I was only 15 and I met Bill in my Anthropology class--I think he also worked with me at Winn Dixie..but he was older so I was noticing him. He sat behind me and was one of the "nice guys." That meant a lot to me at the time because navigating my teenage emotions was hard and I was fresh off being dumped by a guy who thought I was a popular girl and only to find out I really wasn't and he dumped me. Knowing my emotions were fragile enough I navigated into a safe harbor and there was Bill.
It was time for the Sadie Hawkin's dance, where girls get to ask boys to go to a dance, which in those days was a pretty big deal. I had to pony up my courage to even find the strength to ask him and to hope he said yes. When I did ask him, he accepted and I remember we had a great time. I took him to Alma's pizza, we did some parking and I was at that place in my teenage life when I had to push the envelope a little more than my good girl upbringing really allowed. Bill was a senior and I was a sophomore...as of the coming January, I was technically illegal goods to him...but we lasted for 1.5 years give or take.
He was a good person. Always happy and full of life. I think of him wearing dessert boots and nicely pressed corduroy pants. I remember leaning too close to him in the hallway at school where the teachers would speak to us to have a safe distance. I hung out at his house a lot and got to know his family pretty well. One time, I cooked dinner a night or two as his mother convalesceing. I really felt like part of the family.
I was his date for his senior prom, a real treat for a sophomore. He took me to Ramon's, which for me was such a treat. I believe I was allowed to order lobster and Caesar salad. I felt like a princess. I had two dresses for the event. One was a yellow empire waste dress, I had sewn and the other was a beautiful formal prom dress in white with puff sleeves and an empire trim with pink roses. I had an up-do with french curls in my hair and baby pink rose with baby's breath in my hair. Bill wore a white tux as I recall and when we took pictures at his house a neighbor kid thought we were getting married and I remember I smiled. We did make a handsome couple. The date was May 21. The day my future grand daughter would be born.
We would often go to the movies and after his favorite place to park was behind the baseball field at the high school...at least up until the time the cops opened the car doors on us. I think the cops actually had fun busting poor high school kids with too many hormones.
That summer Bill got a job to work up at a summer camp in Georgia, something he really loved to do but I wondered how I would deal with him away. His mom was gracious enough to allow me to come with her when she dropped him off. We stayed with friends in Gainesville, GA. They took us water skiiing and their boat was really fast. When I fell the water felt like I hit a cement floor...from then I just watched. The dad there made pulled pork sandwiches and I had my first ones and they were amazing. Soon it was time to drop him off and say our goodbyes until the end of the summer...and I really did miss him and was distraught. I woke up that night not knowing where I was and a bit out of it..I am sure his mom thought that was humorous.
I remember going to Macon once but I cannot recall if it was for Thanksgiving or another time. His family was orignally from Macon and by that time we had been together long enough that I think folks just assumed we would be married someday.
He come with my family to our North Carolina cabin before we actually occupied it. Because the family stayed in a finished place he and I walked up to the one dad was building to make out...ah teenage angst!
I got to sing at DisneyWorld when it open and as a reward they gave us 8 free ticket books. I remember taking Bill and back in those days before GPS, or cell phones and Google maps he tried to navigate home from Disney and took a wrong turn...we drove miles and miles and he finally realized his mistake and we got home super late and it was the honest to God truth we got lost. Back in those days Disney was located in the middle of no where. You drove miles and miles through nothingness to get there and it was dark out there at night. Today, it is wall to wall city and street lights but not back then.
Bill was older than me and he went off to college. We lasted a good while longer but one day he came to me saying he really wanted to go out with Debbie McDonough. It had become time to part ways and we did it pretty maturely considering. He was growing up...and as couples grow apart, so had we and our chapter in life was coming to a close. He was my safe harbor and we had been good kids the whole time and he never "crossed the line." I was grateful for that. It was hard enough to be a teenager than to be pushed and prodded for that.
I had a bumpy last year in high school. Emotions ran wild and I felt alone and there are stories I could tell. I later met up with Bill but by then another boy had stolen my fancy and we never got back together. I later met his best friend in college and we fell in love...and well that did not work out either and my family moved 3000 miles away to California after graduation. My parents tried to put as many miles as they could between me and Tom...even pulled my college plans to Berry College in northern Georgia because they were afraid I would be too close to Tom...but that is another story.
It would be 20 years until I saw Bill again. There was no Facebook or cell phone to keep in touch with him. I got married on the west coast, had three kids, divorced. Came out for my 20th reunion and check up on Bill as best I could and found him where he worked has he was running out at lunch. I was really happy to see him but he had a new girl friend and was in a hurry to meet her so our conversation was brief. I later saw him at the Friday night reunion party downtown and that was the last time I ever saw him...hard to believe that was 20 years ago.
I love Facebook. I know others that do not get it but to me the connections I have made with old friends and family are priceless to me. I had tried to catch up with Bill over the years and most recently through my friend, Cindi Schwent, who also knew him she told me he was on her Facebook but I could not find him..that was about five years ago. On Monday or so this week Bill's sister, Nancy, posted that he had passed away in January 2007 from cancer.
I see these class obits float in every now and again. One of my best girl friends passed away a few years ago and I still cannot believe she is gone and now Bill? He was only 54. That same senior picture was in my wallet for years and that face is etched in my mind forever. He was a great guy and a great friend and I regret not keeping in touch over the years. We were only meant to play a chapter in each other's lives but it was a good chapter. He was my captain through most of high school.
As I drove home tonight with more emotion than I am accustom to, me Miss Stoic, I cried more tears... I am not breaking down or anything...I am weeping and I was trying to put my finger on why after all these years. One reason is that the people who touch my life, truly do touch me and relationships are very deep and special to me. I think my closet friends know this. I was thinking today that part of why we grieve is because we hold relationship memories with us and we carry these memories all our lives and the memories are part of who we are and why we become what we become in life. When someone dies, we are left holding up the memories and it is a heavy job. Who will be there to remember the senior prom, the black onyx class ring, the days we spent at the beach, the collection of all those wonderful days or our precious youth? I guess for now...the job is mine.
I was IMing with my friend Cindi Schwent tonight...we are still such close friends after over 40 years. She said she believes in life energy and if I was feeling this so much that she felt Bill was there with me. She said I should go out and have a glass of wine and think of him so tonight...my husband and I went out. We had three to toast just now. One is Bill, one is my friend Mike who is still battling cancer, and the last but not least is our cat Dante who passed away this morning...I am feeling like enough is enough already...Wally and I toasted each one tonight. I drank my wine and shed a few more tears.
Seven years. He has been gone seven years. Wow. How can that be? Bill you were a remarkable guy and like your friend Rick said to me this week, you lived life better than most anyone he knew and I imagine he is probably right. I am happy to hear that. You deserved it. You, my dear friend, were one of the good guys. Thank you for being in my life. I won't ever forget you.