Over the next three months the relationship between Paul and I developed quite rapidly. Meantime, I was sweating over my upcoming comprehensive exams. Three years of studying, classes, and working my behind off would come down to two days at the end of April. Passing meant graduation, failing meant no graduation and another semester of constant studying.
I’ll spare you the gory details of those two very stressful days. It is sufficient to say, however, that there was a lot of crying before, almost during, and most definitely after it was all said and done with, especially when I was told I would graduate.
My parents, grandparents, and family friends, Jimmy and Kathy Rone, arrived in Fort Worth on Friday afternoon. After Paul got off work we headed over to the hotel. I was more nervous about him meeting them than I was about our first date. Would they approve? Would he like them? Would he run away not wanting anything more to do with me?
We knock, the door is opened, hugs are exchanged, and then Paul is introduced. You know the awkwardness that always invades a space when there is a new person coming into a group that has known each other forever? Well, I don’t know if it was that or just my nerves, but I was so jittery I could hardly sit still…or be quiet. I sometimes talk rapidly when I am very nervous. However, he and my dad – the one I was really concerned about – were hitting it off, and during a fine dinner of fajitas at Uncle Julio’s Paul got to know my grandparents and Jimmy and Kathy as they played a game of “let-me-learn-everything-about-you-in-a-short-amount-of-time-so-I-can-give-my-approval-or-disapproval-of-you”. It’s a fun game for everybody involved, except for the girlfriend who is listening in praying her boyfriend answers every questions satisfactorily.
I awoke Saturday ready to graduate, fully aware it was happening my the good graces of three or four professors. Paul met my family and took them to the church where graduation would be held since I had to be there so early.
During the ceremony a conversation between my father and Paul took place about Paul’s future plans. What degree is he pursuing? What does he want to do? It comes out that Paul has to go overseas for two years. Apparently my father did not get the memo because he quietly excused himself as his chest tightened with the overwhelming thought that his daughter might be going with this young man overseas.