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Sunday, January 28, 2018

#Romance #Truelove #BreastCancer #OklahomaStateUniversity


I made a few ill-advised trips back to Tulsa to see her. High school football games, the mall where she worked, and one time to the high school. I was stubborn and hard-headed, seeking a reason for what I’d done wrong. I wanted to see her so much that I asked my best friend’s sister if she would like to go to the Christmas dance. I guess she felt pity on me or really wanted to go.
At the dance, Debbie and her boyfriend were there. She was wearing our prom dress. Guess she liked the dress, but it sure pissed me off. I thought prom dresses were like wedding dresses, one use and never worn again. Wrong! I think that upset me more than seeing them kiss. My date, Anne, sincerely asked me if I wanted to leave. She saw the pain in my eyes and knew the pain I was going through. Her suggestion woke me up. She’d purchased a dress, done her hair, and deserved my full attention. I looked at her and said, “No, I’ll be okay. You look great tonight. Let’s stay.” We really did have a good time once I came back to reality. We had such a good time with each other, we even got our picture taken.
I came home for the Christmas break and like usual a bunch of us guys got together and played a game of softball over at LaFortune Park (winter in Oklahoma can either be brutally cold or unseasonably balmy). Should have been named MisFortune Park. During the game I dove for a ball. It was right on the tip on my glove.
You know the sound mud makes when you fall in it, kind of a hard squish?  Well, that was the sound I heard. When I came to, several of my teammates were standing over me with a puzzled look. All I cared about was if I’d caught the ball. They resoundingly said, “No!”
“Well hell, I know it was on the tip of my glove. What happened?”
They helped me up and for some odd reason escorted me to the bleachers. I felt woozy, but I figured it was from hitting the ground. Apparently that wasn’t the case. They had me move my right wrist - no problem, move my right elbow -no problem, raise your right shoulder. I think I passed out. It appeared my shoulder was not on an even plane. It was sticking up at an odd angle. I was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a third degree separation. You might ask where this is leading. Okay, I had surgery. A lot of people called and sent their "Get Wells" and heartfelt sympathies - all but one. The one I really wanted to hear from. Just a kind word of well wishing or even a phone call. It never came. I just wanted to hear her voice. It wasn’t to be. It would be thirty years before I heard the rest of the story. I loved her so much I couldn’t let her go.
We did cross paths one more time while she was in high school; Spring 1979. I believe to this day it was a set-up meeting. She was still seeing her boyfriend, but for some odd reason she contacted my best friend Mike’s girlfriend. Debbie wanted to see me again. This would take some doing. I would have to make a special trip to Tulsa. You see, I might not have had a girlfriend, but I discovered that fine affordable beverage that was so prevalent in Stillwater - beer.
When I went to OSU, I didn't smoke or drink. There was no time or desire for such activities. After we broke up, several of the guys on the floor decided it was time to get Jeff out and rejoin the real world. And so, with great trepidation and angst, I agreed to go this one time. And what do you know, I found out I really liked ice cold beer. It didn't erase all of the pain, but it sure was fun trying to wash it away. I believe even Sports Illustrated commented on the consumption of beer at OSU when interviewing Thurman Thomas.
I pondered the thought and finally agreed to stop by and see her in the presence of my friends. I was starting to heal from the break-up, but nonetheless was very curious what was on her mind. The meeting was set for around 8:00pm or so. It didn’t matter because I was in no rush to see her. Make her wait if she wants to see me so bad.
So, with good manners and grace, I picked up Mike around 7:30 and decided it was time to eat. He looked at me and said, “Aren’t you supposed to meet Debbie at 8:00?”
I said, “And? If it’s so important she can wait. I’m hungry.” I'm so glad we didn’t have cell phones or texting back then. It would have spoiled the moment terribly. We went to either Taco Bell or Wendy’s, really doesn’t matter. Mike kept looking at his watch. I told him to knock it off - we would leave soon enough. I wanted to see her and then I didn’t. I was in no rush to have those old feelings re-ignited whether it was love or hate. I just wasn’t sure how I would react.
We finished eating and were expected to pick his girlfriend up then go to Debbie's. We stopped at Pam's house, but she’d already gone to Debbie’s. Well that would make life easier. We drove down the street and sure enough they were both standing outside. Mike’s girlfriend was happy to see us. Debbie was very uneasy. I could tell she wasn’t sure how I would react. She couldn’t look me in the eye. That was fine; I had nothing to be ashamed of.  She on the other hand knew the way the break-up went down was wrong, and it was her fault.
I really had nothing to say. This was her meeting. She still looked good - long brunette hair, good pair of jeans, and the blue and brown easy off top she was wearing back in October when I watched her clean the house.
She’d put a little thought into this meeting by inviting Mike and Pam. They were going to act as her shield if the meeting went down badly. I positioned myself on the driver's side of the truck leaning into the bed. She would have to come to me if she wanted to talk. She was pleasant and nice enough, but she still couldn’t look me in the eyes.
I started the conversation with, “Why aren’t you out on a date?” She sheepishly said they were going out later. She asked the usual questions: how are you, how’s school, the parents, you know the drill; talking with no substance. I drove seventy-six miles to hear this crap? She finally looked up and asked me how I was really doing and how did I feel about her. Mike and Pam kind of moved a little closer waiting for my reaction. If it went south, they could step in.
I looked her in the eyes, “You really hurt me and lied to me. That was the hardest part. That you lied to me and couldn’t tell me the truth that it was over, and you had another boyfriend. I’m doing a lot better now.” It was pretty dark, but I know I saw tears coming down her cheeks. She was trying to keep them in check, but it wasn’t working. Yeah, that made me feel good. All the pain and tears I’d endured for three months, it was good to see her cry.
She then asked me a question that surprised me, “Jeff, you said that you were going to beat the hell out of my new boyfriend. Do you still plan on doing that, because he really thinks you will.”
I paused and pondered the thought for a few moments (dramatic effect was required). I looked at her and said point blank, “He’s not worth my time.” This put Mike and Pam at ease. The worst had passed. Jeff was going to keep his cool, and let it go. You could feel them and her, let out a sigh of relief.
Okay, that was it. She wanted to know if I was going to pummel her boyfriend. What a wasted weekend. I drove seventy-six miles for this? Idiot. What was I thinking? While I was running her thoughts and lame issues through my brain, she walked up to me, “I still really care about you, and I’m so sorry for what happened between us. You did nothing wrong.” What did she say? I was taken completely off guard. I wasn’t prepared to hear the words, “You did nothing wrong.”  She put her arms around my waist and gave me a huge loving hug. One that meant something, not some pleasant passing, good to see you hug, a real live I care hug. What else could I do but return the favor? I cannot say mine was with the same feeling, but it made her feel a little better about what happened. Something was different though. She’d lost a lot of weight. I really thought I might break a bone. What was going on? As we pulled apart from each other, she had tears streaming down her face and said, “I’m so sorry,” then turned away saying she was late for her date and ran into her house.
It would be years before I heard the rest of the story.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

#Romance #Truelove #BreastCancer #OklahomaStateUniversity #TulsaOklahoma


Like all new fall students heading off to college and leaving behind a sweetheart, there was a bit of trepidation - not of going to college per se, but of the relationship lasting. I had no doubt ours would last. I was deeply in love with Debbie, and there was no other girl who was worthy of a second look. I promised her I would write at least once a week and call her twice a week after 9:00pm or on weekends (we didn't have cell phones or computers), plus, I would come back to Tulsa at least every other weekend to see her. What happened next was definitely not part of my “master plan.”
September went well enough, a lot of letters flowed, phone calls were placed, and I would journey back to Tulsa every other weekend to see her.
I hate to get sidetracked but I have to address a lost art, Love Letters. In today's fast-paced technology, everything is almost instantaneous. Sometimes that’s a good thing but it cannot replace writing or receiving a love letter. At times, I believe I spent more time developing and writing letters to Debbie than I did applying myself to the subjects at school. I loved telling her how I felt about her and how much I was in love with her. Writing the letters always made me smile but not nearly as much as when I received hers. The one act, other than eating which I performed religiously, was checking the mail to see if “my love” sent me a letter. I always knew when one arrived because when I opened the mail box, I could smell a hint of her favorite perfume. And believe it or not, all the guys on the floor thought it was so cool when I received those letters. Knowing the woman you love has sent a letter puts one on cloud nine. I guess I'm plugging letter writing. Yes I am, so girls and guys, if you really want to know what your girlfriend/boyfriend is thinking or feeling, try writing him/her a love letter. I think you'll like it. Okay, let me get back to going to Tulsa and seeing her.
I loved watching her perform at halftime with the band. She was the most beautiful flag girl on the line, and she made captain or the equivalent thereof.  She was beautiful. I loved coming back and spending the weekends with her.
In October, something was changing. My roommate’s girlfriend’s younger sister, who was still in high school, was passing on  information that was somewhat disturbing. Debbie was seeing someone else. No way, not Debbie. I didn’t believe it, but the reports kept coming in.
I did the only thing I could – I wrote a letter asking her to explain the situation. I really don’t remember what I wrote, but I’m sure it was inflammatory and accusing. She wrote back saying there was nothing wrong, and I had nothing to worry about. She loved me more than ever and did not want to hear that type of talk from me again. She knew how to calm me down, and I believed it. But her letter was missing something - perfume.
A week after receiving her letter of assurance (I believe it was late October), it was time for the weekend visit. I showed up at her parents’ house Friday afternoon just aching to kiss and hold her. She opened the door wearing a brownish-tan blouse. I believe we boys called them “easy off.” She gave me a quick kiss, and we went into the living room. Guess what I wound up doing? Watching her clean the house. She said she was sorry that she had chores to do, but her mom told her it needed to be done this afternoon or she wasn't going to the game. In the two years we dated I can't ever remember her “having” to clean the house. Okay, she has to do chores, fine.  But there is something even more disturbing. I couldn't put a finger on it, but there was something missing in her smile.
Her smile appeared to be forced instead of loving. After an hour or so of watching TV, waiting for her to finish, I became quite agitated and told her I would see her tonight at the game. As I left the house, something dawned on me. It was the first time I saw her in a sexy top and wasn't interested in how she would look if it accidentally fell off.
Something terribly wrong was happening. She weakly smiled and gave me a quick kiss, saying she was sorry. I was not a happy camper.
As I mentioned earlier it’d been one week since receiving the letter of assurance, her actions were anything but reassuring, everything was alright; everything wasn't alright. It was evident with the kiss she gave me as I left her house that our spark of electricity was missing. I went to the game to watch her perform knowing something wasn't quite right.
I would usually sit with her after the half-time show for at least a quarter. The band director knew me and allowed it. Tonight she said she had to stay with the band, that Mr. Good told all members that the band stayed together. No more boyfriends or girlfriends allowed. Okay, I could deal with that.
After the game I picked her up from the high school and headed off to one of our favorite spots. She was very nervous and distracted. She wasn’t really talking, just looking out the window lost in thought. I found our spot, parked the truck, turned it off, unfastened my seat belt, and looked at her. The eyes I looked into were not of love but worry. She couldn’t bring herself to kiss me. She only said she should probably get back; there was something she needed to take care of.
I wasn’t dumbfounded; I was getting pissed. I took her back to school and dropped her off. She didn’t even look back. She was in a very big hurry. If I saw her that weekend, I don't remember, which is a pretty good sign that the relationship was coming unglued. Since I didn't know what was wrong, there was nothing I could do to stop our train from becoming derailed.
A week after my nineteenth birthday I received a letter from her. She asked if I could please come home next weekend. She really needed to talk to me. This was on the heels of my parents bringing her to Stillwater for a football game. Dad gave us a few hours together, but it wasn’t the same. I was losing her heart to someone else. I agreed to come to town and maybe find out what’s going on.
It was a Saturday night, and I picked her up around 8:00 o’clock. She got in on my side of the truck, then slid over to the passenger seat. I asked her what she wanted to do. She didn’t respond. I was hungry so I decided to drive down to Peoria and stop at Taco Bell. There was a sadness in her eyes shielded by her smile.
I ordered half a dozen tacos and a few tostadas.  I was still a growing boy. She got something to drink. After eating we went to the Riverside Bridge to walk around. I don’t remember talking much, we just nervously milled about for around an hour or so. She was trying to talk, but she couldn't put anything together. Her eyes were wet, but no tears. Whatever was going on wasn’t good. I finally ran out of patience and said, “I’m taking you home.” She agreed.
It took her five miles to finally speak words I didn’t want to hear but knew were coming, “Jeff, I love you, but I’m breaking up with you.”
All I asked was, “Is it because of Steve?” No answer. I was so damn mad. Instead of pulling off the highway and demanding an explanation, I did what any crazed nineteen year would do - I took out my anger on the accelerator. The truck was approaching 85 mph on the Broken Arrow Expressway, and I didn’t care. My heart had just been ripped out of my chest. She asked me to slow down.
“No way! I’m going to drive as damn fast as I want, and there is nothing you can say to make me slow down!” There was nothing to say; it was over. The only sound that could be heard for the next twenty minutes was the high-pitched whining of the engine screaming out as we sped towards her house. The only difference between the engine and my heart was you could hear one of them demanding an answer. Why? The other, my heart, couldn't make an audible noise as it rapidly fell to pieces.
I got her home as fast as I could. She was crying. Too bad! I’d been lied to; I’d been true to her, and now this! I pulled into her driveway, she handed back my class ring and said, “I’m sorry.” Like hell she was! She’d been trying to say it for at least a month. I think somewhere during the night I told her I was going to beat the hell out of her new boyfriend.
The worst part of losing your first true love is the feeling of your heart breaking apart. As I drove myself home, my emotions were all over the place. Name one: pain, anger, anxious, wanting, longing, and a host of others.
It was years before I was told the rest of story that led to the break-up.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

#Romance #Truelove #BreastCancer #OklahomaStateUniversity


It never failed that my best friend Mike, always asked me where we went and if it was quiet and secluded. “Yes, Mike. All of the places I’ve found are just like that and no, I’m not telling you where we go.” He thought that was just wrong and on occasion, without me noticing, would follow us and just as we were getting comfortable he would turn on his brights and start honking his horn. “I'm going to kill him.” Debbie would just laugh and have them join us. Damn it. Not what I had in mind, but okay.
There were plenty of times when we were by ourselves with no interruptions, and I am here to say it was pure heaven. She had the most perfect complexion and skin. Her skin was a very deep brown from her constant sun tanning. Even in the winter it retained its dark brown color. It complimented her beautiful brown eyes. I learned to appreciate one of the simplest pleasures in life - moonlight reflecting off her sweat covered body. God, she was beautiful!
Making love to her, not just having sex, was an intoxicating drug. I could never get enough of her. We could never kiss deep enough or hold each other close enough, and it didn't matter if it was in the dead of winter or the heat of summer. The only temperature that mattered was the heat we were producing.
There were a few encounters that didn't turn out exactly as planned. Mom and Dad went out for the evening. The house would be empty, and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. We went back to my parents’ house and did what teenagers in love do. Stripped down and hopped in bed. She felt so good. We were passionately kissing each other, and then I heard a terrifying sound. The bells on the back door started ringing. They only rang when someone was coming into the house. Oh, shit! Mom and Dad came home early. What to do, what to do? I told Debbie to get dressed and hide in the closet. I would go in the bathroom and hopefully diffuse a dicey situation. Okay, we have a plan.
I went in the bathroom, got dressed, ran the water for sound effects, and flushed the toilet. I thought I was clever. I opened the bathroom door and was greeted by my father. He had a very stern look on his face and said, “Son, don't let it happen again.” That was it. He turned and retreated into his bedroom, closing the door.
I made a bee-line to my room, opened the closet door, took Debbie by the hand, and ran as quietly as possible out of the house. We went out the sliding glass door that connected the main house to the game room so those damn bells on the backdoor wouldn't ring. Dad and I never spoke of this again.
There was one adventure Dad and I would discuss thirty years after the incident. Debbie and I went to Wendy's for a bite to eat. We couldn't keep our hands off each other while we ate. We had to get out of there and find a good parking spot. We finished eating, got in the truck, and immediately started kissing each other. She tasted so good. Well, we just got too damn hot and bothered, and she started our parking activities a little earlier than planned. Okay, I need to get us out of here. I looked both ways; the parking lot was clear. I started backing the truck up and bang! I backed right into a car that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. The driver got out wanting to exchange insurance, names, and numbers. He knew exactly what and why the accident happened. I was in no condition to step out the truck and have a visit. He got the information he needed and drove off. I know he was laughing. The worst however, was yet to come.
A week later, I went over to see Mike. His dad was always sitting in his recliner working on a new fishing rod. Mr. Poehling looked up, “Hi Jeff. What are you boys planning on doing tonight?”
“Not much Mr. Poehling, probably drive around town and get something to eat.”
“Jeff, I have a question. Did you have an accident last weekend?”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Did you have an accident last weekend? The reason I ask is one of my co-workers came in Monday and told me all about this high school boy, in a red F-100 pickup that backed into him, and for some reason the teenage boy didn't want to get out of his truck. Would that have been you, Jeff?” Oh, shit. He knows. This is not good.
“Oh no Mr. Poehling, that wasn't me.”
“Okay Jeff, just checking.” After satisfactorily answering his question, Mike asked me what happened. I told him it was none of his business. I never did tell Mike why his father came up with that line of questioning.
Now, my parents and Mike’s were good friends. They would occasionally get together for bridge, sporting events, or an OSU basketball game.
When I was back in Tulsa (2004) taking care of my dad, we were sitting on the back porch and I asked him out of all the girls I dated, who was his favorite. Without a flinch he said, “Debbie (he paused for a few moments before continuing), and son (another long pause) -” A small smile curled his face with the next words “I know all about you backing into that guy at Wendy's. Bill called and told me about it.”  Oh hell! Dad knew about this minor incident all of these years, and never said a word about it till now.
After the Wendy's debacle, I got a lot better at picking places that were secluded and sparsely populated. I was working for a paving company, and we’d just started a new job. No one lived in the area; the perfect place to enjoy a night of pleasure. Wrong. The company hired a security company to patrol the job site. We were both stark naked when the guard pulled up, knocked on the window, and said, “I don't care what you’re doing, but you can't do it here.”
“Ah, yes, sir. We were just getting ready to leave.” We must have driven around Tulsa for thirty minutes trying to find a place to put our clothes back on. She was laughing the whole time as I drove the streets of Tulsa. She was so beautiful in the moonlight. I really did love this girl.
And that is how we spent those lazy wonderful days my senior year. But the crowning moment was my Senior Prom.
Unlike the ring incident, I couldn't wait to ask her if she would be my date for the Senior Prom. I wish I could recount the exact happenings, but that memory has faded. I just know how excited I was when she accepted my invitation. But there was an obstacle with the prom—transportation. For some odd reason after I asked her if she would accompany me and she accepted, I promptly told her I was driving my truck and if she didn't like the idea, she wouldn't be going to the prom with me. What an idiot! A lot of the guys were going to rent limos or borrow Dad's Cadillac. Not me, I was going to drive my fire engine red F-100. I let her know, probably a little too harshly, if she wanted to go the prom she would be riding in my truck. No if, ands, or buts about it. I would completely sterilize it. It would be immaculately clean and nothing would damage or get her dress dirty. She looked at me with those big oval deep brown eyes, “Jeff, I don't care how we get to the dance as long as I am going with you.” I’m convinced if she would have suggested I drive something else, I would’ve done it.
With the transportation issue resolved, it was her turn to make a few requests. I needed to rent a brown tux and bring her a yellow rose wrist corsage. I also needed to get a haircut or at least have it trimmed so she could see my eyes. Done. I couldn't say no to her. I loved her completely with all my heart and soul.
The dance was Saturday at 8:00pm; dinner reservations for 7:00. I would have to get up early to properly cleanse the truck so I wouldn't be late and that is what I did. Up at 7:00am (I only got up this early if I was working), got the hose, the brush and every other cleaner available and attacked the truck. I am here to tell you when I was finished after four grueling hours, it was show room quality inside and out. There wasn't a speck of dust inside or any squished bugs on the outside. It was spotless.
I headed to her house at 6:00pm. I couldn't wait to see her. She’d given me an idea what her dress looked liked, and I couldn't wait to see her in it.
She was so beautiful in her brown and white chiffon dress, the yellow rose corsage, and yes, my class ring. Place all of that on her perfectly tanned body, she was absolutely stunning. We went to Steak and Ale for dinner with three other couples. It was the first time I’d been asked what I would like to drink, or if we would like to see the wine list. Hell, we were still in high school, and I probably blew a chance to get a few drinks without getting in trouble, but back then they didn't ID like they do today. Dinner was outstanding with one exception, I ordered sautéed mushrooms. Debbie looked at me and said, “If you’re going to eat fungus, please hide it from me.”
“Fungus? These are mushrooms, and they are so good.  You should try some.”
“I don't eat fungus!”
“Okay, okay, I'll hide them somewhere.” The only way I wouldn't have eaten them is if she would have said, If you want me to kiss tonight, you better not eat fungus. Those words would have stopped me cold.
The dance was simply wonderful. I showed her off to all of my friends. I was so happy to be with her and say, “This is Debbie, my girlfriend.” Everything was going my way.
Going into the summer of 1978, everything was on track. Grades were good enough to graduate, I'm making eight dollars an hour working for a construction company pouring concrete, and Debbie is my girlfriend. Life is great!
During the days, I would work ten to twelve hours, doing what I loved, pouring concrete. The work was hard, but it sure beat flipping burgers for two-fifteen an hour. I loved it because we didn't do the same thing every day, and when the day was done, I had more than just a paycheck to show for my toils. Debbie, on the other hand, had a job at one of the newest malls in Tulsa working at Morrow's Nut and Candy store. I could wear whatever I wanted to at work while she was relegated to a cute little uniform. I forgot the colors, but she wasn't very enthusiastic with the selection. Think the colors were an off color orange with yellow stripes and a hat. She hated the hat.
With my schedule it was difficult to get together during the week, so I would call her on the phone, and we would discuss how each others’ days went and how we couldn't wait to see and be in each others’ arms again. I always looked forward to talking to her. Saturday could never get here fast enough even if both of us were working; I usually only worked half a day or just eight hours. If she worked, I made it a point as soon as the whistle blew, to hop in my truck and head straight to the mall. She looked so cute behind the counter. Every once in a while, when there were no customers around, we could sneak a quick kiss and telling each other how much in love we were, plus, she would slip me some dried apricots. Oh, how I love dried apricots.
When Debbie wasn't working, she spent her days by the pool in her backyard tanning. She loved water, where I, on the other hand, enjoyed it only if I was fishing. I cannot recall how many times she and her parents would invite me to go swimming or hang out around the pool all day. Let's see, I work ten to twelve hours in the sun and really, the last place I want to be is baking in the heat for fun. They must have thought I was brain dead. Come to think of it, they were probably right. I mean, here is this beautiful girl in a bikini, just smoking hot. It didn't matter how many times she asked, even with those big brown puppy dog eyes, there just wasn't any enticing myself  to go for a swim. Stupid, stupid, stupid. With exception of not partaking in the swimming activities, we had a great summer. Going to movies, hanging out with friends, going to the local arcade. We crammed a lifetime of fun into three very short months.
As the summer of ‘78 started coming to a close, we both knew I would be heading off to Oklahoma State University. I wasn't real happy about going to college, but Dad and I made a deal. I would go one semester, and if I didn't like it then I would come back to Tulsa and go to work for John Gowin building roads. Debbie wasn't really excited about me going off to college, but she understood. We didn't talk about it much.  We enjoyed the summer and made the most of it.
When the day arrived for me to head off to Stillwater (OSU), we cried, hugged, and kissed. Her parting words were, “Don't worry about us. We’ll be okay. I love you!”
She was right. We had nothing to worry about.