I saw a post on Facebook that made me reflect on what my wife has meant to me over these years.
The post stated “Be with someone who would travel five hours to be with you for one”.
This is and has been my approach to the relationship I have experienced with my best friend, my confidante, my partner, my lover, my all.
We started our relationship when we were in high school at Sunset High in Dallas, Texas.
I will never forget my first introduction to my future wife, Debra. We had recently returned to the United States from my parents third, and final, term as missionaries in Barranquilla, Colombia. I was sixteen that summer. I helped my mother find an apartment for us to rent in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.
I had met some new friends over the first few weeks including Rey and John. One Saturday afternoon they came by the apartment and told me they were on their way to visit a friend. They had just acquired a little “treat” and we would be able to enjoy this special treat at her house. We walked across the apartment complex into the neighboring apartment complex and there Deb and I were first introduced. It was a pleasant visit, nothing special, and soon we left and the summer of 1972 continued.
When we started school in September I found that Deb and I shared a drama class. That first week was okay, we were just friends at that point, actually just acquaintances. The upcoming weekend was Labor Day. Rey’s girlfriend was JoLynn who also happened to be one of Deb’s best friends. If I recall, Deb was spending the night with JoLynn. That evening Rey had walked over to JoLynn’s house. We all lived within a few blocks and none of us had cars. I do not know how or where but they were also in possession of several bottles of Boone’s Farm wine, apple and strawberry. They decided to stop by my apartment and ask me to go running around with them that evening. After a while we returned to Rey’s house where we were able to borrow a car from either his mother or his older brother so we could go to Pizza Inn. We later found ourselves in a dark parking lot at Kidd Springs Park. Soon we found ourselves in the age-old teenage activity of kissing in the car. Rey and JoLynn in the front, Deb and I in the back. When we returned to the neighborhood we sat and talked at JoLynn’s house, and did some more kissing. Way too soon I had to head home. I knew as I walked back to the apartment that something special had occurred that evening.
The following Tuesday when we returned to class Deb promptly informed me that she had withdrawn from our drama class. There was no way she was going to try to “perform” with me sitting in the class. We soon found ourselves as a “thing”. We went through some ups and downs throughout the school year, but never once, as I remember, did we ever seriously discuss breaking up. There were many memorable events that occurred through the year that may be a subjects of future essays.
I graduated from Sunset High in May of 1973. Deb still had her senior year to go.
As the year in Dallas had progressed it had become evident to my parents that they would not be able to return to the mission field due to my mother’s health. Since returning to Colombia was off the table they needed to seek the next phase of their lives. My father found a need in the Texas Panhandle for doctors specialized in Obstetrics and Gynecology (Ob/Gyn) . Though he had practiced as a General Practice (GP) doctor on the mission field his residency had been in Ob/Gyn. To explore this avenue for his entry into private practice my parents decided on a vacation in the Panhandle. They rented a travel trailer and planned a one week camping trip to the Palo Duro Canyon just outside of Amarillo. I asked my parents if Deb could go on the trip with us. The answer was an emphatic “Yes”. (My mother had really grown to love Deb as had her father, Grandpop Jake, who would later be the namesake for our son). It proved to be one of the most memorable vacations of my life.
But as in all vacations it too was soon over. We returned to Dallas. My Dad had found that there was a need and he had the desire to practice medicine in Amarillo. We soon packed up the apartment and moved to Amarillo. This started the first long distance relationship that Deb and I had in our younger years. I had been a prolific letter writer to other long distance friends in the past and I quickly adapted to writing to Deb as often as I could.
I had also made the decision to become a Wildlife Conservation Officer. With this in mind I applied and was accepted at Stephen F Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Late in August I packed a trunk and a backpack, hopped on a Continental Trailways bus in Amarillo and pulled into Nacogdoches with not a friend or acquaintance in sight. There were only two or three of us on the bus at this point and I was the only one to get off at this station. I started walking with my backpack on my back and the trunk in my hand. Mind you this was a standard trunk without wheels or any mechanism to carry other than a handhold at the top and one on the side. The walk, if I recall, was about two miles, though it felt like ten.
At university I continued my letter writing to Deb. It was one of the highlights of my day to return from class or work and spend an hour or more writing a love note to my lovely lady. But this was way to lonely and I wanted and needed a more intimate relationship. Not a lusty intimacy mind you, but a need to just hold her hand, to look in her eyes, to feel a closeness that at the time, I confess, I could not understand. I needed to be close to her, but a distance of almost two hundred miles between us seemed almost insurmountable. Though I had traveled by bus to get to Nacogdoches, the bus was not a means I could use to visit Deb in Dallas. The bus left for Dallas too early on Friday while I was in class. I could catch the bus on Saturday, but then it was too late in the morning and took too long to get to Dallas. I would barely get a few hours that evening and would have to leave too early Sunday to return to school. So instead I took to hitchhiking. I would get out of class around 3 pm on Friday, grab my backpack and go to the gates of the university. That placed me on the highway to Tyler. With my thumb I would make my way to Dallas. The best ride was guy that picked me up within five minutes of stepping out to the highway and was going to house right behind Deb’s house in Oak Cliff. The worst ride took around ten pickups with hours between, rerouting to I-45 since the country highway to Tyler was nearly deserted late at night. A farmer went out of his way to get me to I-45 since as he told me I would probably have to wait till morning for another ride if I stayed on the road to Tyler. I did not arrive in Dallas until 5 am on Saturday. On each trip on Sunday afternoon, after a few hours with Deb, way too few hours, I would get a ride from my brother to the outskirts of town on I-20 and hitchhike back to school. I did this every other week throughout the fall semester of 1973.
Which brings me back to my opening of this essay. Though the statement reflects more for my wife, since she was the recipient of the act, I have always prided myself in what I did to insure that our relationship would be warm and active.
Be with someone who would travel five hours to be with you for one.