When my son Andy announced his engagement recently, I had flashbacks to his childhood at the same time I was offering congratulations and best wishes.
When Andy was born 25 years ago, I believed no one could ever love him as much as I did. From the time he was an adorable tow-headed baby to a defiant teenager to an honorable man, I have loved Andy unconditionally. In good times and bad, no matter how angry I got when he tormented his little sister or did not call to tell me when he’d be home, and I’d stay up worrying.
But now another woman loves my son in a way I never can — as his future wife. And I find that a bit humbling, knowing there is someone else with whom Andy shares his deepest thoughts and emotions.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me first tell you the love story of Andy Mathes and Erin Morgan.
A Lake Wobegon reference stopped Andy last October as he passed by a table full of teachers in a bar in Yuma, Ariz. A first lieutenant in the U.S. Marines, Andy was out west conducting training. Erin was in Yuma as a second-year middle school teacher. The two met when Andy overheard Erin and her friends talking about Garrison Keillor and the “Prairie Home Companion” radio show.
I’m from Minnesota and my children grew up listening to Garrison most Saturday evenings. By the time they were in kindergarten they knew all about Lake Wobegon, the town where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average.”
Growing up, Andy spent summers with his Minnesota relatives, and although a Florida native, I’ve always thought he was a Midwesterner at heart. As it turned out, Erin is from Appleton, Wis., and is a graduate of St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn. With that Minnesota connection, Andy and Erin had enough in common to begin dating.
Andy called me after meeting Erin and told me he had that instinctive feeling that “she was the one.” While I loved that Erin had good Midwestern values and was of the same Catholic faith, I was not as sure as my idealistic son that he had truly met his future wife.
Of course, Andy proved me wrong. After three weeks in Yuma, Andy went back to his platoon in Camp Lejeune, N.C., and he and Erin continued to talk every day. They met next in the Twin Cities over New Year’s, when Andy conjured up a plan to visit his grandparents after spending Christmas in Land O’ Lakes with me and his sister, Rachel.
Andy rendezvoused with Erin in St. Paul, who got away from her family in Appleton to meet up with Andy in the snow.
And that’s how it came to be that my father and stepmother met Erin before I did, along with my many sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews.
Two months later, Rachel and I finally met Erin. We planned a weekend where we could all meet, and Andy could show Erin the Naval Academy in Annapolis where he had graduated. Not only was Erin charming, but she and Rachel also seemed to have an instant, sisterly connection. I began to think that maybe Andy’s premonition was right.
I wasn’t surprised this spring when Erin decided to apply for teaching positions in school districts close to Camp Lejeune, and was proud when she quickly got a job teaching fourth grade. She joined Andy in North Carolina this summer.
Andy and Erin’s engagement is clouded with both joy and uncertainty. Andy leaves this week for training in southern California before he deploys to Afghanistan this fall. There he will be part of a team of Marines advising the Afghan National Army.
When Andy returns next July, he and Erin will finalize their wedding plans, a celebration that will likely be in Appleton in November, in the church where Erin grew up.
While of course I worry about my son’s deployment, I am comforted knowing he is loved by a wonderful young woman who shares his dreams, and will be waiting for him when he returns home.
And that is truly all any mother wants. To pass the baton on to another woman who will embrace her son in love and share a future of happiness with him.