Reminiscing…The Start of Something Amazing…

I am getting away from the CaringBridge site.  It served a wonderful purpose but this new site fits the need much better in this next stage of writing.  You can sign up to be notified of any new posts and write responses on this site just as you did on the CaringBridge site. 

Some have asked that I continue to write about Libby and our relationship and although it puzzles me as to why anyone enjoys reading about our life, I will write a few things, if, for no other reason than it gives an outlet for my thoughts.

How it all Started:

My memory of the start of Libby’s and my relationship is not real clear, after all it has been 37 years, but then, I’ve never been one to allow the facts (nor the lack thereof) to get in the way of a good story.  With that preface, this is how I remember the events surrounding our high school graduation and the year following:

During our high school years, Libby Willis and I served on several committees together, talking often about different school events that we helped plan such things as proms,homecomming 1 homecoming dances, student government etc.  During this period of time we also talked extensively about physics homework and typically those discussions would begin with Libby telling me how that she had no clue how to set up a particular problem, much less solve it.  Now, Libby was a straight “A” student for as long as I knew her, but her strength was in liberal arts not applied science, so one day she threatened to drop Physics before I talked her into staying by telling her that Physics would look good on her high school transcript when she began to apply to colleges.  Libby gave in, telling me one afternoon,  “I will stay in Physics but you will have to be my tutor because I have to make an A”.  We would meet after school or talk on the phone (black rotary dial, not cell) for an hour or more almost everyday to discuss linear acceleration, torque, conservation of energy or any other number of problems and then, without fail, she would have a higher grade on the test than her tutor (teacher bias, I am sure).  We never dated in high school, we were just close friends who could relax around each other and discuss everything from politics to religion, to relationships (including personal confidences).  Could there be a relationship lesson there?  In short, Libby made her our A in physics but in the spring of 1976, high school graduation changed our convenient friendship.

grad photo

I remember several things from the night of our graduation from high school.   I remember feeling a strange sense of pride knowing that the person delivering that inspiring valedictorian address had been my best friend during my high school years and quietly thinking to myself,  “She is going to make some lucky guy a good wife”.  I also remember Libby calling me earlier that week and asking if I would talk with my pastor, Rev. James Millard, about praying the benediction following her speech (yes, times have changed)  I remember it being hot and humid in our un-air-conditioned gym and wondering why our teachers had insisted that we dress up with in our “Sunday clothes” when we each had to wear a cap and gown which covered everything.  I remember how nervous Libby was about her Valedictorian speech and how many times she practiced in the days leading up to graduation night, and how many times I had heard that speech over the phone.

After graduating from Chattanooga Valley High School with the class of 1976 (Go Eagles) Libby and I had gone our separate ways with only minimal contact since walking across that stage.  Libby had been awarded a full scholarship to Mercer University in Macon, GA, leaving soon to pursue a teaching degree, meanwhile, I was offered a job as a photographer for Olan Mills in their school division, so during the following year we rarely crossed paths.

I really need to set the stage here for this next encounter because I was a 19-year-old kid who thought he had everything he needed.  I had a job that paid $150 a week (a considerable raise from the $3 per hour I earned hauling hay) I lived at home with my parents on the weekends but I left every Sunday afternoon and traveled all over the Southeast shooting pictures, arriving back home late Friday or Saturday, only to leave the next day on another trip.  My job allowed almost two months off in the summer (no school, no school pictures) and I had friends in Florida with a beach house in New Smyrna.  I had an expense card for gas, food and motel bills, a Toyota Land Cruiser for trail riding and a Camaro for dating.  It was summer time and except for paying rent to my parents, I had almost no place to spend my money,  I was on top of the world and I thought that things could not get much better.  Then it happened.

It was a warm sunny Saturday afternoon during that summer of 1977, I was mowing the yard at my parents house when, out of nowhere, Libby showed up our driveway, she had just completed her freshman year in college and she was driving up in her ugly green Chevrolet Nova ( I’m sorry, it really was ugly).  The fact that Libby Willis had just driven up, unannounced seemed very odd to me and I began thinking, “I wonder what’s wrong?”  (It might be helpful for the reader to understand at this point in the story that I have never been real quick to recognize relational subtleties and signs).  After an awkward silence, Libby said she had just gotten off of work from the Red Food Store,red food store but even that seemed odd because if she had just gotten off work why didn’t she still have her uniform on?  Instead of her red and white store uniform she was dressed in nice jeans and a new top that I had not seen before and her makeup looked really good for someone who had been working as a cashier at a grocery store for over 8 hours (once again see the note above about my lack of skill in this area of relationships).  After several awkwardly silent moments, I asked what she was doing there (even at 19, I was a gifted conversationalist). Libby said that she wanted to bring back some old, long forgotten jersey that I had given to her during high school to keep her clothes clean as she painted some backdrops for a play (confession time here; the jersey had been given to me by another girl).  I said something really intelligent like, “I don’t need that jersey, in fact I didn’t even remember you had it, and I hate that you drove all of the way down here to bring it back”.  After I told Libby that I didn’t need the jersey I expected her to get in her car and go back home because I still thought that was the only reason she drove down to my parents house, but she stayed and after several more awkward moments,I finally asked if she would stay for supper ( after all she did look really nice) and to my utter amazement she said “yes”.  That inauspicious start in the spring of 1977 was the beginning of a “more than just friends” relationship that would last for the next 37 years.

on couch

As fall came Libby left for Macon to start back to college and it felt like our relationship was still in its infancy because even though we had known each other for several years since we were both in Junior High school we knew one another as friends. I knew what she thought about politics and religion, but suddenly, that wasn’t enough.  Living in today’s instant access world of cell phones, texting, email and Facebook it requires some effort to imagine, depending on your age, a time when long distance phone calls were an additional page on your phone bill (that could be conveniently handed to you by your parents monthly) and you had to actually go find a phone on which to talk.  But now I was smitten and I wanted to communicate with Libby Willis, so with phone time severely limited I started writing to Libby several times a week, hoping she would take the hint and write back.  It never happened, in fact I can count on one hand the number of letters that I received from Libby in the first ten years of our relationship.   To her credit after receiving each letter Libby would call me and remind me very sheepishly that she was not a letter writer because she would much rather talk than write (that, obviously, would eventually change) but for all of our dating life and about the first ten years of our marriage I wrote letters to her all of the time sometimes once a day.  Then later as I attended college I even took a composition class, writing a few poems for her.  Our roles changed later in our marriage as she would, far too often, have to plead with me to write something for her.

Recently looking through some of Libby’s things I am finding most of those letters that she kept and it brings back so many memories.  It also reminds me of why I began to write.

If you are interested enough to still be reading these reminiscing’s I’ll post some more later.

barry

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