The AM radio played Janis Joplin, "Me and Bobby McGee", Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" and George Harrison, "My Sweet Lord". A new television show, "The Andy Griffith Show", had started earlier that year.
I was fourteen. I'd moved in with my father after running away from home and some fights with my stepfather.
Dad was in the Air Force. He'd just returned from an assignment in Germany. Now he was stationed with DESC in Dayton, Ohio. His apartment building was between a grocery store and a bowling alley.
My Dad's best friend, Jim, managed the grocery store. I'd met him the previous May, on my first fishing expedition at Rocky Fork Lake. Jim started picking me up every week on his day off, taking me fishing. On the third outing, he asked me what I was doing for supper.
Supper? It was Dad and me. In addition to his Air Force duties, Dad had a part time job working the small base NCO Club. So I did the grocery shopping and the cooking, usually only cooking for myself. In addition to his work, Dad liked a party, a card game and a pool table. I didn't see him much.
So I shrugged, my normal communicating style in those days. "I'll make something."
"Want to come home with me? Belle has some chicken left over from last night."
Who was Belle? "Okay."
Belle turned out to be his wife. In addition to her, I met Jim's daughters. The youngest one was a year younger than me. That was June 30th, 1971. A little more than four years later, she and I would be married. We still are today.
We didn't know that on the day we met. Long-haired, with a faint mustache and growing goatee, I was self-conscious about how I held my fork and shy around girls. While I wasn't aware what was going on, this new girl, her sisters, my father and her father all knew that she was smitten with me and saw that I was ignorant, much to their amusement.
Our families got together again on July 4th to watch the fireworks. This new girl and I killed time while waiting for the show to start mostly by answering questions about one another. One revelation was that July 5th was my birthday.
I wore an old watch, a gift from my father, at that time. She asked to see it and then refused to give it back, no matter how much I swore, begged, and threatened. She was adamant. Then, at midnight, under the fireworks, she gave me the watch. "Happy birthday."
That was the first gift she ever gave me, the watch that I owned, gifted to me by my Dad, re-gifted to me on my birthday by this beautiful, intelligent dark-haired thirteen year old girl I'd just met. Naturally, I was doomed after that.
I'm still doomed, forty-one years later.
Jim, my wife's father, passed away in December, 1991. He was sixty-five and had retired just a few months before. I never did thank him for picking me up, taking me fishing, sharing his life with me, and introducing me to his family and his daughter. How different my life would have been without him and her. She wasn't my first crush but she was my first love.
How did I ever forget that anniversary?
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com