The Proposal




I met Patricia back in January of this year (2010) We were friends of friends, but she thought I flirted too much, (with all her friends) and I thought she was just mean. Flash forward a few months, after a few nights out on the town the flirting started going her direction. I remember one night early on where I might have told PB while dancing, "You're so different from other girls" She began to badger me the rest of the night wanting to know what I meant. I somehow deflected that conversation.  From there I began to in Patricia's words "leading her on". The truth was I was worried about our friendship and the group if it doesn’t work out. After a few conversations with Jessie, I finally asked her out.

Our First date was great. We went to Maggianos on I-Drive, and then we had drinks and danced at BB Kings. After that we sat on a bench and talked. This is where she claims she knew we would get married. For me it took a bit longer, but the feelings were just as strong. A few weeks later we had a quiet night at the Brinkman casa where I opened up to PB about so much, I cried, we prayed, it was the 1st time I thought this might be the one. I spent the next few months peeling off all the layers of PB and I was amazed at what God had just dropped into my lap. Flash forward to YL Camp Southwind where I told PB that I loved her.  I think my exact words were "Patricia Brinkman I without a doubt am completly in love with you"  Apparently I wanted to make sure she knew I was serious.  haha.  

Flash forward to the end of August 2010. I told my Brother Ryan when I visited Dallas, she was the one, and it was a matter of time. When I got back to Florida Isabel hinted/told me. "I don’t know what your plans are, but Patricia has always wanted a spring wedding." That short statement turned into an hour-long conversation about locations, rings, and more. Needless to say I found my mole in the PB camp. At that point my plan to always get engaged during Christmas times in NYC was being tossed out the window. At this point I thought I was still months away, but in a few days I found myself spending literally hours online looking at different rings. Patricia would send to Isabel, and Isabel would forward on to me. I always knew PB knew they were getting back to me but I didn't care.

Those 1st few moments started a mad dash to the proposal. At first I said December. Then I said OK maybe in Dallas for Thanksgiving.   I am going for my friends Jordan’s wedding so I didn’t want to steal their thunder. Now I am thinking early Nov, then late Oct. This whole time Isabel and I are talking about the pro and cons of each day. Somewhere along the way we started planning the Event. We talked about things like, will she want to tell her friends, or what if we had a surprise party when we get back from the trip. The trip was also supposed to be a one-day trip at first then it changed.

While all of this planning is going for the proposal I found a ring store I liked online. Only thing I didn’t like was it was in LA. Icing on the Ring has dozens of Halo Ring settings, and it was quite the journey to come to my final selection. I emailed Ani (my Ring lady) and called her probably 100 times. I even asked my friend Jody Kraft who lives in West Hollywood to head out and look at the ring. So she did. One Tuesday afternoon Rhett and Jody went to downtown LA and spent at least an hour going over each ring, texting me pictures, and talking about every detail. I am sure they were annoyed by how crazy I was. But I had one shot to make this perfect. They were so great. Ani walked them through each ring, the differences. This is tall, this is short, thin band, thick band, baby diamonds in the halo, or bigger it went on and on. After Jody left I spent a few days with Ani on the phone trying to combine two different rings. The two rings I was choosing from are below...

I loved the engraving on one but the other ring, thin band, baby diamonds all over I thought was what she would like. So if you have seen the ring on PB's hand now you know where it came from. It is a one of a kind ring. So don't go steal my idea. 

It took almost two weeks for them to build the ring from scratch. It was and it PERFECT. 
Back to the Proposal plans.  Not only was I working on the ring, and the proposal in NYC.  I starting working on an idea with Isabel to have a surprise Engagement party for PB when we got back from the Big Apple.  I went back and forth on whether to let her tell her friends, or let Isabel telling everyone.  I decided on letting Isabel and Nydia plan the party and tell everyone on Friday morning when we left for NYC.  From then on I let those two wonderful ladies plan the whole party, which helped me out. 

On Sept 15th I emailed Debbie Weaver (one of the ladies PB works with) the following.  You can also see her response. 

Debbie-

I hope this email finds you well.  I am Patricia's boyfriend Eric Gray and I was told by a friend of hers you would be a good person to contact about her schedule. 

I am planning a surprise trip where she will have to miss a day of work and I wanted to check with someone ahead of time to find out which day or if both days would be ok.  The plan is for her to come into work for an hour or so and around 9am a car is waiting for her to take her to me.  Is essence missing the entire day of work.  The days in question our Friday Oct 15th and Friday Oct 22.  I would rather do it on the 15th but I wanted to make sure that wasn't a big day in the office or a workshop or anything.  I appreciate your help, and please keep this a HUGE secret if she knows anything it will pretty much give everything away.  Thanks so much for your help, and you being that you are a writing professor I would like to apologize for my butchering of the English written language in this email.  :)  Eric Gray

Eric,
So good to hear from you!  And yes, your secret is very safe with me.

Let me double check our master schedule tomorrow at work, but off the top of my head either date will work fine.  Like you, I lean towards Oct. 15.  There are no workshops that day.  Let me just check her schedule to make sure she isn't attending an HR workshop or some university workshop I'm not yet aware of.  I can do that without asking her.  I know Elizabeth is attending a conference sometime in October.  So, I'll check all boards and get back with you ASAP.

I will confirm a date tomorrow.  And not to fret, your language skills are most excellent.
Debbie

We emailed more than once to try and set this proposal up.  Big thanks to her!  Also around this time I started hunting for a photographer who could take some candid shots of the moment in central park.  I ran into Benny via Craigslist and he was so helpful.  We emailed maybe 20 times and are now facebook friends.  What great guy and a good photographer. 

Just to pull the curtain back a bit more the original plan was to get engaged in NYC on Oct 15th.  (Which is my parent’s anniversary)  I was also planning on having a car show up at her work; take her to the airport where I would be waiting with tickets to NYC and a bag for her that Isabel was going to help with.  That was the orginal plan....

On Sept 28th I had to go to NYC for a work trip.  Andrew was awesome and went with me in the pouring rain to scout out the location of where I was going to get engaged.  We walked about 10 blocks in the rain and then I left drew under some scaffolding to take on the rain and central park myself.  I went down the wrong street when I 1st entered and had to run through the rain and mud to find my way back on the beaten bath.  I found it, it was perfect.  This is also where I started to catalogue my journey as seen in the video here.  
 This picture was taken on the rainy day I scouted out Central Park.

Five weeks out, I started getting worried about my plan.  I thought if a car picked her up and we flew to NYC she would know what we were doing the whole time and their would be a big elephant in the room.  I was afraid I might not be able to take it and I might just ask her at 30k feet.  Also my brother Brent told me how special it was when he suprised Tammi.  About this time I pushed the date to Oct 22n because I thought she would want to be at Dmo’s 1st Birthday on the 16th and the ring wasn’t going to be ready.   And I also decided to go with a “pretend work trip” hoping I might be able to surprise here in NYC.  About 4 weeks before the event she starts talking to me about going to the UCF Homecoming game on the 23rd.  I ignored it as long as I could, but on Monday Oct 11th she sent out an email to a large group trying to plan a tailgate.  At this point I knew I had to act fast.  It was time to go to the G-Chat.  I immediately told her about a work trip that was just sprung up on me.  I had to go to NYC for an event for one of the games EA SPORTS makes.  For those of you who think this sounds not too believable.  Just know this is something my company has done and will do, and PB and I have talked about her coming tagging along in the past.  Now I am so nervous, and talking to my friends trying to come up with the best way to “sell” this trip as a work trip.  She immediately said yes, but wanted more details.  I gave her as much as I could, where the event was taking place, who will be there, yadda yadda.  

Two days go by and Isabel calls me.  “Dr Wardle is telling her she might be getting engaged and now we are talking about what she should wear in case that happens”  I begin to freak out and try to start damage control.  I might have cursed the Dr. a few times; I would like to apologize for that.  We decide, lets act like my friend Carlos has to go now, but he won’t be coming in until later because he has a Dr Apt.  I also decided just to start talking more about the details of the work trip hoping that would throw her off the scent. 

Tuesday Oct 12th was a special day.  This was the day I asked for Wayne and Nydia’s blessing.  To hear an edited version of this you can watch this video.  More on the video later.  Wayne and Nydia as always were so welcoming and so happy, and big props to them as well for keeping a secret about the weekend and the surprise party. 

On Sunday I had to go to LA for work.  It was a bit nerve wrecking because I had so much work to do, I was traveling and I knew what was right around the corner.  I was crazy excited.  If you ask Drew he will tell you this is all I talked about.  While I was in LA I found out I might be able to pick up the ring from Ani rather than her overnighting it to me.  Needless to say I was crazy excited and could not wait for work to be over on Tuesday.  Tuesday afternoon Carlos, and Drew tagged along with me to downtown LA to find the Jewelry district.  You can see some video from this day here as well.  (FYI same video if you already watched it.)  Remember I had made the setting out of two rings and had yet to see how good or bad it turned out.  It was beyond perfect, I was thrilled, and I could not wait until Friday.  

Thursday morning came, and I dropped the setting off with my “Diamond guy” Later that afternoon I went with Drew to the International Diamond Center to pick up the completed ring.  Scott Foster my diamond guy pulled it out finally finished and it was amazing.  I did damn good.

Friday Morning October 22nd, a day I will never forget.  Patricia and I took off for our 11am departure to LGA landing in NYC at around 1:20pm.  Let me also remind you PB had never been to NYC.  Her 1st visit would change her life forever.  At this point she claims she was 80% sure we were getting engaged.  I think that percent went up to 95% when we checked into the hotel and the reception lady said, “Oh I see you booked this stay with us on POINTS” That kind of killed the idea that this was a work trip. 

It was a COLD and windy day in NYC.  We got bundled up in sweaters and scarfs and went off to see Times Square and Rockefeller Center.  After a few quick pictures we went to change for a “work dinner”.  No shock to anyone who knows wonderful and sexy PB but she was running late, and I was starting to panic.  I had a photographer already at Central Park waiting for us and more importantly the sun was going down.  When we finally got into the cab that was a fun little game of not being able to communicate with the cabbie.  Luckily, he got us to Central Park at the perfect spot.  Understand this- for the past 15 minutes I have been texting the photographer like crazy and loosing my mind with the cab driver, and PB never asked a thing.  She must have known something was up.  We got out of the cab and began to walk down the Mall in Central Park.  I saw my photographer and knew it was so on.  We walked maybe 30 feet into the Mall, and this is about how I remember it….

Eric: I actually did get you something from Orlando
PB: Orlando?
Eric:  I mean LA
[Eric turns holding PB shaking like crazy]
Eric:  I love you so much, this isn’t a work trip
[Eric gets down on one knee]

Eric:  There is no dinner tonight, no event tomorrow.  This weekend is just about us
PB: Holy Shit
Eric: Will you marry me?
PB:  (we think she said yes)

I take her glove off, slide the ring on, get up to hug her, and she asks..

PB: Who is taking pictures of us?
Eric:  I hired him
PB:  What am I supposed to do?
Eric:  Lets meet him..

We go over meet Benny, take some more pictures and then off to dinner at the Boathouse in Central Park.  The rest of the weekend was magical.  Boat cruise around Manhattan, views of NYC from the Top of the Rock, the MET, and the Broadway show In the Heights.  It was perfect!

While PB might have not been surprised about the Proposal, she was way surprised when we got to her parents house Sunday night and 20 or more of her closest friends and family were waiting with the loudest “SURPRISE” ever.  It was a great way to end a perfect weekend. (thanks Isabel and Nydia)

This whole proposal took so many hours of time, planning, chats on the phone, emails, and it was beyond worth it.  I love Patricia Brinkman with all that is within me.  I hope to spend the rest of my life making her feel loved.  I would say the end, but the fun is just now beginning.