I was living where I was associated with former schoolmates who were divorced from their wives. There were a couple of fellows in the neighborhood who asked me out and I went a few times. I couldn’t see a future with either of them so it didn’t go anywhere. I enjoyed the company of males but I didn’t require it.
An old boyfriend who was also a distant cousin was on my mind a lot. He was a medic with a heavy artillery unit in Viet Nam and I prayed for him nightly. Later on, after being honorably discharged from the Army, he chose to stay in Viet Nam and work. It was safer than active combat but still iffy. I kept praying.
My life assumed a routine. Mondays were spent cleaning the beauty shop with my boss, Tuesdays through Fridays there were appointments. Sabbaths were spent in church (I was organist and my mother was pianist) and Sundays we’d go shopping or catch up on things at home.
I ate lots of junk at the drugstore downstairs from the beauty shop. Breakfast was often a grilled honeybun with fresh squeezed OJ and I dearly loved the egg salad sandwiches as well as the cream cheese and olive sandwiches. The bread was white and spongy. The sandwiches were usually accompanied by potato chips or Bugles. No wonder my skin was bad.
“Smokefree” wasn’t in the vocabulary yet and often the air in the shop was blue. When I’d take the boys to work with me or they’d stop in to visit, my younger son appointed himself the Ashtray Police. No sooner would some ashes be tapped into one until he was right there with a wet washcloth. He’d wipe it out and glare at the smoker. No one got upset and everyone thought it was cute. It may have cut down just a little on how many cigarettes were lighted up.
One cold winter day, my stepfather brought my mother and the boys to town. After they got through with their business, they came to the shop so they could ride home with me. I had customers to take care of before we left and, in the meantime, snow started falling. It came down thicker and thicker. We left as quickly as we could and started up the mountain. The highway is three lanes—one going downhill and two going up. The storm had taken the highway department by surprise so no clearing was going on. Fortunately, the slow traffic stayed in the right lane and I kept telling myself, “Don’t slow down! Don’t slow down!” I plowed on through and when we got to our driveway, I turned to my mother and said, “Not bad for the first time I ever drove in snow, huh?” Her face drained and she shrieked, “WHAT? If I had known that, I would have gone out the window!”
I don’t remember how long we had to stay in but I know the boys and I enjoyed the snow. We made a snowman, snow angels, and ate quantities of snow cream. It made for good memories.
A few weeks later, my mother called me at the shop and asked what my afternoon looked like. My appointments were light and she wanted to know if I could leave early. I said I supposed I could and asked why. She said I had a visitor. When I walked in the door, it was my old boyfriend/distant cousin. He was safe and back in the US. He was dressed in jeans and a fatigue jacket, his hair was longer and he had a mustache. He still had that lopsided grin that always made me feel warm inside. Mother made up the couch in front of the fireplace and he slept downstairs from the boys and me.
We spent the next day together and it was like the years between had evaporated. The boys were fascinated by his Honda 750. He bought me a helmet so I could ride with him and we put lots of miles on the bike.
That was January. In May, we were out walking in the moonlight. We stopped in the middle of a country road and he said, “If I asked you to wait for three years, would you marry me?” I answered, “Yes.” So it was official. We were getting married. So what if it were three years away? Time has a way of passing. There was no pressure. Three years stretched out and plans could be made at a leisurely pace.
He went to North Carolina (I was in Tennessee) to visit some friends. We talked often. Once when he called, he said he was coming over. I asked him if he’d ever had chicken pox. The boys were both broken out. He said he didn’t know but it would be a new adventure if he hadn’t. He came on and spent hours with them and me. The next time he called from NC, he told me he had a severe breakout. Before he was completely recovered, he rode his motorcycle through the rain to see us. Romantic but exhibiting bad judgment, too. He had a relapse and was one sick fiance. We all lived and everyone got well.
Fall came and he enrolled at a university quite a distance from where I was living. He was using his benefits from the GI Bill. He’d always wanted to fly so he also started taking flight training. He showed talent and initiative and soon had his private pilot’s license and took me up for my first ride in an airplane. I loved it. I was hooked, too.
He was living in a place that had been turned into a boarding house. His mother would fix bags of sandwiches for him to take back to help with his meals. While he was in Viet Nam, he’d tried some of the locally grown and harvested flesh foods but didn’t like them. He had also been brought up vegetarian and preferred it.
When summer break came, he and his best friend from grade school on through high school took a trip to the West Coast to learn to hangglide. That was in the early early days of hanggliding. I was heartbroken that he would be gone for what seemed forever. I made it through, though, and was looking forward to his coming back. In Kansas, he was tooling along on his motorcycle about daybreak. The truck driver evidently didn’t see him passing and pulled into the left lane, forcing him into the median. As soon as his front tire hit the grass, the motorcycle went end over end and he was launched through the air. He woke up in the emergency room and signed out AMA. The motorcycle was a mess but he duct-taped the headlight on and forged ahead. He was so sore he couldn’t unroll his sleeping bag so he slept on the ground beside the highway. Pulling into his parents’ drive, his hands were in a death-grip on the handlebars. They had to be pried off. Later, it was found he had a hairline skull fracture and it took several weeks for him to get back to normal.
In the fall, it was back to the university. He kept making trips back and forth to visit his parents and check in on me and the boys. Our plans seemed to be on course. Then, he started talking about getting married sooner than we had agreed. He moved it up to October. That seemed reasonable. A few days later, he figured August would be better. Okay. I had to put my foot down when he suggested June. So…it had gone from sometime in ’73 to August ’72.
Meanwhile, my stepfather did what he loved. He gardened. Being somewhat of a frustrated scientist, he set up a hydoponic greenhouse behind the house. Those were probably some of the most expensive tomatoes ever grown but they were good and he was very happy when he was puttering around hand pollinating the blooms. Every summer, we worked up bushels of produce he brought in from the regular garden down the slope toward the wet-weather branch and by that time, Mother had a freezer. Every fall saw it stuffed full of food for the winter.
The seasons marched on in orderly succession and it would soon be time to plan a wedding.
Look for the next chapter when my family once again had a husband and father.