, you are gone and I cannot tell you to your living face that I love you and I will miss you more than you can know.”
Toward the end of his soliloquy, Chris had tears streaming down his cheeks and his voice broke and cracked. That was all it took for me. I started crying, myself.
Chris opened the urn and up-ended it. Lillian Archer floated away on the cool evening breeze.
Chris pulled me into a warm hug and we held onto each other as we cried together.