[COLUMN] Once upon a time series: Abigail’s story

“Will you marry me?” she asked him.

Stories have the power and influence to touch the heart that a cut and dried essay or a report does not have. Somehow the lessons and insights we learn from stories have a longer shelf life. They stick.

Along the way, I have met many whose stories seem like the stuff of fiction. Other stories are cautionary and some are horrific. A lot of what I write are stories told to me. I view them from my personal lens and filter.

I listen quietly, file them away and sort things out. I fictionalize story elements to protect their privacy and some elements, for purposes of conciseness and flow.  Like the deft fingers of a tapestry maker, I hope to weave the colorful threads together, conjure a composite character from different, engaging people I have met just to tell a story. Hopefully these series warm and lift the heart just a tad. For as long as we live, we all need a boost daily.

The first of these stories is Abigail’s. Abigail is the name of my first granddaughter, now eleven years old. I used her name for the story of a real live person among us (who shall not be named) whose story is so much more enchanting and heart-warming than fiction only because it’s true.) 

Abigail thought of her husband who passed away five years ago and her tears fell as though it was just yesterday. People say that time heals all wounds but hers seems to be a stubborn, festering, open wound.

She remembers the one audacious move she made in her entire life. Abigail still squirms at the thought and smiles at the unbelievable chutzpah it took her to say three words that would change her life in a mysterious way.

Twenty years ago, she came to America as a single person on a tourist visa and overstayed. It was a tough time to be. She was alone in a strange land trying to nurse a broken heart from a guy who just walked away for no apparent reason other than love wasn’t there to hold them together. She was going to deal with the heartache and tune out matters of the heart with tons of work instead.

Although she tried as best as she could to find a company sponsor her and work her way to a green card, it just didn’t happen. She heard about paying a citizen to get hitched on a fake marriage until she got her papers – a pure hushed-up business transaction. But Abigail wouldn’t live a lie.  Staying true to herself, she would have none of it. If marriage was her route in being allowed to stay in the country, SO BE IT. But it had to be the real thing or none at all. She would pack her suitcase and leave if it came to that.

She didn’t know how to drive a car and she believed she needed to learn this skill if she were to have a modicum of career success.  She picked off numbers of driving instructors from a phone book.  She called several until she spoke to one who was the owner and instructor himself. He must have given her a good vibe over the phone. The instructor picked her up from her apartment for the first lesson. The guy was easy on the eyes and her first driving lesson was pleasant and smooth. She began looking forward to the next lessons.

Mike, her instructor, was tall and quiet. He was from a few generations of a modest, hard-working, immigrant family from Poland. He was always on time, clean-shaven and smelled fresh from the shower each time for her driving lesson. He was polite and kind and — dear heavens – a devout Catholic just like her. Abigail learned he had long been a widower from a short-lived marriage and had no immediate plans to remarry.

Before she was to take her driving schedule for her license, Abigail prayed hard and while choking on her words in pure embarrassment, asked Mike, “Will you marry me?”  He was stunned and so was she.

She didn’t know what got into her. She remembered her face felt hot and flushed and wanting to take back her bold words as soon as they were out. As tiny as she felt at the time, she felt like diving into her purse to hide. She gulped several times and told him of her predicament — the whole enchilada. She came clean. She wasn’t going to deceive Mike of the reason she propositioned him. All her cards were out on the table.

To both their surprise, after the shock had worn off, he accepted and they became a genuine item with the traditional rite of passage — romance, marriage and the delicious daily discovery of one another as a gift. They were childless but the gift of each other was more than enough of a heaven-sent blessing.

Abigail never expected their marriage to turn out the way it did. It wasn’t perfect but they were both quick to overlook things — Mike more than her. That is how good he was. Mike turned out to be the gentle, kind, thoughtful person he was from day one — the type of guy countless women the world over would pray for on their knees.

For her part, she responded in kind. Abigail knew early on that she had won some kind of cosmic lottery because she dared to boldly say three little words. They had a good, wonderful run until one day, Mike didn’t feel right. He had a diagnostic procedure that revealed pancreatic cancer. He was in pain and Abigail ached with him as well through the short, grueling months until the end came.

Abigail didn’t know what hit her.  She walked in a daze after the funeral going through the motions like a robot. It has been five years. Healing would indeed come. With each memory, Abigail realized that Mike was the one marvelous gift to her from the God of love and mercy. In time, Abigail realized and became thankful at the core of her being that Mike was and will continue to be the gift that keeps her going doing good in every way she could for the rest of her mortal life.

She likes to imagine that one day in God’s perfect timing, Mike will pick her up and drive through the clouds through the pearly gates to heaven where they might be together.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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