Women, and some men, used to swoon when I told them about Jeanie being my high school sweetheart with whom I broke up with after high school. I ran away and joined the Navy, then looked her up about 22 years later. Those same people now laugh when I say the mortician who buried mine and Carmen’s spouses introduced us to each other. Christy Griffith, Bank of Cleveland vice president for Marketing, had a lot to do with introducing us, but saying the undertaker was our matchmaker is much more entertaining. That was when Mark Grissom and Christy had a morning radio show on WOOP-FM.
There were changes to be endured from one phase of my life to the next. For example, the Navy apparently did not care about the taste of mother’s cooking, that she mopped the floor with pine cleaner, or her preferred choice of rain fresh laundry detergent.
Also, my mother was much more nurturing than my boot camp company commander, whom we addressed as Gunners Mate Guns First Class David Thomas,, sir! That was in 1972 and I still remember his name. He expressed very little compassion the morning I did not roll out of my rack with the rest of the company and march to breakfast. He ordered me to get up, make my rack and then walk to the dispensary where a corpsman put me on bed rest.
My mother, whose name I also remember, would have brought me breakfast in bed and then driven me to the doctor’s office.
I adjusted to Navy life and stayed 20 years before transitioning to civilian life. The first indication that it wouldn’t be an easy move came the first time the barber asked me how I wanted my hair cut and I didn’t know. When I was growing up, mother cut my hair with horse shears, or if she took me to a barber, Harvey never asked how I wanted it cut, and certainly none of the ships’ barbers ever asked. So, at the age of 40, how was I to know how I wanted my hair cut?
My last transitional phase is being married to Carmen. We first met at Tres Amigos Mexican Restaurant, which is no longer in business. Our first real dinner date was at Oliver’s, which is no longer in business. We were married in Waterville Baptist Church, which was later bought by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and is now part of the Dalton Pike widening project.
We were married by the Rev. Joe Brooks, who is one of my very best friends. I met him a few years ago after Joe heard God tell him to leave the pulpit “to write.” He applied at the Banner where he distinctly heard God say “to edit copy.” In hindsight, I’m pretty sure God said “to write,” because he is the worst copy editor, period. However, he is the best preacher, period.
Between Tres Amigos, Oliver’s, Waterville Baptist Church and the fact that Mark and Christy were no longer on the air, Carmen and I sensed a developing trend, so the following week, she went on a week-long cruise to Hawaii or somewhere while I stayed home with the cat I apparently married. We felt it best that I stay home because there was after all, no need to put a ship and passengers at risk of hitting an iceberg off the coast of the 50th state.
The cat has since died.
Slowly, we have begun venturing out together and so far, nothing else has gone out of business, but we are still without a cat. However, not wanting to take any chances, I still refuse to take her to my favorite home improvement store.
I hope this transitional phase with Carmen never ends. It’s impossible not to love her because she makes my life easy and fun, which is something I thought I would never experience after Jeanie died. But with Carmen, I never know what our next topic of conversation will be or how it will end.
Earlier this week she asked, I believed out of idle curiosity, what I wanted for supper.
Cereal, I replied.
Do you want me to cook you some?
I don’t know, I said. Can you fry Grape Nuts?