Our seventh anniversary is coming up and I thought I would share our love story. I know, you are thinking, "I thought we went to her wedding in the summer." Yes, our WEDDING was in the summer, but we were married earlier. Let me explain.
Way back in 1993, Joe was working for a car dealership in El Paso. A woman was telling him how her son was working and living in Yosemite and how he loved it. Joe decided he wanted to try it. After all, he loved the outdoors. There are so many stories I could lace into this post, but it is about "our love story". Maybe another time. Joe fell in love with the park and stayed.
Fast forward to 2000. I wanted to volunteer as a missionary in Tijuana, Mexico (remember, I was living in San Diego at the time). But the organization never returned my calls. Then I got a letter in the mail from Yosemite saying I was hired I needed to report to duty on June 1st. I went, but I was only going to stay 2 months. I was still paying rent for my room in SD and I still had my cat and everything down there. Well, I too fell in love with the park, and stayed.
Joe worked at Curry Village and I worked in Security. Joe noticed me on the occasions I went to Curry Village. He had a friend in Security, so he asked her about me. She told him that I was only there for a short while. Never bother, he decided to ask me out to dinner. I knew that I didn't want to get into a relationship, so I said "no" every time he asked. And he asked a number of times. Finally, I decided, "hey, it's a free meal, Susan. Go for it." So I said yes. That dinner changed our lives.
As we sat there, Joe reached over, held my hand, and we prayed for dinner. I knew in that moment that this was the man I was going to marry. But, I couldn't get all caught up in that love stuff, I had a mission. I had to finish college. I just had to finish college before I could get married. I had to graduate with my maiden name. For those of you who don't know me, my father died when I was a baby. That's a whole other story that is bringing tears to my eyes.
So, Joe and I were hiking buddies. We hiked all over Yosemite that summer. Hiking is such a good date. There are no distractions like a movie. It's really cheap. And you get to see something of the other's character. I loved that summer.
But fall came. I had to go back to school. I left and realized what a mistake that was, so within 9 days, I was back. I just transferred universities. Joe changed his schedule so that he was off work on the days I had to go to school. The closest university was 2 hours away, one way. But, Joe would drive me almost every day for 2 years. Love. Again, more time for talking and getting to know each other. After 6 months of friendship, we realized that something had to happen. We couldn't continue to be friends forever. But I was adamant about finishing college before I got caught up in love. We decided to go our separate ways, but it only lasted a week. It was the worst week in my life. God reaffirmed in that week that this was the man I was to marry and He would work out the details.
Six months after that, Joe proposed. It was almost beautiful, storybook, fantasy. Almost. All that summer, Joe had been working up the nerve to propose. He had the ring and was ready, but he just couldn't do it. We went on some gorgeous hikes. We slept on Sentinal Dome in the full moon (I don't suggest it). Our last camping trip of the summer (before I went back to school), was to Twin Lakes in Mammoth. That night we walked along the lakes. We crossed the bridge between the two lakes and looked at the moon on the water. Perfect place to propose. But no. We went back to the tent and went to sleep. Then, at 6 in the morning, when I needed to visit the little girls room, when I had my coke-bottle glasses on, when I had no make-up on, when I had my hair all messed up, when I had morning breath............. Joe proposed. I figure, if he can love me when I look like this, he's a keeper.
We made plans for the wedding to be the following summer. It would be an outdoor wedding, because we are outdoors people. All these plans, all these deposits, but there was a problem.
By January, I was 18 units away from graduating. Up until this time, I had been working full time and going to school on my 2 days off. That's why it took so long. I could have continued working and split up the 18 units into 2 semesters, but that is a whole year, and who hires teachers in January? I wanted to finish in summer, to be right on track with teaching. But, there was NOOOOOOOOOOO way I could continue to work full time, take 18 units, and still drive 2 hours each way.
So, quit your job, you say. It's not that easy in Yosemite. When you quit, you lose your housing... unless you live with someone else who has a higher level housing. Joe had that higher level housing. Ok, so quit, live with Joe, and finish school. We had strong convictions of not living together until we were married. We talked to our pastor about our dilemma and he told us that he could marry us in a small ceremony in January and still do the big ceremony in LA in the summer.
So, on January 31st, Joe and I took a hike with our pastor and his wife (the witness). We stopped along a creek and pledged our lives to each other. It was so beautiful. Then my Security unit had a sweet wedding reception for us, in the firehouse. I would love to post pics here, but this in the days before digital cameras and all my pics are on paper. I will try to scan them and post them here for you to see.
I went on to finish those 18 units and graduate with honors. Oh, and one other little detail. I never changed my last name, so on June 1st, 2002 Susan Kathleen Bridges graduated. All in tribute to my late father. Finally, on July 20th, 2002, we had our ceremony in front of all of you in LA.
So you see, our real anniversary is January 31st. This year, it will be 7 years. We have been so blessed and we have never regretted getting married twice. In fact, sometimes we will joke and say "in sickness and in health. for richer or poorer.... I meant it BOTH times".
signed: Susan Kathleen RODRIGUEZ