As Peter tells the story…
Kelly was working a month-to-month lease, and I was on a lease ending Sept 30. It was apparent that sometime toward the early fall, we’d be moving in together. Kelly had made it clear to me, early on, that she’s lived with a couple of long-term relationships in her past, and that she made a pact with herself that she would not move in with anyone again without an engagement first. Even though I have never lived with a significant other before, I understood and respected her decision.
As such, I needed a time to be able to sneak away to Rochester, NY to seek her mother and brother’s blessing without her knowledge. An opportunity for this came up when I was booked for a two day event in Houston for one of my clients.
I called her mother, Sandi, to coordinate. It’s a Monday morning, and Kelly is at work and distracted. “Hello, Mrs. Hogan. It’s Peter.” Her first reaction is, “Oh, is my daughter okay? What’s wrong? Why are YOU calling me? Is everything alright?!?” I reassure her that everything is fine, and Kelly is at work. I’m calling for a different reason. “Oh?” she asked. I said, “Well, you know Kelly and I are planning on moving in together in the near future, and I wanted to come visit you and talk about our future.” “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” she muttered over and over again, knowing exactly what I was talking about. I tell her what day I’m thinking, and will send her flight info when I have it booked.
A side element for this is that, since Kelly’s father is no longer with us, having passed away about 8 months before my mother did, it was important to me that Kelly’s brother, Kevin, be present. So, I deferred to Sandi, asking her to exercise her judgement on asking him. In the end, he agreed to take the day off of work to be present.
Later, I booked the flight, and called Sandi to give her the information. We coordinate in the background, all the while with Kelly suspecting nothing. My plan is to go to Rochester on the Monday, July 18, and then go to Houston for the 19th and 20th, returning the evening of the 20th. In my research, it turns out that it’s cheaper to fly two round-trip flights than a 3-point flight, so I’m flying in and out of Rochester on Monday, and then to Houston on Tuesday early morning. Both of my flights are at 6am, Mon and Tues.
Monday, July 18, 2016
I kiss Kelly goodbye at 4am, and make my way to the airport. She thinks I’m going straight to Houston, but I’m really going to Rochester, NY. When I land, Sandi and Kevin are waiting for me at the airport, and we go to an Italian restaurant (Benucci’s) for lunch. We’re there for 3 hours. During this time, we talk about my own love life experiences and how Kelly is different, what she and I mean to each other, and so on.
I also ask Sandi for the details on how her husband proposed to her, as that’s how I intend to propose to Kelly. The story is that Sandi and Dick were having a picnic in a state park while he was on break from the service, and it starts raining. They go into the car for shelter, and spontaneously, he takes a beer can, rips the pull-tab off of it, breaks off the ring, places it on her finger and proposes to her.
At the restaurant, the three of us have a lovely meal and discussion, and, I believe, two bottles of wine between us. Afterwards, Kevin drives us to Pittsford Farms, where we have ice cream on a park bench outside, and I buy a chocolate chip cookie to take home as a memento. They drive me back to the airport, and we hang out in the terminal on couches for 45 more minutes, before I hug them both and go to my plane.
This was a 4-flight trip, as I transfered in Detroit on the way there, and Boston Logan on the way back.
That evening, I land around 11:00pm at O’Hare, and grab a cab to go home. Upon arrival, I notice that all the lights are on in my apartment. “Oh no, she’s there!” I ask the driver to keep driving while I think of a plan. She thinks I’m in Houston, so I can’t just show up, and I have to tell the driver the story so he does not think I’m cheating on her. Around then, I received a voicemail from Kelly, saying she’s staying at my house so she can get to work easier in the morning. The driver suggests I go to her place, since she’s not there. It’s a brilliant idea that I consider, but decide it’s too risky a gamble, as she may decide to stop at home before work in the morning. So, I decide to stay at a hotel in my own home town, in order to keep the secret. It’s then that I find out that there is a trade show going on in Chicago that booked all the available rooms nearby. The only room I was offered was at the Hilton in the middle of O’Hare, which would be geographically convenient for my flight in the morning, but the room is $425, so I decline.
I then remember that we were at my brother’s birthday party at a bar on the north side recently, and there was a strip of seedy hotels up there (by the hour, as in, where you’d go to have an affair.) So, I ask the cab driver to take me to that strip. The first place we stopped at was booked full, but not at the second one. I get there around midnight, pay $60 for a room, get 4 hours of sleep, then get up and catch a cab back to O’Hare to catch my 6am flight to Houston.
Over the next few weeks, every time Kelly is on the phone with Sandi, and hands the phone to me, Sandi and I have to pretend we haven’t been speaking or hung out recently. Kevin even comes into Chicago for a weekend to catch two Pearl Jam shows at Wrigley Field (Kelly goes to the first one and I go to the second one with him), and he and I have to pretend like we don’t have this secret.
Kelly still knows nothing.
August 7, 2016
Kelly and I attend a friend’s wedding together. At this wedding, toward the end of the night, Kelly spots a pull-tab ring from an aluminum can in the dirt at our feet as we’re outside, moon-gazing. She’s told me the story of her parents’ engagement before, but doesn’t know I now know the details. She feels this is her father communicating with her his acceptance of this path we’re walking. I begin to get scared that she was going to propose to me right then and there. She senses this in me, and refrains, but still highlights the coincidence. My fear is two-fold: 1) I did not want this to happen at someone else’s wedding, as it would be upstaging them, and 2) I had already bought a used 1960’s beer can off of eBay and was planning on proposing sometime soon after.
September 4, 2016
Labor Day weekend. We went camping at Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin. Prior to this, we had begun the process of getting an apartment together with my lease coming up, and she moved out of her apartment, into a storage space, and then into my apartment for the last month of my lease. We have now been officially living together for one night, before going camping.
We spend two days with two other friends camping and hiking. They were celebrating their 2 year anniversary dating that weekend, so we bought and shared a bottle of champagne with them. On Sunday, the 4th, they headed back to Chicago, and we stayed another night. My plan is to propose next to the campfire under the stars that evening. But, early in the evening, we were having a conversation about the future. She was telling me that she is comfortable with our relationship and its course enough for us to, perhaps, begin trying to conceive, even if we weren’t engaged yet. This is not a new topic for us, but at this point, I decide that it makes no sense to have this conversation, move away from it, and then revisit it hours later to propose to her. It made more sense to just do it now. So, I tell her to hold that thought, and I went to the car to retrieve the beer can, wrapped in paper. I unwrap it, and show her the can. She is confused until I show her that this can still had its pull-tab intact. She knows exactly what this means, and her age drops from 46 to 14, as she begins giggling uncontrollably. I take off the top, get down on one knee, and say, “Kelly Lynn Hogan, you are my lover, my partner, my best friend. Will you marry me?” She started crying while giggling, and said yes. I then let her in on all the behind the scenes she did not know about, and is impressed that her family and I were able to keep it a secret for so long.
Over the next few days that week, we notify family members, and she and I finally shared the chocolate chip cookie I saved from the day I was in Rochester with her immediate family.