Just My Luck – Chapter 12-1
Several years ago, my nephew Ted (not his real name) surprised me when he came to a local vintage car show where I had entered my treasured 1971 Volvo P1800.
Wait a minute!. What is this car doing here? Is this a blatant and inappropriate attempt to post pictures of this four-wheeled baby?
You bet it is! The car show I entered this p1800 in, was in truth where my conversation with Ted took place, but the car isn’t important to the story. I just wanted you to see this.
So anyway, do you like the car?
Ostensibly he had come to admire my car, but his ulterior motive was to ask what advice, if any, I could offer him concerning marriage.
He and his girlfriend Kelly (not her real name either) met in college and continued to grow their relationship after graduation, so they knew one another as well as two people can without either being married or living as if married absent the formality.
After graduation from college, Ted asked if he could stay with Doris (my wife’s real name), and me for the time it took to leverage his new degree and internships into a job that would launch his career in advertising. We put a check mark next to that objective six months later. Job in hand, he immediately found and moved into his own apartment. I assumed his haste was driven by the prospect that Kelly would be a frequent visitor there, if she didn’t move in with him full time.
We first met Kelly at Ted’s college graduation and were together with them as a pair a lots of times thereafter. As we expected we were quite favorably impressed. They made a “nice couple” in my humble opinion.
One day I was in the back seat of Ted’s car while he drove and Kelly sat beside him on our way somewhere. I don’t recall where we were going, but I vividly remember that as we rode they invited me to join their conversation about what names they ought to consider for their as-yet-to-be-conceived kids.
Knowing they were already naming the anticipated fruit of their marriage, I was surprised when Ted told me that Kelly was making it plain that she wanted to get going down the aisle, but he was worried about marriage.
He asked what I thought about it all.
Me: “About you and Kelly, or about marriage in general?”
Ted: “Both Uncle Jim”
Me: “Well, it doesn’t really matter what I think of her, but for the record I like her a ton. What does matter obviously is how you feel about her and how she feels about you. Since she seems anxious to marry you, I think we can safely bet that she loves you. We know she’s not wanting to marry you for your money or good looks.”
Ted: Chuckles politely. “Yeah. There’s no problem there at all. We’d have been married already if she had things her way.”
Me: “You’re lucky that Kelly loves you. She’s smart, happy, responsible, funny, and not at all hard to look at. So, how about you? Do you love her?”
Ted: “Yes, I do.”
Me: “No hesitation there. Good. And I see you have the ‘I do’ phrase memorized already. So where’s the problem?”
Ted: “I’m just not sure…”
Me: “Not sure if she loves you? Or that you love her?”
Ted: “No, not that. We love each other. But this is a big deal, getting married. How can I be sure she’s the one?”
Me: “If you’re looking for an iron-clad guarantee that she, or anyone else for that matter, is the one, I doubt you’ll ever get married. I happen to know for a fact that there is no ‘one’ person that God created exclusively for you to love, honor and cherish. Likewise God didn’t make you solely for her. I mean, of all the billions of people alive today, you think there’s only one among them that you can love and who will love you as your wife?”
Ted: “Well, when you put it that way…”
Me: “Let me tell you, there are many women in this world who you could fall in love with and who would love you in return. To have a good marriage you need to find a partner you love strongly enough, and who loves you strongly enough, to make a lifelong commitment to one another. When you marry, you’re making a solemn promise not to allow yourself fall in love with someone else. And yes, that is a big thing.
“You will be tempted, believe me, and it won’t always be easy. So will she. The best antidote against temptation is for you and your wife to always keep your love for one another fresh and growing. In the midst of career, kids, friendships, and a slew of other responsibilities, you have to invest the time and effort to continually grow your marriage love. Absent that, there could well be holes in your lives that you might be tempted to fill elsewhere. That would be tragic.
“So the question you have to ask yourself is this: are you confident that your love for Kelly is strong enough to help you resist testing the waters when an attractive woman inevitably shows interest in you, or when you find interest in her? Don’t answer me, but if you can’t confidently answer “yes” to yourself, you should probably not marry until you can.”
Ted: “I see what you mean.”
Me: “Did you know that when I first met Doris I was not only engaged to be married to someone else but was only three months away from our wedding day?”
Ted: “No, really?”
A Guilty Lesson
I genuinely fell in love with a wonderful woman, two years my senior, at a very young age. Surprisingly, she fell in love with me too. The marriage proposal I made, complete with the engagement ring, the day I graduated from high school was happily accepted. Carol (not her real name) had just finished her sophomore year of college. We’d known each other for several years through the church we attended and had been good friends for most of that time. But when the good friends fell in love, we fell quickly and hard. (The photo is not of us by the way.)
A high school graduate for all of one day, I was admittedly quite young to be seriously proposing marriage. But to this day I still contend I absolutely knew what I was doing.
Losing my father as I entered adolescence made me more serious and my observations and attitudes were tinged with a greater sense of responsibility than they’d have been otherwise. I matured more quickly than most of my peers, but I wasn’t actively conscious of it for some time.
At first I just knew I didn’t quite fit in. I wasn’t an outcast by any means, but I wasn’t an insider either. I naturally gravitated to people who weren’t among the many reckless, care-free, or self-absorbed of my classmates. I had good friends who were generally intelligent, unpretentious, and honest folks. Nearly all of them shared a wonderful sense of humor. Our parents weren’t rich and none of us belonged to a country club, but we had a lot of good fun.
Sally (not her real name), one of the ‘popular’ girls in my classes, nicknamed me Charlie Brown after the popular Peanuts character. More than once she loudly announced, “We’re having a party Charlie Brown, and you’re not invited.” I doubt that she was aware that I had little interest in partying with many of the people in her circle. I’ve never had much patience with folks who believe themselves to be among the “elite.” But, at the same time, she and I often enjoyed some good-natured banter. I surmised that she used Charlie Brown as a way of enjoying my company without endangering her high school social status. I wasn’t embarrassed or offended at her announcement of my ostracism. I actually liked her and appreciated her attention.
I was deeply shaken and saddened a year after our graduation to learn that Sally had died in a freak accident at the Newport Jazz Festival. Apparently she and some friends had camped out in their sleeping bags overnight in a parking lot. Tragically, she was run over and killed by a guy racing through the lot in his Jeep. I didn’t think then, nor do I think now that the reason she died then and there was because “it was her time.” If her death wasn’t random, no one’s is.
Had we been relatively the same age, I’m sure Carol and I would have dated during our high school days, but social barriers back then generally kept sophomore boys from asking senior year girls for a date. Carol was in the Class of 1967; I graduated in 1969.
It was enough that we were in the High School Fellowship together at our church. We were casual friends in that group. She was easy to talk with, happy and smart. More importantly, she seemed to really appreciate my oft-times quirky sense of humor.
For Carol’s first two years of college she lived at home and attended the Stamford branch of the University of Connecticut. While there, she worked at a pharmacy a block away from my high school and during my senior year I often stopped by to visit her. I’m sure Carol could tell that I was becoming increasingly fond of her, but I held little hope for anything more than our casual friendship. If our relationship was to become more than platonic, she’d need to make the first move.
Thanks to the excellent mail sorting equipment made by Pitney Bowes and likely designed in part by my father, the US Postal Service through rain, sleet, snow, etc. started delivering me Hallmark friendship greeting cards from Carol two or three times a week. As unbelievable as it may have seemed, I eventually realized that Carol was sending me not just cards, but a message.
Thus emboldened, I worked up the courage to invite Carol to a concert at the high school presented by the a’cappella choir (in which I was a tenor), after which we could find a place to eat and spend some time together. To my great relief and joy, she said yes. That evening she sat in the audience with some mutual friends while the choir stood on risers on stage and sang the pieces listed in the concert program.
As we choir members donned our robes before taking the stage, a couple of my fellow singers commented that I looked especially happy that night. I just smiled and said thanks. When the stage curtains parted I searched for and found Carol in the audience. We both smiled when our eyes met. Throughout the concert, my eyes kept returning to Carol and hers to mine; our smiles never disappeared.
We went out for ice cream after the concert (hey, Charlie Brown couldn’t get served in a bar) and had a great time talking and laughing. Later, parked in the small lot at the end of the driveway of her home, we kissed for the first time.
From that moment on, we were devoted to one another and enormously happy.
We spent every possible moment we could together for the next three years, and we both couldn’t wait to be married. I don’t want to wax poetic here about those years, it would serve no purpose. Suffice it to say at the time neither of us could conceive of being happier than when we were together.
(to be continued)
©2016 James Ash
One more for good measure. Yeah, it was an automatic, but I loved it anyway.
©2016 James Ash