Friday, February 20, 2009

A Love Story

The second most common question asked of me was if I would share how Eric and I met.
As I was thinking back I realized that this was twenty-four years ago. Amazing.

After high school I moved to Virginia to attend Liberty University. But, for various reasons I just did not do well. After about six months worth of schooling I was expelled and sent home. I was a silly young girl that needed to seriously grow up.
I came home and found a job at the local Bible book store as the music manager. This is where I met Eric's sister. She set Eric and I up on a blind date...I will never forget the events of that evening. He was stationed on the USS Carl Vinson in Alameda (Oakland Harbor for those of you not familiar with California) and I was a sucker for a guy in uniform. I watched him do his laundry as we talked about everything.
He is not here to defend himself but he always loved to here me tell the details of our "courtship" and marriage. The night of our first date he wore cowboy boots, white pants, a red shirt, and a panama hat! I obviously looked past the outfit and enjoyed his company. He always said that he knew that night that I would be his wife. I, on the other hand, was head over heels but didn't know if he felt the same.
We continued to see each other for the next two weeks and then he was out at sea for two months. This was not the "kinder, gentler" Navy we see of today. There was no other way of communicating except through snail mail. He came home for six weeks and then went out to sea for six months. This was our first West-Pac (Western Pacific tour of duty) that we endured. It was crazy but good for us to be separate. We had to rely on letters and cassette tapes to communicate.
He came back and within a month he proposed marriage. I was 19 at the time and thought that the world was going to end soon! Seriously though, I was in a hurry to get married and live that life rather than be happy in the life God had me at the time. I will not complain though..I was incredibly immature but I grew up over the next ten years. I think marriage was the only thing that would have accomplished this.
Soooooo, here is the interesting part of the story and some would say the funniest. If Eric and I were sitting across the table from you and this subject came up you would see us both laughingly joke about who tells this story better. I think I do!

We were getting antsy and a bit annoyed at the lack of participation from family members and so we decided to take matters into our own hands and elope. Financially it helped also because as a single Navy guy he had to live on the ship. As soon as he was married he received a housing stiffend that greatly increased his income. Enough of the excuses! Really, I would not recommend elopement. It was incredibly selfish of us to not include our family and very disrespectful to our parents.
But, the story in and of itself is really quite least in retrospect.
Eric had been up visiting his family in Idaho and was coming back to California when he called and asked me to meet him in Reno. He had found a place to get married (not hard to do) and set up an appointment. I drove up and met him at the local Super 8 (Eric grew into his romantic side!) and there we waited for the limo to come and get us. Sounds great doesn't it? Not for this blushing bride. The limo was a hand-me-down and the worn upholstry gave hint to how old it really was. The guy driving had tatoos up his arms revealed by his white t-shirt. He got to talking to Eric about the military...he fought in Vietnam.
The driver took us to the city offices where we got our marriage liscense. The place is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week! Obviously weddings are a big industry in Nevada.
Then, our friendly Vietnam Vet drove us to where we were to get married.
Under the shadows of Circus Circus Casino there is a small cinder block building with Bambi (the deer) painted in a mural on the side. It was called...brace yourself....

Cupid's Chapel of Love

I am not kidding! Everything was charged for at Cupids. If you wanted a fake bouquet, canned music, a polaroid picture, or needed witnesses...they could all be provided for you for a substantial fee. We did not bring witnesses so the two people who sat in the waiting room (conveniently) became our "intimate" friends in a matter of moments and witnessed the ceremony.
Eric and I walked down the aisle and waited for the state ordained "pastor" to come out from behind the curtain. He did and we almost busted out laughing or crying...I think our emotions were rather mixed up at that moment. No, it was not Elvis but it was a man with a ten gallon hat, gold tooth, polyester suit, and pointed cowboy boots.
He used his Texas drawl to give us our vows and pronounce us man and wife. With our polaroid picture in hand we walked back down the aisle and headed back to our hotel with only enough money in our pockets to split a hamburger at Burger King (hate the place to this day) and buy gas for the next day's trip home.
The next day we drove back to the valley where he went back to his sister's home and I went back to the house I as living in at the time (I was a nanny for a single mom who worked nights). That weekend he got the money he needed from the Navy and we moved into an apartment. But, alas, we found that one of the tenants was an old high school friend who attended the same church as my family. Yikes! The last thing we wanted was to look like we were living together so Eric went to tell my parents that we were married. I just did not have the courage to do it or even go with him. Another silly girl move that showed how truly immature I was.
Needless to say my parents were angry and hurt. I can't blame them!
It took a few years for my parents to accept our marriage. Boo was a great healer for our family.

So, did you laugh with me? I laugh every time I tell this story. This is the first time I have retold the story since Eric died. We would cut each other off of finish each other's sentences while telling this story and so it seems rather strange to write it all out without him laughing in the background - reminding me to not forget such-and-such a detail.

We renewed our vows on our Twentieth anniversary, seven months before he died. We decorated our backyard to look like an Italian cafe. We invited our closest friends and our parents sat with us up at the head table. The wine was great, the food incredible, and the night was a beauty. The moon shown brightly down on us and the vows we said were filled with much emotion. We spent the last twenty years growing up and growing together.
The first ten years was not so fun but when I learned the lesson of what submission truly means and how to respect the man I married I found that his love overflowed for me and he became quite the romantic guy.
I was blessed with twenty incredibly years with Eric. Years that made me who I am now. I am no longer dependant on the world's affirmation. I am even learning that I am a lot stronger than I could have imagined...Eric always said so but I didn't believe him.

But, I am telling you now...if I ever get the chance to marry again Cupid's Chapel of Love is not even on the top ten places to consider!


Valerie said...

Heather, I so loved hearing this story again. I have heard quit a few times and usually because I requested you and Eric to tell it again. As it always made me laugh! I can so clearly see Eric leaning back with his legs crossed with that big grin on his face and nodding his head as you relayed the story. What a great story and testament to all things working together for good even our immaturities!

love you bunches!

dkt said...

That is too funny!

I grew up next door to Carl Vinson. The man who the USS Carl Vinson was named after. I used to walk with him up and down the street almost every day and sit with him on his front porch in Milledgeville GA. He was late 80s early 90s at the time and I was 6 or 7 :-). Now, I have a drawing of his house hanging on my living room wall.

Still praying for you :-)

runninggal said...

So funny! What beauty began at Cupid's Love chapel in the 2 of you! I could tell by reading that story that telling it was another step of healing for you. You are such a blessing!

not2brightGRAM said...

What a delightful story. And, I can *hear* healing in your voice.

You are blessed to have married at such a young, immature age, and have had it turn out.

Thanks for sharing!

six2love said...

I was born in Reno and have been to Cupid's Chapel of Love, but not since I was about 14. At that time I loved it and thought it very exciting, the idea of elopement.

My brother-in-law was assigned to the USS Carl Vinson when he and my sister were dating, engaged and then married. He was the sailor that took her away from me. That was back in 1985.

I love the story. It's just perfect. Thanks for sharing it, Heather.


kristin said...

Was I that friend that lived in the same apartment complex as you two when you started out? Or was it Melody and Darlene?
Great story! Funny, out of all the years I've known you, I don't think I've ever heard the full story. You were definitely a different person all those years ago! But we were all young and immature. Kind of shocking when you think back on how stupid we were! I have plenty of stories myself of my own stupidity!

I still think you are great! Who would have thought we would turn out so stable and in love with Jesus!

Love you sister!

Lisa said...

Hilarious! Thanks for sharing.

heather said...

I loved reading this. I am so glad you shared. My husband and I were also in a "hurry" to get married - he joined the Army after high school and realized quickly the benefits of being married. I specifically remember him telling me about the "stipend" he would get once we were married - probably one of the reason we were married at 20 was so that he could get out of the barracks! :) Almost 13 years later and I am so glad we did!
Thanks for being so willing to share....I have enjoyed 'getting to know you' through this blog.

SarahF said...

ah, heather, thanks for sharing this. it was a joy to read.

Brazen Hussey's said...


Wow, we have a lot in common with this story. We drove up to Reno at age 19 in our super ghetto Hyundai Excel to elope. It was also behind my in law's back. My parents were pretty apathetic to the whole thing, so knew, but didn't really care.
I am not even sure where we got married, but we, in typical fashion for us, were late to our own wedding. When we arrived, we were greeted by a very drunk woman who kept calling me, "Trish", instead of Tasha. They too charged for each picture that they took. I think we payed $30 for a roll of 12pictures. Since they were taken by the drunk lady, our heads are cut off in most. Our wedding dinner consisted of Campbell's Chunky Sirloin Burger soup. That was all we could afford.

We tell the story much in the same fashion as you described you and Eric telling yours. Always interrupting each other, and vying to tell all of the funny parts.

Who knew that those two dumb kids who were hoping that their car would make it up that mountain would have climbed far rougher terrain hoping not to break down over the past 15 years? At the time, we were two foolish and immature people that knew nothing of Christ. It is amazing to look back and see the ways that God used even our foolishness to bring us to Himself and keep us together in spite of ourselves.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Rebecca J said...

Oh Heather. How heart warming to hear this story again.

"We didn't have two nickels to rub together..." I can hear Eric laugh. : )