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Commentary: Sometimes, Love Takes You By Surprise

HOST INTRO: Every couple has a story about how they met. For Chris Mathias’ parents, their story involves the Catholic Church, laxatives, and John Denver.

AMBI: Bring up “Sunshine On My Shoulders.” Fade under narration. 

If it weren’t for this song, I might not be here.

AMBI: Bring up “Sunshine” again, until “Sunshine on my shoulders, makes me happy” then fade under narration.

“Sunshine On My Shoulders” by John Denver. That was the song at my Aunt Kathy’s wedding, played by a band of three Franciscan Friars. They were in those long brown robes, white rope belt. One of them, the singer, would become my dad.

The scene was a Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, October 1973. My mom, a college junior at the time, was the maid of honor. ‘Not so great,’ she thought as the three friars launched into the song. She looked up and noticed the guy with a mustache and thick glasses. Cute, she thought. She liked his long, wavy black hair. And he looked earnest, like he was enjoying himself.

After the ceremony, Aunt Kathy told my mom to invite the friars to the reception. My mom approached my dad.

My dad had been a friar for eight years. Now the Franciscan order was paying his way through Georgetown medical school. And the next morning, he had an exam…on laxatives. And he had his vows. So he told my mom ‘no.’

“Well, I’m not going to beg you,” my mom replied. My dad remembers this moment vividly. He liked her long, brown hair. Laxatives exam be damned, he thought. He was going, in jeans and a shirt.

They danced to a Rod Stewart song.

AMBI: Bring up “Maggie May,” fade under narration.

When they danced that night, my parents always say they just “fit.” Later that week, they went on a date. On the second date, my dad asked my mom, if he were to leave the friary, would she consider marrying him? She said yes.

That’s right. Second date. Less than two months of knowing each other. Friary… vows… Engaged.

My dad’s days as a friar ended months later, and Norbert and Eileen married less than a year after they met.

My brother came along soon after. Then me, my sister.

I tell my parents’ story all the time and I think this is why: There was this one decisive moment that completely changed their lives. What if my mom hadn’t asked him to the reception? What if my dad had gone to his dorm and studied laxatives?

I got married recently and I often find myself tracing the little decisions that led me to my wife. What if I hadn’t asked her to ride the ferris wheel with me that hot, summer night in Brooklyn? And afterwards, if I hadn’t let her convince me to take one more shot of tequila? Or if I hadn’t stayed at the bar til 4am, dancing to Mariah Carey?

AMBI: Bring up Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby”

BACK ANNOUNCE: Chris Mathias and his wife, Lale, recently celebrated their four-month anniversary. Chris’ parents will celebrate their 40th anniversary this October.

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