Love was in the air…it always is in the spring, especially in 53’. I was walking home with my sister, Joyce and our friend Bernice. I would be lying if I said we weren’t a bit flirty back then, the spring just brings it out in young people. Slowly walking home from school this particular day, I could even feel my hips swaying just a bit more exaggerated--almost in cadence with the trees limbs stirring. Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t hear a car approaching until a quick blast of the horn jolted me.
Honk…honk, “Hey ladies, need a ride home?” asked a very handsome sailor deck out in uniform. Dark, thick wavy hair peeked out from his cap; very tan almost glossy skin framed his smoky gray eyes and startling white teeth. The uniform, oh my, dare I remember the white uniform; I was so captivated by his good looks it almost overtook me.
“Well, ladies,” he persisted.
Bernice looked closer at his face and said, “Leonard…is that you?” “Why, I haven’t seen you in ages!” she gushed. I didn’t know why she was gushing because she already had a boyfriend; I think he just had that effect.
Leonard smiled and my heart danced…I wondered if he could see my heart doing the twist?
“I’ve been in the Navy for a year, Bernice and I’ve missed seeing everyone…so can I give you ladies a lift?”
“Sure,” said Bernice as she plopped herself in the front seat. Joyce and I retreated to the back. I sat directly behind Leonard just knowing he could see me breathing funny…or was I breathing? Looking back, I don’t think I was.
As he put the car in gear and steered back onto the road, Leonard looked up in the rear-view mirror and winked at me while giving me a devilish grin. That was it! I was his…forever and ever, Amen. Before, he could get us home, I had already planned our wedding, our children and our growing old years. It was his fault, he shouldn’t have winked, but he did. Later, he told me I was his “pick-up” girl. I secretly etched that into my heart.
We married in the summer of 54’. It was a hot steamy day. We took our vows for ‘better or worse’ ‘richer and poorer’ and ‘sickness and health’ till ‘death do us part,’ in the Methodist Church. My mom said it would never last because his kinfolk were from the other side of the tracks. But, in my mind, there is always a pearl amongst the grit and he was my pearl.
The marriage went well and within a few years so did the children. We had two girls, one I named after a soap opera star…Lizzie-Rae and when my second daughter was born on Halloween, we named her Lori-Gay with an ‘i,’ I think we set a trend, plus I liked names that rhyme--it’s the writer in me.
I had planned on us being richer than we were, but comfortable is what happened. We’re just fine. Everything’s paid for…we’re grateful to God for that especially since I had a stroke.
Yes, our growing old years were the only ones that didn’t go as we hoped for. We had just booked a Hawaiian cruise with all the bells and whistles. We would leave in a month. This was our dream-come-true trip that we had wanted to take for years.
Couldn’t go. Doctor’s said no.
I’m paralyzed on the left side of my body. Everything works except for my arm which quietly stays by my side, and my leg is braced, but I can walk slowly with a cane.
I’m grateful, but…
There are always ‘buts’ in life. God doesn’t want ‘buts’ he wants ‘praise and gratefulness’ because He knows what’s best for our life…even if He chooses not to heal my stroke.
So, after 55 years of marriage, three daughters (one snuck in much later, Kristi-Kay with an ‘i’), and eight grandchildren, we proved mother wrong.
He’s still the pearl that I clasped around my heart in 53’.
Every now and then he’ll tell me I’ll always be his ‘pick-up’ girl as he picks me up from a chair, or the bed or he tries to lift my spirits on a bad day.
Those words are forever etched into my heart…for better or worse, in sickness and in health, I’ll always be his ‘pick-up’ girl and he’ll always be my sailor.
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