I was a student in a program with little tolerance for Faith or aspirations of virtue beyond artsy experimentation, obscurity and conflict, for the sake of shock value. There were consecutive all-night-ers and professors who took far too much pleasure in announcing “triple f minus” for students’ marks, with not just a few expletives to further express their unmet expectations for students.
That’s right. One of our profs was just as fierce and expressive as Gordon Ramsay or any of those drill-sergeant tyrants in the most shocking of reality show contests. This was architecture school, and the prize wasn’t a million dollars; the prize was just making it through with another credit towards a 5 year degree and hopefully holding on to a shred of confidence for surviving the ordeal.
Impressed by a handful of people in my program who maintained some connection to Christian Faith, and went to Church regularly, I felt compelled to find some young adults who were grounded in the Catholic Faith. After all, I was Catholic, even if I hadn’t really yet taken ownership of my Faith and couldn’t give a compelling reason for why I made it to Mass every week. I returned home for the summer after my second year, and took a chance and went to my first Young Adults meeting at a neighboring parish.
I remember waiting in that church hall with a group of others. We were sitting in chairs, politely smiling and wondering when the meeting was going to start. Suddenly, Bill walked in, formally dressed from work, with all the confidence and entertainment of a stand-up comic (or maybe an inspirational speaker). The meeting was now in full motion. Everyone was suddenly at ease, having fun and laughing.
Now, I wasn’t looking for a romantic relationship and when Bill innocently asked me if I’d like one of the ten tickets he had received from work for the circus, I assumed that this was another group event. When he arrived in his two seater Fiero, (1980’s sportscar that now sits in our driveway, solely for the climbing enjoyment of the kids) to meet only one other couple, I realized that this was essentially a double date. I laughed more in that evening than I had laughed for two years in my architecture program.
In fact, I laughed so much that I lost my voice! The circus was fun, but the company was even better. I didn’t suspect that this was more than a fun, entertaining friendship until the ride home. Suddenly, in the midst of what had been a laugh-filled evening, Bill got serious and explained how important His Catholic Faith was to him. He was cute and funny …and he was unapologetically Catholic. This could get serious.
Within a few short weeks, it was serious. By the end of that summer, I think we both suspected we would one day get married. The next 8 months we wrote letters as Bill worked and travelled from Toronto and I was in school in Ottawa. Bill sent a lot of letters that cheered me on and postcards from places he was working; places we hoped to visit together someday. My letters were usually written within photocopy collages with fragments of photos mixed with parts of my projects. I saved all of our letters and compiled them into a special scrapbook for our 5th anniversary, before scrapbooking had its’ own aisle at the craft store.
After another great summer, I prepared for my fourth year, anticipating my most difficult year yet. I think partially just to remind me of my life outside of architecture school, Bill suggested that we begin planning our wedding for the following summer.
Despite the fact that we weren’t officially engaged and couldn’t announce our plans, we met with my pastor who set the date for the following summer! Given that my mom was a part time secretary at the church with full access to the Church calendar where weddings were recorded, this was a daring move!
We knew that there were many things that needed to fall in place, and God did in fact take care of all the details. Bill was admitted to the MBA program at The University of Ottawa, after taking his GMAT. Bill received a leave from work, including a paid contract that would help with our expenses. He received full credit for his already-completed half of his MBA from one university and was transferred to the other university in the same city where I was attending school. Bill also met with my parents the night before we got engaged, but that wasn’t exactly a hurdle as my parents happily accepted him into our family.
Bill’s travel with work miraculously brought him to the city I was studying in, or cities only an hour away. He was able to visit me regularly and was happy to help me in any way he could, even if it meant watching me work, driving me around to pick up project supplies and being my ‘glue-boy’, tediously finishing the cardboard edges of whatever model I was working on.
We attended a marriage preparation class on the first weekend of my study break in February…minutes after a romantic dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, where Bill (finally) officially proposed! We were a half an hour late for our retreat, but we were quickly forgiven when we announced that we had just moments before gotten engaged.
We had a beautiful wedding in my home parish, a wonderful honeymoon in the Keys and Disney, and then returned to prepare for school 5 hours away.
We settled into a beautiful little condo…miraculously available for the exact 8 months we needed to finish our degrees. We went to an awesome parish and further developed some special friendships that are still very important to us today.
We will celebrate our 19th Wedding Anniversary this July! We have 5 children (plus 3 in Heaven).
Bill still makes me (and our kids) laugh every day. I rely on him for his even-temper, good nature, people skills, business sense, diplomacy, tutoring of the kids~ no matter what subject (he remembers everything he has ever learned!), his ability to get the house under control from clutter and mess, entertain a crowd, act goofy with the kids and turn a near-tantrum (usually the kids’, but sometimes mine) into a (distracted) humorous action-packed adventure.
His unwavering Faith and good judgement guide our family and I think we make a great team as we raise all of these kids and run our Catholic family apostolate Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families.
Happy Father’s Day, Billy!
Copyright 2013 Monica McConkey