Reflections: A lifetime with us, part II
George and Sheila Rowe at home. Submitted photo.
From September 1968 to the end of December I cannot recall having a conversation or even speaking to the lady with the wonderful smile. This drove me crazy because just being in her presence caused my heart to skip a beat and by the end of December I was falling in love with a woman I hadn’t even spoken to. I went from hot flashes to cold sweats to moments of immobility because her smile would just stop me in my tracks.
At midnight on December 31, 1968 I made a New Year’s Resolution—win the heart of the smiling brunete come hell or high water.
For the first few weeks into the New Year I went out of my way to find an opportunity, a situation, a predicament that would force me to speak to this amazing lady—the first step that would take me on the journey of my life.
It happened on the third Sunday night of January. I was walking home from church in a blistering winter storm of strong wind and a torrential rain fall—that’s right, rain instead of snow. I was totally drenched and very cold.
Suddenly this 1964 Ford Fairlane pulls up and the driver, the one with the beautiful smile, asks, “Mr. Rowe, would you like a lift to your boarding house?” I could not believe what I was hearing or what I saw.
Looking through my rain drenched glasses I saw that the car was literally packed with bodies—enough people to start a hockey team. People were sitting on each other, sitting on the floor, stretched out on the back dash with lips and nose pressed against the rear windshield as if licking rain drops from the air.
For a moment I was totally mesmerized. She spoke to me for the very first time and trying to catch every word she was mouthing and at the same time trying to figure out where I would sit or squat or stretch out in some unoccupied space, I was momentarily lost to another world.
In the fogginess of my mind I heard her speak again. “Well Mr. Rowe, do you need a lift to your boarding house?” “Yes! Absolutely! I just can’t figure out how to get into the car or where I’m going to sit.” I’m sure there should have been a Risk Assessment done right there on the spot before I squirmed my way into the back seat. I was so squashed I couldn’t breathe.
Everybody tried to make room for Mr. Rowe and regardless of every minor adjustment by every squashed passenger I felt claustrophobic. I tried to avoid the pain of being squashed by simply looking at the back of the head of the driver with the beautiful smile and saying to myself: This is so surreal. I am riding, albeit in an uncomfortable position, in the back seat of a 1964 Ford Fairlane that is being driven by a gorgeous lady who is about to change my life forever.
After dropping off all the passengers through strong winds and blistering rain we finally turned into a driveway and the 1964 Ford Fairlane was shut off. For the first time in her presence I mouthed her name and said, “Sheila, what about me? This is not my boarding house. This is where you and your folks and you family live. Please take me to my boarding house so I can get out of my wet clothes.”
Can you believe the answer she gave me? “Mr. Rowe,” she said, “I am so very sorry. I forget you were in the back seat.” What a crock of bologna. She didn’t forget me, this was a deliberate plan. Twenty minutes ago I felt claustrophobic now I feel trapped. Now that the adrenaline was flowing I felt confident and in total control of the situation and I was about to take advantage of the entrapment that she had devised.
I leaned toward the front seat and mouthing words about twelve inches from her right ear I asked the question. “Sheila, are you free next Friday night? If you are I would like to ask you out on a date.” She looked at me with fire in her eyes and said, “George, next Friday night I…” (Part 3 next week)