Last weekend, without any forethought, I recreated the day my husband and I met nearly forty years ago.
We met on an early, sticky August 1977 morning in the parking lost of the West Quad building at Ball State University. Both of us had partied with friends the night before; we were both mourning break-ups. Both our significant others were students at Purdue University, and we both had our hearts and spirits broken in spring 1977.
The person with whom I would spend the rest of my life didn’t look that great on that early Sunday morning. Unusual, perhaps, but not great. In the spirit of the times, he wore long hair to his shoulders that hadn’t seen his brother the barber’s shears in six months. He topped that unkempt do with a white Gilligan-style cap. He wore a dirty, white shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, and white jeans, white socks, and white tennis shoes. Hidden behind a pair of thick, dark, plastic eyeglasses, I noticed the most beautiful clear blue eyes I’ve ever seen.
I had been instructed to meet this cool dude for a ride to the Ohio University Journalism Workshop in Athens, Ohio. Just for the record, the last time I checked, Athens was in southeastern Ohio near West Virginia.
They tell me that I may not have won the Grooming Award that morning. Apparently, my greasy hair was covered with a red bandana. I wore a wrinkled and dirty t-shirts and donned my requisite college painter’s pants.
His car? Nothing unusual for a college sophomore? A 1965 black Cadillac Sedan de Ville with a red leather interior. A power antenna came up when the car turned on. The car heater was permanently on (not a bonus feature on this steamy summer morning). The vehicle was about nineteen feet long with electric windows and an AM-FM radio. The tires had skirts which the owner reports were a PITA with a flat tire. Sometimes, the carburetor needs air through a nineteen cent Bic pen to get started. And, of course, it had those classic Caddy fins.
That Sunday morning, we grunted hello at each other. Another college journalist was along for the ride. I claimed the back seat and crawled inside. Even at five foot, eight inches tall, I had plenty of room to nap.
Gilligan turned to me in the back seat and mumbled, “How do we get there?”
I snapped back, “I don’t know. I guess you go to Indianapolis.” (Note for later: that was wrong. Real wrong. But, I am not, never have been, and never will be a morning person. Get over it.)
Referring to my earlier statement, Athens, Ohio, is southeast of Muncie, Ball State’s home. Indianapolis is southwest.
I was going to sleep. I didn’t give a rat’s patootie. My attitude was “the driver can deal with it.” That also turned out to be wrong.
Eight hours later we arrived on the opposite side of the Hocking River from the Martzolff House at Ohio University. Somehow he had gotten onto a dusty, dirt access road near the river’s edge. He backed up, and we found a bridge to the campus and arrived well after our appointed hour.
My still-dear-friend of 40 years hung her head out a dormitory window, “Where in the hell have you guys been?”
I chose to ignore that and lambasted back (in my dainty voice), “I never want to see that S.O.B. ever again.” What a treat to hear my dainty and precious words given back to me at our wedding rehearsal dinner seven years later.
Last weekend we went to visit my father in West Lafayette, Indiana. This time, we traveled in my husband’s new SUV, with cool air. Last week had been tough with a close friend seriously ill. I felt down; I didn’t wash my hair that day. As we left Newburgh for our trip north, I put the comfortable navigator’s seat in the reclining position.
As we left town, my husband asked me, “Now how do we get there?”
I said, “Just go on 69 until the road ends and then get on 231 from Bloomfield.”
He said,” But the road doesn’t end at Bloomfield.”
About half asleep I said, “Whatever.”
He was right. Why he listens to me after 39 years is beyond me, but sometimes he does. As we passed the Bloomfield exit and moved into uncharted territory, I was texting friends and not paying attention.
He said, “I was right. Why do I listen to you after 39 years? That’s just beyond me.”
I said, “No problem. Let’s just use the navigation system in the new car and figure out how to get back to 231.”
He turned it on. Nothing. A blank screen. Nada. Interstate 69 between Bloomfield and Bloomington is so new that the navigation system didn’t have it yet.
Okay, let’s punt.
“We’ll go to Bloomington and go through Indianapolis.”
Fine. Between Bloomfield and Bloomington, we might as well have been in the Gobi Desert. There was nothing. Civilization loomed ahead at the home of Indiana University. We turned north on Indiana Highway 37 and saw a road construction sign. A direction sign said, “50 miles” to Indianapolis.
I said, “There’s no way there can be road construction for fifty miles.”
There was road construction for fifty miles.
By this time the man with three college degrees sitting beside me had drawn a parallel with our important first meeting. He was beating himself up on listening to his beloved (or not so dear) partner of the thirty-plus year.
Delays and stopped traffic put us into Indy about rush hour time on a Friday night. We drove around the southwest side of the city and curved up north to the Interstate 65 spur. Anyone who’s driven on 65 anywhere in the United States in the last thirty years knows what a S*^T sandwich that road is. It did not disappoint.
We were only a few hours later, and granted; we did ride in more comfort last weekend than we had in 1977.