I was late to marry. As soon as I approached puberty, my father began drumming into me the notion that marriage was most important decision of my life. He told me to wait until I finished my education and warned me not to pick the wrong woman for the wrong reason.
He said I should find a good woman and suggested I look in the churches rather than in the clubs and bars. My sense of humor was such that I told him I would do as he said and wait for them outside the confession booth – the theory being the longer they were in there the more likely they were to be worth waiting for.
My mother advised me to follow my heart. She said I would know when I found the right person. When I asked her how I would know, she always had the same infuriating response – “You’ll just know.”
As a result, I thought long and hard about marriage and the kind of person I wanted to share my life. In law school, I even went so far as to make a list on a legal pad of all the attributes I wanted. I compared every woman I met to that ideal.
Through the years, I found a number of women who met all my criteria. They had all the qualities I thought I was looking for – and more. I couldn’t find fault with them; still, something held me back. It just didn’t feel right.
My friends – many of them married for years – watched from the sidelines with amusement. Some, like Henri Landwirth, doubted I would ever marry. Finally, he was bold enough to press the issue.
“Stop all this running around,” Henri said, “and just pick one. It doesn’t matter whether it is this one or that one. Just pick one and get it over with. Pretty soon no one will have you.”
When I told him I had no intention of marrying until I was sure I had found the right person, he laughed and told me to stop kidding myself. “You don’t even know what you are looking for,” he said.
When I said I did and began to describe the woman I hoped to find, Henri stopped short. Something I said brought to mind a girl who worked with him at Give Kids the World. It was one of the few times I have seen Henri at a loss for words.
Henri made the connection a month later. He asked her to pick me up from the airport in Orlando the next time and I came to visit him and gave her $20 to buy me a drink.
One drink was all it took. The connection was natural and immediate. Neither one of us said anything about it for a while, but we both knew we were meant to be together.
When Angie accepted my proposal, twenty-one years ago today, I called Senator Moss to tell him the news. Senator Moss was responsible for bringing me to Washington and through the years had become a friend, mentor, and second father. I told him how wonderful she was and began listing her many attributes. When I took a breath, he reminded me he had met her once.
“You know the package isn’t bad either,” he said. He was in his eighties by then but there was nothing wrong with his eyesight.
They were all right – my mother and father, Henri and Senator Moss. My life changed when she said, “Yes.” Asking her to marry me was the best decision I have ever made.