I didn’t know — honest!  I wondered why her Mother was crying in the portico at church one Sunday. She wasn’t wearing the ring.  When finally we talked about it, she said she wasn’t wearing the ring because she had decided to send it back to Allen, who, if I understood correctly, was in the military in another part of the country.

She also told me that before Allen, there had been Louie.  She was also engaged to him, for how long I don’t know.  If I got it straight, both of them were at least a couple of years older than she.  Joy, Terry and Cherri have the straight scoop on that.

I remember the first time we kissed.  We were riding (not parked) in the back seat of the car as four of us were headed somewhere, who cares where.  I don’t know how many times we had dated when that happened.  I just know it happened.  The earth didn’t shake, there was no thunder and lightning, no bells ringing, but darn near it.

I remember sitting upstairs in the old parsonage, where the Vicar (pastor in training on his internship at our parish) and a few of the guys were talking.  The subject of my having had a few dates with Mary Ann came up.  They assured me that I was not up to the task of taming that feisty lady.  They were right.  I just married her, I did not tame her.  By the way, I have no doubt the other guys in the group were hopelessly jealous of me.

I remember one time at Mary Ann’s house when a bunch of us were there, she said, “Where’s my Man?”  She was talking about me.  My heart jumped right up into my throat.  At that time in my life, the stature, big ears and pointed nose remained the same, but I had worked out regularly that first year of college.  I was 135 pounds of toned muscle, having done a record 17 back handed pullups during the physical fitness test we took.  I could bench press my weight.  I curled 90 pound weights regularly.  By the way, now that I have been lifting Mary Ann for so many years as her Caregiver, I am again 135 pounds of toned muscle, just wrapped in 30 pounds of fat.

As the letters I wrote to her confirm, I fell head over heals in love with her in short order.  I wrote her every night for the next three years, other than summers, when we were together.  During that time, Sunday afternoons were the worst, I missed her so.  The second and third years of dating were during my years at a pre-Seminary school in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

In addition to the letters there were weekly phone calls.  In those years, long distance calls were very expensive, a luxury.  The phone calls were less than satisfying.  The letters were better.  Often when we called the conversations found us in different moods.  Mary Ann never liked talking on the phone.  She was not overly sentimental and I was hopelessly lonely and in love.

Weekends together came after much anticipation.  The pattern was, a couple of days to get re-acquainted and in tune with each other, and then it was time to say a painful goodbye.  One day, she surprised me by leaving for church in Aurora in the morning and arriving in Ft. Wayne four hours later for lunch.  I won’t forget that day.  Her parents were very displeased even though she was 22 or 23 years old at the time. She had not told them what she was doing.

Summers were great.  By that time my parents had moved to a house they built at what we called the farm, my Dad’s dream place in the country.  He used every penny he and Mom had saved to build a three bedroom house in the woods, with a creek running by.  Mary Ann lived in town.  We were twenty miles apart.  After a while I could practically drive that blacktop in my sleep.  In fact, many times, I would become alert again after I had made a treacherous S curve with no memory of doing so.  That 1958 Chevy Impala with a powerful V8 engine could fly.  It was my Dad’s car.  I still didn’t have a car of my own.

Yes, I stayed out very late and got in trouble with my Dad more than once.  We were just talking!  Again, let me be clear.  We played by the rules and waited until we were married.  She made sure of that.  I was a typical young guy with hormones raging (cover your ears, Lisa and Micah).  By the way, is this in the area of too much information? That is all I will say about that.

Mary Ann and I were never afraid to argue with one another.  Mary Ann was strong willed, and as much as I loved her, I was willing to express myself also when something seemed unacceptable to me.  Sometimes we wondered if we should stay together, but making up was such fun.  (Again, too much information.)  I wonder if our ability to argue during those years helped us learn how to survive together and love each other with a lasting love.  We didn’t put each other down.  We just got mad at each other and said so when we were.  We could do passive-aggressive pretty well too.

At the end of my Senior year in college at Ft. Wayne, I finally got a car.  It was a 1950 Chevy in mint condition with 43,000 miles on it.  I got it early in 1965.  I drove it over to St. Louis at the end of that school year, ostensibly to check out the Seminary campus.  When I was there I went to a little office on one of the upper stories in an old building in downtown St. Louis to a wholesale jeweler to who catered to Lutheran Seminary students.  I got a diamond that is of exceedingly high quality, almost a half caret (pretty special for a college kid trying to make it on his own) and beautiful.

I surprised her with it one evening at the beginning of that summer when we were together at my folks place.  As is now obvious, she said yes!

Enough for now.  Like it or not, the story will continue in the next post.

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