Twenty-eight years ago, on his way to the temple on our wedding day, my husband-to-be had to saw his locking gas cap off with a hacksaw. The tank was empty, and he couldn’t find the key, and he was running late enough not to have the patience for any other plan. By the time he arrived, kindly temple workers had misplaced some of our wedding guests, and so Rob and I had plenty of time to sit on a white couch in the crowded Celestial Room at the Mesa, AZ temple, wondering why we had decided to get married on the busiest day of the year.
As we sat, waiting for our turn at the altar and hoping we would still have one by the time they found our families, a sweet white-haired elderly man sat down next to us. There wasn’t much free couch space in the temple that day, so we didn’t think anything of it until he turned to us. “You kids getting married today?” he asked.
I was decked out in my wedding dress and Rob had on his white tux, so it was probably a rhetorical question. We nodded politely anyway.
The old man looked at us. “Let me give you the best marriage advice you will ever get,” he said.
We leaned in close so as not to miss a word of the wisdom he was going to utter that would make our marriage solid.
He dropped his voice to a whisper and said, “Don’t do it on a hill.”
What? What does that mean, don’t do it on a hill? What hill? And is he talking about THE it, the one we saved ourselves for and were eager to try on our honeymoon?
Rob and I shot each other looks of concern.
The old man leaned in even further towards us, our heads now almost touching in a trio of divine revelation. “You know, don’t do it on a hill because my wife and I tried that once and we rolled right down. It is much better to do it at the bottom of the hill, since that is where you are going to end up anyway and it hurts a lot less when you haven’t rolled down the hill buck naked.”
After an awkward pause, Rob replied, “Oh, yes. Of course. That makes perfect sense. Thank you for warning us.”
With that tiny bit of encouragement, the man started to tell us another gem of sexual advice, but mid-sentence a middle-aged woman darted across the crowded room, straight at us.
“Dad! What are you doing? I hope you aren’t saying anything embarrassing to these people.” She turned to us and said, “I’m sorry. We try not to leave him alone because we never know what he is going to say next, but he slipped away too fast this time.”
“Sure, no problem. He was very nice and gave us a bit of advice for our wedding.”
The old man winked at Rob and smiled at me.
“Oh dear! I hope it wasn’t too bad.” she sighed, her cheeks flushing.
“Um, no. It was fine.” Rob said.
The old man turned to his daughter and said,
“All I said was they shouldn’t do it on a hill.”
In an instant she grabbed his arm and hauled him up and away. They were gone before he could even finish his thought.
After they disappeared in the crowd, we covered our open mouths and silently roared with laughter, struggling to maintain a respectful stillness for those around us who were seeking a sacred spiritual experience. To the rest of the Celestial Room, I am sure it looked like we were in the midst of a deeply sorrowful moment as the tears streamed down our contorted red faces. In reality, it was a hysterically funny moment that broke the unspoken building tension that naturally came from sitting and waiting our turn to commit our eternities to each other.
Now that we are caretaking our three elderly parents, we have an understanding of the elderly man’s daughter. We get it.
But we also agree that his advice was the best ever and frankly, the only one we remember from our wedding day.