Twenty-Five Years Since We Met

4 07 2015

FireworksOur relationship started out like most people. We were set up on a blind date and ended up being chased by the police by the end of the evening. Wait? They don’t?

My trip began in late June when I went up to New York from Houston to be in my dear friend’s wedding. Louise and I had been high school friends since our sophomore year. I spent a lot of time at her house. When my foster family decided to move to Florida at the end of my junior year in high school, I had three choices; 1) go live with my biological sisters who were both now in Houston; 2) go with them; 3) or be put into a foster home. Option 4 unexpectedly came up from Louise’s parents—come live with them. For reasons that aren’t relevant for this topic, I decided to go with my foster parents to Florida (in case all my friends from high school wondered where I went for my senior year). There were a few people I still stayed in touch with, and Louise was one of them. I was honored to be a part of her magical day and the few days leading up to it.

The next day when I left their apartment the day after the wedding on June 30, 1990, my trip took me to Toms River, New Jersey to spend a few days with my sister. After there, I went to the western part of New Jersey to visit my aunt and uncle overnight on their farm in Blairstown/Hope. From there, I went back to Long Island. I stayed with my high school friend Carolyn Leitgeb, now Carolyn Mulderig. My best buddy Patty had invited me out several evenings trying to play matchmaker. On July 4, Carolyn and her family and I went to Montauk for the day. We walked around a lot, including up into the Montauk Lighthouse, some place where I had never been before. Patty called me and begged me to PLEASE come out this one last night. I was tired. I had to leave at 5:30 a.m. for my flight back to Houston. I remember saying to her, “I have driven more than 700 miles and have gotten an average of 3-1/2 hours of sleep every night since I came up here.” After a few more dozen “please” promptings, I said okay, but I needed to have strawberry shortcake that Carolyn made from scratch (it would have been rude to have her put in so much effort and then ditch her for the evening, especially since she was kind enough to let me stay with her family for this last part of the trip. I still had to go over to say hello to my foster brother and sister. When I was leaving, my foster brother took my car keys in a game of keep away that annoyed me. Now I was going to be late.

I went to Patty’s house and we had pictures taken, and then we went to Mario’s. Patty told me this was her boyfriend Larry’s best friend, Jeff, and he was SUCH A NICE GUY. She said that over and over again. From what I discovered later, Larry and Jeff were able to leave because we were so late and they were tired of waiting. It was somewhere like 10:30-11:00 p.m. when we finally got over there.

We talked for a bit and when Jeff went to the bathroom Patty asked me, “Sooooo?” I said, “Wow, he can actually carry an intelligent conversation.” But he wasn’t my type. Now you might be asking,  “What was your type?” Do you know how you are in a room and you feel this chemistry towards someone? When you come from a dysfunctional family, usually that chemistry will lead you to the people who are alcoholics, drug users, abusers, etc. I remember watching an episode of Phil Donohue where a former pageant queen was saying that all of her life she was picking the wrong men, and then she realized what she was doing and stopped and was married now to the man of her dreams. About two years prior to this, I also made peace with the fact that I would be okay if I never married because I would rather be not married than marry the wrong person.

Once Mario’s closed for the evening, Patty and Larry went home. I had said that the one thing I still hadn’t seen on my trip was water (yep, even though I was in Toms River). I crave the salt water smell. Jeff said he knew of a place we could go so I followed him in my rental car. We settled onto the beach and continued our conversation. There was a boat in the water with a headlight but I didn’t think anything of it. The young man running past us telling us to get out of here because the cops were here DID get my attention. In a split second what was rushing in my head was—I can’t go to jail. What thought did not enter my brain was I needed to grab my purse as I was trying to flee the police. The purse that had my airplane tickets for my return home the next day. We got as far as the parking lot before the cop car came speeding up to us. I grabbed Jeff and said, “Stop running.” I knew this would become so much worse if we ran in full view of a police officer. He pulled down his window and I said to him, “Officer, I am so sorry. I am from out of town and I didn’t realize we weren’t allowed to be on the beach this late at night. I am leaving in the morning and wanted to see the water before I left.” I hadn’t been drinking (I am allergic to alcohol) so he could see that I was not driving while under the influence. I was also dressed in nice clothing. He stayed with us until we both got in our respective cars, and Jeff drove us to a place over by the main post office, not far from where he lived. We could not exactly go back to his place because he was living with his parents at the time. So the town square seemed like a reasonable alternative. The police car followed us until we did pull over, and I am certain, he ran the plates on my rental car (which were from New Jersey so he could see I was not lying). Once we pulled over, he passed us.

I came to find out later that this particular beach was being raided for drugs.  In fact, it was being raided when we were on it.  It was a notorious hang-out for people making drug deals.  That husband of mine.  So romantic (sarcasm).  He knew that about the beach, too.

Jeff and I continued our conversation until about 3:30-4:30 in the morning. I had just enough time to go home, get my stuff in my suitcases, and write a note to Carolyn and her husband.

At the airport, I was on the pay phone with Patty who wanted to know all the details. I almost missed my flight home because of it. A day or two later, I got a dozen beautiful red roses. Jeff and I spent hours on the phone and were faxing each other. This was back in the day where there was no internet (at least it wasn’t common for people like us). Two weeks later he came down for a visit. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have 2+ hour conversations on a daily basis.

When he told me he wanted to move down to Houston, I panicked. Things did not go well when my ex boyfriend from Florida moved here trying to rekindle a relationship again. I told him that if he decided to move here, it needed to be because he wanted to move to Houston. If things did not work out, I did not want to feel guilty for him being stuck here. Also, he could not live with me.

I guess it wasn’t until his Christmas 1990 trip that I realized I loved him. He moved down in January of 1991 to his own apartment. In June of 1991 he proposed to me. We went to his cousin’s wedding on August 10 up in Ohio and we let people know the next day after the wedding that we were engaged. We eventually set our wedding date for October 24, 1992.

Today is the silver anniversary of the day we met. Happy Unindependence Day my love. It was the day I allowed you to sneak into my heart (although I didn’t know it at the time) which made this extremely independent girl something different. Blind dates can be wonderful. I had been on my fair share in my adult life. I never knew though we would be sitting here 25 years later celebrating our wacky, unusual, totally weird date that turned into so many years of love, sacrifice, forgiveness, and trust.

Baby, you indeed are my fireworks.  I look forward to our 25th wedding anniversary in 2 more years.

When Hilda Met Jeffrey

4 07 2013

It was the last day of my vacation. It began with me being a bridesmaid in my friend Louise Rizzuto (Lee)’s wedding. After that was over, I traveled to visit my sister in Toms River, NJ, then out to northwestern New Jersey to visit my Aunt Emily and Uncle Don, and then out to Long Island to visit friends and family. I was staying at Carolyn Leitgeb’s house (who was now Carolyn Mulderig) in Patchogue. She wanted to take me out to Montauk Point on Long Island to spend the day. When I returned, I needed to go say hello to my foster father and my foster brother Jody. My friend Patty convinced me to go out with her again that evening despite the thousands of miles I had traveled and despite the fact I had averaged about 3 hours of sleep a night during my entire vacation. July 5th my plane was leaving to return me to Houston. Carolyn made strawberry shortcake from scratch and I felt obligated to stay and eat some of that. It was getting really late. My foster brother, Jody, decided to steal my keys. I was chasing him around the yard trying to retrieve them. He eventually gave them to me. Then I picked up Patty, she said she wanted me to meet her boyfriend’s best friend. Patty and I knew each other from Davis Park. Her family would dock their boat next to or very near to our boat where we used to stay the entire summer. I did not want to go out. Patty, however, would not take “no” for an answer.

We were to meet her boyfriend, Larry, and his best friend, Jeff at Mario’s in Setauket. I later found out that we were so late that Jeff was about to leave. They gave us a little longer to get there. When I met him I was very surprised how easy conversation was with him. He seemed very intelligent. Mario’s was closing up and we wanted to continue our conversation. I mentioned that we never got over to Davis Park and I would love to go sit on a beach and listen to the water for a bit. Out at Montauk we were visiting places but the beach was not one of them. He said he knew a place. Patty went with Larry and I followed Jeff to this place on the Long Island Sound.

We sat on the beach. There were others, too, at the beach. In the distance on the water we saw a boat with a headlight just wobbling. This guys runs practically over us screaming, “Hey you guys! It’s the cops, get out of here.” All I could think of is “I cannot go to jail–I have to go home to Houston tomorrow!”  Apparently Jeff took me to a beach that was known for its drug dealers.

I got up and ran. Jeff grabbed my purse which I left behind–the purse with the airline ticket in it–and ran with me. We ran across the parking lot and to our respective cars. But this police car was speeding toward us and I told Jeff we have to stop. Bumbling words came out of my mouth. I told him I was SO sorry. I did not know we were not allowed on the beach. I was from out of town and just wanted to see the water before I left the next day (which was 100% truth). What helped was 1) I had not been drinking; 2) the plates on my car said New Jersey because I flew into Newark. He eventually believed my story and let us go without any tickets (or going to jail). Jeff said he knew some other place we could go continue our conversation. There was a pond near the post office and we could go back there. The police officer followed us the entire time until we pulled up to a house across the street from the post office. As we were walking to this “spot” I got a little panicked that it was very isolated. I did not trust him THAT much so I asked if there was some place else we could go. There was a grassy area in what was like a town square center that had this rock which I sat on and our conversation continued. As the sun was coming up, I realized I needed to get back to Patchogue to pack and get to Newark for my flight.

At the airport I talked to Patty on the pay phone. Larry in the meantime told Jeff that he should send me flowers as soon as I returned home. I honestly thought that evening would be the end of things as so many dates I had in the past. We began talking every night on the phone for several hours. He decided he wanted to come down and visit me and 2-3 weeks later he did. By January of 1991 he moved down here into his own apartment. In July of 1991 he proposed to me; we announced this to his family after his cousin’s wedding in Ohio in August of 1991. Jeff wanted me to meet them before we actually told them. We set the date to get married as October 24, 1992.

Happy Anniversary, Jeff! The Fourth of July may be the day where everyone is celebrating our declared independence from England, the birth of a new nation, but for us, it was the day we both lost some of independence, to become dependent on each other. It gave birth to a lifelong commitment to one another.