Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love
Chapter 8: Settling Down
With Sandra’s support and the foundation created by this tightly knit family environment, I slowly began to emerge from the abyss of failure. The fall we began dating, I applied for and accepted a position to coach the frosh-soph boys’ basketball team at the high school across the street from Most Holy Trinity Church. I worked well with the student athletes and the school administration, further evidence that college and a career in education were my path to redemption.
The next year, in a sudden twist of fate, the head basketball coach at my alma mater resigned just weeks before the season began. My return to college would have to wait because James Lick High School hired me to run its basketball program, which included a full-time job as an instructional aide. The values I learned at 48 Viewmont Avenue served me well as I worked hard to rebuild a program that had won only two games the year before. By the end of my second season, we had won half our games in the regular season and recorded a 12-2 record at the San Jose City College summer league. We lost the championship game to a county powerhouse. That same summer, James Lick High School rewarded me with the school’s coach-of-the-year award.
On Valentine’s Day in 1989, while still coaching at James Lick High School, I made the first decision I had ever made toward true adult responsibility. I finally found the nerve and wisdom to propose to Sandra. I settled on a one-quarter-karat solitaire marquise diamond. Placing it in the black velvet box provided by the store, I went to basketball practice as usual. After the workout, I called Sandra from the coach’s office and asked her if she wanted to get something to eat. I didn’t tell her where we were going. When we rolled up to the drive-in service at Mark’s Hot Dogs, Sandra mentioned how she was surprised because we hadn’t been there since that first awkward date almost four years before.
We ordered a couple of hot dogs with everything on them, chips, and two Cokes. When the server left the food on the tray that hung from the driver’s side window, I slipped the velvet box next to our order. I passed some napkins to Sandra, and she carefully spread them on her lap. Next came the tray with the hot dog, chips, and soda. As she took a sip of the Coke, I slipped the velvet box onto the tray in one swift motion.
She took a small bite of the dog, paused, turned her head toward me with a puzzled look on her face, and asked, “What’s this?” I opened the box and asked her to marry me. She sat speechless for what seemed like forever. Her big brown eyes lovingly penetrated deep into my soul. A warm, giddy feeling engulfed me and caused my stomach to swirl with exhilaration. When she actually uttered the word yes, we kissed and held each other in an affectionate and tearful embrace. Soon we were on our way to Santiago Avenue so I could formally and properly ask her parents for permission to marry their daughter.
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