From the DMZ to the Altar
met, and made a covenant about intimacy. So how did we get from the DMZ to the Altar?
We explored the important things in a relationship – specifically, our worldviews, our faith, and our perceptions of roles within a relationship and marriage. What I found was that Mrs. Hammer was solidly with me in those cases, but that we did not have many hobbies or interests in common. I like sports, she doesn’t. I like gangster and adventure movies, she likes comedies and chick-flicks. She likes Chinese Food, I hate it. We do, however, both like dogs and are allergic to cats, so we had that going for us!
I soon announced that since I was about to take mid-tour leave from Korea soon (in late June) and would already be in California to visit a friend, I would stop by and see her. As I found out later, when Mrs. Hammer read that note, she ran around her apartment screaming, and called all of her friends. I was excited too…for a while. As the date grew closer, I became less enthused. I don’t know if it was the oft-cited male commitment avoidance tendency (which I deny exists) or a general, intellectual concern about the challenges ahead compared to my relative security and contentment of the time. I was primarily concerned about the difficulty of maintaining a cross-ocean relationship and the difficulties of entering a half-family. Whatever it was, by the time my mid-tour leave arrived, I had decided that Mrs. Hammer and I could no longer continue. I resolved to make the trip, spend some time with her and her son, and let her know after the visit what I had decided.
I arrived on the BART train into Berkley and met them at the platform. Mrs. Hammer was beautiful, and her personality, as well as that of her son, Gaige, was fabulous. I recognized immediately that this single mom had done much better than most I ever met. We ate pizza, went to the Jelly Belly factory, and played video games. I got to meet her parents, her friends, and her neighbors. I even got to cook on her barbecue – which was an experience in itself.
Well, not the cooking part. I had met her neighbors, who were ladies over 60, in her garden-style apartment vicinity. They were outside on their patios while I was running the barbeque. Of course, I wanted to present myself in the best possible light, so I was using all of my charm and all of my BBQ skillz. After letting the meat cook for a while, I realized that it was time to turn it. So, I walked rapidly toward the balcony…straight into, and through, the sliding screen door! Crash! All cool points were immediately evaporated as Mrs. Hammer burst into laughter. The ladies downstairs quipped, “I hope that steak is ok!” Oof. Well, I at least showed I can laugh at myself.
I loved her parents, and they seemed to approve of me at the time. Conservatives are hard to find in the state of California, but they were. They were also a solid family, supportive, polite, and respectful of others. Thus, I had plenty of opportunities to evaluate the present and future situation. The result: I couldn’t find a single, solitary reason to bail on the relationship. I thought, “Surely I’ll see some personality trait or unhealthy connection that will give me the reason”, but I was wrong. I even confessed to Mrs. Hammer that I had planned to bail, but that she was simply too wonderful, and I was willing to do whatever it took on my part. Thankfully, she didn’t slap me silly!
Six months later I flew Mrs. Hammer into Korea for a visit. We set her up with her own room in our barracks (I had help from my buddy and his wife), but I first had her stay overnight in the hotel on the US base for an evening to get adjusted to the time change (11 hours). The next day we took a tour of Panmunjom and the DMZ. It was there, on the North Korean side of the border in the U.N. building, that I took a knee and asked her to marry me (I’d already gotten approval from her father). The Korean guards didn’t even flinch, although I am reasonably sure that it has never happened before or since! She accepted, and we enjoyed the rest of the tour, a trip to our Army base, and New Year’s Eve dinner on top of the Seoul tower, in the rotating restaurant! She also got to come to a Tae Kwon Do session in our local town and eat a few genuine Korean meals.
We completed a pre-marital counseling course called, “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts”, which helped us to better understand each other. We highly recommend it! She handled the majority of the wedding planning. I merely requested to wear my mess uniform (which I purchased for that purpose later), and promised to show up on time, in the right clothes, reasonably sober. We settled on a Wedding expense budget of $1,500, with the exception of the honeymoon, which I would arrange for secretly. I even canceled my order for a BMW M3 that I had placed, losing my $2k down payment. I told everyone that I had given up my dream car for my dream woman.
We kept it under budget, and after 3 days meeting friends and family and finalizing details, we were married in her mother’s church. Our first kiss was when the preacher gave us permission – so we took two! It was truly wonderful to do things in a fashion that God and everyone else could approve of.
Our honeymoon was a surprise, as I simply would take Mrs. Hammer by the hand to the airport, through connections, to the rental car, and driving, until we arrived in “The Land of Love”, Caesar’s in the Poconos. Details will not be given, but it cost twice the price of the wedding, and was worth it.
Now, over three years later, here we stand, bonded together in Christ and each other, stronger today than we were the day we were married. As cliché as it sounds, I do love her more every day, and never fail to be impressed with her faith, beauty, grace and love for others.
Would I be doing well if I had never met Mrs. Hammer? Sure. What makes it so awesome is this: I’m better for knowing her and being her husband.