At the age of fourteen, my dad left, with me practically chasing him down the sidewalk. My heart shattered as Dad had chosen a life that didn’t include Mother and me. The first time I heard Wayne Newton sing “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast,” I cried because it reminded me of that day.
I watched mother struggle to work, earning only minimum wage, and knew I needed to help out. When I was seventeen and a junior in high school, I had already been a member of the workforce for three years. I loved to read anything historically accurate and especially romantic fiction, but my heart was broken. Mom and I worked together as a team, but jobs separated me from my classmates and life was often gloomy. I found myself anxiously waiting for my dreams to come true.
Several hundred miles away, in places that would become significant later in my life, Disney World held its first candlelight procession, and in Columbia, Missouri, KMIZ channel 17 aired its first broadcast. At a time when “Play Misty for Me” ran in theaters and radios aired melodious songs like Melanie’s “Brand New Key” and Three Dog Night’s “Old Fashioned Love Song,” snow flurries graced the skies of Hurst, Texas, glistening on the trees and turning the ground white, drifting to unusual depths for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It was a magical December. Little did I know that God was about to answer my prayers.
From the first moment I met him, it was as if we had always known each other. Rick had just returned from Viet Nam and looked so handsome in his army uniform. We became best friends, and I fell in love with my sweetheart. A true Christmas romance with me as the princess. We played in the snow and he made me laugh. He maneuvered his metallic blue Plymouth, turning exhilarating donuts in the deserted, snow-covered parking lots. I giggled and glowed. Just being together thrilled me.
We held hands, locked arms, kissed in the moonlight and our love kept me warm. He brushed my long, blonde hair behind my ear and held me close, making me feel safe and righting my world.
Rick had escaped the war unscathed, both physically and mentally. Although serving in a combat zone, he was fortunate enough to be assigned to a communications command under General Davidson. Once stateside, the Army sent him to Bell Helicopter, the plant right across the street from where Mom and I lived in a low-rent apartment complex. He had leased an apartment facing ours.
Mom and I shared one car, an old clunker, but Rick taught me to drag race and gave me the possession of his brand new, modified Plymouth Duster. When I pulled into the school parking lot, driving his souped-up hotrod, with a 318 under the hood, four on the floor, and a Holly 750 double-pumper carburetor, all the heads turned. The engine rumbled, the paint shone, the wheels sparkled, and I sat behind the wheel. I couldn’t have felt more elated or prouder, except for that day only four months later, when I stood beside him, hand in hand, and said, “I will” for the rest of my life.
God started us on our journey together which included love, three children, and later grandchildren. Things were not always perfect, but we grew closer to God through our trials and learned the importance of putting Him first.