Frizzi: The Finger and the Ring

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On Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:12 in the afternoon, my wife, Heddy and I will be married for 20 years. Being married to the same gal for 20 years is pretty rare these days. Then again, so is Heddy.

I love my wife. She's the only one I ever had. (For the record, I stole that line from Jack Benny's autobiography, "Sunday Nights at Seven".) I always liked the way that sounded.

I met my wife in 1990 when I stole her barstool. Back then, we didn't need websites. I was living in Dallas at the time and drove to Terre Haute, Ind., for a friend's wedding. I went to Indiana State University, alma mater of Larry Bird, which I believe is the actual name of the school.

This was a time when my college buddies were all getting married and I made a lot of trips from Dallas to Terre Haute. One of our "haunts" was an Irish corner bar named "Sonka". To attract the young and broke, "Sonka" had "Quarter Beer Night" on Thursdays. It was the cheap stuff, barely cold and served in a glass the size of a thimble, but it drew crowds.

I came off of I-70 after driving 10 hours straight. My throat was dusty and dry. With $3.50 worth of quarters, I was prepared for a night of thrifty quaffing.

I saw a friend of mine at the bar, talking to this girl. When she got up, I sat down and started talking to him. I pulled out a roll of quarters, cracked them open and ordered a few cups of beer.

As I did that, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw this girl. She said, "Hey! You're sitting in my barstool."

She had the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen, with dark shoulder length curly hair and a slight smile that said "Get up from my barstool".

Well, my mom didn't raise me to be an idiot. And she did raise me to be a gentleman. So, I apologized profusely, wiped off my road grime with a bar napkin and offered her a quarter beer for her inconvenience. She seemed to like that.

It turns out Heddy worked with a couple of pals of mine at a TV station. She worked there part-time while studying for her Master's degree. When I went back to Terre Haute for another wedding, she was there as well. I sat there and listened to her talk and laugh and was just mesmerized. Heddy has the greatest laugh and a quick sense of humor. She was and still is the funniest gal I ever met.

It was love at first sight. There, I've gone and said it.

I then decided that I would ask her to be my date at the next wedding. But I asked her in a letter instead of calling her so that she wouldn't say "No" right away. I waited two weeks for her reply. Turns out, she was trying to decide whether to go with me to the wedding or go with her dad to see "Les Miserables". I was happy to have beaten out Victor Hugo for the affections of my lady fair.

So, our first date was at a wedding. Our first dance was to Patsy Cline's "Crazy".

Dating Heddy was expensive only because we lived 800 miles apart. Back then, phone companies charged for long distance calls. I flew up for her birthday, got a speeding ticket driving up for Valentine's Day and decided that if this relationship was to continue, something had to give. Heddy was born and raised in Peoria. It's her home, so I became a Peorian.

Our plans were just to live with each other. We didn't need the pomp and circumstance of a wedding or the need to put a hoop on each other's fingers. However, as the months passed, I realized that I really wanted to marry this gal.

How did I know? Just by simply holding her hand. The first time I held her hand, it just seemed like we fit.

This is how I proposed. Our washing machine broke down so we went to her parents' house. They were on vacation. It was a hot summer day.

Heddy was doing the laundry while I was sitting on the couch watching a ballgame and drinking one of her dad's import beers. She sat the basket of clothes down, sat next to me on the couch, took the bottle of beer, wiped her brow with the condensation and took a swig. As I looked at Heddy, I thought to myself, "Any woman who would voluntarily clean the crud out of my underwear is the woman I should marry". So I asked her if she would. She took another swig and asked me if I would. I said yes. As I say, my mom didn't raise me to be an idiot.

So, we skipped work and went to buy a ring. I told Heddy she should get whatever ring she wanted and she did. It was an Irish claddagh ring with a diamond the size of the tip of a needle. I told her she could do better but she is not a materialistic woman and got the ring that she wanted. As engagement rings go, it was extremely inexpensive. That was a good thing, since I was working at a radio station at the time. If you've ever worked at a radio or TV station, you know they tend to be low paying jobs. So, Heddy's ring, inexpensive as it was, actually did cost the recommended three month's salary.

Ever the hopeless romantic, I recommended we get married on Oct. 9 as it's also John Lennon's birthday. I took the idea from a friend of mine who got married on July 4, 1976, America's bicentennial, so he would never forget his wedding anniversary.

I never had any doubts that Heddy was the girl for me. The clincher was two weeks before the wedding, I almost cut off my finger. How? I was watching the baseball playoffs while chopping vegetables. Why was I chopping vegetables? I don't know since we were going to a dinner at the Hotel Pere Marquette that night.

Heddy wanted to take me to a quick care medical center but I refused and sent her to pick up some gauze and tape. About an hour later, my finger throbbing in pain, I changed my mind and off we went.

In those days, technology was advanced enough to where they made a TV small enough to fit the palm of your hand. I had one of those and took it to the medical center. As the doctor was stitching my finger, I was watching the game on my hand held TV. I looked up to see Heddy, with her jaw dropped in amazement that I was getting stitches in one hand while watching TV with the other. I figured she must really be smitten with me because she didn't run out of the place screaming. She even cut my roast beef for me at the dinner that night.

We decided to get married on Grandview Drive and had scouted out a quiet spot with a view of the Illinois River and free of sightseers. It was going to be a short ceremony. Heddy's Uncle Bob, a minister, would perform the "I do's".

We invited our guests to the reception, which would have an Oktoberfest theme, complete with "Oom-pah" music from Heddy's father's band. We chose the club, not necessarily because it was nestled in the woods among the autumn leaves or a great dance floor. The place had a nice bar and plenty of pool tables and dart boards to keep our buddies amused. We had a German restaurant cater the reception. Instead of wedding cake, we had strudel.

The Oktoberfest was all Heddy's idea and that worked for me. Here's an example of why she is the brains of the couple. Instead of napkins or matchbooks with our names and wedding date engraved on them, she ordered plastic beer mugs with our names and date printed on them. So, we gave our guests lovely parting gifts. To this day, people tell us that they still have their mugs.

The weather the previous three weekends was gorgeous. So, it would only make sense that it would rain the night before our wedding and we couldn't have it outside. So, we decided to go to the reception where our friends were waiting on us and surprise them with the ceremony.

Our plans were to simply get up, get dressed and drive to the club were thwarted by our friends. Let's call them "Tim" and "Fawn". Fawn insisted that it was bad luck for me to see the bride before the wedding. So she came over to our house to help Heddy get dressed and I went over to their house to get ready.

Before I left, Heddy told me she had put her ring in my travel bag. With that, Tim drove me to their home to get prepped.

Before I got dressed, I wanted to make sure I had the ring. I didn't. I couldn't find it. It wasn't in pockets. It wasn't in my shaving kit. It wasn't in my shoes or the compartments in my travel bag.

I did what any red blooded guy who was scant hours away from tying the knot would do.

I panicked.

I crawled into my travel bag and started to dig further. Meanwhile, Tim was ripping out the seats of his car.

It was no use. I had no ring. And I was forced to do the unthinkable.

I called Heddy and told her that I couldn't find the ring.

She didn't cry or go crazy. She went through the litany of "Did you check here? Did you check there?"

Then, Fawn took the phone.

"Go buy another ring."

Now? It was crunch time. I didn't know her ring size. I don't think she did either. And I knew we didn't have one of those ring measuring tubes found in jewelry stores in our junk drawer at home.

I'd have to improvise. What will it be? A beer tab? A twist tie? Perhaps I could fake putting on a ring. Besides, she'd be wearing her engagement ring. Nobody would be any of the wiser.

The reason we were having a simple wedding in the first place was because we both had attended and had been in weddings where everything that could go wrong, did. I've personally seen elaborate, expensive ceremonies, meticulously planned, quickly unravel before the sobbing bride's eyes.

Why should my wedding be any different?

So, I took a shower. Then, I went to my travel bag to get my underwear. And as I pulled my briefs from the bag, out of the porthole fell the ring. It bounced twice on the bed and laid there.

This set the tone for the rest of the day. Tim and I were laughing as he cracked open a bottle of Scotch. A half hour or so later, Fawn called to remind us that we were running very, very late.

Tim and I were still laughing by the time we reached the club. Our guests thought we were already married. So, they tapped the keg and filled their complimentary beer mugs. I was handed one and saw that someone had also handed one to Heddy. She looked beautiful, in a simple ivory dress bought off the rack. We met and shook hands.

But we still weren't married. And I was anxious to put Heddy's wedding ring on her finger so that it would not be lost again. I asked the DJ for his microphone and thanked everyone for coming and please give us just a moment.

Then, I put the mike down, took a gulp of my beer, walked up to Heddy and got married.

Occasionally, someone who I don't know will come up to us and Heddy will remind me that they were at our wedding. I don't remember anything about our wedding except that I never laughed so hard or had a better time in my life. And that's the way it should be.

Why has our marriage been successful? It's very simple. Of course, we love each other, but we also genuinely like each other. I would rather spend time with Heddy than I would anyone else on the planet. We also have the utmost respect for other. We're a team. And we always say "please" and "thank you" when one does something for the other.

The time went too fast. It doesn't seem that long ago that we got what we call, "good and married". When we celebrated our second wedding anniversary, we laughed because when someone asked us how long we'd been married, we could honestly say, "Years!".

Our nieces and nephews, just babies when they attended our wedding, are now grown with kids of their own. Our best anniversary was when we went to our niece's wedding. Heddy and I are now one of the older couples you see sitting at weddings.

We're a little older, a little wiser, but still very much in love, holding the hands that still fit.

About the Author
Donn Frizzi is a well-traveled man, if you consider Pennsylvania to southern Indiana to Texas and finally Peoria to be the definition of well traveled. But in each of his stops he gained certain insights that make him who he is — including a Pirates and Rangers fan who must travel to St. Louis to watch quality baseball without buying a plane ticket. Poetic justice, perhaps? A talented writer, Donn also can make a good point by putting pencil to paper and drawing with satirical splendor. We’re hoping to persuade him to grace our website with an occasional toon, as well.