Our first summer together, but the Devil tries again to tear us apart...
Our First Summer Together
Satan Tries Again
Beginning the following week we had available a new form of recreation now that dad had their swimming pool open for the summer. We'd spent many a time frolicking in the water with her family last summer when we had our one day a week together, and this summer looked to be even more promising. I didn't swim as often in the early part of the season as she did, because I was more sensitive to the water temperature than she was. She would swim on the first available day every year, and do nothing more in preparation than stick her toes in the water as she walked by the pool toward the deep end, getting ready to dive in. I never could understand how she could just dive in like that without getting used to the tem-perature first. And this year she did it again. I sat on the edge of the pool at the shallow end, and dropped my legs into the water. They were there all of two seconds. The rest of the day (afternoon, anyway) I sat in a lawn chair and watched Linda and her sister frolic like a couple of kids in the water.
"Her desires are making themselves evident, and she's slowly becoming more outgoing," I thought to myself as I watched the two of them at play in the pool. "but at times like this, it's obvious that in many ways she's like a child. There's still an innocence about her that is totally disarming. Maybe that's why she can always get to me with those big, brown eyes." I chuckled at that thought. "What does the Bible say? 'Suffer the little children to come unto me; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven' or something like that." I found myself hoping that somehow she would never lose that little something - that innocence - that I was seeing before my eyes at that moment. And with that thought I remembered how quickly she had started to grow - inside - and I knew I'd need help with that one. "Lord, I ask in Jesus' name that You help me to teach her the things that she needs to know to be that person, that woman, that housewife that she so desperately wants to be. You know far better than I what she must learn and how she must learn. I need to grow quite a bit myself, Father, so if this is gonna work, You're going to have to keep me a few steps ahead of her so I can answer her questions and show her how to solve the problems she'll face. She's already told me things she couldn't even tell her father, even with as close as they’ve always been. So I need to be worthy of that trust and able to help her with whatever problem or question she may bring me. And with what I need to learn myself, I know I can't do it all without Your help. Thank You, Father, and thank You for being there, waiting for us, after all these years. In Jesus' name, Amen."
That Sunday afternoon Linda suddenly realized that, with all the usual excitement of spending the weekend together, she'd totally forgotten to tell me that this coming week would bring a new threshold for her.
"Jim!! I almost forgot to tell you!! I've got a job!!" she yelled as she ran up to me on the patio.
I gave her the bear hug and kiss she was expecting. "I think that's great, sweetheart!" I had reservations about it, with the prospect of seizures and all, but I knew that the experience would be good for her, and even more important, she would now have the independence, in a concrete way, that she had craved for so long. And I knew from first-hand experience what that could mean to her. No way could I even consider denying her any part of that. "What do you do, Squeek?" I hoped she wouldn't detect my reservations.
"I'm a secretary for an insurance company. It's mostly shorthand and typing, and I love to type. Better brush up on my shorthand a little, though. Haven't used it since the first part of the school year."
"Too bad I can't ride to town with you in the mornings, honey," I said, a little disap-pointed myself.
"Yeah, I know," she said sympathetically. "It would have been kinda nice, wouldn't it? But since you started your new job you don't go anywhere near town to get to work. Darn."
I had just started working in the mailroom of a local electronics company. (I got the job on my own, but it happened to be the same place her dad worked, Nutone, Inc..) "But it is all dayshift," I said. "even if I do occasionally have to work half a day on Saturday."
"That's true. More time together," she said, smiling with that "look" in her eye she always gets (ever since that special Sunday night in the woods), when she has very private thoughts on her mind. And the kiss I got just then told me what those thoughts were.
"You don't hear me complaining, do you?" I asked, making a quick pass at her out of sight of the family. She looked playfully shocked and poked me with an elbow.
“Oh, YOU!" But her face told me she thoroughly enjoyed the exchange.
After a quick dip in the pool a couple hours after supper, we parted again (not by choice, of course), to begin another week.
Tuesday, June 14th. Linda's waiting at the bus stop on Government Square, for the next bus home. She'd just gotten off work a few minutes before.
"Excuse me. Do you know what time it is?"
Linda turned to see a soldier standing beside her in his summer uniform, a pleasant smile on his face. "Five twenty."
"Thank you very much. Um...my name's Ron. Ron Mullens. What's yours?"
"Hi, Linda. Do you have a few minutes to talk or are you in a hurry?"
"My bus is due in about ten minutes."
"I just wondered 'cos it's my last week in town and I didn't really want to spend the evening just walking around. Would you like to see a movie or something?"
"Aw, c'mon Linda. I ship out for Vietnam on Saturday morning."
"Well, okay. But I better call my mom and tell her I'll be down here a while so she doesn't worry about me. And I have to make the 10:20 bus to get home. That's the last one out."
"Okay. No problem.” His enthusiasm picked up.
Linda crossed the street to a phone booth and dialed.
"Mom, it's Linda." Frantic, she hoped her nervousness wouldn't show. She continued: "Jim met me down here and we're going to see a movie. I'll be home on the 10:20 at the lat-est."
"Okay, sweetheart. See you then."
Linda hung up the phone, pausing a moment before she left the booth. "I sure hope she couldn't tell I was scared," she thought. And what am I going to tell Jim? Or rather, how am I going to tell him? I just didn't have the heart to say 'no' to Ron. But what's Jim going to think?” Nervously she left the booth, slipping her engagement ring in her purse as she walked.
"Okay, Linda. What movie do you want to see?"
They chose a movie and went to the theatre. As they watched the film, Ron put his arm around her shoulders. Then he kissed her.
Silently she thought, "I know I should fight him, but I don't have the heart to hurt him." And subconsciously she found herself taken by the idea that someone else outside her family would find her attractive enough to want to kiss her.
As the movie let out about 10:00 P.M., she felt relieved that it was over, and that he hadn't tried anything more than those kisses. "All he did was kiss me. Even if he did do it three times," she told herself.
"Why don't I drive you home, Linda? I've got the time and you can save the busfare."
"Oh, no!" she thought, surprised. “I can't let him do that because mom and dad will still be up!" Nervously she groped for a reasonable excuse, to no avail. "I'm sorry, Ron, but I just don't feel like it tonight. Okay?"
"Okay. But at least give me your phone number. Maybe I'll get a chance to call you before I ship out."
"I'd better do it. I don't have a good reason not to, as far as he knows," she thought, nervously writing it out for him.
"Thanks, Linda. I'll talk to you later. And I sure enjoyed that movie." Then he kissed her one more time and walked away.
"Yeah, I guess you did," she thought to herself as he headed down the block. "Gee! How am I going to explain it to mom and dad if he calls?"
The 10:20 pulled in. She paid the fare and sat down. "This 45-minute trip should be very relaxing," she thought, "but tonight I don't quite think so. What the heck have I gotten myself into now? I have to tell Jim. We promised not to lie to each other. And breaking that promise would hurt more, and longer, than telling him the truth. I know he's been great about understanding things up to now, and he really loves me. But can he understand THIS? Jim, I do love you. I hope you can forgive me." Suddenly remembering the ring, she took it out and put it back on her finger, spinning it round and round as the events of the evening ran through her mind; and she suddenly found herself caught in a situation from which there was no way out. She couldn't hurt Ron, but she couldn't hurt Jim, either. The closer the bus got to her stop, the more hopeless the whole thing looked.
"One way or the other somebody's going to get hurt," she thought as she walked home from the bus stop. "And what in the world do I say if Ron calls? Will I have the courage to say 'no' this time? And speaking of courage, where am I going to get the courage to tell Jim?"
She unlocked the front door, quietly entered and locked it behind her. Amazed, she realized that no one else was up; they'd all gone to bed. "That's right," she remembered. "They think I was out with Jim. So they're not worried about me getting home safely. I'm sure glad they went to bed this time. Now I don't have to face them with this on my mind. One look at me and they'd know something was bothering me, and I'd end up telling them. And I couldn't hurt them like that."
She quietly made her way upstairs to her bedroom. "Not that I'll be able to sleep any," she pondered as she climbed into bed a few minutes later. As she dozed off, she mumbled, "Jim, please forgive me......."
Wednesday afternoon, about 6:20, the phone rang.
"It's Ron. Ron Mullens."
"Oh. Hi, Ron." Immediately she was a bundle of nerves.
"I was wondering if we could see another movie tonight."
This time she had a legitimate excuse. She relaxed a little. "I'm sorry, Ron. I'm going out with a friend tonight."
"Let's make it Friday night then. Okay?"
"Oh, hell!" She thought, the nervousness returning. "Why does he have to be so persistent? Well, he ships out Saturday anyway, so..." Aloud, she said, "I guess that'll be okay."
"Great. See you at the bus stop Friday, then. Bye."
"Goodbye." She hung up the phone and nervously made her way to her room.
She looked at the clock. "Almost 6:30!! Jim will be here in a half hour!" She hurried to get changed. But this time a simple clothes change seemed to take forever. "How will I ever tell him? And with Friday night coming up, too. Why couldn't I say no??" she asked herself, exasperated. She caught herself and managed to keep her voice low enough so those rambling thoughts wouldn't be overheard and require an explanation. "And how do I explain Friday to Jim? We always get together on Fridays. He might be suspicious if I try and back out of that." She didn't know how she made it, but she was ready by seven. And, as usual, Jim was right on time.
Later that evening, Linda and I were on our way home after going to dinner and taking in a movie. I'd gotten the "silent treatment" again tonight, at least on the way home, so I knew something was on her mind. Only this time it was more like the night of the Junior Class play, when she told me about the epilepsy - she wasn't looking at me when we DID talk. But this time I wasn't going to try and break the ice. One of the things she needed to learn how to do was say what was on her mind; and together with that, learn to express herself better, period. So I did like she told me to do; I let her fight her way through it. We got to within five minutes of her home before she had the courage to speak.
"Jim, if mom or dad says anything to you about last night, I told them I was out with you."
“That’s not like her,” I thought, puzzled. “As close as they are as a family, I wouldn’t have thought she’d have any reason to lie to them about anything. Maybe she’ll tell me what the problem is.” "Sure, honey, but I'm curious, I continued aloud. “Where were you that you didn't want them to know about it?"
"Jim, honey, sweetheart, I.... was ..with....a-guy." Behind that, as fast as she could get the words out, she sputtered, "Jim-please-don't-be-mad-at-me-let-me-explain."
I gripped the steering wheel with everything I had. "And I thought we had it made!!!” I silently shouted. “I should have known things were going a bit too smooth. Too much like a fairy tale," I thought, in total disbelief. I got fired up, fast. "Why???!" I asked myself, still unable to believe it. I let her spin her wheels on the subject for a few seconds, maybe a minute. "She's got to learn that even I’VE got a limit to what I can take," I told myself, still steamed.
"Jim, please say something. The waiting is killing me," she thought, quietly staring at the floorboard.
When I thought she'd stewed enough, I began:
"Where'd you meet him?" I knew I sounded upset. I didn't care. She deserved it.
"At the bus stop."
"What's his name?"
"Ron...Ron Mullens." She thought, "Please, Jim, don't be so upset. I know I've hurt you, but saying this is hard enough."
"He...he said he...ships out for…Vietnam…Saturday. And he wanted...to do something… besides walk around town every night... before he left."
"Yeah, I'll bet he did, too!" I thought, getting more nervous and upset by the minute. "Just what did you two do?"
"We...uh… went to a movie. ‘Casino Royale.’ ” “THAT didn't help any," she thought silently. "And I better finish that thought before he gets the wrong idea." She paused, then nervously continued: "And he kissed me."
As soon as I could, I pulled the car to the curb, not five blocks from her home. I was shaking so bad, I'm surprised she didn't notice, or that it didn't show in my hands. I was so hyper by then, I couldn't even tell if it showed physically or not. I shut off the engine, and the lights.
"Jim, why are you stopping?" she asked, terrified at not knowing what my next move would be.
I thought, "Because you OUGHT to walk home from here, you............" Aloud, the nervousness quite evident in my voice, I said, "Because I don't trust myself to drive the car right now." Which was true. "I don't know if I could keep control of it," I thought. And that was quickly followed by, "And that loss of control might be intentional." I found myself caught between deep hurt and revenge. I finally continued: "How many times did he kiss you?"
"Three in the movie, and once when he left me at the bus stop."
"Cripes! She even kept count!" I thought. "And that's all he did - kiss you, I mean?"
"Yes. He had his arm around my shoulders, like you do, but nothing else." She immediately thought, "I shouldn't have said it quite like THAT!"
"Un-huh. Well, does it end there?"
"Uh.....not quite. He called tonight, and....."
"Oh, fine. He's got your phone number, has he?" I cut in.
"Yes.....He asked for it, and....."
"Just can't say no, can you, Lin? Well, go on. What did you two talk about when he called?"
"He wants to see me again before he leaves. I'm supposed to meet him after work Fri-day to see another movie." She added, again in rapid-fire style, "But-I-won't-keep-that-date-if-you-don't-want-me-to. Honest, Jim, I'll never see him again. I just wanted to send him off to Vietnam a little happier, that's all. But I'll stand him up if you want me to."
"If I want her to? Does she actually think she has to ask?" I questioned silently. She was on the brink of tears, now. I knew I should ease up, but...she needed to learn a lesson, and I even found myself enjoying this. Besides – I had to let off some steam if I was ever going to calm down enough to drive.
"No, by all means, keep your date! After all I went through to be with you, after all I thought we meant to each other, you still lowered yourself to that level, so you might as well stay there a little longer. Only this time, I'm coming along! I want to see just what this guy's got that made you throw away everything we had!” Halfway through my little speech she burst into tears.
"But.... but... but Jim, how am I going...to…explain...your being there....I…mean.."
"I don't care how you do it! But I'm going to be there! Do you understand me??" I slowly started to cool down. But I knew I had to follow through to show her I meant what I said. I just wish it was a happier situation that gave me my first chance to apply what she told me in another one of her notes. She had admitted she needed discipline she never got at home: "And if you put your foot down, and wear the pants around me, I'll love you even more." "I hope you're right about that, baby," I thought. "But this is one hell of a way to find out."
"Y...Ye...Yes...I understand." She was still sobbing as I started the car.
As I drove, I cooled down, but I knew I couldn't keep all this inside, and I also knew I had to stand firm in her eyes.
"Lin, I've got to talk to your folks about this. Maybe there's something I don't under-stand. Maybe they can help me keep it from getting out of proportion."
"Jim, no! Please. I can't hurt them like that."
"Lin, honey, it tore me up too much to be able to keep it inside. And better they should find out than a stranger, or worse yet, a friend."
"You do what you have to do, Jim. But please, be as gentle as you can. And remember: I love you." She thought to herself, "I know I deserve it, and at least he hasn't walked out on me. I'd deserve that, too. So I better leave things alone."
"I will, Lin. They're like my parents now too, you know."
Minutes later, in her driveway, I set the brake but didn't turn off the ignition.
"Aren't you even going to kiss me?"
I could hear the tears building again. I'd never deprived her of a kiss since we'd first admitted how we felt about each other. And I loved her so much I didn't have the heart to go through with it now. So I melted. "Oh, hell! C'mere."
She leaned over, and I kissed her, but I left it pretty devoid of the usual emotion. She seemed very grateful that I hadn't simply cut her off with no kiss at all. "See you Friday after work. Meet me in front of the Albee." I let the determination show. Had to put my foot down.
"I will. I promise......Jim?"
"I love you, and only you. Honest."
With that, she slowly got out of the car and walked to the door. She turned, looking for me to blink the lights as I always did when I left at night. But not this time. I just left. As I pulled away, she went in the house.
The next afternoon, as soon as I got home from work, I called her house. Luckily, Linda didn't answer the phone. I think she would have been a little reluctant to let me talk to her parents, but she would have done it.
"Hi. Listen, mom. Do you think you could get Cork to keep Linda occupied for a while tonight? I'd like to talk to you and dad privately about something."
"I think we can manage that. See you about 7:30?"
"Right. And thanks, mom."
"You're welcome, Jim."
I arrived a couple minutes late, so I could be sure Lin and Cork would be gone before I walked in the house. Her folks were in the family room, as usual after supper. This time they were sitting at the bar playing cards.
"Perfect," I thought. "No need to interrupt anyone's individual activity to get them together for this." I sat down at the end of the bar.
"What's on your mind, Jim? Ginny said you sounded a bit serious on the phone."
"Well,…dad, it's last Tuesday night when Linda said she was out with me. She wasn't. She was with another guy." I was already getting choked up. Even reliving it to tell them was murder.
"Oh, Jim!" mom exclaimed.
"How'd you find out, Jim?" dad asked, partly, I think, out of curiosity. Not that I could blame him. I'd have been curious, too. But he was getting pretty shook up just the same.
"She told me. That's the beauty of our relationship, dad. We can trust each other enough to know that we don't have to hide anything. We promised not to lie to each other, and she stuck to that, even now." I thought, "Brother! The contradiction between the situation and the relationship gets pretty deep here.”
"When? Last night?"
"And you want to tell us about it, right?"
"Right. If I don't tell someone, I'll explode. And this way it stays in the family."
"We appreciate your consideration, Jim. And we'd want you to tell us anyway. So go ahead."
With that, I proceeded to put before them a complete explanation of Tuesday night, as Linda had relayed it to me. I left nothing out. I couldn't. I wouldn't be getting anything off my chest that way. Then I told them about last night, when she told me. But I said nothing about Friday. About tomorrow night. Not only to protect Linda, but because I pretty well figured there was no way they'd understand my wanting her to go through with it, let alone my going along. I had burst into tears myself by the time I had finished talking about Tuesday, and pretty well had them under control again as I finished the explanation of last night's conversation. Frankly, the whole thing had me pretty worn out. Reliving it and all.
Dad paused. He looked at mom. I sensed that they knew they were thinking the same thing. Mom seemed a bit too nervous to say it, so dad spoke.
"Jim, are you going to stick with Linda, or are you going to leave?"
"The answer to that lies in the very reason I'm here," I laughed through what tears remained, relieved to have the whole thing in the open and off my chest. "If I didn't love her so much, it wouldn't have bothered me enough so I had to tell somebody. In that case I could leave. No, I'm afraid you're stuck with me for a son-in-law. I could never leave her. I'd be just as lost without her as she would be without me. And from the things she's told me, about how it used to be for her, being THAT lost would be unbearable."
"Thanks, Jim. We were hoping you'd stay. You've made a big difference in her life, and we're grateful."
"Thanks for the compliment, dad. It means quite a lot. But all I'm doing is the same thing you two've done for the last 18 years - loving her." I smiled. "But I know what you mean and I appreciate it."
We talked about a few other things, probably to lighten the mood a little as well as be sociable. When I noticed the time was approaching 9:00 P.M., I said goodbye. We all knew I wanted to be gone before Linda and Cork got home. And the stores closed at 9:00. I didn't know for sure if that's where they went, but I didn't want to take any chances.
When Linda and Cork got back a few minutes later, mom followed Linda up to her room, and made sure the door was closed behind them.
Friday afternoon, we met on schedule.
"Hi, Squeek. I..."
"Oh, Jim! I'm so sorry!! I should have told him 'no' from the beginning. Let's just leave now. Okay?"
She threw her arms around me and gave me a bear hug and a kiss like the ones I usually got only when we were alone. I knew she meant every word she said. But I knew, too, that she had to learn there are consequences to face when we make decisions. "No, Lin. We're going through with it. I want to see what he's like." I frowned at her as she put the ring in her purse. "I'm standing right in front of her and she's doing that?!" I thought furiously.
Just then, before she could respond, he arrived.
"It's the damned uniform. It always is," I muttered to myself.
"Jim, this is Ron Mullens. Ron, this is Jim Williamson...a...friend from school," she said.
We greeted each other, and shook hands. After some discussion, we decided to see the film that was playing right there at the Albee. After getting inside, we let her pick the lo-cation of our seats. She chose the front row, center. OUR favorite spot. "Swell," I thought. "Great respect for our little secret preferences." We three sat down, with her in the middle. We each held her hand. "Great," I thought. "Share and share alike. Now I know why she took the ring off. He's got that hand."
I felt almost as peeved at this setup as I did when her mother made her take her class ring back just because I had to keep mine. Every few minutes he'd look over at her, she'd look at him and squeeze his hand. I'd let out a sigh. She'd do the same for me, and occasionally lay her head on my shoulder. As the movie progressed, I continued to simply stare straight ahead. Not up at the screen. Just straight ahead. And she noticed the angle of my view. About halfway through the film she started paying more attention to me than to him. Like whispering "I love you" when she laid her head on my shoulder. "Sure. After you kiss him twice in the early going," I thought silently, still upset. That thought really got me steamed up. I just ignored her. Told her to go ahead and act like I wasn't even there. By then I had come very close to walking out. Three times. But something kept me there.
After the movie, when we got outside, Ron asked if we wanted to get something to eat.
"No, I don't think so, Ron. I've got to get up and go to work tomorrow," Linda said. "Good Luck."
"Okay, thanks for the dates.” He hugged her. Around his shoulder she looked at me and grabbed my hand. The look on her face was asking me to understand. She mouthed the words "I love you".
"Enough's enough, already!" I thought.
"Nice to meet you, Jim." We shook hands. "Bye, Linda." He walked away.
As soon as she could get the ring back on her finger, she gave me a bear hug that was even better than the first one. "Thanks for not blowing the whistle, Jim. I honestly do love you, and it won't happen again."
"You know I feel like saying 'I know it won't because I won't be here', don't you?"
"Please, Jim. I know I deserve that, but give me another chance. Please. At least I didn't lie to you about him. I stuck to our promise. Doesn't that show how much I love you? It has to be worth something. Please."
Right then she started batting those big, brown eyes at me again. Just as she started that I was thinking, "She has to mean it. In her own way she's actually begging me not to leave. And she's got guts at the same time! She's scared to death I'll leave for good and she's still got the courage to stand up straight, face this thing and bat those eyes at me. Now THAT shows how much she means it. THAT I understand." And I suddenly realized that this situation, and the way she faced it also showed how much she was beginning to grow. It made me feel good to see it, but at the same time I didn't want to lose that innocent cutie I'd fallen in love with. But I knew it had to happen. "Lord," I prayed silently, "like I said before. You're gonna have to give me all the guidance on this thing. I need to grow, too. Teach me what I need to learn for myself, but also what I need to learn to teach her the things she needs to know. I know I've said most of this before, but I'd rather turn to You more often than I really need to than to let anything mess it up. 'Cos it's our lives that are at stake here. I seek this guidance from You in Jesus' name. Amen."
He was guiding already. With all that going through my mind, it still happened so fast that she didn't notice any lengthy silence before I continued: "Dammit, Squeek, you had to resort to your secret weapon, didn't you?" I asked, smiling now. She risked a smile. I hugged her and she started to relax. I kissed her with everything I had; those eyes left me no choice. When she felt that kiss, she knew the ordeal was over. She melted right into my arms.
"I couldn't afford to lose you, Jim. It took something like this to show me just how much I love you. How much I need you. After all I've done to you this week can you forgive me?"
"It'll take time, Squeek, at least before I'm willing to see 'Casino Royale' or read the book. But if you promise never to mention his name again, unless he's got the nerve to call you again - I wouldn't want you to lie to me just to keep THAT promise - I think that movie is the only problem I'll have. And then only because we were trying to see all the Bond films together, and now that streak is broken. But I couldn't give you up, either. You see I meant it last year when I said I was completely, hopelessly in love with you. Even after something like this I can't walk away. Because I love you too much. So, the only thing I CAN do is forgive you. See? I told you I was hopelessly in love!" I smiled.
"Thank you, Jim!! I know I don't deserve it, and it'll take time for this to heal, but I'm just thankful that you didn't walk out on me. 'Cause I don't know what I would've done. I do love you, honest. I know that now. Believe me?"
Now I melted. "I believe you, honey." “There's that innocence again. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't just cut her loose. She'd be lost without me. Damn! There I go getting senti-mental again!" I thought, with humor and affection, as I kissed her. Deeply.
She smiled. "Still wanna skip supper?"
"How 'bout a Big Boy? Does that answer your question?"
Yes sir!" she said smiling. "I'm starved."
With our arms around each other, we began the walk to Frisch's.
(We never went to any more of the Bond films together after that. JAW 6/14/00)
(To this day I haven't yet read "Casino Royale" or seen the movie. J.A.W. 05/28/07)
The Ron Mullens affair upset Linda as deeply as it upset me. Because she couldn't keep it inside, either. No, she didn't tell her parents all the details, even after her "little talk" with mom. She went to the one person she knew would always keep a secret, just as I had gone to her parents with the same thought in mind. Who else? Little Sister. Cork was, after all the years they'd spent together, very expert at "reading between the lines" during their conversations. She must have detected a reasonable amount of worry on Linda's part about whether or not I would really be able to accept the incident and continue to love her as much as before. Because a few days later, when Linda was in another room, Cork slipped me a note which not only showed her concern over the issue itself, but stands even now as a beautiful example of how close they were to each other all those years, how close-knit their family is, and how they are ready and willing to help each other, even the newest member(s), in difficult times:
June 28, 1967
About this, if you take Lin out to a movie or to a drive-in or something like this don't kiss her just once or twice kiss her
a lot (almost smother her in kisses). I'm not balling you out I'm just correcting you. You see, I love you and I know you love her
and I can answer almost every question you have. 'Cause I know how you feel. I don't understand about her and this guy either (his name is Ron). It just doesn't seem fare.
If you have problems and can't answer them yourself and you can't tell Lin, find me and I'll do my best because I DO LOVE YOU. I won't say anything about this to a single soul. I hope and
pray you'll stick.
Love you forever,
Toward the end of June, Linda received a letter from Ron. She answered it herself, then told me about it:
"Jim, I got a letter from Ron yesterday."
"Did you answer it yet?"
"Did you tell him about us?"
"Uh...no. I...couldn't...he's got enough to...worry about...over there...being shot at and all."
"Dammit, Lin! It still sounds like you're putting his feelings ahead of our relationship. Maybe I should have left when I had the chance!"
"Jim, don't say that! Please! I'll tell him next time. Honest."
"No, you won't. You're just too darn soft-hearted for your own good. I'LL tell him." At that moment I realized that I had simply had it with the influence this guy held over our relationship.
"You've got his address, haven't you?" I thought, "She has to. How'd she know where to send her reply?"
"Swell. I'll meet you halfway on this one. If he doesn't write again, fine. He doesn't have to know. But if he writes, or calls, or gets in touch at all, you tell me. Understand?" I put my foot down again. Not just to teach her, but I also felt I had to on this thing, for the SAKE of our relationship.
"Yes, I understand. What then?"
"Then I send back the response he's expecting from you."
"Okay." She thought, "It hurts to have to tell Ron, but I guess Jim's right. I'm just too soft-hearted. Mom said I was too; when she gave me that big speech last night after Jim talked to them. That speech about how the girls in our family just don't ever lower themselves to that level, and worse yet, that it almost cost me everything I had. About how upset Jim was. So torn up he actually cried. That's when I knew I'd really made a mistake. Because Jim had never let anything get to him so much that he would openly break down and cry in front of anyone. Until this. He's always been so strong, I've never seen him cry. And mom said he bawled like a baby. She said this subject would be a tender one for him for a long time, and that I'd have to be very careful how I handled it. I guess they're both right. With all that's happened, looking back, it could all have been avoided if I could have said 'no'. And I had a lot of chances. Yep. I'm just too soft-hearted. And now I'm paying for it. But this whole thing sure got him to put his foot down around me, and THAT feels kinda good. I feel secure when he does that. As long as I'm careful how I handle this thing, there could be a good side to it after all, for us."
About that same time, Linda started feeling the adult form of the peer pressure she'd known in school.
"Jim, can we talk a minute?" she asked as we walked in the moonlight. "Seriously, I mean."
I knew that tone well by now. She was deeply bugged about something. "Sure, honey. Anytime. What's wrong?"
"I...lost my job today. I had a seizure. They said that wasn't the reason, that I wasn't doing a good enough job. But if I wasn't doing a good job, they wouldn't have waited a month to fire me. Right?"
"That sure makes sense to me, Squeek." I hugged her. She laid her head on my shoulder. "I'm sorry, honey."
"I know, Jim. Why do people have to be so unfair? If I'd told them about the epilepsy in the first place, I wouldn't have gotten the job. That's happened before, too."
"I know, sweetheart. But you just keep plugging away. You always said you were stubborn. Use that. Make it work for you. Don't give up till you find a job they'll let you keep. Just be sure you always tell them about the epilepsy up front, so you don't have it hanging over you. You'll do an even better job for them if you're not worrying about that all the time."
"Thank you, darling. That's a great idea. I'll try it. And thanks for cheering me up. You always seem to know what to say at the right time." She hugged me. "I love you."
"Thank you, Lord!" I prayed within. "Thanks for the inspiration." Aloud I said: "I love you too, Lin. And just remember - I'm always here whenever you need to talk. No mat-ter what it's about."
"I know, honey. And I love you for that, too."
Early in July, her persistence resulted in a new job. Now she was a secretary for a carpeting warehouse outlet. (Harry’s Corner)
And July and August would bring with them new and exciting aspects to our relationship. But not before a small storm cloud came on the horizon. It was still the first week of July.
"Jim, I got a letter from Ron today."
She handed it to me. "Okay, Lin. I'll take it from here."
"I'd like to tell him to be gentle about it, but I'd better not push," she thought, re-maining silent on the subject.
I read the letter when I got home that night. It was quite romantic. He planned to call on her when he got back to the States. "After all this time I start getting competition," I thought. "With my luck, it sorta figures." I half smiled. I composed my reply. I politely, but firmly informed him that we were engaged, that we had been the night she met him, let alone the night we saw that movie together. I then informed him that I expected him to honor that commitment and not attempt to see her again. That I had done what I did in response to a specific request from her that he be spared as much pain as possible before he left.
Within ten days from the mailing of my letter, Linda received one from Ron. Stunned, she phoned me that night.
Jim, I got another letter from Ron. You told him, didn't you?"
“YOU got a letter? Yeah, I told him."
"I'm scared to open it."
"Tell your folks we're going out. I'll be there as soon as I can. And don't worry. Okay?"
"I love you."
"Thanks. I needed to hear that, Jim. I love you."
Within a half hour the unopened letter was in my hand. Knowing he sent it to her, I wasted no time in opening it. Silently I read the letter, Linda watching my face intently for a reaction.
He stated in the letter that he figured I should have flattened him when I first met him, and he wondered why I didn't. "The guy can't read," I thought. "I said that I did it that way for Linda." He went on to say, though, that should we not be married when he returned, he still intended to see her. We had given him no ideas concerning our timetable for marriage, so I guess he thought he might still have a chance with her. I handed her the letter.
"Honey, you read it now, then we'll talk," I said gently. Now it was my turn to wait for a reaction.
"Nope. It's all there in black and white."
"Oh, Jim. Honey. What have I started? He's not going to bother us after we're mar-ried, is he?"
"I don't know, darling." I had to be honest with her. "He says not, but his tone says he's not so sure he can stick to that." Now she was worried.
She hugged me with everything she could muster. And she held it longer than usual.
"Jim, he could bug us the rest of our lives."
"No, he won't, honey. If it comes to that, and I don't think it will, we have some legal alternatives available, so I'm not that worried about it. And I don't want you worrying yourself into a nervous wreck about this, let alone keeping it all inside. It's my job to take care of you, but I can only do that if you'll let me. Now I want you to do your best to forget about this whole thing, and let me handle anything that comes up about it. And that's an order!!" I smiled and kissed her. Her tension over this slowly dissipated.
”Yes, SIR!!" She smiled, thinking, "I'm glad he took that off my shoulders. It was starting to worry me pretty bad. And he's right again. As soft-hearted as I am, I'd stay so in-volved in it that it would strain our whole life together. The thing that gets me is, though, it's a sensitive issue with him, yet he wants to handle it. Maybe he feels better knowing he's in control of it. Whatever the reason, he's always come through up to now, so I'll just do as he asks and trust him with it."
We were never to hear from Ron again. Within 1-2 years, Linda fostered the idea that he never made it back to the States alive. And her belief in that never changed, though I (like to?) think she totally forgot him with seizures and the passage of time.
(If I ever get the chance to see the memorial, I plan to see if his name is listed on that wall. JAW 8/25/00)
Linda had been a member of Job’s Daughters since 1961, when she was 12. She told me what she could about the organization shortly after we met. Still, I found myself uncom-fortable with the secrecy involved, probably due in large part to the fact that she had also said that they change into some sort of robe for the meetings.
She said I was being either over-protective, like her mother had always been where her seizures were concerned, or possessive of her. I had to admit it felt like one of those to me, too, but I couldn’t help it. Unknowingly, and unintentionally, my attitude on the subject had backed her into a corner.
About mid July, during their summer break, she decided to put my mind at ease on the issue, and said she would not return to the meetings when they resumed in September.
Those "new aspects" that came into our relationship, beginning in late July, started as pure fun and frolic, but soon added something deeply meaningful to our already unique rela-tionship.
Linda and Cork loved to show off new outfits; to model, period. So one evening when their parents were out and the idea occurred to them, they jumped at it. Linda knew I had my camera in the car.
"Perfect timing," I thought as I carried it into the house.
Linda and Cork came downstairs wearing outfits as close to identical as they could find. I posed them, and took the picture. They ran off upstairs, changed outfits, and the cycle started again. I must have taken 24 pictures that night, or close to it. And some of the poses weren't bad, if I do say so myself.
The last week in July and the first week in August, mom, dad and Cork took their va-cation trip. This year they'd gone to Florida. Mom and dad cautioned Lin against my spending any night at the house, but they needn't have bothered. And I think they really knew that. They just mentioned it to make a point of what the neighbors might think if my car was in the driveway "too late". And that made sense.
For Linda, all that new time alone together, assured of no interruptions, was just what the doctor ordered. Twenty-four hours after they'd left town, we were taking a "moonlight" (10:00) dip in the pool. She swam over to me.
"Hi there, beautiful." I kissed her.
"Hello, handsome." She smiled.
I thought, "She's got a calculating look in her eyes." I felt my anticipation growing, without even knowing for sure that she had anything on her mind. I squeezed her lovingly. When I relaxed my embrace, she backed up a couple steps, but stayed well within my reach. The water was up to her neck now. Without saying a word, or taking those "calculating female" eyes off me, she slowly, seductively slipped out of the top half of her 2-piece swim-suit. I started to embrace her and she playfully, yet firmly held me off. "This is her biggest cat-and-mouse game yet," I thought as I watched and waited. As soon as she was sure my eyes were going to stay glued to her (actions?), she skillfully, and just as seductively removed the lower half of the suit. "Now?" I thought. "Wrong!" As I said those words to my-self, she slowly walked up and hugged ME. I embraced her. Without hesitation, she took my arms from around her and, watching my face intently, placed my hands squarely on her chest. From that point on, I don't remember anything else we did. But then again, it's not hard to figure out WHY I don't remember. But at the same time I still remember one particular thing we DIDN'T do…
We were to take advantage of those late-night dips many times over those two weeks, and the enjoyment only grew. And the second week itself brought another surprise.
This time she was back on her modeling kick. How many outfits has she GOT? I asked myself. Only then did I realize the stupidity of the question. "Dummy! Like any fe-male, she's gonna have so many she's probably lost count long ago." This particular evening I brought both my instamatic and my Polaroid. I wasn't sure how much film I had left in the instamatic and I didn't want her disappointed.
After a handful of typical outfits and poses, she had a "problem":
"Jim, come up here a minute, will you? I want your opinion on this outfit." I climbed the stairs, the Polaroid still hanging around my neck.
As I entered her room, I didn't see her right away. "She's in the closet," I thought. I turned in that direction. As soon as I passed it, the door closed behind me, and there she stood, facing me, already posed (appearing to lean on the doorknob). You guessed it: she wasn't wearing a thing.
"Cheeeese," she said, grinning a naughty grin with eyes to match.
I snapped the picture. "Geez!," I said. If it weren't for the fact that it's a Polaroid, I couldn't do this. They'd arrest me if I tried to get it developed. But you knew that, didn't you?"
"Yeah, I knew", she said, grinning with an even naughtier look and loving every min-ute of it.
Before we had finished, I had seven very personal pictures of a real beauty.
(Lord, I want to do something here and now that I have not done for a very long time, if ever. Father, I thank You and praise You, from the deepest corners of my heart, for these special, and very intimate photos of Linda. They give me the chance to remember our most intimate moments in ways the “usual” pictures never would be able to do. They are among my most cherished momentos of those years, Father. I ask that You see to it that nothing ever happens to them; that they remain flawless, intact and in my possession throughout my life so that those intimate memories will always be as bright and sharp as they’ve always been. Once again, thank You, Lord, for these most cherished pictures of our intimate moments together. I praise You for these things, and ask You for these things, in the name of Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. JAW 8/20/00).
(As you may well expect, I still have that “special” or “private” photo, and the other six of that “very personal” collection.
The openness, honesty, and trust now present in our relationship always came to the forefront at times like that. And the events of those last two weeks only added to that feeling. The gentleness with which we treated each other, especially at intimate times like those, was a manifestation of those three things and served to demonstrate, in terms we both could fully understand, the real depth of our love. The truth of that statement is enhanced, if not proven, by the fact that at no time did either of us feel pressured to "go all the way". We didn't need that to fully appreciate or demonstrate the way we felt about each other. To many couples, the intimate times we’d often shared, like that wonderful Sunday night in the woods where we conquered the last of our juvenile inhibitions, and our "moonlight” dips in the pool when she’d slip out of her bathing suit would have been too tempting. Many would have “gone all the way” at those times. We could do anything we wanted with each other, like those times in the pool, yet we never felt the need to prove our love that way at those, or any other times. We felt we didn’t HAVE to prove it that way. That’s how deep our love already was. The letter she wrote me on my 19th birthday not only confirms every bit of that, but also adds a special dimension to the thought:
I want you to know that I love you and I need you. You are my life, my every reason for living. You are very dear to me and I want never to hurt you.
As I sit here at my desk I can think only of the fun we have had together. I want to continue to have that fun. We understand each other’s problems now. We know where we stand. Our lives have more meaning and more beauty to them. The arguments we’ve had are over and done with.
To me your birthday present is not enough. The thing to go with it is love. We share it at all times. It means more today than in the past. Jim, Happy 19th birthday.
With love from
P.S.: I love you
This work is taken from "A Once In a Lifetime Love: An Autobiography of Two High School Sweethearts", copyright 2000, as yet unpublished, by the same author.