The decision was made that night on our way home. Devin would be going with me to Alabama to meet my parents. I quickly made a call home to let my mom know. Although she knew pretty much everything about Devin and our love for each other….she had never had the pleasure of meeting my knight in shinning armor… But that was about to change.

The frigid days of winter were quickly coming to an end. Replacing them, were the long anticipated warmer days of spring. Spring meant a lot of things to me. It meant a much-needed break from books and studying, it meant going home to friends and family, it meant wearing shorts in the warm Alabama sun, but mostly, it meant sharing a special part of my life with Devin. I was so anxious and excited about our upcoming spring break that I could hardly stand it.

Friday had finally arrived. Classes were attended, tests were taken and bags were packed. All we had to do was pack the car and hit the road. I grabbed my luggage and a bounded the stairs and out the door where my chariot awaited in the form of a brown Cutless Supreme. Devin had the trunk open and waiting for me to load my stuff. I hugged his neck and began to chatter, “I am sooo excited! Are you excited? Because I am! I hope you like to stop and pee alot…because I’m going to need to. I can’t hardly wait to get home and introduce you to my parents! Can you? We are going to go to the beach, and meet my grand parents, and my aunt Sammy and Uncle Mock and her boys…you’re gonna love them…” As I chattered, I noticed Devin seem quieter than usual and not nearly as excited as I was about our trip. That puzzled me. As I walked to the back of the car to load my things I noticed a laundry basket full of cloths, but no suit case. I thought this to be very odd to say the least. “what’s this laundry basket full of cloths for”, I asked. “Those are my cloths”, he said. “I know they’re your cloths but why are they in a laundry basket? Where is your suit case?” “I don’t have one.” he said matter of factly. “you don’t have a suit case?!” I replied, “please tell me your kidding.” “nope”, he said, “don’t need one, this basket works just fine.” I was dumfounded by this to say the least. Who does this? I thought, Who uses a laundry basket instead of a suit case when traveling cross-country to meet his girlfriends parents for the first time? A suit case doesn’t cost that much! I shook my head in disbelief as I walked to my side of the car and got in. “you really don’t have a suit case?” I just had to ask one more time. “nope. Don’t need one.” he said once again. This is one tough nut to crack I thought…one tough nut.

For the first two hours of our trip Devin didn’t hardly say one word. I tried desperately to figure him out. Was he sick? Was he mad? Had he changed his mind about going home with me? Still, nothing but silence for hours. I had to go to the bathroom something fierce but I was afraid to ask him to stop so I just held it. And held it. “you’re awful quiet”, I said cautiously, “is something wrong?” “no, I’m fine”, he said. Another hour went by…by now I had to pee so bad I was about to pop! “are you sure you’re ok? You haven’t said three words this whole trip. Are you mad at me?” He gave me a puzzled look and said, “No, I’m not mad….I’m fine.” “but you’re not talking…” I explained. “well, I just don’t have anything to say, how bout you talk and I’ll listen?” “ok, well…can we stop at McDonald’s? I have to pee so bad I’m about to die!” “why didn’t you say something?” he said, “I would have pulled over.” “I thought you were mad at me…and I didn’t to want o ask.” I said. “I’m not mad…I just don’t have anything to say.” Who does that?I thought. Who drives for hours on end, without stopping to pee or saying a word? and carries a laundry basket in place of a suit case? He’s a tough nut alright.

After nearly 16 hours of driving we finally made it home. I jumped out of the car and ran inside where Mom and Dad were anxiously awaiting our arrival. As I was hugging necks and telling about our trip I heard my dad introduce himself to Devin. I quickly turned around to see Devin standing there with his laundry basket in his hands. I ran over, hooked my arm in his and said with a smile and great pride. “Mom, Dad, this is Devin. Devin, meet my Mom and Dad.”

After that brief introduction, Devin and my parents hit it off just fine. We had lots of fun things planned for the rest of the week but before any of that was to happen, I had planned for Devin and I to spend a day at the beach, just the two of us. That next morning I introduced Devin to my Candy Apple Red MGB convertible. Oh how I had missed that car! I couldn’t wait to put the top down and go for a long drive. I put Devin in the driver’s seat and we took the back roads to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Devin had only seen the ocean once before, in Texas, so I was thrilled to be able to share with him the white, sandy beaches of my childhood. We walked down the beach arm in arm as I told him stories of my childhood. We picked up shells and played in the sand. “Hey, I want to show you something, come with me.” I grabbed his hand and took him to see the giant sand dunes I used to play on as a kid. We climbed to the top of the biggest dune and looked out over the ocean as far as the eye could see, then ran down the other side. As we walked back to the water Devin reached down and picked up a stick. “I love you”, he said tender and serious. With a smile I looked up at him and said, “I love you too!” I had never felt so much love and had never been happier than in that moment. Being in my favorite place in the whole wide world with my favorite person. What more could a girl ask for? We stood there for a minute and held each other tight, then Devin took the stick that he had picked up and began to write something in the sand. I watched closely and read it as he wrote. When he was done he looked at me with a smile and waited for my response. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He wrote, “Mrs. Tonya Rohr”. “How do you like the sound of that?” he asked. “I think it sounds kinda nice”, I said. He smiled, pulled me close to him and said, “Tonya, will you marry me?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Did he just ask me to marry him? It felt perfect. I was experiencing perfection at that moment. I loved him so much, he was everything I was not, he was the calm in my storm, my world felt right when he was in it. Oh how I loved this man. I looked up at him with no hesitation or reservation and said, ” yes! Yes I will marry you!” We stood there in that place, savoring the moment, looking at my name in the sand. With a grin on my face I looked up at him and said, “were getting married!!” “yes, yes we are!” he confirmed.

Later that night, after we got home from our day at the beach, I went into my mother’s room where she was getting ready for bed, and said, “Mom, you’re not going to believe what happened today while we were at the beach.” With a question on her face she replied, “what happened?” “Devin asked me to marry him!” “really? What did you say?” “I said yes! We’re getting married!” We laughed and hugged like two school girls. I think she was as happy as I was.

The next morning Devin and I, along with my mom and dad, left for a long weekend in Destin Florida. My mom had been looking forward to this trip for weeks. She had secured a condo and arranged to take off from work for a few days. This would be a perfect time for Mom and Dad to get to know Devin a little better…he was, after all, going to be their son-in-law. As soon as we got in the condo Devin and I headed out to take a walk in the beach. We walked arm in arm enjoying each others company and planning our future. After it got too dark to walk, we made our way back to the condo. As soon as we walked in the door my Mom said, “Devin, we just got a call from your family, I’m sorry, but your granddad has passed away.”

My heart sank. Devin was very close to Granddad Rohr. We visited him in the hospital the last time we went home. He was very sick and frail…it was only a matter of time. My heart broke for Devin. He didn’t say much, no tears or reminiscing. Just quiet. After a while I went into his room and we discussed If I would go back with him or stay and fly home later. It was soon decided that I would leave with him early the next morning and drive to Oklahoma. Next, I would have to tell my Mom. I knew she would be disappointed to see me leave. I was disappointed too…but I needed to be with Devin during this time.

We left bright and early the next morning. The trip back to Oklahoma turned out to be quieter than the trip to Alabama. I knew Devin was grieving but there was something else. Something was wrong… He was different. Distant. After another long 13 hour trip we were finally in Verdigris. It was late when we got to his house and we were tired…when he put the car in park and turned it off, he looked at me and said. “listen, don’t say anything to my family about us getting married…let’s just keep it between the two of us, ok?” I didn’t understand completely what he was trying to say. Did he just want to wait until after the funeral?…I could understand that…or did he not want anyone to know? I questioned him and said, “OK, but can I ask why?” “I just don’t want anyone to know, that’s all.” Now I was really confused and a little heartbroken. Was he having second thoughts? I didn’t want to pressure him for answers or question him further during that time so I just said, “ok, I wont tell anybody.” And with that he got out of the car and we went inside to see his family. To be continued…