Fall, 1977, Memorial High School, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Just another day in school. School to me was something one had to do or pay the price of parental disapproval. I was pretty good in that department. I diligently got up each day just in time to make it to school for the first bell or jazz band practice, just depended which came first. The excitement was over whelming.
I only looked forward to history and band. Being in the orchestra, jazz band and marching band were what I lived for; history, because I was good at it. The other classes were just a blur.
I was 6’2”, one-hundred and seventy-five pounds; in great shape. So why would I be in the band instead of playing football? Well, this question was posed by one of the football coaches, Coach Blevins during driver's ED in the summer of 1976.
“Son, when are you going to start lifting weights?”
“Not planning on it coach. I'm not going to play football; I'm going to be in the marching band.”
He scoffed and asked, “And why not?” Obviously he wasn't real good at math.
“Simple, coach. How many cheerleaders are there, twelve to fourteen?”
He replied, “Something like that.”
“And how many are on the football team? Thirty or thirty-five?”
“Something like that.”
“Well, there are one-hundred and fifty in the band and half of them are females. I really like those odds better!” And yes, I believe I got a C in driver’s ed. Imagine that.
Okay, back to 1977.
I was pursuing a girl named Betsy, and no matter how hard I tried, it just wasn’t working out. Even after the trip to Denver and trying to comfort her after the riot with McClain High School during the city football playoffs, it wasn’t working. But I am one stubborn son-of-a-bitch. So I kept digging in my heels and trying, yet at the same time I noticed this cute brunette on the flag line. I think her name is Debbie Beck.
Rumor had it, a good friend of mine Clay, was dating Debbie. She was on the flag line which is quite visible from the trombone section. She had this cute girlish smile and acted like she didn’t have a care in the world; always smiling and cutting up. But alas, she was dating Clay and I Betsy.
While Betsy and I were dating, something unexpected happened between Debbie and Clay. He got a new car and for some unknown reason, it took precedence over Debbie, and their relationship slowly started fading. And even though I knew pursuing Betsy was not working in my favor, and some female friends were dropping hints that Betsy was waiting for something better to come along, and the brunette had taken a liking to me, I was not going to surrender and give up on Betsy.
Now apparently Debbie had a bit of a crush on me and did everything within her power and proper etiquette to get my attention. I can really be slow some days, actually only the ones that ended in “y”. This was no exception. Her friends were dropping hints the size of bricks, but as I mentioned, I am not always the brightest bulb when I am fixated on something or someone else.
During the winter break, Tulsa received a really good snow storm, probably around six inches of the white fluffy stuff. My best friend Mike Poehling called up, suggesting I join him and go over to his girlfriend Pam’s house and have some fun in the snow. Nothing better to do, so I agreed to tag along. There were a whole lot of band members in the neighborhood, including Debbie (I didn't know that vital fact); we just might really have a good time.
Mike drove us over to Pam’s house. She had two other friends over, Debbie and Peggy. The five of us went outside and had a blast. We played, laughed, and wrestled in the snow until our clothes were saturated. We decided to go back to Pam’s house. Mike drove a light blue two door Ford Falcon, so you were only going to get two up front (Mike and Pam) and that put Debbie, Peggy, and me in the backseat. I was between both of the girls. Yes, I’m still being slow. I look back now and can still see Debbie beaming and giggling with every brilliant comment that came out of my mouth. Instead of striking up a real conversation, I was commenting about the steam coming off our clothes. Brilliant. Such an idiot!
The spring semester started, and I was still pursuing Betsy until the day I asked her if she wanted to go out this coming weekend. She didn’t say no but definitely didn’t say yes. I was not pleased. She is really trying my patience! I headed to my locker on the second floor, absolutely disgusted. As I approached the final step to the landing, there was Debbie and Peggy. Debbie had on a pair of jeans, a yellow and blue striped shirt and had the cutest smile on her face. Without any hesitation I looked her in her eyes and said, “Debbie would you like to go out this weekend?” If she’d have said no, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
I was pleasantly surprised as she smiled and said, “Yes.” So being the true romantic I am, I told her I would call her with more details. As I walked away I could not believe my ears – she let out a scream of joy. Only took me two months to get around to asking her out.
The first date: harmless. I‘d pick her up at 7:00, get a bite to eat then return to my parents and watch TV. I told her my curfew was 1:00am. I had to be home and locked down at that time (Never volunteer your curfew first. Ask her what time she has to be home). I asked what time she had to be home, and she said the same. Let me think, fifteen-going-on-sixteen female is telling me the truth. I see a problem with this scenario.
The date went really well. We played some pool, watched TV, and talked about our likes and dislikes, and believe it or not we actually have quite a bit in common. This might be a good thing.
Now let me talk a little bit about playing pool. Dad added a game room to the house and of course, bought a pool table for fun and games. Debbie asked me if I could teach her how to play pool. Talk about a set-up! I agreed to show her what I knew.
I racked the balls, informing her, the game was eight ball. I took the first shot for the break. It was now her turn. She turned, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Could you please show me how to hold the stick?”
Well of course I can. In order to show one how to hold a cue stick properly you have to get behind the person, put your arms around them, place your hands on theirs and then show them how to let the stick slide through the hand that is resting on the table. I looked at it as a tutorial exercise, nothing more. She on the other hand had other intentions as I would find out later. Some days I am so slow, it really hurts. The pool lesson went really well. Did I notice the small hint of perfume she was wearing? Yes. Did I notice how soft her hair and skin felt against mine? Yes. Did I have any idea what she was doing? No! Did she win the game? Didn't really matter because she kept asking me to help her with most of her shots and I did.
12:00am; it’s time to take her home. She agreed to come to the football game I was playing in tomorrow with a lot of other band members at LaFortune field. Just a fun day out of the house. I had her home by 12:15am, and we kissed on her front porch for over thirty minutes. She is an amazing kisser. We kissed as if we’d been dating for six months. I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want her to be late and get in any trouble with the folks. We kissed once more, and I said goodnight.
My heart was so full of happiness, I was awestruck. I drove home on cloud nine. This is a girl I really want to learn more about.
Saturday morning started with a beautiful bright sunrise. I crawled out of bed, devoured three bowls of cereal, and couldn’t wait to pick her up and go to the game. I called her house around 11:00 am, and asked if I could speak to Debbie. Her mother said, “No,” but she insisted that I come to the house immediately. “There was a problem that needed to be addressed, now.”
What in the world have I done? I picked her up on time; I had her home on time. What could possibly be wrong? Remember, I informed her of my curfew first.
Meeting the parents on our first date went really well. Something told me that in twelve hours the winds of fate were taking a different turn. I jumped into Dad's mammoth green four door Impala and headed to what felt like impending doom. What did I do? What could have gone wrong? Will I be able to see her again?
I pulled up to the curb and slowly took that long walk to the front door really looking forward to re-meeting her parents still trying to figure out what went wrong. I didn’t have to ring the doorbell, her father was waiting at the front door and ushered me into the foyer. “Good to see you Jeff, follow me.” When a dad says, “Good to see you again,” less then twelve hours after the initial meeting, it’s not a good sign. No last rite, no last meal, and no blindfold! This can’t be good. He led me into the family room. He took a station to my right; Debbie is sitting on the couch to my left with her customary girlish grin, and her mother is sitting to Debbie's left with a disapproving scowl. Only two things were missing, a yardarm with a rope. It could have been conveniently placed in the kitchen.
Her mother started the interrogation by asking, “Jeff, did you know that Debbie has a curfew?”
I said, “Yes, it is 1:00am. Debbie told me so.” That was mistake number one.
Her mother quickly informed me that her curfew was 12:00am. That meant she was in the house at 12:00am not 12:01 or 12:02. 12:00 o’clock was the hour. Her father said nothing. He was watching my body language for any sign of a slip-up (I am convinced that the wrong shrug or minor grin, and he would produce a rubber hose and make me talk). Since I was telling the truth I was temporarily safe from being evicted from the premises. I looked at Debbie as she slid a little lower down in the couch just smiling at me. Damn, I couldn’t be mad at her, just upset. I let her parents know the mistake would never be repeated again. They were emphatic that it would not happen again. If it did, we would not be dating. I looked her right in the eyes and let her parents know, “This mistake will not be made again.” All she did was smile.
Well, now that that was cleared up, I asked if she could go to the game today. “No. She is grounded for two weeks.”
What? Two weeks. She slid a little lower down the couch and did her best sorry smile she could muster. I was not happy! What a great first date. Great points with the parents. What is the future going to hold?
I left their house quite disturbed. First date: she gets grounded, I get banished. What a wonderful start to Saturday. I drive to the stadium trying to figure out what I am going to say to my friends, especially Mike. First date, how did it go and why isn’t she here? I believe the appropriate response would be @#$#%#$@. Yeah, that sums it up, and that is pretty much how I answered any and all questions thrown my way, with style and grace. All I really wanted to do was get on the field and start knocking heads in a friendly game of tackle football. Damn, that first hit I laid out felt good. Took my mind off of the current dilemma—Debbie.
What I couldn’t imagine was the path she and I were about to embark on for the next thirty years.