Monday, January 18, 2010

When Type A Meets Type Z: Part 1 Get Me to the Church on Time

He was grinning ear to ear [he still does 41 years later], a tad tipsy and thought he could dance. The location was a local bar in Austin TX where USAF men hung out. Hmm, come to think of I was not tipsy and I thought I could dance, too.

In the mid-50s there were a few who considered certain kinds of dance evil instead of art form. I find that somewhat humorous as some Biblical New Testament translations describe the Apostle Paul as dancing.

In 1956 this is how this non-alcohol conservative oriented single student met the man who would become her life companion (LC). Yep! in a BAR, named Louie's!

I did some experimentation in a few forbidden activities when I escaped my parent's constant supervision. I never learned to enjoy alcohol except a few wines. My Dad lost a sister and brother-in-law to fatal alcoholism, and another alcoholic brother-in-law (my favorite uncle) was divorced by another of his sisters. It was not so much religious belief as life experiences with Dad, whose family made wine for communion use in his youth.

Smoking marijuana was the biggest NO! NO! in my day, followed by LSD. As a student in pharmacy I perceived experimenting with unregulated drugs a fool-hardy, life-threatening, dangerous game of Russian roulette. My soon-to-be profession probably deterred my participation in anything more hazardous than an occasional beer or wine.

My roommate had a bar maid job at Louie's to supplement her meager allowance while attending the University of Texas. We lived off-campus in university approved housing which enforced curfews and restrictions of our activities. [Dormitory rooms were reserved so fast I never had the privilege to enjoy dorm life.] Approved housing was NOT cohabited by males and females in those days.

I rode the bus from our off-campus residence to the downtown bar to accompany her home after 11 p.m. In retrospect how much defensive protection two single female collegians were at that hour, is a moot point. In our "we will live forever mode" we thought it was impermeable.

LC and I dated off and on for the years LC was stationed in Austin. He then was transferred to Big Springs, TX, the end of the world to him, and 206+ miles from Austin--might as well have been a continent for two persons without vehicles, living on limited allowances. Long before we had any serious intentions of life together, he said, quite unexpectedly, "don't bury me here!"

Big Springs is very deceptive name as its location is west Texas where there is little water and mainly sand dust, lots of it. It doesn't take much wind for a sandstorm, so severe it damages car finishes, windshields.

When I was in a high school marching band, we accompanied the football team to an out-of -town game in west Texas. A sandstorm enveloped the playing field. My lips were so cracked they bled. My musical instruments (flute and piccolo) had to be refinished inside and out. Imagine rubbing sandpaper on every surface, including yourself...that is the damage a sandstorm can do.

Neither LC or I owned vehicles, so romance was mainly old fashioned handwritten or typewritten letters (gasp)....anybody seen a manual or electric typewriter lately? Neither of us had money for frequent long distance phone calls. Remember this is the late 1950s--no computers (although rumors were rampant of its development), hence no Internet, no e-mail, no VOI (voice over Internet), no video. It is really difficult to imagine those times, today even as I write this.

Soon he was transferred out; we lost track of each other. But a little seed had been planted in two hearts, which neither of us recognized.

At this point I need to interject Cupid's arrows are unpredictable in any romance, but military romances are probably the most unique. Distance,assignments and limited modes of communication are factors. The usual dating routines were, well, different.This romance spanned 13 years more or less; but I am getting ahead of myself. During this time span LC was honorably discharged from the USAF, was in active reserve a short time and then enlisted in the Navy.

I remember a Valentine's Day banquet we attended many years after our marriage. They played a bunch of silly games (pardon me I'm not a baby-wedding-Tupperware-Pampered Chef-game shower player). One oral game was a 20-question topics like the first movie you attended together, her favorite color, favorite love songs, etc, etc.

Early into the game the movie question doomed me and another military wife. We looked at each other and laughed. We were gonna lose. Her husband was flying fighter jets in Korea and my husband was in the Navy on a tincan ship no telling where. There were few if any "firsts," much less movies because most of the time our courtships were known by separation. How were we to know each other's favorite love song, color or food, separated by 1000s of miles of ocean and sky?

Which brings me to the title of this post. Remember the personality types A & B? Well, I am an A with a tad of B intermixed. LC is a B- with 100% Z if there were a Z. If you don't think there were major adjustments at ages 33(me) & 34 (LC), think again. Adjustments are still necessitated in our 70s!

His life was planned minute by minute: show up for duty and draw a paycheck. Food, clothing and shelter were provided in addition paycheck. show up for work, do the job (put in the time) and draw the paycheck. Lower ranks advanced primarily by longevity. At some point he decided to get his GED which was required to advance further; he achieved it, a major accomplishment in initiative and completion.

On the other hand, I was freshly graduated (1960) in a profession with few women; I was intent on making my mark in a male oriented world. Nothing infuriated me more when women, as much as men, would say, "I really would rather my prescription be filled by a man!!!"

I digested several barrels of nails I've chewed to keep my temper and retort in check. I've had people return when the male pharmacist was on duty. There are other funny, and not so funny examples of a female working in a male oriented world but that is for another time. I somewhat understand discrimination.

LC and I had been single for 34 and 33 years respectively. LC almost married but for a Dear John letter, but that is another story, too. Without hyperbole, it is safe to say we both were set in our ways--maybe set in concrete. We were both southern but culturally a shade difference. His home was in South Carolina was near the Gullah (Charleston area) culture and often referred to himself as a sandlapper. I was a Texan and that seems to be the only term I needed to describe myself.

In the intervening 13 years, LC saw the world, and occasionally wrote me letters to which I replied. He was familiar with most of the Mediterranean countries and made an around-the-world tour for which he has several certificates and medals. He liked New Zealand and France among the many countries his various ships made port.

LC had my parents' address so I would eventually get the letters. I have every letter he ever wrote me. I would use whatever return address was on the letter to reply. And if you think either of us were great correspondents, his letters are neatly stored in one old greeting card box.

In the same intervening13 years I graduated from the University of Texas and set out honing my trade at various employments, primarily Dallas TX drug chains. However, I had the opportunity to return to my hometown and work in an independent pharmacy, which I accepted. Although this time proved to be boring, dull and unchallenged (after Dallas) it led to another reconnect with LC.

In one of the disconnect periods of our 13 year "courtship" if you could call it that, I decided to try to re-locate him. I had a number of friends who worked as long-distance phone operators in the only local phone company. One worked the night shift which was apparently boring duty.

After a long discussion of how to find someone, she agreed to try during the less busy hours of her shift. She located LC's brother with little difficulty, as I had LC's home address and knew he had a brother and sister. In 1960s there were few Cowards to go through in Scranton SC phone book. She got LC's phone number from his brother. Astoundingly, he was stateside in Key West and headed for Beaumont TX for some kind of ship repairs.

We chatted several times before his ship embarked to Beaumont. I traveled to Beaumont and it seemed we seamlessly, easily picked up where we left off the last time we saw each other.

He continued to call me COLLECT and we had long conversations. Yes, not surprisingly ,he called me from a bar where he was trying to dance on the bar...

Photos: my snapshots w/dime store camera, b/w film, freshman year at University of Texas at Austin. LC taken around Lake Austin; myself in my dorm room



bARE-eYED sUN said...

just want to say thank you.

we were just browsing around when we
decided to visit and see what's up.
(it'd been a while) and we got caught up in your post. lovely.

very enjoyable and interesting. our own life story is radically different, we envy you. :-0

don't know if its nostalgia, the thing of it is, we bemoan the lack of stability in today's relationships.

your story has warmth, and we look forward to the follow-up post.

thanks again, :-)


jinksy said...

Is it because I'm nosey, that I love these little glimpses at aother people's lives? Whataever! I loved the tale, and can't wait for the continuation.

Arkansas Patti said...

As I was reading I saw the post was running out. I was delighted to see "TO BE CONTINUED."
It was amazing that neither of you married others during the long separation but maintained contact. Talk about "meant to be".
Looking forward to the rest of the story. Like jinksy, I too love to peer into others lives and yours is quite unusual and interesting.
Very well written.

Patty said...

What a great story. Do you know, at the Pharmacy we go to, most of ours has to come from Express Scripts through the mail, they only have women dong the job at our local shop.

Love your story. Waiting for the next installment. Have a great day.

lakeviewer said...

Ah, memories! This is an excellent piece, indeed. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

NitWit1 said...

NitWit1 Addendum: I did omit that we both dated others during those 13 years. I used to joke LC, like most sailors, had a girl in every port. The timing of his letters indicated he only wrote me when he was on the high seas away from civilization!

Thought I would add this and hope to get it in next installment. This is why I say military romances, are, well, unique.

Michele said...

Over from bARE-eYED sUN.
This is a nice story. It gives me a look at courtship during my parents time. They met at the USO in Los Angeles and married 6 days later. Their marriage lasted until the day my dad died 43 years later. It was a whole different time.

Linda said...

As a Texan I greatly enjoyed your post. I agree with your husband about Big Springs,Texas. Awh yes, Texas sandstorms, and the sand in your mouth. Perhaps that's why I am enjoying Oregon so much.

Lorna said...

I'm really enjoying this story---my bracelets are clacking all over the keyboard in my haste to tell you so.

faye said...

A wonderful story. Thanks for sharing these memories. Waiting on
'to be continued'...

Deeptesh said...

Found u thru Ero's blog.Touching luv story.Almost cinematic...may God bless both of u!!