MizBejabbers has been a professional writer/editor for all of her adult life. Before that, she was just a little girl storyteller.
How It All Began
Our story began on February 14, 1983, the day that I walked into radio station KXLR to begin my new job as the news director. With much trepidation and dread, I was surprised that I had the courage to walk through that door again. Five years before, I had been the first rat to jump the ship at KXLR. The station had become so mismanaged that I couldn’t tolerate any more of their self-proclaimed “innovation” to pull the station back up by its bootstraps. So here I was; they needed a news director, and I needed a job.
I discovered that the station had sold and the whole crew had changed in the years that I had been gone, but the employees knew I had worked there before as a disc jockey. I had been the first female disk jockey in the Little Rock area to spin her own records, and it began at that very station. The program director, Jeff, introduced me around to the staff, except that when we got to the hallway just outside the control room, he skirted around a couple of men who were in a discussion. One, a tall slender silver-haired man with a thirty-something face, was obviously on a soapbox. “Oh, don’t mind him, that’s just Larry,” Jeff explained.
I didn’t pay much attention to him anyway because I'd heard about Larry, the chief engineer who had a reputation of being brilliant and strange. I found out later that he taught night classes on digital electronics, mainly mainframe computers, at a local college. He really was a geek before before that term became accepted for, well, geeks.
I held an FCC License and Could Hold My Own with the Guys
After I put down my purse and briefcase in my own quarters, a combination office and production room, Jeff showed me the transmitter room and the engineer’s workroom, or Larry’s den, probably would be a better term. It was next door to my office, and our doors were just a few feet apart. A couple of hours later, I looked up to see him at my open door, coming to get acquainted, I guess. I don’t remember much about our conversation, but I do remember that it was a friendly conversation about the business.
What I do remember is that he didn’t introduce himself to me or ask me my name. I thought that was perhaps a little ill-mannered, but the other female employees told me that was par for the course with him. Frankly, I think he intimidated them a little, and they wondered how he and I got along so well. Max, who had known him for 20 years, told me not to pay any attention to any gossip about him. She said that he’d been divorced for about three years and had two children. Max also cautioned me not to disturb Larry after lunch if his door was closed. Expecting to hear a real juicy tidbit, of course I asked why. She laughed and said, “Because he's taking a nap.” That took me by surprise. I’d never heard tell the like (to use an old Southern expression).
Taking an afternoon siesta on company time? Even management joked about it. Sleeping on the job generally was a termination offense at any company, but I figured it was because he worked a lot of night shifts. Still, usually the engineer went home in the daytime to catch 40. This guy really was an enigma.
Some employees, including the guys, said that Larry couldn’t relate to women, but I didn’t have any trouble talking to him. He later told me that I was “different.” According to him, I could talk to him on any subject he brought up. It's true that a sharp reporter has to know a little about a lot but this guy was a world-traveled Vietnam veteran. If I didn’t know much about his subject, I just quietly listened while he did all the talking. That didn't bother him. Once he got wound up, he never seemed to notice. He said liked the fact that I didn’t center my conversations around raising babies and shopping.
Then one day he asked me to go to the movies with him. I turned him down and explained that I was in a relationship. He said that didn’t matter because he just got tired of going alone. After another turn down, I finally accepted his third invitation. Sure enough, he was true to his word and we went friends. Soon we were going to the movies together on a regular basis, and I was accepting rides behind him on his motorcycle.
About a month into our friendship on one of our outings, we were having a discussion about some subject too trivial to remember, when he blurted out, “Don’t you know how much I love you?” Well, shet my mouth! Shiver me timbers!
I was caught off guard! I had just broken off my three-year relationship with Clark Kent because he turned out to be Blah Man instead of Superman. I think in the back of my mind I did know. I just didn't expect it to be revealed this soon. I was pleased, no I was delighted! I think if I'd been standing up I would have done a little happy dance. I confessed that I loved him, too. In that moment we became a real couple.
Oh, Boy, We're Going Sailing!
Six weeks into our relationship, he wanted to introduce me to sailing and it sounded like fun. We reserved a rental on a small sailboat for the next Sunday afternoon on Lake Maumelle.
The evening before our outing he fixed us a romantic steak dinner at his house. The guy can work wonders with food, but after dinner he kept complaining of indigestion. I think I was having premonitions, and I tried to convince him to go to the emergency room. No such luck. I suggested that we call off our sailing trip, but he refused. He took some antacids and the indigestion improved.
The next morning on our way to the lake, he still looked pale, and I was worried. He said he felt all right and was looking forward to an afternoon on the boat. We arrived at the lake just in time to see the very boat we’d rented pulling out with two men and a little boy in it. The apologetic manager said that his employee had rented our reserved boat by mistake, but he had a more expensive catamaran we could take out for the same price. Larry was an experienced sailor even on larger sailboats, but I could tell was nervous about a catamaran. He said he wasn’t very experienced on one, but if he thought he could handle it, I was willing to go along. Both of us were strong swimmers and I had been a certified water safety instructor in my younger days.
As the reader may have guessed, an hour or so into the sail, the wind picked up and a big puff blew the catamaran over before he could react quickly enough. We had tied down our gear, but he had forgotten to secure his clothes and shoes. We recovered his jeans and one shoe, but no shirt, and continued sailing.
Another 30 minutes went by, and then he suggested that we turn in the catamaran and head back home. We still had more than an hour left on the rental, and I was having the time of my life. When I started to protest, he said we had to go and that was all he would say. We packed up our things and headed home.
Our little adventure occurred before civilization had crept west of the city, like the Blob it has become. We were in my car, and just as I pulled onto I-430, he said, “I think you need to take me to the doctor.” The incident in the lake had brought on chest pains and he was just now telling me. That kind of shook me up. Fortunately for him, his doctor’s office was less than five miles away and was one of the few in town that was open on weekends.
When we got to the doctor’s office, he trudged in shirtless and barefoot and explained to a surprised nurse what had happened. I sat in the waiting room and waited, and waited. And waited. After about two and a half hours, the nurse called me back. The doctor explained that he thought Larry was having a heart attack and instructed me to take Larry straight to the hospital, which was another five miles away. He said that I could drive there faster than calling an ambulance. Do not go home for a shirt and shoes, do not pass go, go straight to the hospital, he had instructed us. Doc just didn’t know my Larry.
Upon his insistence and despite my protests, and driving another 10 or so miles to his house to get a shirt and shoes and approximately five miles back to the hospital, we finally got him checked into the emergency room around 5:00 pm. Medical staff placed him in a very cold exam room. Five hours later at 10:00 pm, he was seen at last by a doctor who said he wasn’t sure it was a heart attack. Probably just indigestion, so he thought.
Larry was admitted to a ward while the doctors fiddled and Rome burned…for three days. On the third day, staff rushed in and transferred him to ICU because they’d “just received test results that showed that he’d suffered a heart attack!” Jeepers creepers! By that time his heart had stabilized on his own and he was mentally ready to go home.
A (Wo)man with a Plan
While hospitalized, he confided that he didn’t know what he was going to do. He had company insurance, but his post-divorce bills were piling up and he’d been having trouble paying them before this happened. In addition to his regular job, he was a consulting engineer for a couple of other radio stations in the area, but he was in no condition to make extra money working any of his consultant jobs. His rent was due in a few days and he didn’t know where he was going to get the money to pay it.
I suggested that he move in with me. I owned my own home and was an empty nester, so why not? He said that he just couldn’t do that. What would my kids think? Both boys were in college. I explained that they weren’t judgmental of their father’s transgressions, so how dare they judge me! He still wouldn’t agree. Methinks the man protesteth too much.
I knew that he was really in financial trouble at this point, and that stress alone would make his recovery more difficult. I knew that I loved him, so I went to his two best friends with a plan. They both thought it was clever and practical, and, quite frankly, the idea amused them. In their typical male minds, it was a great practical joke.
The following Sunday and unbeknownst to Larry, the two friends and their wives met me at his house. We women boxed up his possessions, and the guys loaded his furniture and the boxes into a truck and moved them to my house where we unloaded everything. Thank goodness his house was small, and we were able to get the job done in one day. The friends went home chuckling and trying to guess what his reaction would be.
One of them said he'd love to be a fly on the wall and see Larry's face when I told him. But the stinkers left me alone to break the news. The conversation went just as I had guessed it would.
“You did what! I told you I couldn’t do that!”
“Too late now, it’s done,” I said with finality. I remember the short conversation very well. Despite his reaction, he looked sheepishly relieved. After the rape of a divorce he’d gone through, he realized he'd found a woman who actually cared about him.
The office had been rocked by Larry's heart attack, and the staff had let me know how worried they were about him. When I went to work on Monday morning and gave them his address change, Max asked how I convinced him to do it? She and the whole staff got a big laugh when I told them how it went down.
And that, my friends, is how I captured the love of my life.
Thirty-four Years and Still Counting
This is a true story of how our life together began. I got the idea to write about it from a fellow writer when she did an article on how men propose to their wives. Frankly, he never did proposed to me. Our marriage just happened, but that's another story, and not very exciting.
© 2018 Doris James MizBejabbers