Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)
Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.
This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.
Friday, February 13, 2004
For the past two years I have posted a longish essay on each February 14 about a particular woman I know. I don't know if I'm just not creative enough to come up with anything different, or if I just got it right the first time, but after reading it again, I honestly can't figure out anything else to say about her. SO, in the spirit of the season, here it is again, even though February 14 is still a couple day away.
I never really remember meeting my wife. We more or less grew up going to church together, so I’ve sorta always known her. We went to different grade schools and high schools, and we never socialized outside of church, but we always were friends. She is two years older than me, and with my immense adolescent awkwardness and shyness, I never worked up the nerve to ask her out on a date. But she would always save me a seat in Sunday school. And I would always sit with her. Her name is Reba.
The first time I ever had one of those pubescent rush-of-hormone moments was because of her. One Sunday when we were waiting for class to start, she was standing at the door talking to her dad. She had on a sleeveless blue dress. Just a plain, A-line, to the knee, homemade, God-fearing polyester church dress. But I couldn’t look away from those soft, pale, naked arms. I can still feel my ears turning red, and trying to make sure my Bible was firmly placed across my lap to cover the embarrassing results of my wandering eyes and the machinations of my limbic system.
We grew up together, through junior high and high school, and my mom would pester me to ask her out. I always scoffed and said it would be like dating my sister. Reba went off to college at Jacksonville, and then I graduated a couple of years later and eventually went off to Auburn to study architecture. Whenever we would meet up again in those years, it was always at church. We would talk, although I can’t remember any of our conversations. She would always sit on the pew behind my mother and me. In my third year at Auburn, I got to spend a quarter studying in Europe, and my mom told me that she would ask about me every week. But, I was still in school, and semi-stalking another girl, and well, you know.
I finally made it out of Auburn with two degrees and a minor in business, after going to school for five straight years—twenty complete quarters, breaking only for a two week respite in my very first quarter there, due to my father’s death. I moved back home; bone tired and lonesome.
I started my first job two weeks after I got back and started the next chunk of my life, which was centered on passing my licensing exam. Not much time for socializing, although some of my well-meaning coworkers would allow their wives to use me as a test case for their unmarried girlfriends. There had to be something better.
Since I was back home, I had started going back to our old church again with my mom. My wife-to-be had gotten a job at a local hospital, and wasn’t around a lot. But I had finally decided that I even though I was still awkward and shy, dadgummit, I was going to ask her out. Then I learned why she had not been around much.
Seems she had starting dating an acquaintance of mine, and he had asked her to marry him.
I went to their wedding, which was held right there at our old church. I have no remembrance of it at all; even watching the video of it I cannot remember anything of it. I guess I was trying hard to forget it. She and her husband left and went on their honeymoon. When they got back, they moved to the other side of the county and moved to another church. A few months later, she was pregnant.
I was at work one day when I got a call from my best friend in high school. “Rick died.” I couldn’t say anything except to keep saying ‘no.’ 29 years old. Married six months. Baby due in five months. Dropped dead of a heart attack.
The funeral, I do remember. There was a group of us who had all run around together in high school, and Rick had been one of the group. When I got there, all of the rest of the guys were just standing there, silent and somber. Reba sat back behind a curtain with her girlfriends on either side of her. She had a wad of tissue in her hands, which were crossed across her small pregnant belly. I didn’t really know what to say—what came out was something like “This may sound stupid, but no matter how bad you think this is, it will get better.” I reminded her of her family, and the folks at church, and that I would help watch out for her, too.
Some time passed, and she started coming back to church at our old place. She grew and grew, and I made a point of finding her every Sunday she was there at church to talk to her. And to flirt. She tells me now that she thought I was crazy for telling her she looked good pregnant. Despite all that had gone on over the years, to me she was still that girl in the blue dress, leaned up against the door of the classroom. And whether I had ever wanted to admit it to myself or not, I was, and had always been, very deeply in love with her.
On March 27, 1990 her baby was born. From then on, I had to flirt with both of them. Which I did, rather shamelessly.
In December of that year, the moment finally arrived. It was time for my office Christmas party. A couple of weeks before time, I sidled up to Reba at the card rack at church and pretended to be looking for something. I asked her to the party. She said yes. We went, and had wonderful time. A week later, we had a second date, ostensibly to look for a kitchen table for me. After that, we have rarely been apart for longer than a day.
11 years ago today, I asked Reba to be my wife. Since then, we’ve been through a lot. Another wedding. Passing my registration exam. Three more kids. Two houses. Five vehicles. Moved to three different school systems. Three job changes between us. More college for both of us. More deaths in the family, and more births. A couple of wars. Three presidents. We even moved to a different church. 11 years, and it seems like only yesterday.
And to this day, I still have to be very careful when I see that she is wearing a sleeveless dress.
So Mrs. Oglesby, Happy Valentine’s Day. And thank you for saying yes.
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