The Love of My Life!
Here are my memories of that wonderful day 45 years ago today.
Throughout our marriage, music has been a big part of our lives. As you read the story and look at the pictures. Please “click” on the songs to hear some of the songs that were the “Soundtrack” of our blessed marriage.
Way back in the 70’s, working at one of my first jobs; I was scurrying to get some mission accomplished, when I collided head-on into this girl going the opposite direction. When I looked up to see if I had killed her, I saw the most beautiful greenish-brown eyes. Their beauty was only equaled by the most wonderfully warm and welcoming smile I’d ever seen. This was the first time that I ever truly looked at the love of my life, Kayleen. Sure, I’d seen her before, but I never really looked into those eyes, felt that smile. To this day, I have no clue what we said. Since that collision, I have never been able to get her out of my head, nor my heart. Not that I’ve tried. Those eyes, and that smile are as infectious and loving today as ever. On that day, God truly answered my prayers, blessing me with the love of my life.
After that “accidental” meeting. We have been, for the most part, inseparable. Sure, we have spent lots of time apart, physically. But for me, I carry her with me always. If I’m down, if I’m missing her, all I need do is think of those eyes, that smile. Then, all’s good.
After that impromptu meeting at work, it still took a while to get things moving in our relationship. I believe the hallway crash happened in June-July and we didn’t really start dating until September of the same year. We’ll always remember that first weekend together thanks to Jerry Lewis. It was Labor Day weekend and no matter what time we turned on the TV. There was the MDA Labor Day Telethon with Jerry and a host of celebrities.
We were destined to be together. God was not only ordering our steps. He also had placed so many people in our lives that literally were pushing the two of us together.
Starting with a wonderful friend at work named Donny. A gregarious Irishman in his early 50’s, late 40’s; Donny was just about the happiest guy I’ve ever met. No more than 5 ½ feet tall, with peppered black hair and bright shiny eyes. Donny was all smiles, all the time. Every time that I would see Donny when Kayleen wasn’t around, he would say something like … “That Kayleen sure is a Keeper”, or, “That Kayleen sure likes you!”. If by chance Kayleen and I were together, Donny would always comment. “What a Great looking Couple you two are!”. Truly, Donny was a fan. Kayleen has told me about a lady that she worked with named Noreen who was a huge fan as well. It seemed God had enlisted everyone in the place to ensure that Kayleen and I got together.
Still, with all the matchmaking it wasn’t quite enough. I as shy and so was Kayleen. Or so I thought.
Earlier that summer, I decided to buy a car. Keeping up with my lifelong quest to be different, I chose not to buy a “Guys” car. Muscle cars were all the rage back then, and we all worked on each other’s cars to make them as loud and fast as we could. So, if I wanted to tool around in a “muscle” car, all I had to do was call a friend.
Then, one day I saw it. The perfect car for me. A 4 door, 1965 Mercedes Benz 190E. Leather seats and that Huge Chrome Grill. Perfect! Even better. It was only $2,000 and I qualified for payments. This car taught me that you usually get what you pay for … While it was beautiful, it didn’t run well and struggled to make it up some minor hills. Who cared. It looked great. The car served its purpose getting me back and forth to work. Especially since going to work was mostly downhill. Little did I know it would be that car that ultimately brought Kayleen and me together.
The way I remember the story. Kayleen had a good friend that worked in the office, Shari. As Kayleen has told me, Shari would always bug Kayleen to ask me out. Being shy, like me, she didn’t.
Then, one day Shari bumped into me as I was heading home. She smiled and said … “You know Kayleen really likes your car, you should give her a ride in it sometime.” I said something like “sure”. The next thing I knew we had “scheduled” a ride. 😊
While I remember Kayleen riding with me a lot in that car, I really don’t remember that specific ride. Well, one thing led to another and we started going to lunch together nearly every day. Our favorite gourmet restaurant was the “Red Barn”. A hamburger place about ten minutes away from work. That was the fall we fell in love.
Over the next couple of years our love grew deeper and included a lot of great times. Those are stories for another time.
On this day, June 21st, in 1975, Kayleen and I were married. While we had been dating a while, I was 20 and she was 21. Babies by today’s standards.
If you recognize the day June 21st, it might be because it’s the “Summer Solstice”. The longest day of the year.
On this Balmy Saturday it was around 90˚ with 74% humidity. While it was supposed to be a sunny day, there was a slight chance for rain. The weather report was vital information for us as we were to be married in a Rose Garden in a park close to my house. Scheduled for 1:00 p.m. it was sure to be a hot one. During the summer in Iowa, the clocks are moved forward an hour for daylight savings time. That’s right, we were getting married outside, when the Sun was in it’s most direct position in the sky for the solstice, at 12:00 noon. What were we thinking?
Preparation for our wedding was a wonderful time, as I remember it. My Mom and Kayleen were deep in plans and arrangements for months. It was wonderful to see those two work so closely together. My Mom made Kayleen’s wedding dress as well as vests for my brother Mike and me. We were young, had no money, so plans were simple. Rose Garden, Shelter House reception in the park, with Cake and a Keg. The perfect wedding for 1975. It would have been a shame to miss it. I almost did…
Since we were planning to only do this once, I didn’t want to mess it up for Kayleen. With that in mind I decided to forgo the traditional Bachelor party the night before the wedding. Instead, I asked my Best Man; my brother Mike and my best friend, Tom, to plan to have the party on Wednesday night before the wedding. They went about setting it up.
A Wednesday night bachelor party probably wasn’t a great idea. We had a good time, but I think everyone was home in bed by Eleven that night. Then, on Friday night before the wedding, my two best friends, Tom and Bob, show up on my doorstep pleading… “Let’s go out for one last drink before you take the big step.” “Just one drink, we promise.”
Well after an extended discussion about how important Saturday was to me and Kayleen. I caved, agreeing to “One Drink”. So off to the Alpine Room for these three musketeers (or stooges).
Since meeting Kayleen I hadn’t really spent much time with Tom and Bob, so I thought this would be a great way to catch up. They were so excited to take me to this new place they had found, the Alpine Room. Nothing to spectacular. Just another Iowa bar to me.
I reiterated, “Just One Drink Guys”. They eagerly agreed ordering a round of “Alpine Coolers” for the three of us. “What’s that?” I asked. In unison, they exclaimed… “You’ll Love it!” Right then, right there I should have left. I knew something was up. I didn’t leave. We toasted the wedding with the Alpine Coolers. That’s the last thing I remember. Until…
The sun burning warm on the back of my head, wind blowing through my hair. Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” blaring in my ears, I forced my eyes to open.
Tom and Bob were in the front seat of Bob’s Jeep with me strapped in the back. Top off, both were singing at the top of their lungs while flying down the Interstate heading west towards Omaha. I yelled “WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING?”
Almost in beat with the melody of the Deep Purple song they responded… “We’re Kidnapping You. No Wedding for you Today!!! Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!”
Obviously, we hadn’t stopped with just one “Alpine Cooler”. While I was instantly sober at the thought of missing my wedding. Tom and Bob were still in FULL party mode.
I’m not sure how I convinced them to turn around, but they did. If I remember right, we got back home around 10 that morning to get ready for the big day. While I don’t think I saw Kayleen until the wedding, I had heard she was concerned.
Thinking about it now brings back memories of one of my dad’s favorite scenes, from one of his favorite movies, My Fair Lady. He truly loved the part where Eliza Doolittle’s Dad sang the night before his wedding… “Get Me to the Church on Time”.
With very foggy memories of the night before all I could think about was how awful I felt. Not so much about being late; but my head was throbbing, and my gut was churning. Not the blissful day I was planning on. Off to the Rose Garden, none the less.
Did I mention that it was 90˚ with 74% humidity that day? Standing in the noon sun for about an hour I felt every drop of “Alpine Cooler” ooze out through my sweat glands.
Still, I wouldn’t trade that day for any other day of my life. Now, 45 years later, we’re the proud parents of four, with a new crop of grand kids.
Thank you Kayleen for putting up with me through all the years. I thank God everyday for blessing my life with you, those eyes and that smile!