Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shocked, Dismayed and Chagrined

Shocked, dismayed and chagrined; three words our high school history teacher repeated again and again and again. I remember his delivery and his smile well.

“Miss Kennedy, I am shocked, dismayed and chagrined by your lack of appreciation for the events leading up to the civil war.”

“Miss Kennedy, I am shocked, dismayed and chagrined by your inability to arrive at class, on time.”

“Miss Kennedy, PLEASE stop talking!”

“I’m not talking, I’m listening...”

“Miss Kennedy, I am shocked, dismayed and chagrined by your illogical retort.”

Mark and I grew up less than a mile from each other. From Kindergarten to graduation, we shared the same schools, same school bus, same lunch line, same disdain for rural-underdeveloped country logic, and the same yearning to leave it all behind.

Separated by a long stretch of a two-lane highway, a feed mill, a candy shop, a killer hill and four bars, we managed to completely avoid each other until our 20th high school reunion.

We were both one of five children. His father and my step father were both semi functioning alcoholics. My step father died prematurely from cirrhosis of the liver and malnutrition. Mark's father died prematurely from liver cancer. Both smoked, both avoided their families, both had explosive tempers and erratic work habits. I often wonder how our mothers coped with no money, no man, and no way out - weighed down by children, wild rebellious children.

We were on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard when he wondered, out loud, whether or not I wanted to get married.

I didn’t, but I loved him so fiercely that I said yes.

The three years we’d been together had been volatile. We lived a disjointed, brutally co-dependent yin-yang lifestyle churned in fury followed by long stretches of uncomfortable silence. He would accuse me of being addicted to rage and I would accuse him of being emotionally inept.

So when he pulled a small, neatly wrapped box from his neatly pressed khakis and handed it to me- I had no idea what hide behind the glossy Persian blue wrapping and snappy white bow.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Open it,” he replied.

The unveiling revealed a black velvet box with a stunning Lucida square cut Tiffany diamond ring propped inside.

I was puzzled.

“what is it?” I asked.

“it’s a ring,” he replied.

“why?” I asked.

“Why is it a ring?” he asked.

“NO, why are you giving me a ring?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to get married,” he announced.

Now I was shocked, dismayed and chagrined. Marriage was the last thing on my mind and the last thing I ever expected him to suggest.

We had never discussed it, as other couples often do. He had never been married, never been engaged, and never lived with a woman other than his mother and I, for all the wrong reasons, married pretty much every man I had ever met.

Even more confusing was his Cheshire cat smile. He appeared quiet pleased with himself and I was convinced he was completely mad.

I wasn’t sure if we’d survive the rest of our vacation let alone the rest of our lives together, but even so, I said yes.

The following day we went to the infamous nude beach at Gayhead. I’ve always felt insecure about my physical attributes so the thought of me prancing freely on the crab littered clay beach sounded preposterous.

But now we were engaged and I thought "what the hell" let him see my slowly sagging almost 40 ass. Let's see if that wipes the smile off his smug little face.

It didn’t.

And then, something miraculous happened. The fury and uncomfortable silence was replaced with a disorienting contentment, a calm, gentle, intoned alignment of previously mismatched souls.

Where did it come from and how did he know we’d find it?

His trade mark silence was now eclipsed by the shimmer from his token of admiration and the unspoken pledge of his love, now, and forever.


  1. I love this story so much! It's crazy how small the world is, and yet, at the same time, how paths may never cross. I'm so glad our paths ran into one another. I believe in you Oh Wise Green Monkey, and in the success of your Tales! Here's to you sharring your precious soul and Story! Here's to you Pappy! And here's to you, Kerry! Lots of Love!

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