A trip for fish 'n' chips leads to wedded bliss

Take a good look at that guy smiling back at you in that mug shot, ladies. All that could have been yours. But now you've missed your chance.

Saturday, I take the plunge. The leap. Tie the knot. Get hitched. As Tom Hanks says in "Bachelor Party," I give up my amateur status and go pro.

Yep, in just another 24 hours or so I will be off the market. (I'll wait a moment while you single women try to get your emotions under control.)

Life rarely turns out the way you dreamed it would. At least that's always been the case for me. Many of the things I thought would happen to me in this life haven't. And a few things I never dreamed would happen actually did.

It's those things you don't expect, those things you didn't see coming, that often have the most profound effects. And I have always been interested in pinpointing those moments, those choices we make that send us down a different path.

The one that will finally lead me to the altar came on a Friday afternoon in February 2005.

I was sick as a dog, coughing so much that I could barely breathe, and about 4:30 p.m. I decided there was no way I could stay at work any longer. I told the boss I was leaving and went to the clinic. The doctor gave me a couple of prescriptions, and I went to get them filled. They said it would be a half hour, so I had to wait.

I wasn't really hungry, and I couldn't remember if you're supposed to starve a cold or feed a fever, but I had both and figured I'd at least try to eat a little something before going back to the pharmacy and then heading home to crawl in bed for the next couple of days.

Of all the places to eat in Lawrenceville, I chose Long John Silver's, mainly because it was close to CVS. I went inside to order and, of course, there was a line.

Now when I say I was sick, I mean sick. Whooping cough, bubonic plague, bird flu sick. I just wanted to try to eat, get back to the pharmacy and get back home. I was paying no attention to anything or anybody around me and that included the two women in line in front of me.

Little did I know that one of them was paying attention to me.

I got my meal, sat down in the corner and tried to eat. I picked at the food for a few minutes, decided I just couldn't eat and got up to go back to the pharmacy. I dumped my tray and left.

I was in my truck, cranking it up, when I looked in the mirror and saw this woman waving to me and walking up to my door. "Great," I thought. "Bet she needs a tire changed." Not that I'm averse to helping people in distress, but did I mention that I was gotta-get-better-to-die sick at the time? Jacks and lug wrenches in a cold parking lot weren't going to help my condition at all.

I rolled down the window, already thinking of how I could politely tell her that I could not help solve whatever automotive problem she had, when the didn't-see-that-coming moment happened.

"I know this is going to seem a little crazy," she said, "but are you single?"

I am not often at a loss for words, but I didn't know what to say to that. Here I am sweating, coughing like a tuberculosis patient, not exactly looking my best and this woman is interested? Wow.

I went with the truth and told her I was.

And now here we are. In another day, at the age of 36, I get to do a couple of those things I was beginning to think I never would. I get to marry a woman who has stood by me through thick and thin. I get to become a stepdad. And if the adoption works out, a real dad.

We were going to have a big wedding, but we bought a house instead, so we're going to have a tiny, family-only wedding on Saturday. Then we'll have a housewarming/wedding reception in December. (You're all invited. Well, maybe not all of you.)

So that's my story of a life-changing moment. And remember, the next time you think it's never going to work out, that what you need to make your life better or complete is never going to come along, do what I did: Look in the mirror.

Like it says on there, some things may be closer than they appear.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.