Human Condition 042119 (toned)

My son entered the West Feliciana public school system in seventh grade with all of the gusto and trepidation one might expect of a 12-year-old coming from years in the Pointe Coupee parochial system. He transitioned well, and in ninth grade found himself in French class, receiving instruction from an incredibly tough and excellent teacher.

However, he soon found his sights were not set on Paris. His sights were set on the pretty blonde sitting one row over.

Four years later he began LSU, majoring in civil engineering. His college years and major coincided with the building of the Audubon Bridge, and he was fortunate enough to work as a summer intern for four years at the bridge site. And that gave him his grand idea.

Over dinner at a local restaurant, he laid out his overall plan to me. He wanted to propose marriage to the pretty blonde, who was now his soul mate and long-term girlfriend. And he wanted to do this on the very top of the incomplete bridge.

Over stuffed mushrooms, we discussed the obstacles. He would need permission from his supervisor, help from some of the workers and blind trust from his soul mate. By the time the cheesecake had arrived, we had it all worked out. He would obtain the permission and cooperation from the work side, and then tell his girlfriend he wanted her to see something he had welded, and this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. How could she resist?

All of the cogs clicked into place, and the big day was approaching in the fall of 2010. Unfortunately, so was a hurricane.

At the bridge site, tensions rose as equipment was locked down and safety measures were put into place in anticipation of the storm. But what about my son’s grand plan? I never met his supervisor, but he must have had a remarkably romantic streak under that safety vest. He told my son he could proceed, but it must be now, in the next few hours, rather than the next day.

Picture this: On the top of the tower in windy conditions are two people with hard hats. One is going down on one knee. The other is barely standing. In the background, a crane operator is swinging a cable with a ring tied to it in an attempt to drop it between them. First swing is a miss, and the ring hits my son’s girlfriend in the back of the head. Her hard hat masks what it is, so she is oblivious. The crane operator tries again, and the second swing triggers a perfect sequence. The boy kneels, the ring drops, and the girl says yes. Maybe she just wants to climb down, but we all believe in and are thankful for her “yes.”

Eight years, one and three-quarters children later, this couple has flourished.

I often think about the proposal scene as I cross the Audubon Bridge, and I can get philosophical about the importance of bridges in these turbulent times and the many metaphorical meanings. But from a bridge’s point of view, it is quite simple. Unions trump divisions any day. All it takes is a little ingenuity and a lot of support. Just ask my son.

— Toburen lives in St. Francisville


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