The date was Friday, September 3, 1993. The place was Chicago. The reason Paul and I were in Chicago? His sister Stina was getting married the next day.
After driving back from the rehearsal and dinner, Paul asked me if I wanted to go swimming despite the late hour. We were staying in the Marriott with a large indoor pool and hot tub. I figured some alone time with Paul would be fantastic after sharing him with his family all day. When he arrived at my hotel door, his father was with him and they were both dressed in swimming attire. I settled within myself that I was going to enjoy the time with him, no matter who was with us.
I don’t remember how long we swam, but I do remember that there was a couple who seemed to not be able to breathe unless they were kissing each other. Their public displays of affections within the pool irked me. They didn’t seem to mind who was around them or who might be watching. I simply wanted to enjoy a little time with Paul, not endure others’ repulsive, sloppy exchanges.
I figured distance from the irreverent couple would settle my stomach a bit, so I moved to the hot tub. It worked. Soon I was chilling on the seat with my eyes closed as though I was on a warm beach. I am sure I imaged Paul was nuzzled beside me.
Splashing me from my trance, Paul laughed as he moved beside me. His father was sitting on the other side of us. We sat in silence for a few awkward minutes before his father announced that he was returning to the room.
Paul moved with his father saying, “I’m going to go say ‘good-night’ to Dad.” I didn’t think much of it and watched him as he moved to the table where his towel and shirt were in a sloppy piled. When Paul made eye contact with me, I closed my eyes and enjoy the warmth.
Again a splash woke me from my soothing contemplation. This time, it was not the warm water from the hot tub which had spattered on me; it was the now cold pool water as Paul did a cannonball into the shallow end right next to the overly affectionate couple.
They must have had enough of his antics because they both immerged from the pool a bit less cozy with one another. Paul popped out of the pool and slipped into the hot tub across from me where his father had just been sitting, his back to the pool. You need to understand, it wasn’t one of those little round four feet wide hot tubs. This was the size of a swimming pool roughly 20 feet long and about six feet wide. It struck me odd that he chose to sit so far from me when all I had wanted all evening was to spend time with him.
He gave a come-hither-look. How did I know that was what he was gesturing? I don’t know. But with only two older women remaining in the pool area, I decided to oblige him. I slipped into the stone seat beside him and into his extended arm across the back of the hot tub. I laid my head on his shoulder.
He leaned over and kissed my forehead. I turned to look into his eyes, and he leaned in for a kiss. Instantly, I imagined that the women which remained in the pool room viewed us as the tactless couple. I did not like that image. We had been together for almost four and a half years. We had made it through several break-ups. Paul was kind and gentle yet confident. Paul was precious to me. I truly loved him. I didn’t want to give the impression that what we had was cheap or tacky.
His lips pressed into mine and I pulled away more quickly than he wanted because he leaned in towards me again with yet another set of puckered lips. Had he not seen the disgusting display prior to the other couple leaving? Did he not feel obligated to the two women remaining in the pool area to not provide such a nauseating example of our affection for one another?
My notions, questions, and worries were immediately interrupted amid the kiss when I realized Paul had pressed something metallic through my lips and into my mouth.
Within a split second, I knew exactly what was happening. If I had given myself a second more, I would have argued the reality of my mind’s first conclusion.
I didn’t even look at it. I just slipped it onto the fourth finger of my left hand as I jumped to my feet. He met me as I turn towards him repeating, “Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.”
He had a beautiful smile on his face, so big I could actually see his teeth. I wrapped my arms around his neck completely forgetting of my worry of what sort of example we might leave on those present within the pool area. With a soothing calm he asked the question, “Bethany Dawn Kushman, will you marry me?”
I don’t ever remember saying yes. I just remember holding him in one of the tightest embraces… and him holding me.
We had picked our wedding date before we were ever officially engaged. June fourth was his parent’s anniversary, and in 1994 it was a Saturday, so we picked that day.
Just a few moments after being asked, he suggested, “Look at the time.” It was midnight. “Exactly nine months from today, we will get married.” It took another several minutes before I stopped giggling with glee to actually look at the beautiful diamond ring he had given me. It was beautiful! And I wanted to show everyone.
His sister’s wedding was beautiful, but the part I remember most was the anticipation of my opportunity to do the same.
Today, Paul and I celebrate 17 years of marriage. Over those 17 years, prayer has bound us. We have lived in New York, Indiana and California. God provided us with a precious son and beautiful daughter. We have the blessing of millions of wonderful memories. We have struggled and learned much from life’s lessons. We have seldom fought against one another, but have battle much for each other. I am married to the one who knows me best. He is my best friend. I cherish his love more than any other!
What a life!
What a blessing!
What a man!