I met Barb a couple of years before our first date. I was dating Debbie than and I was more than happy with her. Debbie and I had been together for awhile and we knew each other really well. Her parents liked me a lot and I was always welcome at their house. Debbie's dad was the preacher at my church I attended and so during our years together we behaved very well. Debbie was not your stereotypical "preacher's kid".
One night, Debbie and I were in her basement playing ping pong and afterwards sat down to talk. It was one of those "we have to talk" talks. Debbie wanted to loosen up her ties and one of those ties was me. I was hurt for a little bit, but as we talked I realized that it was probably best for the both of us. I have no doubt that her mother had a big influence on Debbie's decision, but I agreed to her request and we were able to remain friends after the split. Eventually she moved to West Virginia with her family and I lost track of her. I have no idea what happened to her or where where ended up but I am sure she did well.
That was in the middle of our sophomore year in high school. Suddenly I found myself without Debbie to talk to and I reacquainted myself with friends that had been close to me for many years. I started hanging out with the guys. The guys being some that you know as I have written about them here before. Ronnie, Larry and Scott and myself began our terror on the church by being the teenage boys that we were meant to be.
I took up as a locker partner a friend of mine who was a senior that year. There was nothing between me and Val, but we were extremely good friends. She was my first kiss and it was not a romantic kiss, but an experimental kiss. Val had some girlfriends that she hung around a lot with while I was hanging around with the guys. Her friends included Donna, Sheryl and Barb.
I am not sure how it happened but either Barb asked Val about me or Val pushed the notion of Barb and me together to Barb. At any rate Val came up to me one day and pointed Barb out to me. She wanted to know if I would be interested in going out with Barb on a date? I hadn't thought about it but I told Val, sure, why not. I hadn't been out on an actual date for a while.
Our first date was Barb's graduation night. The class of '73 was having a big class party over at King Louie West, a building that housed pool tables, an ice skating rink and a huge bowling alley. It was an almost all night date and so we spent a lot of hours together on that first date. Those hours went by very quickly. I was just a sophomore in a crowd of a lot of seniors, some of who I knew, and it ended up being a good time. By the end of the night I had decided that I would maybe want to see her again.
After a few days I called and asked her out. It was the beginning of a life time together. With every date we went out on, the more comfortable we became with each other. Her dad did not care too much for me at first knowing I was still in high school for another two years while his daughter was out in the world. He learned to like me though and eventually went with me to buy my first car. As the years went by, I grew to respect her dad a lot. He was a good and honest man who thought I was just a plain guy who was very quiet and didn't cause too much trouble as far as his daughter was concerned.
Of course, he didn't know about the time I got a speeding ticket in his car for drag racing down Blue Ridge one night. He didn't know that most of my free time was spent playing basketball and baseball instead of working. I did have a job, but it wasn't a career job. I was picking up trash after school at my dad's place of business. Not a big pay check there.
Eventually I did work up into the drafting department so I was able to tell him that I had a REAL job which made a big difference in his mind. All the while Barb and I were growing closer and closer. She managed to make friends with the guys plus a few others. The guys all liked her a lot. Not once did one of my friends ask me if we go somewhere without Barb. They loved having her around.
As that first year went by we found that we were spending every spare moment together, that is if I wasn't out playing ball which was almost everyday after work and usually most of the weekends. She was patient with me on the basketball though. She knew I was good and that I loved playing those pick up games all the time up at the church parking lot.
During the summer between my junior and senior years, and a little ways into my senior year, we decided that maybe we should date some other people just every once in awhile to be sure we wanted to be together. I know she went out a couple of times and she knows I went out a few times. I spent a bit of time with one of the guy's sister, Pam. I also went out on a few other dates and enjoyed them to a degree. I didn't know where everything was leading to but eventually, slowly Barb and I became a pair again that could not be parted.
As I started my senior year I began to think about how I really felt about Barb. and came to realize that I did indeed love her. We were spending weekends together. Spending more time with each others families. I had to start thinking hard about where this was heading.
I gave it a lot of thought. It was an important decision. I was sitting out on the front porch late one night when my mom came out and sat next to me. She wanted to know what I was thinking about. I took a deep breath and the said for the first time to anyone, "I am going to ask Barb to marry me." My mom was quiet for a while before starting into a dialogue with me about marrying Barb. A lot of things were said between us that I will keep to myself here, but let me say I don't think mom was convinced that the timing was right for getting married. As usual I didn't agree with her and decided to go ahead and ask Barb anyway.
It took me a while to get up the guts but finally one night I decided to ask her THE question. We were sitting in front of my parents house in her little Nova. I decided to do it right no matter how uncomfortable it might be. I worked my way down to one knee on the floor board trying to get comfortable or at least be able to balance myself. She was watching me asking "what are you doing?" I responded with a "just a sec" and when I finally got in the correct position I took her hand and said those words that been said by millions of people all through time. "Barb, will you marry me?" I was more sincere than I have ever been before about anything She smiled. She tilted her head. She squeezed my hand. and then she gave me her answer. She looked me straight in the eyes and said "I thought that was understood....". Well, that response kind of through me off balance in how I saw this night going down. I worked my way back on to the seat and looked at her, and I kissed her. It wasn't the exact answer I was looking for but it meant the same thing. She wanted to marry me.
We told my parents and got the reaction I expected. They were glad for us but a little concerned about the timing.
Then the next weekend I went to talk to her dad to ask him permission to marry his daughter. It was the proper thing to do in my mind. He was in his garage working on his lawn mower when Barb and I pulled up. I walked up to the garage holding Barb's hand. I shyly told him I wanted to marry Barb. He didn't smile, but then again he seldom did smile when matters of importance were being discussed. HE simply said "wee, that doesn't surprise me.." and he went on working a little bit. Then he stopped and looked me straight in the eye and asked a question I never saw coming. "You're going to finish high school aren't you?" This set me back a bit. I didn't know that was ever in question. I answered in the affirmative and he said, "well, that is the important thing, that you finish school.." then he turned and went back to work on his mower.
Both the families eventually came around to accepting the fact that Barb and I were indeed going to get married and attitudes softened up a bit. The wedding did go off very well and on our first anniversary, Barb sat home alone waiting for me to get home from playing basketball with the guys at the church parking lot. She was a good sport.
And so even though I tried to do everything right, I did not receive one response that I was expecting in getting approved by Barb, by my family or by her dad to marry her. The important thing is though that in spite of the surprise reactions to my questions, it all worked out. We have been married a little more than 36 years now and it seems like we will be together until the day one of us passes.
I kept my word to her dad and we were married the November after I graduated from high school. Been a pretty good ride with a few trouble spots that we worked our way through and will continue to work our way through. Marriage isn't easy, but it is worth it.