It was an inch or two before 4:20 a.m. I was awakened by the bleating of a text alert.
It was my friend Megan, a sainted do-gooder if ever there was one.
"Hi!!! I have a HUGE favor to ask....We have a guy
who was just admitted to hospice with just weeks to live and his dying
wish is to get married. Im going to make this happen. Can you help with
A second text blurted in before I was finished with the first.
"A wedding? Not my thing but sure! How could I say no to you?"
Ha! You can't! Its tomorrow afternoon at their home. Hes bed bound
but hes leaving the hospital this afternoon. When I know more, you'll
Two minutes later, another text.
A heart emoji.
It seems like every single love story eventually gets zigzagged into he said, she saids along the way.
Too many of those stuck in the zigzags never deal with their mess and
end up in a snarly cat fight. Any love thats left begins to drain
away, first as a trickle and ending with one big angry gush until its
But in the truly passionate ones, whats ziggedy zagged gets straightened out, and the love continues to grow.
Like Connie's and Ronnie's.
He said: "It was love at first sight."
She said: "Like hell. It was more like love after your fourth beer. I
saw him looking at me from the minute he sat down. If he hadn't have
been so damn shy, we could have had the whole night together. I was
going to go over and say hi to him but a proper lady wouldn't do that. I
may not be proper but I AM a lady."
And so this love story began up at the Eagles Club where many matches
are made and many more hearts broken…often in a single night.
Although from the sounds of it, this love story almost didn't begin:
he was painfully bashful; and she apparently, was a lady. It took its own
sweet time. It just had to simmer a bit.
And it finally did about seven years ago.
Ronnie was a tire builder. The size of grizzly with a teddy bear
demeanor. Quiet, private and seemed to keep people always at least one
bar stool away. Never married and never much thought about it. He kept
to himself and seemed content to living his life alone.
But there was something about Connie.
She had worked the same job she had since high school. Basically
running a small business as her own since her boss had died and his
know-nothing son Paulie the Pig, as he was called for his style of
eating and views of women, took charge and did nothing more than to
figure out what he wanted for lunch and to have Connie drop what she was
doing to call in the order and then go fetch it like the service dog he
thought she was.
One day she was heading to Smitty's Tenderloins to pick up a "King Chili-Cheese
Tenderloin with ketchup and no onions; a box of half French fries, half
onion rings; and a lettuce salad with lo-cal Italian. Hey I'm trying to
eat more healthy," he grunted.
No sooner had she had brought the food back and slopped the pigs
trough, she heard him squeal from his office, "God damn it Connie! I
wanted ketchup and I got no ketchup. I said no onions and I got onions.
What the hell is this? You gotta go back and make this right. God damn
it Connie! Pay attention!"
"Sure boss. Sorry. I'm on it."
She went to her desk and packed up her things, took her employee of
the year plaques of the wall, stormed out and slammed the door,
hesitating just long enough to hear Paulie the Pig oink one last time,
"God damn it Connie!!"
And she never went back.
Short in stature, long on living life very loud. Fun and fun loving.
Calling it as she saw it and, in her own words, could give a good God
damn if you agreed with me or not. Twice married. Once widowed, once
"What the hell was I thinking? That miserable son of a bitch. What the hell was I thinking? Never again."
But there was something about Ronnie.
If ever there was a love story, this was it but was going nowhere
fast. Hell, it wasn't even a sentence on a page. Yet. But it seemed like
it was just begging to be.
Maybe it was that fourth beer.
Crawling out of his place at the end of the bar out of his shell,
Ronnie swerved stepped his way to the bathroom somewhat in time to
whatever was on the jukebox at the time and trying to sing along
just loud enough for Connie to hear. It made her smile. He didn't get
one word right.
On his way back to his perch, he stopped briefly and abruptly veered with aforethought over to Connie.
Bry you a breer? Connie was right. Its that fourth one that loosens his tongue and the rest of him. Every time.
Knowing full well what he was trying to say, but Connie being Connie bruskly replied, "Say that again. I didn't understand a word you said. And if youre asking me to go home with you tonight, there's no way in
hell. I don't even know your name!"
Ronnie apparently turned all shades of embarrassment crimson and then suddenly bleached out to driven-snow white. He was jaw-dropped speechless and eyes-the-size-of-hubcaps aghast.
"Sorry," she said. "Just giving you a hard time. A beer? I'd love one. My name is Connie.
What's yours? And its about damn time! I've been hoping you'd ask all night."His big goofy grin brightened the bar. "Really? You have? Well okay, I'm Ronni
And so it began. Jittery at best, but the love story began. Finally.
And after six months, Ronnie moved in with Connie and her teenage
daughter. And, according to all of them, they lived happily together for
the last seven years.
Back up to the Eagles one Wednesday night, for two-for-one beer-and-a-shot and steaks for $7.50 that are every bit as tough as you would expect them to be---but with enough cocktailing and A-1 you'd
never notice. Besides, they came with a foil-wrapped baked potato with a fist-sized wad of butter and a plop of sour cream with a sprinkling of two or three bits of chives. Its a good deal even if the food isn't. Fine
dining? Oh hell no. Fine drinks? Oh my yes. And up here, that's all that matters.
Ronnie was fidgety that night. More than usual. Midway through his
fourth beer and a shot, he headed into the bathroom but came right out.
"Forget something?" Connie asked.
"I did," and he dropped to one knee on the barroom floor that probably hadn't felt the tender swoosh of a broom in years.
"Nope. And I dont want to lose you. Marry me," and slid a diamond ring on her finger.
"Excuse me? What the hell is this?"
"Will you please marry me?"
"Are you begging me?"
'Well if I have to."
"You don't. Yes!"
'YES! I'll marry you."
So much hugging and kissing. So many tears. So many drinks on the
house. They asked for their steaks and potatoes to go. Arms around each other's shoulder they floated on a cloud of love to Ronnie's pickup with styrofoam containers in hand. Never mind the napkin wrapped Plasti-Ware fell off unnoticed long before they got outside.
And the next chapter in this love story began.
A couple of weeks later, Ronnie wasn't feeling well. He did what he always did. A couple of aspirin, a handful of Tums and a Pepsi. It wasn't working. Never the picture of good health and but never one to
worry about it, he just laid down in the bedroom waiting to feel better. No point in telling Connie. Why worry her over nothing?
His idea of nothing turned about to be a big something.
Late that night, they went to the emergency room. Chest pains. And
then they found out he had cancer. Stage 4 and it had already spread
from his brain. It wasn't good.
The hospital called in hospice. Hospice called in my friend Megan to meet with them.
While getting acquainted, Ronnie told her they had just got engaged. Connie tearfully showed
off showed off her ring. "I guess we'll never be able to get married now."
Megan's first thought almost out loud: "Like hell you won't," but it
came out more appropriate, "Oh yes you will. You most certainly will.
I'll make sure of that."
Planning a wedding was a path well-worn for her. She had been working on her own for a month.
Being that it was well past midnight, all Megan could do was to make a list. First getting them officially and legally married at the hospital which required a license and that involved meeting with a judge to waive the
three-day waiting period and then rounding up someone to officiate.
Then! To have another ceremony at their home the next day for family and friends and that would require ambulance service, a hospital bed to be brought in, a nurse, an oxygen tank and various equipment, a patient
release from hospital, a cake, flowers, a few decorations, a photographer, and someone to preside over this ceremony.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
So when dawn dawned, she started. First with my text, knowing full well she could wake me up without any consequence, at least none that meant anything.
About six hours after that first one, Megan texted me another.
"So many tears! The official legal wedding is set for noon today! Everything is set to for tomorrow at 4 p.m.!! When I was telling Ronnie how his wish was going to happen, he opened his eyes for the first
time all day and smiled a smile of sheer serenity. Then he reached for my hand and gave it a big squeeze."
End of text. Barely a second later: "I'll be there hopefully around 3:30!! I have a 100th birthday party I'm putting on right before!"
Of course she did.
It was small house. Split level with a staircase that was a straight shot from the front door up to the kitchen and dining area where the ceremony was to take place. The dining room table and chairs were shoved off to the side to make room for the hospital bed where Ronnie was peacefully resting. He had such a look of contentment. Connie was off to his right, holding his hand gently. She was trying to fight back tears but without much luck. A group of about 12 crowded around the bed. The ceremony was quite short. Vows were exchanged the best they could be.
And then, it was time for the rings. Connie's engagement ring became her wedding ring but she gasped. She didn't have one for Ronnie.
"Not to worry, I'll get one," said the always optimistic MJ.
She dug through a bowl of keepsakes in the kitchen and found Ronnie's high school ring.
"How about this?"
Connie slid it on his ring finger. At least as far as it would go which wasn't very far but far enough to make the point.
The chaplain pronounced them husband and wife. They kissed. And cried. And kissed again.
They signed what needed to be signed. They cut the cake. They fed each other cake. And kissed again with puckered smiles full of frosting.
There was some applause and cheers. And lots of tears.
After the crowd left, Connie was still by Ronnie's side holding his hand tightly never wanting to let go. She leaned over to kiss him.
"We're married,"she whispered in his ear.
With eyes closed, his grin transformed into a full-fledged, double-wide Cheshire cat smile that beamed brightly with happiness and love through his tears.
A miracle happened that day and their love story began a new chapter.
The next week, I got a text from Megan.
"Ronnie died early today. I knew you'd want to know."
Maybe 10 seconds later, another text from her:
A crying face emoji, two heart emojis and the toasting champagne glasses.
For Connie and Ronnie. If ever there was love story…