Hello, and welcome to our story! We must admit that it is quite long, so prepare yourselves for an extensive, descriptive and a bit too exhaustive piece of literature about our engagement. Grab some coffee now, or at least clear your schedule for the next few hours (be sure to include time for a nap) because this will take a while.
Ok, let’s begin!
March 25, 2011 was our one year anniversary of dating. We both exchanged gifts that we prepared for each other, and one gift was a bit odd; the safe. I (Joe) told Kaleigh to close her eyes and hold out her arms. She struggled to keep her curious eyes closed so I made haste to drop the heavy safe in her arms.
“Whoa! What is THIS?” asked Kaleigh.
“It’s a safe. You aren’t allowed to open it until I say so.”
“What?” Kaleigh was disappointed to say the least. The big anniversary gift was a clunky, heavy piece of junk, whose bland color couldn’t even please the eye. It was worthless and aggravating; not exactly the romantic gift one would expect to receive on such a special night. Kaleigh did not know it, but the foundation for a monolithic plan had just been set.
“Well this sucks,” exclaimed Kaleigh as we drove back to her house. I smiled to myself because the first stone had just been laid down on what would be our engagement months later.
Fast forward to the summer of 2011. We had been dating and working quite well together; still in love and enjoying each date we spent together. The safe was ‘safely’ tucked away under Kaleigh’s bed and the memory of it was pushed aside to the corner of her mind. Every once in awhile she would ask me if she could open the safe, or if I could give her a clue as to when she can open it. I would shrug my shoulders, tell a lie like, “I don’t know…I don’t have the key,” or just ignore her.
As the summer drew to a close, we were anticipating the new and last school year of my undergrad at The Ohio State University. We were both exhausted from work; Kaleigh worked at a daycare with nearly 20 five-year olds to her name each day, and Joe worked mostly as a striper (notice the ONE ‘P’ in that word, please), which is a parking lot painter. The snotty, screaming children and the boiling hot parking lots were dealing a great deal of damage to our energy, so that whenever we spent time together we would have romantic conversations such as:
“Hey babe, how was work?”
“Ugh. We had 46 kids today, and I had to work overtime…”
“Sorry to hear that. I’m beat. It was 105 degrees outside today with nearly 90% humidity, so I can’t really move.
“So what do you wanna do?”
“Just…sit. How does that sound?”
I (Joe) was stuck in a bit of a debacle; I was either at work or spending what free time I had with Kaleigh, and there was little time in between for friends or engagement planning. I had been saving up as much money as I could for a nice ring, so life was busy and repetitive.
I had set my goal to propose in early September of that year, so the clock was ticking. I wasn’t in too horrible of a situation, though; the gist of my plan was prepared back in March. In fact, I had planned a certain style of engagement since my sophomore year in high school. (I was a bit of a hopeless romantic.) My plan was some sort of scavenger hunt, but as our relationship advanced, the situation called for some alterations to my plan.
Before I begin with the description of my plan, it’s important to know what type of people we are. Kaleigh and I love to go ‘adventuring’, as we call it. We’ve been known to break laws, live on the edge (quite literally, as you’ll read later), and go places where people should never go if they value their lives. Let me affirm the fact that I do indeed value Kaleigh’s welfare…I was just stupid. I was gasoline and Kaleigh was the fire; I offered some ridiculous, life-threatening adventure, and the smitten-to-pieces girlfriend of mine was absolutely supportive of spending any time with me…regardless of the consequences. Immediately, we would be barreling ahead into mischief.
As I was being torn in two from work and Kaleigh, I had very little time to spend on planning an engagement. I needed to find a way to buy some time. Thus, I began practicing the magnificent and celebrated art of lying to my significant other.
I’ve never been a good liar; for example, when I was a child, my parents would approach me for some egregious crime such as leaving a dirty dish in the sink. Even though I was innocent (really, I was), my indictive parents would watch their guilty subject smile sheepishly in the middle of their prosecution. Immediately, their accusations were affirmed, and I was inevitably punished. To be honest, I would smile because I thought the situation was funny, and that would be the shovel which my parents used to dig my own grave. Lying to Kaleigh would take some incredible acting on my part, because with my track record it was likely that I would burst out into laughing while telling her some terrible news about why I couldn’t see her.
It was difficult for me to fabricate an appropriate lie; one of my first big lies was extremely necessary for an important night of planning. I told Kaleigh that after a long day of work, I was so tired that all I wanted to do was sit down and rehydrate my raisined body.
“Okay, well I can join you while you sit. I’m fine with just being with you; we don’t really need to do anything extravagant tonight.”
I was stumped…time to be narrow-minded and stubborn.
“Well, I’m just so tired. I hope you aren’t mad at me, but I really just want to sit alone and drink water…I won’t be any fun for you, so I think I’m going to sit this night out, ok?”
“I don’t need to have fun, Joe; I just want to be with you! I worked ten hours today, too, but I was told that we could hang out tonight, so I made myself available. Why can’t I just sit next to you?”
An argument exploded. I had to come up with a foolish and selfish explanation for myself, while Kaleigh tore me to pieces. Thoroughly outraged, Kaleigh hung up on me after I presented my case (as well she should have!) I learned quickly that my excuses should gravitate towards more reasonable disappointments, such as work. I explained later to my oldest, married brother, Ben, “Dude, these lies are killing me! Kaleigh’s so mad at me, that I’m just tempted to scream, “I’M PLANNING OUR ENGAGEMENT, YOU UNGRATEFUL WOMAN!” but that would ruin everything!”
“Ahhhh yes,” said the experienced brother of mine, “lying is always the good foundation of any relationship!”
Discouraged, I pressed on through the disparaging remarks of Kaleigh and worked on my scrapbook.
I had thought out my plan thoroughly by this point; I would still use the scavenger hunt style of proposing. I thought it would be nice for Kaleigh to start her day with a pleasant note telling her to get her act together and get out the door, because she had places to go. I planned that she would get in her car and find a picture of the place she needs to go, and she would be expected to know exactly how to get there by herself and recognize precisely what that location was about. Needless to say, that was a terrible plan.
I played with many ideas about how she is transported to each location, which locations are important and which ones are not so necessary, and what she would receive at each place. I thought about giving her just a picture and a puzzle piece for each location (I’ll explain the puzzle pieces later), but I had an incredible idea: why not make a scrapbook of us and hand her a page remembering the location she’s in at each place? As I began the scrapbook, I realized such a task was messy and unorganized, so I stuck with the picture and puzzle piece.
I began my planning with writing down every adventure spot Kaleigh and I went to. This was a monumental task; in the past year and a half, we visited every nook and cranny of Columbus, Ohio and planted a memory. There were so many places we had been to, and I could not come close to remembering all the adventures, so I took it upon myself to spend a few minutes each day trying to remember each time we did something fun, and then I would write down my results on a list I kept hidden in my desk. I came up with a worthy list of places after a week, and then began the elimination process: I sifted through each adventure spot and determined which one ought to be used and which memories were not as important. After the first round, I eliminated two of 28 possible locations…”This is going to be an awful ordeal,” I thought.
I heavily scrutinized each memory and finally, after a tear jerking process, came up with about 15 of the best places we’ve visited. My refined list sparkled before my eyes, and I celebrated one of my first big steps.
The next step in the process was to visit each of the 15 areas and take a picture with a disposable camera. I had a gut feeling that I ought to purchase doubles of each picture, and I’m quite happy I did; my next idea needed them: the scrapbook.
I had originally known that she would receive a picture of the next location at each place, but now I thought about the scrapbook idea. For each location, I would describe what I remembered in the scrapbook, along with fitting backgrounds and details to enhance the memory. I had very little education with scrapbooking at this time, and I had no idea how much work they would take. Surprised would be an understatement when I was given comprehensive education by the scrapbook master, my boss’ wife, Ashley.
I was discussing with Mike, my boss, what I’ll be doing with the scrapbook as we drove to each job. He and I would talk about what were some good ideas, and what not to do. When I raised the scrapbook topic, he exclaimed that his wife has a very expensive scrapbook machine, whatever that was. Curious, I asked Ashley what she knew about scrapbooking. Immediately, she stopped in her tracks (she was on her way out of the house to take her kids to the park). She walked upstairs and I could hear her rummaging around until she returned down the stairs holding an enormous travel-sized cargo bag. It was comical watching her small frame lug the colossal bag down the stairs, but she had no problem with it.
Ashley opened the bag like one opens a treasure chest; pulling out each object and describing in detail its purpose. Finally, she pulled out the behemoth; “the scrap booker’s dream,” as she called it. Apparently, this machine is like a printer on steroids. It makes the fanciest printer out there look like a preschooler’s finger paintings. It can cut with extreme precision on pages of paper just about anything your heart desires; if you wanted to cut out the Mona Lisa it would ask you not to patronize it. I gasped at the sight of the futuristic cutting machine. It was so fast and incredible I felt like I was looking at a piece of witchcraft. It simply could not be real. I looked up at Ashley and very politely asked her if I could come over sometime to work on the scrapbook. Delighted, she said yes and I thanked Jesus for my scrapbook savior.
I’m very grateful for Ashley’s sacrifice to help me make a scrapbook when she could be focusing more on her children, husband, and house that was currently being wrecked by said children. She spent a whopping 15 hours or more with me putting everything together. She saved me a fine wad of cash, too. Her feminine understanding was in stark contrast to my original ideas of what looked good, so a savior she was indeed.
I took the book home with me to finish up the writing portion of each page. When I was finished, the book looked incredible. There were 20 pages total: First Date; OSU Adventures; OSU Adventures continued; The Tracks; Hayden Falls; The Quarry; Stargazing; Old Dublin; Canada; Summer 2010; Things I love about Joe Huddle; Christmas 2010; Spring Fun; Chicago; Trinity; Fireflies; Fourth of July; Engagement; Goofballs; Joe and Kaleigh.
Each location is in chronological order of our relationship from beginning to end.
I copied what I wrote down in the scrapbook to present why I chose each location.
- Sells Waterfall:
- Pomerene Hall
- Thompson Library
- Faculty Club
- Mirror Lake
- The Horseshoe
- Hayden Falls
- The Quarry
- Montgomery Inn
- Modern Male
- 4H Club
- Park of Roses
As the summer winded down in August, I realized it was high time that I ask Kaleigh’s father for permission to marry his daughter. I was dreading the situation, because I imagined being a father to a daughter of my own, and I would never feel like any man could be qualified enough to take her away from me. I could only imagine how her father would feel.
I tried to grasp the reality of the situation by imagining him holding her two-year-old hand as she wobbled down the path in a nearby park. He taught her to walk. I imagined her wearing an oversize helmet while slowly pedaling her new pink bicycle with tassels on the sides as her father ran alongside her, aiding her along the way: “Don’t turn too fast! Pedal faster and you’ll get it!” He taught her how to ride a bike. He also took great pleasure, I’m sure, while teaching her how to drive a car. Her father is a car aficionado, so there’s no question that he remembers in detail her driver’s education.
In light of these few moments of fatherhood, I understood that she was unquestionably his and not mine. I didn’t stand a chance, so I knew my approach was an undeserving and bold request.
I thought it would be a good idea to find something her father enjoyed doing and do it with him. Being a car guy, he loves to clean and wax cars. His family laughs about his meticulous efforts towards his automobile’s beauty because he uses toothbrushes to fine tune the shine. That’s not a joke. For his birthday, his mother gave him a “bouquet” of old toothbrushes held together by a rubber band.
I asked Kenny, her father, if he would teach me how to wax my car, since he was the master waxer.
“I’d love to!” He replied. “When can we do it?”
I knew Kaleigh had a class to go to for work during the evening, so I scheduled it during the time she was gone. My plan was to guide the conversation to the “Kaleigh archives” of his mind by asking questions about her being a child, and the time he spent with her.
Unfortunately, the conversation proved more difficult than planned. Kenny is the type of guy that can talk about anything for as long as he wants without stopping. He’s incredibly social. I could not for the life of me keep the conversation on track, because he would answer one question and then lead into another subject, and then something else. By the time I continued my questioning, I was five subjects behind the current one.
Kaleigh was coming home soon, so I had to make my move, otherwise I would regret such a perfect opportunity to ask. I mustered up all the courage I had and nervously began to speak. It felt as though I was vomiting out my sentences. “Well, Kenny, it’s very obvious you love your daughter, and I love her, too. So now I have a bold question for you—”
He stopped in the middle of step four of his patented wiping process (step 1: apply wax vertically; step 2: wipe wax off with towel; step 3: wipe remaining wax off with new towel; step 4: deftly spray water on the new wax for penetration; step 5: wipe off water with different towel). Holding the spray bottle in his hand and the dirty rag in the other, he smiled and said, “Yeah? What is it?”
“I want to know if I can have your permission to have your daughter’s hand in marriage…”
Immediately, without considering the severity of the question (or so it seemed) he responded, “You know you got it!”
I couldn’t hold back a smile even if I was tortured at that moment. He went on to describe how he enjoyed the two of us being together, and that even though he was concerned when we began dating and risking our lives (much to his chagrin) he thought we were perfect for each other. He said he had no idea that I would ask him here, “but, Karen had thought you might ask…but, you know women!”
I asked him if he ought to tell Karen, what just happened. He went inside. “Karen, come check out this wax job.”
Karen walked out to see the shiny new car. Cars are not necessarily her forte, but since she loves her husband she praised his work and said it looked good.
“Well, honey, it turns out your preconception about this wax job was right.” He smiled and looked at me.
Karen stood confused for a moment, but when she saw me grinning from ear to ear, she knew exactly what was going on. Kenny filled her in while she hugged me approximately five consecutive times.
We didn’t have much time to celebrate the occasion, because Kaleigh would be back soon. I quickly filled them in on my plans and how everything will happen from picking her up to the Park of Roses. I told them they couldn’t say a word to Kaleigh about what just happened and they agreed.
Karen, who wears her heart on her ten-foot sleeve, knew she had to come up with an act. She said she’d either have to be seething about something at work, or else she would be too giddy.
“Ok, guys, when Kaleigh comes I’m going to be cold and grumpy…but I don’t mean it!”
Kaleigh came home and we hung out as usual: sitting down and relaxing after a long day like an elderly country couple on their front porch. Her mom was an excellent actress, and played her part perfectly. Kaleigh’s dad had no problem being himself. It literally seemed like he forgot about the entire thing. I told Kaleigh that her brother was around the whole time (eliminating the chance for a serious, personal conversation), and that we didn’t talk much because we were working on the car.
She bought it. My plan was coming together.
At this point I had complete freedom to plan and think about the proposal. I now needed a car, and a driver. I had two prospects for a driver: my father, and my roommate. Afraid that my roommate may break the rules, or crash the car, I chose my father. I was content with using my dad because of his unbeatable road experience as a truck driver, and attention to details. He would do a fine job driving slowly to ensure a comfortable ride, and he would follow each instruction perfectly. My mother, however, was not happy with my choice.
“Are you sure you want your Dad to do this?”
“Yeah, I think he can do a good job. I don’t know anyone else.”
“Well, I just think it’s a little weird…”
She began listing off other possible candidates, but none of them sounded like a good idea.
“What about David?”
“David? Hmm…” I thought. “He is a good actor…and he’s incredibly handsome. Maybe I’ll give him a call.”
I decided to heed my mother’s advice and call David. I knew David would be a good choice because Kaleigh had only seen him once or twice in her life; my father, on the other hand, would be much more obvious. I told him what was going on and asked him if he’d be interested. Immediately, he said yes. I had to regretfully inform my Father that he would not be the driver, but I offered for him to be involved in one or two locations. David never told me this, but he had been working nearly every day for the past several months to pay the bills of his growing family. It was a blessing for him to receive a full weekend where he could spend time with his 8-month-old son, Briston (who is adorable, by the way) and his wife. His sacrifice to participate is much appreciated.
David came over several days later with his googly-eyed son to go through a certain type of “Driver’s Ed” if you will. I discussed with David the very basic outline of my proposal, so that he would understand what he’d be working for. Next, I introduced the locations to him, which were all over Columbus. I told him what would be the fastest routes and which roads to take to get to each place, but we hit a very difficult roadblock: OSU.
If you know anything about Ohio State, you would know that they have some of the greatest fans in the world. The avidness and commitment to Ohio State Football is on the brink of insanity if you ask me. People live for it. With great fans comes great participation to the games. Even though The Ohio State University is the largest university in the country, and one of the largest in the world, it can be clogged quickly. People walk miles from faraway parking lots to go to the games. There are people, cars, pop-up tents, food stations, and scarlet and grey everywhere. An ideal setting for a football game it is; however, for a car to maneuver its way around it is most certainly not.
I located each place at OSU and decided the appropriate route to take. Generally speaking, David would have to drive outside of campus and find a direct route into each location from a small, unused road. He would have to exit the same way, due to the inundated and shut down roads for the game. The process would be difficult and we needed several plan B’s just in case our plan did not work. I had to allow extra time for traffic, and consider possible detours.
The main stop at OSU required Kaleigh to ride a bike that was locked up at the parking lot where David stopped, because there is no possible way he could drive through the heart of campus, which was where several locations were. My ideal vision of transportation was a giant bed in which Kaleigh would lay as four strapping men would carry her around. Unfortunately the best possible vehicle I had for campus travel was an old bike that had small metal rods for pedals.
David wrote down the directions as he understood them and took them to work the next day to study them. We reconvened later and discussed some different possibilities of receiving each package; for example, for stops that were difficult to park, David would avoid the traditional opening of Kaleigh’s door to meet the person at the location, and instead he would simply roll down her window so the person could hand her the next clue. We finalized the plans by taking a test drive over the entire route, and then typed out his directions on a small place by place list that made it easy for David to quickly glance at while driving.
The last order of business for David was to get him looking ready. Here’s a great thing about David: he’s got a hysterical sense of humor, and always manages to look good regardless the circumstances. He has a perfect brown complexion, brilliant smile, big fake diamond earrings that make him look like a gangster, and shiny silver aviator sunglasses that made him look like one who ought not to be messed with.
We searched through my dad’s suits which he inherited from his father in law, my grandpa. My grandpa would always look good and smell good. A classy guy from top to bottom. In fact, there was at one time some serious thought he might have been involved in the Italian Mafia, but he was just a humble barber. He had nice things and would keep them nice, which is why my parents were nervous to bring their little hellion children over to say hello. We would usually break something, and my parents would receive the typical rebuke for their mischievous children.
Now my father owned all of his nice suits and we had to find one that looked good on David. Some suits were too big or too small, but one matched perfectly and made David look professional. With a shiny black tie my dad picked out, he looked even better. David also lacked dress pants, although, he did have a fantastic pair of dress shoes. We found some pants that were a bit too long, but knowing that he would be seen sitting down for nearly the entire time, the pants’ length was not too much of an issue.
A very important part of David’s suit was what every professional transporter ought to wear: white gloves. We drove to the tuxedo store down the road and bought a pair of pure white gloves for a fair price. David decided to add his own piece of the suit: a Bluetooth phone. His earpiece phone made him look important while it also made it much easier to receive my calls. All he had to do when I called was push the button on the device and he could speak to me clearly. When David put on the entire suit, he looked nothing short of excellent. The ensemble was simply pleasant to the eye, and he looked as though he was a celebrity. He had memorized the routes, knew what to do in case of an emergency, and had full understanding of what to expect. He was ready.
I imagined Kaleigh being driven around in a luxury vehicle; black paint, black leather interior, tinted windows, the whole nine yards. I wanted her to feel as if she was not seen by the rest of the world; that she was in her own private place where she could dwell on her thoughts and focus on her puzzle.
I had no idea such a vehicle was so difficult to find. No car rental companies had anything like it; such a car would be too unique and risky to do rent out. I turned to the car people I knew for help. Kenny said he’d keep an eye out, but didn’t know anyone. I asked my dad, who talked to all the car people he knew, but to no avail. I even called an old neighbor that I barely talked to when they used to live near us to ask what kind of car they had. They had a black car, but were unsure of lending it out.
By now, I was stuck and becoming desperate. I thought David might just have to sit Kaleigh down in a wagon and pull her around Columbus. There was a perfect car in my neighborhood that I was tempted to use. I was about to walk over and talk to the owner whom I had never met to ask if a random stranger could borrow his car when my Dad suggested that it was not the wisest idea.
There was one other person I knew that might have an answer: Eric. Eric has been racing cars his entire life, and is pretty darn good at it, too. He graduated high school as a car mechanic, and now works in his father’s shop. He now races cars in a league that is a step under NASCAR, and does quite well. Eric has always been a family friend of ours; he’s a hyperactive goofball at times, so he fits in our crazy family just fine. Other times he’s very professional, so he can be trusted for any of our car needs.
Now I was calling him to see if he knew anyone in all of his years in the car business that had a black luxury sedan. “Oh yeah, my dad has one.”
“Yeah, it’s a black Honda Acura RL. The 2000 model.”
I thought 2000 seemed a little old, but I looked at it online and it was perfect. “Do…you think I could borrow it?”
“I’ll talk to my dad about it, but I think he’d let you.”
I gasped. Yet another one of my far-fetched needs met. God was really doing me a favor for this proposal. The car was just as I wanted it but without the tinted windows. It looked like they were tinted though, so that was good enough.
I drove over to Marysville to pick the car up the night before the proposal. Eric’s dad had no problem (or so it seemed) with letting a young man he somewhat knew drive his precious car. Either he had lost his mind, or trusted me too much (which would consequently mean he had lost his mind). I drove it back home and it was beautiful; the stereo was incredible, the comfortable seats made me feel as though I lived in a world of warm pillows, and the handling of the car was greater than any other car I had driven.
When I arrived at my house, David took it for a drive to get the hang of it. He drove it like a professional. Slow with the turns, a gentle but powerful acceleration, and soft breaking. He had the car mastered shortly. I was very impressed with the effort he put into this operation.
Unfortunately, I made a terrible mistake. I left my phone back in Marysville, which I absolutely needed for my operation the next day. It was especially necessary for some last minute notifications to the guys or questions from them. I would have to drive back up there again the next morning for my phone. The good news was that we had a car that was previously thought to be unattainable.
With driver and car united, all that was necessary was solid infrastructure for the operation. Almost everything had been planned, but some fine tuning needed to be done.
It was essential for me to construct an accurate schedule for the day for several reasons: she needed to get to her pedicure on time (otherwise I would have wasted money), I had to let people know when they were needed, and I needed time to prepare the Park of Roses.
With each location on a list, I looked at the best routes to take, and how much time each one would use in light of traffic or the football game. I had to add extra time for the OSU routes, but that was okay because if we went too quickly, David would waste time driving around aimlessly.
I also had to consider the time it would take for Kaleigh to walk (or ride) to each location from the car. On top of that, an extra five minutes per stop were necessary for writing.
With that being said, the total time of the operation amounted to about six hours. This was what I came up with:
12:00 PM-Car pulls up at Kaleigh’s house and picks her up
12:25- Arrive at Sells Waterfall (Hidden note)
12:32-Figure out where the person is in the woods (she’ll have to find them down a path)
12:37- Received package and wrote down memories on her pad; gets in car.
1:02-Arrives at OSU either on high street near wexner. Bike will be there.
1:12-Rides through oval to Pomerene and arrives. (Josh)
1:20- Arrives at Thompson + Thompson Tree (I’m combining these) (Ross)
1:30-Arrives at Faculty Club (Greg)
1:38-Arrives at bench on south side of Mirror Lake (Rick)
1:52-Arrives at stadium
1:59-Meets her grandpa, receives package
2:14-Arrives at 134 via Norm’s bike
2:36-Arrives at Tranquility Spa on Bethel rd.
2: 45-Pedicure begins
4:00- Panera lunch ends
4:10-Arrives at Hayden Falls (Dad)
4:25-Arrives at Quarry (Colin)
4:40-Arrives at Montgomery Inn (Dad)
4:50-Arrives at Modern Male (Greg)
5:00-Arrives at Cemetery (Windle grave) (Package on grave)
5:33-Arrives at 4H Club (AJ)
5:56-Arrives at Parking garage with Helipad (Colin)
6:30-Arrives at Park of Roses; meets escort (Sam)
6:31.30-Music starts while walking
6:35-Arrives at black Gazebo; guard lets her through (Chris)
6:45-I throw a ring at her.
The plan had some slack, but there were strict times that had to be met, like the pedicure, which was right after the most difficult part of the trip: OSU. The trap was set; all I needed was my beautiful bait.
Finally! With all of that being said, one can understand what happens. I had David drive up to Kaleigh’s house at 12:00pm exactly. While he was there, I was dropping off envelopes at the sells waterfall, and the cemetery. David was doing a great job standing in Kaleigh’s driveway with a sign that said “KALEIGH WINDLE” on it.
Kaleigh’s mother, who had been waiting for this day for weeks, acted shocked.
“Kaleigh, come look at this.”
Kaleigh was in the bathroom putting on her makeup. She thought that she was going to see her 98 year old granny for a photo shoot, and then afterwards go to the beach. I was supposed to be with her, too, but I texted her earlier in the morning with bad news: I had to cut a lawn because the angry owner demanded it immediately. I said I would meet her at her house at 12:00…how appropriate.
“What, mom? I’m getting dressed.”
“Kaleigh open up! Someone is in the driveway. Do you recognize him?”
“What? Hold on…”
Kaleigh sees the well dressed man standing outside fixed on his post with the KALEIGH WINDLE sign in his hands.
“I don’t know who that is…”
Kaleigh walked to the screen door and asked, “Are you sure you are here for me?”
The driver gave her a nod.
“Do you think this is an adventure!?” asked Kaleigh’s mother.
“Joe must be up to something. How do I look?”
“You look beautiful. Now let me take your picture in case I have to put your picture on the 6:00 news for a missing person.”
So Kaleigh approaches the door that David is holding open and gets inside the nice-smelling car. David hands her a giant brown package and a small piece of paper. The small piece of paper read:
Each time you get into the car, or at each stop, you will be recorded by the Driver. Please share what you’re thinking, feeling, or anything that’s on your mind. Feel free to say whatever you want. This will last approximately one minute or less. Remember, this will happen each time you stop, so expect to be recorded.
Kaleigh opened the brown package to find a letter. She pulled it out and this is what it said:
Welcome to real-time scrapbooking! Don’t worry about anything; all the bases are covered and you will be taken care of by the Driver. This is going to be a great time, however, there are several rules you MUST abide by.
- The Driver does not speak. You may speak to him as you wish, but he will not respond. A “Thank you” is always cheerfully accepted for his work.
- You may direct the driver if you feel so inclined. There may be some problems that will arise where he will have to figure out what to do, so feel free to give some advice if necessary.
- You may not leave the car or enter the car at your own will. The Driver has a schedule to keep and places to be. Whenever he stops, you must stay in the car until he opens the door for you. You also cannot enter the car unless he opens the door for you. Please obey this rule; the Driver is very sensitive on this subject, so to be sure you don’t upset him it is important to let him do his job.
- This is not a prison. The Driver controls the car, but he must bend to your requests as long as they are sensible. Asking permission to stop for a bathroom break is very much allowed and encouraged; asking permission to stop for ice cream is not allowed. Remember: even if you feel as though you may not be fully satisfied, your needs will be met. It would be to my deepest regrets if for some reason you were unhappy, but I doubt that is the case.
- Absolutely NO cell phone usage, unless the Driver permits it. You must turn it off and give it to the Driver. Don’t worry, he is not allowed to use it, so he will not see anything on there. When you read this, if you have not given your phone to him yet, please do so. If you refuse to hand it over, the Driver will not proceed, and the entire plan will be ruined. Don’t do that to yourself.
- You will not need your purse, wallet, or any type of money; all of your needs should be met. You are more than welcome to ask the Driver to purchase any emergency item you absolutely need.
- You are the Princess. Feel free to request from the Driver any sort of temperature control, radio station control, volume control, etc. If you feel so inclined, you may ask for seat warmers; although, you may not need them.
- The cooler on your left is full of waters, teas, and snacks for you to munch on. Grab whatever you like.
Now, for an explanation of what is happening. Your Driver will transport you to each area. His job is to transport you and ensure your safety. He prizes your welfare, so you may take solace in that. It is your job to receive information. I trust you have the ability to carry out your responsibilities in this operation; your objective is most assuredly not difficult. You must engage your memory, though; I’m counting on you to remember important events.
When you arrive at a location, you are to follow any directions given to you (if any) and meet a familiar person at that location. Some locations may require you to walk and search a bit, but it shouldn’t be too difficult as previously stated.
To my knowledge, this is all I have to mention. I will leave the rest up to you! Enjoy!
Kaleigh’s mom approached the car with a concerned look, “Are you sure you are going to be ok?”
“Well, I don’t know…” Kaleigh said confidently.
Karen laughed, “Well maybe you should move the car so the air guy can get out.”
“The rules say I am not allowed to talk to the driver. We are about to leave.”
Karen looks at the driver and says, “I have your picture and I copied down your license plate number. Take care of my little girl!”
I had placed the envelopes safely at their destination while David pulled out of the driveway. Kaleigh’s mom sent me some pictures of her daughter getting into the car as I was driving over to their house. I pulled over from the highway to wait so that I wouldn’t drive past them and have Kaleigh see me. When it was safe, I finished the drive to her house and received what I had been waiting to have reopened for a very, very long time: the safe. The dusty old thing was hidden in her room, and her mom had brought it out for me. I talked briefly with Kaleigh’s mother and then I was out the door.
The previous day all of my “workers” had received their packages, except for one. And his package was very important because it contained a ticket to the Ohio State game. At that moment, I did not have the ticket; I had to receive it from my grandmother who got it from her generous brother. Later that night I had the ticket and put it in the envelope for Rick, the man who would give her that package. So, as I left Kaleigh’s house, I drove down to campus to hand the envelope to Rick. At this time, Kaleigh was transported to her first stop: the sells waterfall.
Kaleigh’s door was opened and she walked out into the forest that had a nice gravel path built into it. She had to walk down the path to find a gigantic and memorable rock. Under this rock was the envelope, and she understood that. Kaleigh grabbed the package and went back to the car. They were off to the next place: Ohio State.
I was driving back from OSU to my highly awaited “Control-Center” at my parents’ house, where I had the schedule, Google maps, and my charged phone at my disposal. As I was exiting the highway, I thought that I might pass by their car, because they were taking the same road onto the highway. Just as I finished that thought, I saw their car. David looked good from where I was, and Kaleigh didn’t see me. I arrived at my parents’ house and started calling everyone to tell them to get to their posts.
I called each person several times to tell them that Kaleigh was on her way, and that they were next, or soon to be next. I would call them later to see if Kaleigh had been there in order to get an idea of where she was. At first, she was moving too slowly, according to the schedule, so I had one of the guys tell her to speed up a bit.
Unfortunately, Kaleigh must have taken that advice to move lightening fast through her stops. She was about 15 minutes ahead of schedule when I found about her most recent location. I called her Uncle, who was working with his father at the OSU game to ask for a favor. I knew they would both be working there, because Kaleigh’s grandfather has been an usher at the games for over 50 years and rarely misses a game.
“Hey, Joe, what’s up?”
“I have a problem. You know that Kaleigh is coming to see you and your dad, right?”
“Well, can you tell her she can’t have the next clue until she sits down and writes in her notebook? I don’t think she’s been doing that, and it’s very important.”
“Okay, will do.”
I had heard from one of my guys that Kaleigh wasn’t writing…no wonder she was flying through the schedule! I needed her to write down everything because I was hoping to put her notes in my scrapbook, so that both our memories were recorded on each page.
I was given notice that Kaleigh was on her way to the stadium by Rick, but a long silence emanated from all of my guys. Nobody had any information on her whereabouts, and Uncle Doug wasn’t answering his phone. Time was running out and her pedicure was waiting. I called David to tell him to prepare himself for some fast driving, because it looked like Kaleigh was going to be very late.
I called Uncle Doug one last time and to my surprise he answered.
“Hey! Did Kaleigh come by yet?”
“Yeah, she already left. I didn’t answer your calls because she was right next to me.”
It felt like a mountain was lifted off my shoulders.
“Really? Did she write like I asked her to?”
“Yep. She’s on her way to the next place now.”
“Great! Thank you so much!”
I immediately called David and told him to get in the car. He was staying at my house on campus during this entire OSU extravaganza hanging out with my housemates and watching the game. He ran out the door and got in the car. Apparently, Kaleigh was right on schedule, because she showed up right then to get in the car.
I let out a huge sigh of relief and got ready for a break. Kaleigh was handed this note by her Grandpa:
Having fun? How is the game? Is it incredibly loud, still? I hope your travels around OSU have been fun, but the process isn’t over yet. Write in your notebook about whatever happened here and say goodbye to Grandpa Windle. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the stadium; there is more to do. Get back on your bike, and ride over to 134 to meet your Driver. He is parked in the middle of the parking lot, waiting for you.
I’m sure you’re exhausted from your laborious travels so far, so I thought I would treat you to a break. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
She was on her way to her pedicure, and she was on time. It was incredible the way the pedicure planning worked out; I threw the plan together and decided that 2:45 would be a good time to get it done. I had no idea how far in advance one had to book a pedicure at this place. I called in to plan it several days in advance and they only had three openings: 10am, 2:45pm, and 5pm. It was unbelievable how well my needs were met. Lucky? No way; this was unquestionably divine. Things had been going too well for planning an operation this size. Nobody gets this many coincidental occurrences in their favor when planning something massive. Apparently, God takes care of pedicure appointments now. As if other matters weren’t more pressing…but who am I to argue?
Anyway, I spoke extensively to the workers at the spa and told them what Kaleigh looked like, and how she would act when she came in: confused. When David dropped her off, Kaleigh walked in the spa in her pretty dress dumbfounded.
“You must be Kaleigh,” said the woman at the front desk.
“Ok, you’re here for a pedicure. Come with me.”
Kaleigh was delighted, because she knew she needed one.
David came over to meet me at my parents’ house to grab some food and enjoy talking for once. He drove back at the end of the pedicure to pick her up. As she was leaving, the spa women handed her the next envelope and a Panera gift card for lunch. David dropped her off at Panera and signaled to her “4:00” and eventually she understood she had until 4pm for lunch.
Colin, my old roommate, came to visit me at this time to grab the safe which I picked up from Kaleigh’s mother earlier. He had a job to do that will be spoken of later. David and Kaleigh left lunch and drove to see my Dad at Hayden falls. They were running perfectly on schedule throughout the next couple of stops. Unfortunately, as they were headed to Modern Male, the man who was supposed to meet them was running late, so I had David drive around for awhile to waste time. He did a great job.
The next stops were nearly on time, so there wasn’t anything to worry about; the operation was running smoothly. As she left the cemetery, she had all of her puzzle pieces taped together. The next stop would make her heart flutter; she would receive no puzzle piece in the next package, but rather, a small key.
This requires some history to fully appreciate the situation.
Way back in March of 2011, I played around with the thought of marrying Kaleigh, but I knew it was too early to make any decisions about it. If I were to marry her, though, I would want to make my proposal fantastic. So I thought up a very safe way to go about doing this. I knew that I wanted to do the scavenger hunt style proposal where she visits certain places, and in this case I knew since I asked her to date me that I would use adventure spots as the locations.
This is what I did: I took a full sheet of blank paper, and cut it crookedly in half. I drew several blank slots in a row (like hangman slots) signifying that they were to be filled with actual letters. Underneath each empty space was a number.
On the bottom half, I wrote the entire alphabet and underneath each letter I wrote a number. A is 7, B is 12, etc. I placed the top portion in the safe and locked it for six months. Kaleigh had no idea what was inside because paper makes little noise when tossed around in a small space, and she couldn’t feel it hit the sides because it had very little weight. It was as if nothing was in there. I knew this was a safe procedure (pun intended) because if for some reason our relationship crumbled, no promises (marriage) were broken. I would take the safe back and would no harm would be done with regards to my proposal. Obviously, the break up would be harmful, but you get the point.
Also, if for some reason Kaleigh managed to break into the safe, (and she tried) she would have no idea what she’s looking at: a blank half sheet of paper with empty spaces on it. The entire operation was safe, indeed.
I didn’t know how many locations she would visit at that point in March, so I kept the key in my change jar and the other half sheet hidden in one of my old notebooks. When September 1st came, and I knew exactly how many places she would be visiting, I cut the half sheet, or “key”, from my notebook into 12 pieces that she would have to assemble along the way. I meant to make it 11 pieces, but I over counted and put and extra piece in one of the envelopes. Remember when I mentioned how Kaleigh received a picture of each place and a puzzle piece in each package? Those are the puzzle pieces.
THE HOME STRETCH:
Kaleigh had received the key at the 4-H club, and she knew exactly what that meant. After a quick pit stop, David drove her to the second to last location, the helipad. David drove up each floor of the parking garage in the medical center to reach the top floor. On this floor stood the gigantic helipad. Kaleigh ascended the stairs to the helipad to see my old roommate, Colin standing in the middle of the helipad, alone. He was wearing a nice suit and as Kaleigh approached, he stepped aside to reveal the safe which he had been standing in front of the entire time. He picked it up and Kaleigh opened the highly awaited treasure chest. Her eyes feasted upon the secrets within: a piece of paper. But at this point in the game she knew what this paper was for: the rest of the puzzle. She got back in the car and filled out the spaces. When she finished, the paper said, “MEET ME AT THE PARK OF ROSES”. David left the parking garage and drove to the last stop.
In the meantime, I was driving down to the Park with my brother. We were both in nice clothes, looking sharp at the time. It was unfortunately an incredibly hot day, so everyone was a bit sweaty, especially Kaleigh after her adventures in OSU. Sam (my brother) and I got out of the car to meet the other guys that were coming to help with the process. Chris was the photographer of the event, and Greg’s job was to guard the gazebo which I was planning to use for my proposal.
I explained to Sam the night before the pace at which he should walk with Kaleigh. It was a bit of a brisk walk, and there was a reason for it: as the two of them approached a certain spot in the park, Sam would stop, pull out an ipod, and play one of the songs Kaleigh and I love: “Would you go with me?” by Josh Turner. Not only was it one of our favorite songs because it’s so pleasant to hear, but it was appropriate for the time, too.
I had practiced by myself several days earlier how to play the song so that it would stop as Kaleigh approached the gazebo. The fastest route was necessary, and the right pace was of the essence. When I found the best route, I realized the place where the song ought to start, and the plan worked perfectly.
Greg was on guard at the gazebo, Chris was in his hidden spot for pictures, Sam was posted at the entrance of the Park, and I was in the back of the Park, sweating nervously. Everyone was ready except me.
The entire day I had not eaten anything; I was too nervous. Sam kept reassuring me that the plan could not fail; it was too well planned. I was also quite positive that Kaleigh would say yes to my question, too, so I wasn’t sure why I was so nervous. In fact, as I was brushing my teeth to get ready to leave for the Park, I nearly threw up just because my stomach was so uneasy. Chris wasn’t much of a help when I was trying to calm down, either.
“Well…it only gets worse!”
As David pulled up to the Park, he opened Kaleigh’s door and down walked Sam from the entrance to meet my fiancé-to-be. Kaleigh and I both agree that this was our favorite part in the entire process: the fact that my own brother could be there to escort his future sister in law to her future husband. It was very special to me that Sam could even be there due to his commitment to the United States Marine Corps, but he had time off that weekend. I was unaware of his time off until about a week before I proposed, so there’s another gift from above. On top of his difficult availability was the very close friendship between Sam and me. We have been joined at the hip since I was born, and friends ever since.
Meanwhile, as Sam was escorting Kaleigh, I was hidden down the path past the gazebo pacing back and forth, looking at the gazebo to see if Kaleigh had arrived yet, and practicing my speech. I was sweating profusely from the heat and nervousness; not a desirable condition at that point. I knew Kaleigh should be arriving soon, but I couldn’t see her in the tower. (The gazebo was elevated like a tower.) I continued sweating while practicing my speech, when to my absolute surprise, Sam and Greg were on their way towards me from the gazebo, which meant that Kaleigh had already arrived about two minutes ago. I was caught unprepared, so I approached Sam and took the suit jacket that he was wearing and put it on. I couldn’t find my suit that day, and his seemed to fit me fine. It was only appropriate, too, that we would share each other’s clothes; we’re brothers, aren’t we?
The new suit made things even hotter, not to mention the fact that my brother lined the coat with a fine layer of sweat. I approached the gazebo with scrapbook in hand. The curvy path seemed to go forever, and as I turned the corner I saw the Kaleigh up in the gazebo smiling at me. I was hoping to make my approach dramatic and serious, but she cut right through that with a giddy “Hi!” as I was walking. I waved back and said “Hey! How has your day been?” I knew then that my serious/dramatic approach was ruined. I walked up the steps to meet her and gave her a hug.
“Have you been having fun?”
“Yes!” she giggled.
“Well, I know you went to a lot of our spots today and recorded what you remembered, so I brought what I remembered about each spot and more.”
I pulled out the scrapbook and flipped through the pages while reading each section out loud.
“You made this?!”
“Well, I had some help; I’ll tell you about it later.”
As we approached the end of the scrapbook I stopped. This is what I said:
The rest of the pages you are not permitted to see, and there’s a reason why. It comes down to a pinnacle moment now for us. I want this book to continue and grow to be a gigantic archive of memories for us. I want there to be more adventures, arguments, hugs, kisses, and tears of joy or pain. Whatever it may be, I want to be there with you. I want to show you beautiful things; I desire to make great movements for the Kingdom of Christ, and I want you to be my partner.
As I stated on the railroad tracks how I have another adventure to offer you; the adventure of a relationship; dating, I must say that adventure has met its end. But, I invite you to the grandest adventure I have to offer you; the adventure of marriage.
Kaleigh, I love you. Will you marry me?
Kaleigh beamed with excitement and said, “Yes!”
I got up from a knee to hug her and she then asked, “Are you gonna put it on?”
“Oh, yeah! Do I need to get on a knee to do that?”
“I think so…”
I got down on a knee again and put the sparkly rock on her stretched out finger. We hugged, kissed, and jumped up and down together. We even gave each other a high-five. Kaleigh had me put her old ring in the box so that she would only be wearing one ring on her hands.
When we walked down the stairs and down the path, all the guys came out of the bushes to congratulate us. Kaleigh showed them all her new fancy ring and they loved it. I threw them a pizza party back at my house while Kaleigh and I walked back to David, who had been waiting in the car the entire time. He greeted us and asked to see her ring. David was thrilled to be able to speak to Kaleigh finally, so he admitted to her all the things he wished he could have done while she was in the car, but couldn’t because he had to act professional.
We had a great time talking to each other’s parents about what happened. It felt wonderful to not have to lie to her anymore, and I’m sure her parents would say the same. Immediately following that day, all the people we came in contact with wanted to know how everything happened. After about three times of repeating the lengthy story, we decided it was necessary to make a comprehensive, written form of the story for all to see. This way, we save ourselves about thirty minutes whenever someone asks, “So, how did Joe propose to you?”
We’ll look at each other, and then tell them to read a twenty page paper.