Saturday, February 05, 2011

A Special Valentine

There's a reason I don't ever throw anything away. I just didn't know it would be this. My dad died in 1997, my mom in 2001. They had been married 67 years, 3 months, when Dad died -- and he loved mom every minute of those years -- even the last ones, when, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, she didn't know who he was.

When Dad died, mom was in a nursing home and I had to clean out his house. He had lots of yellow note tablets and I, never wasteful, brought them home. They've been moved from shelf to closet over the years -- I'd grab one occasionally, but not often. However, since I've been working on a book, I've been taking lots of notes and the stack of pads has gotten smaller.

Yesterday, working hard on my notes, I got to the middle of one tablet to discover my dad's writing. I knew that he'd thought about writing his life's story -- but always gave up in frustration. This was one of those attempts -- and it is precious to me because it's the story of how he met my mother. I don't think I knew they'd known one another less than a week before Dad proposed. They had a long and devoted marriage. I'd like to share his story with you --

"Thursday, March 27, 1930, was the closing day of the annual Kansas City Business Show; just dragging along nearing time to shut down our display booths and straggling out in little groups. I had to drive our Thomas A. Edison Co. manager to his apartment in our company car, and then I was free for the rest of the evening -- with the car.

By pre-arrangement I was to meet later at the apartment of our sales manager and his wife, and be the "blind date" of an attractive young lady (Violet Chandler) from the Underwood Typewriter Co. All went well, just chatting and having some mild drinks.

When the party broke up, I drove my "blind date" home and walked her up to the door. I thanked her for a nice evening, and then I put my foot in my mouth by saying, "Do you expect me to kiss you goodnight?" I couldn't have done worse. The chill was on! She informed me, "I don't expect you to kiss me and I wouldn't LET you kiss me!"

Trying to repair the damage, I said, "Some girls expect to be kissed good-night and some don't. Actually, I would very much like to see you again." I hoped to make a better impression next time. She was agreeable.

The next day, Friday, I phoned Violet at the Underwood Co. office and asked if I might see her on Sunday afternoon. I would have the Ediphone Co. car and we could drive out to Swope Park and see the fabulous display of spring flowers. So it was arranged.

That brings us to Sunday afternoon. She lived out on Chestnut Avenue with relatives and when I arrived, she was there alone. We sat on the divan and talked for a while and the phone rang. From her muffled voice, I imagined what I couldn't actually hear:

He: "Are you busy?"

Vi: "Yes."

He: "How long is he going to be there?"

Vi: "I don't know."

He: "Shall I call back later?"

Vi: "Okay." -- Hung up.

Me: (to myself) "I'm going to out-last that fellow."

Me: (to Vi) "Well, let's drive out to Swope Park."

We did, and returned to her home after a couple of hours. Lo and behold -- soon afterward the phone rang. Just a repeat of the earlier conversation. Again, I determined to out-last that fellow. Keep in mind this is 1930 -- hard times. Especially for me. I needed to do some fast thinking -- which I did.

"Violet, there's a good movie at the Main Street Theater. What would you think of going to a show and then getting something to eat?"


I don't remember the name of the movie so it probably wasn't outstanding. I still had enough money to go to "my favorite place, " the bus station near the theater. Each of us had a 25-cent double-decker toasted ham and cheese sandwich and coffee. And I drove her home.

By that time her folks were home, so we sat in the porch swing and talked for hours. Remember this was Sunday night. We made a date for Wednesday. By this time we were getting in a lot of porch-swing time. I'd long since forgotten my one-time girl friend and Vi's friend Paul had given up. Now was the time for some serious thinking.

The conversation went like this:

Me: "I don't know why it should be so hard for a fellow to propose to his girl if they are in love and want to get married."

Vi: "Well, how would YOU go about it?"

Me: "I wouldn't go through all that on the knee stuff. I'd just put my arms about you and look you in the eyes and say, 'Honey, I love you. Will you marry me?'"

Vi: "Are you proposing to me?"

Me: "Yes, I am. Will you marry me?"

Vi: (after a slight hesitation) "Yes."

Me: "Okay, when shall we get married? Let's start making our plans. First of all, we'll talk it over with our families and friends and you go ahead and announce it to your sorority."

The wedding date was September 27, 1930, six months after the day we met."

How awful if I'd just thrown that tablet away. And what a beautiful Valentine's gift it was to find this story in my dad's own words. On the side of the paper, he had figured exactly how long they'd been married when he wrote it -- 65 years and 3 months.