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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Anniversary Darling ...


Sixteen years ago today, I had spent my first night in an apartment in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and my last night as a single woman.  Bob and I married on January 15, 1993, in a beautiful evening wedding with votives of candles lining the isle of the church where we married, and were surrounded by family and friends in what, just 7 weeks earlier, would seem to have been an impossibility.

November 20, 1992.  I was single - again.  Alone, and living in a bedroom that I was renting from a homeowner in Olney, Maryland, and going to Georgetown University full time, where I was working hard to earn a degree in International Business and Law.  My textbooks alone stood almost 4 feet high.  I was determined that I was going to be successful and was going to make my daughters, then 14 and 12, proud of their Mommy.  Kathleen was in Florida with my mother and going to middle school.  Kimberly was living with her father, who was in the Army, in Missouri.


Being alone.  It is a tough road being alone.  Especially when you are in your 30s, with children who depend on you and a history of broken relationships.  I was determined to change my life, and change my life I did - maintaining a 4.0 gpa with a full load and a full time job.


(Bob, right before our wedding sitting in the church office - he was a happy guy!)

I didn't want to spend my life alone.  I was, and always had been, very much a family girl.  I wanted to be a mother.  I wanted a family of my own.  Somehow, though, at that time in my life, I did not think that I had an option.  And so, I pursued a different road.  One that I hoped would garner me security and restful nights of sleep.  I had been unlucky in love and had made mistakes.  Some of those mistakes I brought on myself, others out of desperation, some were just plain stupid - all in an attempt, albeit unconsciously, to have a home and family I could call my own.  I wanted more than anything to be in love and to be loved.  Still, I was sick of the process.  Sick of dating.  Sick of 2 failed marriages.  Sick of men.

So I immersed myself in my studies and my job and kept my eye on the goal.


(My dear friend, Alison, sang at our wedding.  She sang the Lord's Prayer and The Rose.  Both were so beautiful the whole church was in tears)

I grew up in Maryland and that is why I felt very comfortable living in Olney.  Although I no longer had family there, as they were living in Florida, I had lots of friends close by.  It felt like home. Back then there was nothing but snail mail.  I got an invitation to my 15-year high school reunion class of 1977.  I graduated from Sherwood High in Sandy Spring, Maryland.  I had not missed a reunion yet and I wasn't about to start now.  I was excited about going and decided to ride with my girlfriend Erika, and her husband, Alvin.  Erika and I had been friends since the age of 14.


(My father had passed away in 1980.  I had nobody to walk me down the isle, so Bob met me half way.  We walked towards one another and then, hand-in-hand, he walked me to the alter)

November 21, 1992.  Golden Bull, Gaithersburg, Maryland.  Sherwood High's Class of '77.  500+ people.  Lots of pregnant women, lots of gray, bald, fat guys.  A few classmates had passed away in the 5 years since our last reunion.  I wanted to look good, and daggonit, I think I looked pretty darn good for 33.  I was 104 lbs, 5'8", short brunette hair, in shape, and funny as hell.  I had on a tight red top and a short red-plaid mini skirt.  I was ready to paint the town - and tear up the dance floor.  See, there is something you need to know about me - I LOVE to dance.  I grew up in the 70s – remember? "Dancing Queen?"  There was no way that a DJ was going to put on Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, or Lionel Richie without me tearing up the floor.  Oh, and it didn't matter one iota if I had a dance partner.  I knew how to dance (and no, my job in Maryland was not a stripper either - ha ha - nice try folks) But I sure could dance like one!!!  I knew how to shake my bootie, and that night that is exactly what I did.


(He held my hand tightly and squeezed it when the Pastor said something he really liked)

I walked into the Golden Bull and there standing before me was this tall handsome recognizable face - Bob Vaughn, known in our circles as "Bobby."  Bob and I had known each other since 6th grade - age 11.  His mother had worked for my father in the Republican Central Committee and he used to come to my house and stuff envelopes with political flyers.  Fun time that was - Not.  I never noticed him.  He was a boy in my school and had long legs and pimples.  I liked jocks.  I liked the bad boys.  I knew trouble when I saw it.  Bob was "not" trouble.  Except maybe for Barbara.  Barbara was a close friend in high school and she had it bad for Bob.  Their parents had set them up and thought they would make a cute couple.   

Put it this way, we had the same circle of friends all through high school, but I always thought of Bob as being a bit of a geeky guy and not really my type.  He was nice enough, but naaaah, I had my sights on the midshipmen at the Naval Academy and that was all I could think of all through high school was white pants, white shirts, Disco Dahlgren, and guys in white hats.  Erika, Alison, and I used to tear up the dance floor and laugh all night long as teens hangin' out with 4500 midshipmen on a Saturday night.  Was that dangerous or what?  What were my parents thinking!!! Bob?  Bob who?


(We had a traditional Christian wedding, but we also shared a personal promise to each other)

There he stood, tall and handsome, distinguished, clean cut, in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, and about 20 lbs heavier than I remembered him just 5 years previously, but dang did he look good.  Bob and I always talked and caught up with each other and all of our mutual friends at every reunion.  When I hugged him I recall thinking, "yum, he smells good."  He was smiling and appeared happy to see me and had heard through the grapevine that I was living back in Maryland and was no longer married.  Our conversation went something like this ...

Bob:  "Hey!  Susan!  It's so great to see you!"  (and then he proceeded to hug me)

Me:   "Hi Bob!  How are ya big guy?"

Bob:   "I'm great, working hard at GE.  So, I hear you are living back here?"

Me:    "Yes, I'm going to Georgetown, finally working on finishing my degree, and then go to law school."

Bob:   "How are your girls?  Are they with you?"

Me:    "Unfortunately, no.  I had to make a tough decision in order to get this degree from Georgetown, and after much discussion with my family and Kimberly's daddy, I knew they would be well taken care of while I worked on finishing my degree."

Bob:  "That had to be tough."

Me:    "It was, but it was the right decision."

Bob:   "So, then, I take it you're no longer married?"

Me:    "Nope - I'm single."

Bob:   "Wow!  That's Great!  I mean, sorry to hear that."

Me:   "No problem, Bob.  And you?  Are you married?"


(We kissed and he hugged me tightly.  Believe it or not I was worried that my red lipstick would get all over his face.  Who cares, right!)

Bob:  "No.  I am here with my old girlfriend, Leslie, though.  We dated for 8 years and were engaged for 2 years, but it didn't work out.  We're still friends."

Me:  "That's interesting.  And she is here with you tonight?"

Bob:  "Yes, she is inside talking to friends."

---- I'm feeling really uncomfortable now.

Bob:  "So, are you seeing anyone now?"

Me:   "Nope."

Bob:  "Well, would you like to go out to dinner then?"

Me:   "uuuuuhhhh"

Bob:  "Here.  Let me give you my card and here's my home number.  Can I take you to dinner sometime?"

Me:   "uuuuuhhhh"

Bob:  "Can I call you this week?"

Me:   "uuuuuhhhh - I suppose.  That would be nice actually."


(A perfect day and a happy couple.)

(At this moment I was thinking "hey, I can go out to dinner and a movie once in a while, right?  What's the big deal?  I had sworn off men altogether, but Bob wasn't 'men' he was a 'friend.'")

Bob hands me a pen and his card and asked me to write down my number.  As I'm doing this I was thinking, "What in the hell am I doing?  Am I nuts????"

So we hugged, he kissed me on the cheek, and we walked inside to mingle with all the fat and pregnant people.  Leslie came over and said hello and we all - about a dozen or more of us, all sat together at one big round table.  Round tables were everywhere, lining a big dance floor.

Thirty minutes into this reunion you could hear lots of laughter and conversation, and some great 70s music, but nobody was dancing.  I sat there and finally announced "Screw this, I'm dancin' - if you old farts want to sit on your butts all night, that's your problem, but I'm dancin'."  I got out of my chair and headed for the dance floor to shake my bootie to Michael Jackson in front of 500+ fuddy duddies.  And shake I did.  I have the moves baby, let me tell ya, I was shakin' my stuff.  And there on the sidelines patting his knee, tapping his foot, and smiling was none other than Bob.  He later told me that he had his eye on that mini skirt the whole night. And the funny thing about that evening was that Leslie encouraged him to dance with me.


(Our reception was in the church fellowship hall)

After the second song, he got up and joined me on the dance floor.  That was brave.  I mean, everybody else sat - looking - refusing to move - an inch.  "Good Lord People!  Dance!  Live a little!"

Bob can't dance.  He bobs back and forth (get it?  Bobs?  Forget it, bad humor I know.)   Anyway, his arms are moving back and forth and he wiggled his hips a little bit, and I didn't care one bit.  Nope.  I didn't care if I was dancing with the worst dancer in the place.  You know why?  Because he was smiling ear-to-ear and having a great time, and apparently was happy to be dancing with me.  That was good enough for me regardless of the fact that we looked like complete fools.

I danced my hiney off that night and Bob danced with me most of the evening.  Leslie was a good sport about it.  She didn't want to dance, but she enjoyed mingling with our mutual friends.

I left with Erika and Alvin and Bob said he would call.  The reunion had been the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  Bob called me on Sunday.  Then Monday.  Then Tuesday.  Then Wednesday.   I spent Thanksgiving with a girlfriend and her family.  Then Friday, we went out to dinner to "Pat & Mike's" in Gaithersburg (I don't think it is there any longer) and then we were going to go to a movie.  We had a great dinner and talked and laughed for hours.  We never did make it to that movie.  It was a fun evening and Bob asked me if I wanted to go out again.  "Yes," I said, "I'd really like that."  And the next day we went to Georgetown and walked around.


("Here, let me do that"  Already trying to take control ey?  Nope, you better watch out if you don't want cake in the face)

I had a lot of studying to do so I passed on seeing him on Sunday, but at 6:30am Monday morning, the doorbell rang at the house where I was living.  I thought "who in their right mind is ringing the doorbell at this hour of the morning?"  I hurried down the stairs in my flannel pajamas and opened the door to see Bob standing there with a dozen red roses, a card, wearing a nice leather jacket, looking all clean cut and handsome and boy did he ever smell good.

Me: "uuuuuhhhh.  Good morning you.  Come on in I guess. What on earth are you doing here at this hour?"

Bob: "I woke you didn't I?"

Me: "Well, I don't have to be at school till 2, so yep, but that's okay, come on in and I'll make coffee, unless you're in a rush."

Bob: "Well, I was going to work, and I was going to leave this on the doorstep, but then I thought I'd take the chance that I would see you."

Me: "Well, you're seein' me alright - jammies, furry slippers, clean face, bad breath and all."

Bob: "You look great to me."

(I didn't know how to answer that so I think I didn't)


(Let the celebration begin, and then please get me out of these shoes)

I put the beautiful roses in a vase, made some coffee, and thanked him for thinking of me.  The card was very sentimental.  I can't remember exactly what it said, but it was something about how happy he was that I was in his life and he had underlined a lot of words in the card to emphasize his feelings.  … Listen, I don't want to hear it, okay?  So what if we had only been out on 2 dates.  We talked on the phone daily for 9 days.

Screeeeeeeech AAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!

So, I walked him to the door and stepped out the door to the front porch as the sun was coming up - kinda. And it was freezing.  And I didn't care.  (My toes were warm).  And "no" he had not kissed me yet.  And I wasn't expecting him to either, I mean, he was my friend.  Friends don't kiss.  Do they?

Screeeeeeeech AAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!

He took about a dozen steps towards his little blue Porsche as I stood there watching him go to work and I had my feet clamped together and my arms crossed in front of me like I was holding in my gut and I was still half asleep when I noticed he was walking rather boldly back my way.  Suddenly, I wanted a breath mint.

“H'll o. uuuuuhhhh ...”

Whamo!  Bob pushed me up against the cold siding on the house, his body pressed up against mine, I could hear the crackling of his leather jacket as he wrapped his arms around me and laid a kiss on me that ... that ...
that ...

certainly woke me up that morning!


(My feet were killing me!  Such perfect marital manners, don't you think?  See that pretty lady on the left?  She was a friend and neighbor where I was living before I married Bob.  Her husband was President Bush's (Sr) dentist.  I often wonder if he ever pulled out any of his teeth)

After catching our respective breaths, and feeling weak in the knees ...

Screeeeeeeech AAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!  "What am I DOING???  AM I OUT OF MY MIND???  THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED TO DO!!!"  I needed to get back to the books.

I needed a stiff drink - "where's the ice tea?"  Hey!  That's stiff at 7am!

I sashayed back to bed and thought, "What in the hell just happened?  Why am I trembling? Why am I feeling this ache deep inside now?  That had to be a seriously wet dream. Right?"

Bob called me at 9am, noon, and 1pm.  Ya think I got any studying done that morning?  I give you 3 guesses and the first 2 don't count.

Bob and I talked every day and he even helped me with some problems I was having in Statistics class.  (I wonder why?) He took me to dinner nearly every night and we laughed and had a great time.  I was comfortable with Bob.  I didn't feel like I had to be somebody I wasn't.  I felt better in my own skin too when I was with him.  It was like we had known each other our entire lives - and to tell you the truth we had.

Ya know, I should be mad as hell at Bob.  Dag gone him.  I mean, he could have saved me a lot of grief and 15 years of heartache and heartbreak if I had known this all along.  What's the deal with that anyway?

December and final exams around the corner - I wasn't prepared at all.  I was so angry with myself for letting this relationship, friendship, whatever you call it, get between me and the studies that were so important to me.  MEN!  See how they can screw up the works?  Screw up your life?  Screw up your plans?  Screw up your grades!!! Crap.

It was a week before Christmas and Bob and I had seen each other nearly every day since the day after Thanksgiving.  He told me he loved me.

Screeeeeeeech HALT!!!!!!!!!!!

Honestly, I think my reply was "Oh dear."  I was scared out of my head.  I had tickets to fly to Florida and be with my family and my girls for 2 weeks over Christmas.  I couldn't wait to see them.  I missed them something awful.  Bob agreed to drive me to the airport.  That week we exchanged gifts.  Bob got me a really great ski outfit.  It was beautiful.  I don't know where I was going to wear it because I didn't ski (Bob did, though) and so, I think he was hinting that he wanted to take me skiing with him.  I was feeling really bad at that moment.  I wanted us to be "friends" and I was really torn up about all of these feelings between us.

I had to dig deep in my heart and decide what I wanted to do and I knew I had to make a decision fast. I knew we couldn't carry on this way.  We needed to talk.  I knew that I would break this man's heart if I continued to see him under these circumstances, and I knew that mine wasn't far behind.  I couldn't let this happen.  I couldn't hurt him.  He was my friend -  my dear friend.  And I wanted to keep it that way.  I thought about that all the way to Florida.  I focused on my girls and then Kim was off to spend time with her daddy for the remainder of the holidays.  Kathleen was into girlfriends and music and didn't have time for hangin' with Mom.  My mother did what she does best - nap.  ( and just so you know, I'm turning into my mother more and more every day).


(Me and my good friend, Erika)

It was 2 days after Christmas and nothing was going on.  Nothin' at all really.  I was enjoying the Florida weather, but I was missing Bob.  I had thought about Bob a lot over the holidays and Mom had remembered what a nice boy he was all those years ago.  Bob sent a gift to my mother for Christmas - a Poinsettia tree - and a nice card.  He sent me a card too, and to this day I will never forget what it said inside ...

He had handwritten the lyrics to the Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling”

Greeting cards have all been sent 

The Christmas rush is through 

But I still have one wish to make 

A special one for you 

Merry Christmas darling 

We're apart that's true 

But I can dream and in my dreams 

I'm Christmas-ing with you 

Holidays are joyful 

There's always something new 

But every day's a holiday 

When I'm near to you 

The lights on my tree 

I wish you could see 

I wish it every day 

Logs on the fire 

Fill me with desire 

To see you and to say 

That I wish you Merry Christmas 

Happy New Year, too 

I've just one wish to make 

I wish I were with you 

I wish I were with you, 
I wish I were with you.

And he signed it “I Love You, Bob.”

I had thought about this predicament, and thought about it more, and I finally made a decision.  It was a conscious decision.  In other words, I used my head on this one, and knew that my heart would follow along for the ride.  So I picked up the phone and called Bob the morning of the 28th. 

Me: “Hey.  What are you doin?”  I asked.

Bob: “Not much.  Just working on the house.” (Bob was remodeling his parent’s house).

Me: “Working hard I suppose.” 

Bob: “I miss you.”


Bob: “Susan?  Did you hear me?”

Me:  “Yes.”


Bob: “Are you okay?”


Me: “Bob …”

Bob: “Yeah”

Me:  “I miss you too.”


Bob:  “Susan …”

Me:  “Bob, don’t.  Wait.  What are your plans for tonight?”

Bob: “Well, I was just working on the house and then going to bed early I suppose, why?”

Me: “You want to take me to dinner?”


Bob: “Are you serious?  But you’re not coming home for another week”

Me:  “You’re right, I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Bob: “Now wait a minute there, Susan, what are you up to?”

Me:  “Well, you didn’t answer my question … Do you want to take me to dinner?”

Bob: “Sure, but you’re in Florida and I’m in Maryland, so unless you have plans that I don’t know about, the closest we’re going to get to going to dinner is if you call me when you sit down to eat.”

Me: “Not if you pick me up from the airport at 8 o’clock tonight.”


Bob: “Give me the details.  I’ll be there.  By the way, Susan … I Love You” 

In the background I heard his mother's voice say "You do?" I knew then that trouble wasn't too far behind.  But, I'm a tough gal, so, I packed my things and I talked to my mother and Kathleen.  Kathleen could have cared less (you know how teenagers are), and yet, my mother understood.  I called my brothers and told them I was flying back to Maryland and I’d talk to them soon.   I had made a “decision.”   One that would change the entire course of my life.  And I was going to share it with Bob that night.


(Who is this couple? Do you know them?  They look vaguely familiar, but then again, they were much skinnier and prettier back then.  Ahhh, youth)

To Be Continued …

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