My wife and I were “destined” to be with each other. I absolutely know this to be truth. How do I know? Well, you will have to stay tuned into my blog to learn as I am slowly making my way into those stories. Before I posted any Kim tales, I wanted to write all the other childhood girlfriend stories to document my learning experience on the path to finding the love of my life, my wife of 35 year; indeed another childhood sweetheart as well since Kim and I began our journey together during high school. The story here is of my final love before finally given the opportunity to try to win my future wife’s heart.
At least for a partial time during the school year, I pretty much had a girlfriend in every grade while growing up. Unless we were playing together, I never really knew much of what to do with them though except maybe to carry their books and walk them home. My first real ‘dating’ experience came at the age of 15. Her name was Betty. I met her at the First Baptist Church at one of the junior roller socials we used to have in the gymnasium. A ‘roller social’ was a time where we cleared the gymnasium floor, (which was also the church on Sunday), and we roller skated. It was open to us teenagers and it was a nice way to give us a safe haven to hang out at. Betty had come with a friend and I was immediately attracted to her big brown eyes and pretty face.
My age of 15-16 I’d say were the most confusing for me. Viet Nam was still going on and threatening to (hopefully) end, parents with money tightness, my trying to get money, not knowing how to get a car in the next couple of years, not knowing how I was going to break out of my financial/social class, could I go to college, etc. It was a very impressionable time for me and I was easily led astray by bad elements like pot smoking. At the time I met Betty I was not yet a full blown “burner”. Betty was sort of like the angel on my left shoulder and a boy I will write about later was the devil on my right shoulder.
Meeting Betty at this time in my life is something I needed. I approached her and immediately began laying on all the charming accolades I could muster. Naturally I don’t recall exactly what I said, but in general I remember thinking about how I was going to work up the courage to tell her how pretty she was and ask for her phone number. Getting a phone number in those days was “it”. It was the preamble to Facebook ‘friending’. So I went to a common ground for conversation – school. We talked about grades and our schoolwork.
We both were enrolled in roughly the same classes so making conversation was easy. I was being completely honest with her and she responded by allowing me to get close. Betty was a little shy, but I was always pretty good one on one – in a large group, not so good. (And as a side note, I can melt down pretty quickly if I’m in a group of people that I do not know). The night was coming to a close and I had worked up the courage to ask her for her phone number and I was ecstatic when she complied. This is the coolest part I will never forget – she dug a pen out of her purse, told me to hold out my hand and then proceeded to write her number on my right palm. I was scared to death I would sweat it away before I had a chance to transfer it to paper!
We were actually hitting it off big time! The big problem in front of us was that she attended high school in New Miami and I attended Taft High School in Hamilton. We lived only 4 miles apart but it might as well been 100 as when you did not yet drive and all you had was the telephone. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on the phone (and thank God I didn’t have sweaty palms). But I did start dating with Betty after all. The only catch was that if I wanted to do something with Betty, I first had to run the scenario past my parents, usually my step-father Joe, because one of them would need to provide the taxi service for us.
Over the summer of 1973 and on into the winter, Betty and I had perhaps maybe a couple dozen dates and every date was taxied. We attended a few movies together, a few football games and on several occasions would drive out to Lawrenceburg, IN for the stock and sprint car races (Joe raced). I really liked spending time with Betty and I loved her too….but I never said it. Not saying I love you is one of my strongest memories with Betty and one of my greatest regrets in regards to my time with her.
Once we were together at a New Miami football game. I remember sitting together on a bleacher, shivering a bit, when one of her girlfriends came around. I don’t remember exactly how this came up or what we were talking about, but I remember very well telling this girl that yes, I do know how to say ‘I love you’ in Spanish, whereupon Betty said “well, let’s hope you haven’t forgotten how to say it in English mister”. Ouch! That is a verbatim quote. I actually had thought about saying it, but could never bring myself to do it. In addition to being a little afraid to say it, (perhaps afraid it would not be returned), I felt guilty; I felt a bit inadequate because I wanted to be able to do the things that older kids could do….like actually pick up their girlfriend for a date without their parent in the front seat. As fate would have it, I would say I love you to Diane (read me) and then not again until I met the girl who would later become my wife.
As much as I enjoyed being with Betty, I was confused and didn’t know where it could go. I was going to turn 16 in April, but I knew I didn’t have a car or the money to buy a car. (read me) I can see today in hindsight that Betty and her girlfriend were trying to send me a signal. I really wanted a real boyfriend & girlfriend relationship but I felt I didn’t have the ‘tools’ – that it was too early. I didn’t have a clue as to when I was going to have a car in the future so I balked – I froze. Betty was looking for me to pronounce my love for her and I did not come through. The eventual breakup was inevitable. How could she stay with a guy who couldn’t even say 3 simple words? Love is all important and if you can’t even express your love, you don’t deserve to receive love. This was an important life lesson and I like to think I learned much from it.
Several weeks later, Betty broke up with me one night during a movie we were watching together at the Court Theater in Hamilton, Ohio. We were holding hands as we always were. I guess I saw it coming as she was acting unusually nervous. I can still recall the sinking feeling the instant that she whispered to me, “I need to break up”. I didn’t say anything; I knew she was right. We continued to hold hands. Everything else about the evening actually was no different except for the additional silence. After the movie was over, we walked to my house, holding hands the whole way. The only thing I said was done about midway through the walk – I said a simple “I’m sorry”.
Joe drove us to her house as he always did after a date and we continued to hold hands. I walked her up to her entrance to her house inside the garage, Joe turned off his lights as he always did and I kissed her, long and for the last time. She was ever so lightly weeping. I was on the verge of doing so but managed to hold it together and I said goodbye and she said goodbye.
My stepfather Joe is like the coolest dad a kid could ever hope for. Sometimes I miss him so much, (like right now), that I ache. He wasn’t “educated”; he was a high school dropout, but he was one of the most practical and sensible guys I’ve ever known. He always treated me with respect, like an adult, and valued my opinions. During the ride home he sensed something was up and asked if I was alright. I told him; no but hopefully I would be in time. “Lots of people believe that things happen for reasons”, is what he said. And then we didn’t speak any more for the balance of the ride home.
I let a week go by before telephoning Betty again. I knew it was officially over, but had hoped for a telephone friendship to remain in place. Well, that’s what I had told Betty, but everyone out there reading this knows that the real reason was that I had not let go myself and was trying to inch my way back into a relationship. I called a couple of times and the calls were brief. On my end I tried to keep the discussion light, “friendly”. In hindsight, I’m sure it was confusing as hell for her. I stopped calling after one day when I tried reaching her and instead got her mother. Her mother’s words are paraphrased here but essentially were – you know Rob, we all like you and Betty still likes you, this wasn’t easy for her. Perhaps you shouldn’t call again? Those couple of sentences from her mom helped me to see things from Betty’s perspective.
For many weeks I moped around the house, sometimes quietly crying at night before sleeping. Time wore on though and did its job to help cover up the wound. For several years I was guilt ridden over those set of circumstances and knew that everything was my fault. Looking back I can see that I needed closure and didn’t feel resolved.
(Kurt Cobain – All alone is all we are……)
I have mentioned many times over the years, (and here in my stories), that I believe the world to be a tiny place and that many of our lives are interconnected, that if we watch for the signs they will show themselves to us. To this point, I was to have an opportunity later to say I’m sorry and to gain some sense of closure. About 4 years later, Betty was hired onto Taco Bell where I was also working as an assistant manager. I walked in one early evening and there she was. I worked very hard to be ‘adult’ about the situation. Betty had a boyfriend. His name was Bob and he was a very nice guy. Betty introduced us and she had told Bob about me. I had a girlfriend and Betty had a boyfriend. It was fine and I really liked Bob. He seemed like a very decent guy.
Closure was to occur late one night as Betty and I closed the store together. The store manager created the schedule, but it really was inevitable as sooner or later I closed the store with every single employee. It was late and we both were tired. I sensed the opportunity and initiated the discussion. I don’t recall every single line that was spoken, but I remember the lines that mattered. I told her everything was my fault, “I didn’t know how to say I love you”. To which, she graciously let me off the hook. She said, “I know….it’s ok now, we were both too young”. I told her I had felt guilty about it ever since – I just didn’t know what to do, not having a car or any hope of getting one. She told me that I was the sweetest boy she had ever dated. I smiled when she said that and told her that I didn’t feel very sweet (it was true). We finished cleaning up and her mom, (or Bob, I don’t remember who), came to pick her up. We hugged and said goodbye.
Betty always had a lot of common sense, (a characteristic my wife loves to say I am sorely deficient in), and was a loyal girlfriend to Bob. Sensing perhaps that she shouldn’t be working with me, she soon turned in her re-fried bean scooper and hit the road. She and Bob would come into the restaurant from time to time with her sister or her family and we were all friendly with each other. It was not uncomfortable – we had made our peace. (Oh, and I never cheated them on their cheese portion and they never got the special ‘burn ‘em sauce’. 🙂 (read me)
If we are fortunate in life we will find love from time to time. If we are really lucky, we will be allowed to keep our memories and to find a cozy spot in our hearts to store them. As we lose our hair, our teeth, our mobility, I hope that we each can hold onto our special memories of all of our experiences from all our pivotal moments. If we are very lucky, those that we each once cared for will be there for us, always ready to be recalled with fondness, always young and always beautiful.
- The Power of Music – Diane was not a Green-Eyed Lady (growinguponprytania.wordpress.com)