Chapter 1

((OCTOBER 7, 1993))

It was our 7th wedding anniversary; I took my wife, Martha, and my parents, Ray and Katie to dinner to celebrate. Martha's parents, John and Sarah, hadn't been feeling well, and deferred. Besides celebrating our wedding anniversary, this was also Martha's Birthday; she turned 25 today. I do love her very much!

I was also celebrating the outcome of a deal at work that put an additional $22 thousand dollars in our bank account.

My name is George Michelson. This story I am about to tell you, is completely true. The circumstances are remarkable, but sometimes - Life Can Be Remarkable!

((SEPTEMBER 8, 1985))

I met my future wife, Marty, short for Martha, while in high school. We were in the same homeroom during our senior year at Greenwich High School in Nebraska. I was a basketball player and she was a cheerleader. I know it sounds cheesy but, after the first basketball practice was over, I was still out practicing my free throws. Not because my coach wanted me to, I just was trying to get better. She came up to me, in her cute little cheerleading outfit, and introduced herself to me.

"Hi, I'm Marty. Marty Washington."

"Hello, I'm George Michelson."

"What're you doing after you're through practicing, George?"

"Nothing much!"

"Aren't you going with the rest of the players to AJ's?"

"Don't think so ... it's not like I'm a starter or even second string. I'll never play in a game unless we have a 40 point lead or are losing by 40 points."

"That's too bad, George. I saw you make some baskets during practice."

"It's easier to make them during practice, than during a game, Marty. Why aren't you hanging out with the rest of the cheerleaders?"

"Well, I'm the newest one, and Pam, the head cheerleader, doesn't seem to like me very much."

"Who wouldn't like you, Marty — You've got a pretty smile."

"I'm pretty sure that Pam doesn't like anyone who doesn't bow down at her feet, and treat her like the goddess that she thinks she is."

"That's pretty harsh, Marty. How about you and I go to Rosemary's for some ice cream? I'm always hungry after a practice. I'll be out in 10 minutes. What do you say, want to go?"

"Sure, George — I want to change from this cheerleading outfit. Meet you in front of the Biology Lab?"

"Sure. See you in 10 minutes."

That was how we met, six years ago -- After a basketball practice. The trip to Rosemary's to get ice cream was uneventful. We were both way too nervous to say much anything. I thought she was kind of cute, so I got us a chocolate shake, with two straws.

"This is really good ice cream, isn't it George?"

"Yeah, Marty."

"You seem like the old-fashioned type of boy, getting two straws, so we can share. It's actually quite romantic, don't you think?"

"I never thought of that, Marty ... I just knew I couldn't finish one all by myself, so I got us two straws."

She had me pegged from the get-go. I was trying to be sly and romantic ... and she 'outed' me! A few weeks later, we were back at Rosemary's. This time, she said she'd buy. I discussed this with her, but she insisted. She got us a vanilla shake, with two straws.

"I haven't had a vanilla shake in a very long time, Marty. Thank you."

"Sure, George."

"Now, did you get it to be practical, or to show that you're a romantic, as well?"

"George Michelson! So you're admitting that you're a romantic?"

"Yeah. I tried so hard to hide it the last time we were here, when really ... I got the two straws only so we could drink at the same time and look at each other."

"Aw, George. That's so sweet of you."

"Well, I don't think that I could hide anything from you. You seem like the kind of girl that deserves honesty, nothing less. So, I have a confession to make to you."

"Yes, George. What is it?"

"I like chocolate a lot more than vanilla!"

"Actually, so do I! I was just getting vanilla to see which you liked better."

"Marty — Are you seeing anyone, you know, dating anyone?"

"No — George. I'm sort of a late bloomer, and I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, but this is the closest I've been to a boy, ever!"

"Since we seem to be on an honesty kick, you're the only girl I've ever talked to, not counting my Mom, of course. I've just always been uncomfortable talking to girls, but something's different about you. I like you, Marty!"

"I like you too, George. There's something I haven't told you about me -- it's a little embarrassing!"

"You aren't obligated to tell me anything, Marty. We're just friends."

"No, George — this is important. My name isn't Marty — it's Martha."

"So? That's a nice name. Marty's a nickname?"

"Yeah, my given name is Martha Washington — don't laugh."

"Well, my name is George Michelson."

"At least your name doesn't make you sound like an old fuddy duddy."

"Oh! — Martha Washington! Now I understand. Did you ever ask your mother, why she named you Martha?"

"My adopted mother says that Martha came from a grandmother and was a 'strong robust' name. I can't wait to be married, and lose my last name."

"You could end up with some guy with a last name like Zuckermann or Westinghouse."

"Or, I could end up with a cool last name like Michelson?"

That was the moment. You know! There are moments all through your life that tie together the fabric of one scene to another. I've had a few of these moments previously, but this particular moment was easily the most significant of my young life. The next day, at school, Marty came up to me and we talked.

"George — I'm sorry how I sounded yesterday. I've never really liked my name. I found out I was adopted when I was 12. My adopted parents, John and Sarah, thought that I should know I was adopted. It sort of made me feel, like nobody cared about me, and I just happened to end up with them, as my adopted parents.

"Marty, I have no idea what it must've felt like, for you to find out you were adopted. But you're wrong about one very important detail. I care about you."

"Oh, George. That's so sweet of you to say. It does actually make me feel better."

"Does everybody call you Marty?"

"Yeah — the cheerleaders, my parents, other relatives."

"Can I please call you Martha?"

"Why?"

"Because, I like the name Martha ... and I like you, a lot."

"Sure, George — only you can call me Martha; nobody else, OK?"

"OK!"

It all seems so silly now, talking about her name, but if I had lived with the name Aaron Burr or Theodore Roosevelt, I kind of understand what she must have gone through. Well, after that conversation, we started talking to each other all of the time, walking down the school corridors to class. I would even carry her book bag for her; like my Dad told me he used to do for my mom. I was kidded about it, by all of the guys, but I didn't care, because I was really starting to enjoy Martha's company.

I'm 5ft 7 inches tall, brown hair, brown eyes with a size 10 shoe. That's all you're going to get about me. Martha is 5ft 6 inches tall, blonde hair, but it looks colored, and brown eyes. If I were to guess, her measurements are a 33 or 34 C-cup, a 24-inch waist and a 32-inch hip measurement, eerily similar to my mom, but definitely Martha's bust has a little more to it than my mom's.

About a month after the 'Call me Martha' scene, I was walking from the school to my car.

"Hey George! Can you give me a ride home, please?"

"Sure, Martha. Where's your usual ride?"

"My car's in the shop, getting a front-end alignment and some other stuff, done. My folks asked me to get myself home the next couple of days, so they wouldn't have to leave work to do it."

"Not a problem, Martha. I'd actually been trying to figure out, how to get you into my car, now you're asking me for a ride. It's fate."

"What do you mean by 'get you into my car, ' George?"

"Oh! Sorry, how that must have sounded. I just like talking to you, and talking while driving seemed like fun. I didn't mean anything at all sinister about it. So, are you secure that I'm not Ted Bundy?"

"Yes, you don't look a bit like Mark Harmon!"

"Nice, movie reference! OK, where do you live?"

"You know where Sycamore Street is?"

"No, I don't — jump in and be my navigator. Every good pilot needs a navigator, especially one as pretty as you!"

"No one has ever called me pretty before, George!"

"Well, then — I'm sorry for all men you've ever met, because I really think, you're the most beautiful girl I've ever met in my life."

I remember how she giggled every time I called her pretty or beautiful. She still makes me shudder every time I look at her. I took her home, memorizing the way. I got out of the car, and opened the door for her, and as we walked up to her house, the front door opened, and a lovely woman stepped out.

"Who is this handsome young man, Marty?"

"This is George Michelson, mom."

"Thank you for bringing Marty home, George. Would you like a glass of lemonade before you head home?"

"Thank you, Mrs. Washington!"

"Oh, my name is Johannsen, Sarah Johannsen."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Johannsen. I should have asked Martha. She told me she was adopted -- I just missed the last name protocol."

"You call her Martha, George?"

"That's what she asked me to call her, and my father told me, a long time ago, never argue with a pretty girl. They know how to get even."

"Your father is a smart man. Sit down you two, I'll get the lemonade."

"I'm sorry, George — I should have told you about the last name difference."

"It's OK, Martha — it all works out just fine."

Mrs. Johannsen, Martha's step-mom, seemed a likeable lady. I've often heard horror stories from some of my schoolmates about stepparents being impossible to get along with.

"So, Martha — I can take you home from school whenever you want. I don't live far from here, actually, I could even get here and take you to school, whenever you have any problems with your car."

"I heard that, young man. That's very kind of you. Could you bring her home the rest of this week? Her car should be done by Friday. Here's the lemonade!"

"Certainly, Mrs. Johannsen. Let me pour it for you ladies. I would love to ... I like having pretty girls in my car. I could give you a ride sometime, too, if you ever needed it."

"Well, now. Aren't you the sweet talker, George? I'll remember your offer, but you don't want an old woman in your car."

"I would be honored to take Martha, or you, in my car, anytime you need it. It's a very reliable car and I'm a very reliable person."

"I believe you are, George. Well, I'll leave you two alone for a bit. Nice to have met you, George?"

"Same to you, Mrs. Johannsen."

"You certainly made her day, George. I think I'm a little jealous."

"I was just being kind, Martha. That's my nature."

"I've never met anyone like you before, George."

"Is that good or bad, Martha?"

"This lemonade is really good, let's put both our straws in it."

That was my first meeting with Martha's mom. I would go on to meet her father, John, in later visits, when I brought her home from school. Martha and I talked to each other whenever we got a chance. We became something of a couple, simply because we were always standing next to each other or sitting by one another at lunch. It was nothing more than that. About a month later, Martha came up to me after school, and we walked together to her car. She asked me to sit with her for a minute.

"George?"

"Yes, Martha!"

"We've known each other about ten weeks now?"

"That -- sounds about right, Martha."

"And we talk about things."

"Yeah!"

"And we've shared a milkshake or two?"

"Or three or four."

"And you've met my stepparents?"

"Yes!"

"Then, why haven't you tried to kiss me?"

"Oohh, I see. Have your cheerleader buddies told you that all that guys want to do, is kiss you and get in your pants?"

"Almost exactly the words they used, George -- How did you know that?"

"I heard from some of my buddies on the basketball team, that all the cheerleaders were slutty and were waiting for one of us players to 'make a move' and that the cheerleaders always 'put out' to the players. I may have been a basketball player, but I'm not the kind of guy who expects a girl to do anything she didn't want to."

"I haven't kissed you, because the moment ... just hasn't felt right. My Dad told me once that when he first kissed my mom, they were in his car, just talking, and suddenly, something in his heart told him that the moment was right. He said he moved over to her, took her by the hand, and softly kissed her on the lips. They both told me it was - absolutely electric. Like the perfect moment in time."

Then I stopped talking, scooted over right next to her, put my hand on the side of her face and leaned in and we touched lips. It was, indeed, the perfect moment! We separated our lips. She broke into a cute smile and I leaned into her again. This was the kiss of our young lives, a little bit of pressure. I opened my eyes and saw that she had her eyes open as well. I parted my lips just a little ... then she did as well. I felt her breathe on me. She was my first kiss, as I was hers. We stopped. She looked at her watch, which meant she was expected at home.

"Goodbye, George!"

"Goodbye, Martha. See you tomorrow."

"Not if I see you first!"

That became our expression. 'Not if I see you first!' It's funny how words can be tied to memories. I still remember her breath — it was like ... peppermint. Our next moment came about two weeks later when I stopped her in the hall to ask her a question.

"Hey, Martha!"

"Hey, George!"

"Martha, are you doing anything on Friday night?"

"No, George. What's on your mind?"

"Actually, you! I'd like to take you to the movies, unless this is too short of notice?"

"I'd have to make sure by asking my mom. It'd be my first date with a boy, and she has always told me, to talk to her before saying 'yes' to anything involving boys."

"You've never been out on a date before? Really?"

"I'm sure you have been on lots of dates, but there is a different standard for girls, regarding dating."

"I understand, exactly what you're saying. But, just to set the record straight, I've always been too focused on my grades to go on dates, so this will be my first date, as well."

((OCTOBER 7, 1993))

Remembering those conversations brings moistness to my eyes. My head came back to the restaurant. Martha had turned to me.

"Where were you just now, George? You seemed a million miles away."

"I was just remembering, asking you out on 'our' first date. How nervous we both were. And that first kiss we had in your car. How funny was that. Dad, I'd told Martha the story about you and Mom in the car, and how your heart told you it was time to kiss her."

"Son, that was a long time ago for me and your mom. We just couldn't our eyes off each other, and I couldn't keep my hands off this fabulous woman I ended up marrying."

"Your father and I had known each other for a while, but that was the moment we realized that nothing would keep us from being together. Not even our parents could keep us apart."

Martha and I looked at each other at this revelation. I had never heard anything about their parents keeping them from dating. It seemed silly enough, so I just let it go. I poured myself some water, and looked at my food.

((FEBRUARY 4, 1986))

Martha and I had been dating for a little over four months. I had yet to do or try to do anything more than kiss her at this point. It never seemed ... the moment! We held hands a lot, and went to a couple of school dances. Neither of us could dance more than just move back and forth to the music, you know, with my hands around her neck and her hands around my waist. After the second dance, I just mentioned, we went to Rosemary's.

"George, Remember the first time we came here?"

"Yeah, Martha — I was so nervous, I thought I was going to pass out. That was so much fun, sharing a milkshake."

"Chocolate, this time, George?"

"Yeah — baby!"

"Baby — did you just call me, baby?"

"I'm sorry, Martha — as soon as I said it, I realized I shouldn't have."

"Actually, George ... I liked it. You can call me Baby, anytime you want. Except, maybe in front of my parents. Speaking of parents, when am I going to meet your Mom and dad?"

This is another one of those defining moments in a relationship. Whether you've been dating a week or six months, 'meeting the parents.' I'm not sure I had even told my parents that I had met Martha, much less 'dating' her. We had gone separately to the dances. I guess I must have been 'hiding' her from my parents for some reason.

"Martha — I need to tell you something that may unintentionally upset you?"

"What, George?"

"I have never told my parents about you."

"Why -- are you ashamed of me, George?"

"No, no, no, no, no — it's just that I've never brought anyone home before, and I was worried that my parents might react badly."

"What do you mean, react badly?"

"I think that my Mom thinks that nobody is good enough for 'her little boy.' She's rather protective of me. I don't completely understand it."

"Where do they think you are, when we go out?"

"I tell them I'm out with some of the guys from the basketball team."

"I want to meet your parents, George -- The sooner, the better. OK?"

"Absolutely, Martha — when's your birthday, Martha?"

"October 7th, 1968."

"That won't work. How about dinner on Friday at my house? This is Tuesday. We all eat dinner together most every Friday night. I'll tell them I'm bringing a friend from school home for dinner. I'll pick you up at 5:30 at your house. Wear that real pretty blue dress of yours, please? Whatever else you want to do in preparation is up to you. They will be dazzled by you, just like I've been, OK?"

"OK, George. That sounds like a great plan. See you on Friday. Love you, bye!"

She stopped in her tracks, suddenly realizing the words she spoke to me. She turned around.

"Martha?"

"Yes, George?"

"I love you, too!"

Boy oh boy oh boy. Three little words! They've written songs about those three words. We hadn't been avoiding them as much as it never 'came up' in conversation before.

"Bye, George — I'll wait for details."

I went home and very casually mentioned to my folks that I had invited my best friend Marty over for dinner on Friday. I mentioned 'he' didn't a car and I'd have to pick him up. Mom had said how lucky Marty was to have such a good friend. Friday, at school, I told Martha what I had told my parents.

"So, you told them that I was your best friend -- Am I your best friend, George?"

"Yes, you are, my loveable best friend Marty, otherwise known as Martha."

"I'm wearing the blue dress you asked me to wear, what're you wearing, love?"

"A nice shirt and slacks. If I get any more dressed up than that, my parents might get suspicious beforehand."

"So, you're just going to reveal me to them, with no preparation, no 'I've got a girlfriend' or anything like that?"

"Exactly, You're going to wow them completely, as soon as they see you. It should be quite a night, don't you think?"

"Are there any guns in the house, George?"

"No — Martha, I would have disabled them, if necessary. See you at 5:30, love!"

"Not if I see you first!"

This was going to be a night to remember. My girl is going to meet my parents. Wow! Saying it like that makes it sound real important, like I was going to ask her to marry me, but that's ridiculous. We're not even 19, yet.

When you stop to think about it, these days, that's not as young as you'd think. I have half a dozen friends who are either married or engaged to be. I stopped by the mall before I went home. It was time to pick her up.

"Hello, Mrs. Johannsen, is Martha ready?"

"Where are you two going tonight, George?"

"Back to my house for dinner with my parents. Tonight is the night they meet Martha."

"They don't know you two have been seeing each other this whole time?"

"Actually, no — This is all going to be a big surprise to them. And no, there are no guns in the house. As long as I can keep my Mom away from the kitchen knives, all should be OK!"

"Well, if they kick you out of the house tonight -- we have a spare bedroom available, George?"

"That's very nice of you, Mrs. Johannsen. I'll keep that in mind."

"You'll keep what in mind, George?"

"Martha, you snuck up on us. Wowie! You look very nice. Suddenly, I feel very underdressed."

"Wait just a minute, George. You're about the size of my husband. Let me get you a nice jacket to wear. Here we go ... that fits you very nicely."

"Thank you very much, Mrs. J. I mean Mrs. Johannsen!"

"That's cute, George — It's much easier than the whole 'Johannsen' thing. If you want to call me that, I'd be flattered."

"We'd better go, Mrs. J — my Dad likes to eat right at six o'clock. What time do I need to have her home by? I had thoughts of taking her to a movie after the 'Inquisition, ' if it doesn't go too late."

"Let's say 11pm. Just call if you're going to be much later than that, I worry about my daughter, just as much as your parents worry about you. Goodnight, you two — good luck!"

"I heard you two talking about tonight. I hope I don't disappoint you, or your parents. I do love you, very much, George!"

We got in the car and headed back over to my place. The jacket looks pretty good on me, and Martha looked so beautiful in her blue dress, with her pretty shoulder length hair, pulled back to show off her dimpled cutey-pie face.

((OCTOBER 7, 1993))

" ... George — earth to George. I think you left us again."

"I'm sorry dad, I'd been thinking about that night I brought Martha home to meet you and mom."

"Yeah — your best friend Marty."

"I couldn't figure out any other way to tell you I had a girlfriend, Mom. You were, and still are, awfully protective of your children."

"Yes, George — you're right. The twins, Patricia and Michael, went through the same thing you did with Martha."

"To me, George, the best part of that night was when we first walked into the door."

"Yeah, Martha!"

((FEBRUARY 4, 1986))

I had opened the front door and took Martha's hand and walked into the house. I could hear the sounds of dinner preparation in the living room. I took off my jacket and walked Martha into 'the lions den.'

"Sit down, you two, we'll be right out with the food."

"Mrs. Michelson, thank you for letting me join your Friday night dinner!"

"Is that a ... George ... GEORGE ... get in this kitchen right now!"

"What, Mom?"

"You brought a ... girl ... home to dinner?"

"Yeah, Mom — It's Marty, short for Martha. She's a cheerleader. We met during the basketball season."

My Mom hurriedly took off her apron and my Dad rushed into the room, obviously wondering what the hell was going on. Martha stood up and shook my dad's hand and put her hand out to my mother's hand. I think, for a moment, my Mom wasn't going to acknowledge her, but a smile quickly formed on her face, she shook Martha's hand, and she and Dad settled into their usual places around the table.

"Everything looks so good, Mrs. Michelson. You have a lovely house. It's much bigger than my folks house over on Sycamore Street."

"Oh, and what do your parents do for a living, Marty, or should we call you Martha?"

"You can call me either, Mr. Michelson; however, everyone pretty much calls me Marty. Only George calls me Martha."

"And why is that, dear?"

"Well, Mrs. Michelson ... my given name is Martha Washington, so when kids started calling me Marty, I liked it better than the stuffy name of Martha. But, when George asked me if he could call me Martha, because he said it was such a pretty name, we made an agreement that 'Only' he would call me Martha."

"Well, now — Marty! That sounds like a pretty good plan. We actually called him Georgie when he was little. He announced, when he turned 10, that his name was George, not Georgie."

"You asked what my parents did for a living. My father is a CPA for the Hunter Group and my Mom went back to work as a receptionist at the Phone Company."

((OCTOBER 7, 1993))

We all laughed together, remembering that first dinner together. Since then, of course, our mom's and dad's became good friends, due to our burgeoning romance.

"George, what happened when we came home from the movie, was my favorite part of the evening."

"I know it was, Martha. It took every bit of courage I had, to say those words to you."

((FEBRUARY 4, 1986))

"Martha?"

"Yes, George?"

"Can we park for a minute? I need to say something to you."

"OK — is everything all right, George?"

"Everything is perfect; the night, the food, and, of course, you're perfect in my eyes. Can we get out of the car and walk?"

"Sure. Let me get my coat ... it's kind of chilly out."

"I could just put my arms around you. That would warm you up."

"You're so silly, sometimes, George!"

Now was the time. We were outside, it was romantic and she looked like a million dollars. I got down on one knee.

"George! What are you? Oh — my — God!"

"Martha Washington, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife. I promised you a better name than Washington, and I'm ready to prove it!"

"Oh ... George ... I ... w-w-will marry you -- YES — I will marry you! I love you so much. Were you planning this all along?"

"Actually, I realized how much I wanted you, right after we scheduled the dinner for tonight. I went to the mall and guessed your ring size; they'll resize it for you. I just don't want to spend another day without you. It's February. I thought we could get married on your birthday, October 7th, 1986 ... That should give our parents enough time to plan whatever a monstrosity of an event they want. I just want to marry you. You look awfully cold, dear."

"I've been warmed by your love, my dear sweet George. Can we ... wait for our wedding night?"

"I was going to suggest the very same thing, Martha!"

((OCTOBER 7, 1993))

"That was some, proposal, you two. When we heard about it, I was impressed by George's commitment to 'Marty, ' and of course your mother couldn't stop crying and saying, 'my little boy — my beautiful little boy.'"

"How are your parents doing, Martha?"

"Well, Ray ... my Mom is doing all right, but my Dad is really quite sick."

"Is there anything we can do to help, dear?"

"No, Katie. Things are just going day to day."

The meal was done and my Mom and Dad said goodbye. Martha and I got in the car and headed home. I could tell that Martha was upset, possibly holding back about her parents.

"What's happening, Martha? Are your folks really OK?"

"Yeah, George. I just ... I just had hoped I might find out about my real parents before ... before John and Sarah pass on."

"Are things that serious, Martha?"

"They could be gone before Christmas, George!"

"Don't cry, honey. I've never been able to see you cry. It breaks my heart. I could go with you to talk to them, if you'd like?"

"That could help, George. They're all I've had for so long ... I really do love them."

"So do I, dear - Is it too late to go over there right now?"

"Actually, that's a great idea. We could tell them about the evening, and the memories. Let's go!"

It took us about 10 minutes to get to her house from the restaurant, where we had her birthday celebration. I could hear Martha crying softly as we traveled to her parents. I put my hand on hers and said to her that all would be OK. She smiled and calmed down as we approached her folks house. All of the outside lights were on. We walked up to the porch, and knocked.

"Who could it be at this time of night, Hello?"

"Hello, Mrs. J — its George and Martha, can we come in for a moment?"

"Certainly, you two. Look at you ... such a nice looking couple. Sorry we couldn't get to your Birthday dinner, Marty!"

"That's OK, mom. We thought we'd come by and check up on you two."

We walked into the living room and saw John, Martha's husband, sitting down in front of the TV. He turned it off and waited for us all to sit down.

"What brings you two out to us, tonight?"

"Well, Mom and dad. I have some questions I've never gotten around to asking you guys, about my birth parents."

"So, you thought you'd better ask us, before we kicked the proverbial bucket?"

"No, Daddy ... yes ... yes, I'm at that point in my life, I'd like to know more."

"Is now an OK time to do this, Mrs. J?"

"Yes, George — let me get some documents together. That was a long time ago. I don't remember things as well as I used to."

"You're still as beautiful as that first day I met you, Mrs. J!"

"And you're just as smooth a talker now, as you were back then. Here it is. First, let's start with your original adopted parents, shall we?"

"Original adopted parents? I don't remember anyone but you two."

"Your original adopted parents were Kenneth Patina and Lilith Washington."

"So, that's where I got the Washington. Oh, my — Lilith, what a pretty name. Is there a picture of her?"

"Yes, Marty, here she is holding you."

"What a cute baby you were, honey!"

"Aren't I still cute, George?"

"As a button, Martha!"

"Here's a picture of all of you; Ken, Lily and little Martha. You must have been two or three in this picture. By now you were Martha Patina. Kenneth died and Lilith married a young man named Richard Stetson. He apparently never adopted you so Lilith stayed Patina and you reverted to Washington."

"What happened to Kenneth, Mrs. J?"

"He collapsed and fell dead while working in the vehicle assembly plant."

"And Lilith remarried?"

"Yes, to Richard Stetson, heir to the Stetson Hat Company. After less than a year, Lilith got very sick and lingered for about two months before passing."

"That's so sad, isn't it, Martha?"

"Yeah, George!"

"That's when I entered the picture. I met and fell in love with Richard."

"I think I remember him, a little bit. He was kind of loud and gregarious all the time, Mom?"

"Yes, he was. But I quickly fell in love with him, almost as quickly as you two, and we were married less than two months after we'd met.

Martha's Dad had fallen asleep during this history lesson going on. I was absolutely blown away with all of the revelations about all of these deaths and marriages while Martha had been growing up.

"So, what happened to Richard, mom?"

"He was visiting a factory that was making his hats in Bolivia and fell from a scaffolding and was laid up for a while but infection got in his hip and he died."

"So then you met Daddy, John Johannsen, and were married. And all of this happened before I was even six years old?"

"That's right dear."

"What about her biological parents?"

"George, everything about all of this, is in this box, and another box. Feel free to take them and sift through them all you want. Anything you want to keep, just make a copy for us, and keep the originals."

"Thanks, Mrs. J!"

"We'll get it all back to you as soon as we can, mom. See you later?"

"Not if I see you first!"

We took it all home to our apartment and immediately started organizing the contents. After only a few minutes Martha excused herself and went to the bathroom. I heard very odd sounds, so I got up and went to outside the bathroom door.

"Martha, honey — are you all right?"

"Yeah, George — I've had an upset stomach for the last couple of days now ... always running to the bathroom. Sorry."

"How long did you say you've felt this way?"

"About three days, why?"

"Could you be pregnant, dear?

"I never thought of that, just figured it was an upset stomach. I'm about two weeks late with my period, but I've been late before."

"Let's not worry about this research right now. Come with me to the drugstore and we'll buy some pregnancy tests, to see if Ray and Katie are going to be grandparents or not."

"I love you, Georgie!"

"Now, you haven't called me that since we got married!"

((FEBRUARY 4, 1986))

Our parents had been surprised when we came home from the evening that I had proposed to Martha. First, we went to her parents, thinking that they would be the 'easier' parents to have this conversation with.

"Hello, you two. Did you have a fun time at the Michelson home? How was dinner, Martha?"

"Dinner was fine. Both of them are fine. Their surprise quickly turned into a game of twenty questions, more like fifty questions. All the usual personal stuff that goes on in that situation."

"What is that on your ring finger, Martha? Did George give you a friendship ring?"

"No, Mom — it's an engagement ring!"

I thought her Mom was going to faint dead away right where she stood. Fortunately, John was right there and held her up. They looked at each other and smiled. It was as if they had been expecting this.

"Well, George ... it's about time you'd asked her to marry you. You didn't think she'd wait forever, did you?"

"Mr. Johannsen, Martha blew me away when I first met her and every day has been ... better than the last. I picked out the ring earlier today and asked her about 18 minutes ago if she would marry me, and she said 'Yes!'"

"And, have you picked out a date for this most glorious of days?"

"Yes, Mrs. J — her birthday — October 7th!"

"How romantic, dear. Have you told your parents yet?"

"No, Mrs. J — I'm a little scared of my mother, I'm sorry to say."

"Go on, go back to them right now, and let them know what's happened. Don't ask their permission; just tell them about your love for each other, George. I've seen it since you first brought her home, when her car was in the garage being fixed."

"I'll bring her back here in a little while, bye?"

"Bye, you kids ... and congratulations!"

It was exhilarating how well that went. Her parents are so cool. Now my folks, on the other hand, had just met Martha, although I believe she charmed them and my Dad had actually given me one of those 'guy' looks, meaning that I had brought home a very beautiful young lady. Here we go.

"Hey mom! We're back."

"We ... oh ... hello again, Martha. Did you forget something ... Ray, RAY, Come in here, RIGHT NOW!"

"What are you screeching about now Katie? Oh ... Hello Martha?"

"Hello Mr. and Mrs. Michelson, George and I have an announcement to make!"

"Does it have anything to do with that 'rock' on her finger, George?"

"Yes, mom. It has everything to do with that 'rock, ' as you call it. Martha and I are engaged!"

"Engaged to do what, son?"

"Engaged to be married, Dad — to each other, on October 7th, her birthday."

"Ray, hold me — don't let me faint. Take me over to the sofa. I've GOT to sit down."

"Mom, don't freak out, please. I love her! I fell in love with her the day I met her."

"Sept 8, 1985 -- George!"

"Thanks, sweetie. On September 8th I met Martha Washington. It was literally 'love at first sight, ' Mom and dad. I knew it then as I know it now. You both taught me how love would come along and 'hit me in the face, ' I think you put it, dad!"

"I remember telling you that, son. You were maybe 14 years old or so, and had asked me what it meant to be in love. I told you how much I loved your mother and I even told you the circumstances of our engagement ... Did he take you to the park, Martha?"

"We were ... near a park, sir!"

"And did he get down on one knee?"

"Yes sir, he did. Back when we first met, I told him I didn't like my last name much. He mentioned I could end up being Martha Zuckerman or Martha Westinghouse, but I told him then, I thought Martha Michelson sounded real nice too."

All through this conversation, my mother was listening to everyone. She had opened her mouth to speak once or twice, but nothing had yet come out. That was about to change.

"Pardon this rather indelicate question, Martha, but do you two -- need to get married -- sooner than October?"

"I'm not offended at all, Mrs. Michelson. No, I'm not pregnant. Your son and I have done nothing except kiss since we met, and we have agreed to wait for our wedding night, to do any more."

"I'm just a little bit offended by your question, mother. You think so little of me, that I would do something as incorrigible as ... to get a girl pregnant?"

"I'm sorry, Georgie. We just met her tonight."

"I'm sorry about that, mom."

"She will look beautiful in my old wedding dress, if you would like to wear it, Martha. It would be an honor for me, if you wore it."

"If it fits, I'd be happy and thrilled to wear your wedding dress, Mrs. Michelson!"

"Call me Katie, please."

"And, me — You can call me Ray!"

That was my dad's catchphrase, stolen, of course, from those old Anheuser-Busch commercials of the late 70s. Mom and Dad asked if we had told her parents yet. We told them about the entire conversation we'd had with John and Sarah.

((OCTOBER 7, 1993))

Martha had just finished her third pregnancy test. We bought three different ones, each with a different active ingredient, and we were waiting for the plus sign. Waiting ... waiting ... well - three for three - we are pregnant. Figuring forward, we could be parents in early September. Well, it was just too late to call or go by either of the parent's houses until tomorrow. Wow — pregnant!

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Story tagged with:
Romantic / True Story /