Have you ever had the tingles from afar for someone, and for no explicable reason? That’s what I felt about Brenna. The surprising thing was that that feeling struck square in the chest, too. It was crazy because I didn’t really know anything about her. She was like a mysterious and beautiful butterfly who showed up at swing dances unpredictably. Sometimes she’d appear but I never knew when. She was earthy and untamed and her hair was a little wild even. I looked forward to catching a golden glimmer in the dim lights and hopefully score a few dances.
When she showed up I’d ask her to grab a beer with me afterwards. She always politely declined. I was hooked. What I didn’t know was that she had a boyfriend who was dancing in the room with us. And he was one of my favorite people. AND she was 20 years old! But she didn’t tell me that either.
So I went along with my life at the time, curious about the potential with other ladies but always drawn back to this mysterious golden butterfly.
One hot, humid night in the summer of 2012 she showed up at one of my favorite dance parties. To my surprise she appeared and we sweated and danced all night long. It was one of the best dance nights of my life but something was off and the dances just weren’t complete. Ah! That’s it – and I kissed her for the first time. The next morning I sent her an email following up with my interest. I never received a reply.
I’m not sure how but we began running in to each other that fall and spending time together. One day I asked her how old she was. “How old do you think I am?” she replied. “At least 25,” I hopefully answered. “I’m 20.” Oh snap! Sigh. “Well, that’s that,” I decided. (I had a personal rule not to date any woman under 27 years old.)
But we continued seeing each other sporadically. I was throwing some really great house parties at the time, and things kept moving along cautiously and slowly.
I remember one of the many turning points that were gradually happening. I was taking a work break in the living room and Jeremy wandered out of his room to take one, too (and check on the bread he was baking). When the conversation circled around to the topic of Brenna I vividly remember his “I-know-I’m-right-but-you-need-to-decide-for-yourself” Jeremy eyebrow-raise. He told me that Brenna was the girl you don’t let get away. He didn’t even need to say out loud that I was an idiot if I didn’t get it. Jeremy is a man who understands a great investment, and he is the first person who saw the potential.
The seasons continued changing and the friendship deepened. I was introduced to the small village called the Dailey Family and I survived the scrutiny of six strapping Irish brothers. Actually, they were all gentle giants and their home radiated warmth and goodness.
Finally a fateful day arrived. Brenna was moving to San Diego to enter graduate school for Oriental Medicine. I had been in denial for a long time, even though she always told me firmly that she had to do this in her life. The night after she left was the only dark night experience I can really say I’ve ever had.
For the next year I figured out how to fly to San Diego every 4-6 weeks to see her for a few days at a time. Somehow it was working although it was really hard, too. I calculated I had about a 10% chance of it being successful. I mean come on, I’ve been 22 before. Let’s get real. The difference between 22 and 25 is night and day. She had no clue how much she was going to change. And San Diego is a city jam-packed with perfect male specimens. She was making new friends, dancing, and going on sail boats. This was her big opportunity to fly the coop. She’d probably marry some Left Coast guy and never return.
But for some mysterious reason, even when things got tricky, I kept sticking with it and finding those cheap Southwest tickets. Back at home, I was slowly changing the little things about me that needed some fixing.
The day finally arrived to my total astonishment when Brenna announced she was pausing her program and returning to Nashville. I was a big part of it of course, but not the only reason. This good fortune made me overjoyed. Then I realized the biggest surprise: I was uncomfortable about it.
It was sometimes tricky negotiating how to work things out when she returned to town, but it was such a big blessing. After six months of her return she started lobbying hard – campaigning really – for a ring. She did it in thinly veiled ways and eventually no holds barred. To my utter amazement I found myself in the fall of 2016 meeting secretly with another woman at night in her car. That was the only way I could get away from Brenna and plan the engagement ring with my mother.
Meanwhile Brenna was losing faith. What I didn’t know was that if I didn’t close the deal by New Year’s Eve my time was up.
It was December 8th, 2016 and we were on a four-mile strip of magic off the coast of the Yucatan in the Caribbean. Bonnie, Brenna’s mother, was with us, my former roommate Jeremy, my photographer friend Jessica, and my good dancer friends Jack and Christine. We had two days left of our week-long trip. Brenna was privately ticked off and resigned that I’d missed this golden opportunity to propose. But tucked at the bottom of my backpack was my grandmother’s sparkly wedding band lying in wait. I had been plotting with Jessica and Jeremy. It was incredibly difficult knowing what and when to propose. Brenna is both laid back and a princess so I somehow had to make it organic and perfect. I started getting an instinct that I needed to include water, the cosmos, and friends.
Jeremy provided the cover story and announced that he had rented a catamaran to enjoy a sunset cruise around the island. Everyone was thrilled. It happened to be the most beautiful Mexico day we could have imagined. I think Jeremy and I were just as surprised as everyone else when we saw the docked catamaran and the crew of El Sagatario dressed in white. From 4pm to 5:30pm we slowly glided along the coast, levitating on transparent turquoise waves 30 feet above the gleaming white sand sea floor. The sun was setting in the clear sky. The island cast a spell on us as we enjoyed each other’s company and the fresh ceviche, guacamole, and drinks served to us.
I’m not the kind of guy who imagines this moment and it had arrived, but the anxiety vanished and something in me forever changed. Literally and metaphorically this boat had left the harbor and the journey had begun. I understood that it also would have a middle, a climax, and an ending. An unimaginable resolve swept over me, and a particular strength. At 5:30 the captain anchored a few hundred feet off of the cliff house we were renting. The sunset was the most perfect I had ever seen, even it wasn’t my proposal moment.
We went around the group toasting our friendship and time we had spent together that week. As planned, the final toast arrived at me. If you’ve ever sky-dived, what I felt next was a version of that feeling. If you haven’t sky-dived it’s kind of like this: You just took an action that will kill you. So it’s a point of no return. You feel overcome with total resolve and calm. You feel liberated. Reason no longer applies but trust takes over. You’re in an altered state – a transcendent state, really. One foot planted in time and the other foot tip-toeing in eternity. I could see how it was all fitting together. Love doesn't use parachutes.
Andrew & Brenna