Today is the day that changed my life forever. Today is the day that Jim and I went on our first date. After his softball game. 20 years ago. Today. I knew by the end of that date he was the one. I knew he was the man I would marry and I would grow old with.
He was stationed in Las Vegas at Nellis AFB and I was a GS employee working for the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) Dept. We met over the phone. I was running a program called Corporate Challenge (it is like an Olympic games for the city of Las Vegas with different companies having participating teams). It was my job to organize athletes from the base and try to win as many events as possible garnering points for each win. There were many events we struggled to find participants for all of the age categories. Swimming, track, bowling, bicycling, tennis, volleyball, canoeing, racquetball…there were many activities and it was my responsibility to have as many take part as possible. For example, in swimming, we could get points by just having a male who was 40 – 44 participate because the other teams may not have anyone. No matter how capable the person was we had show up didn’t matter, all that mattered was getting more points over all by the end of the 30 day event.
So, I would look at my list of athletes who had already signed up for an event and start calling them, encouraging (begging) each one to join in the fun for whatever slot I was desperate to fill at the time (there was usually a long list).
James Garner had signed up for racquetball. He was 34. We needed a guy his age in several other events. So I called him. Many times. He turned me down each and every time.
Months later, I would look back and tease him for letting me down since I quickly learned he could have easily participated in every single event and probably won them all.
I also learned a year or two later that one of the times I called to hound him, after we hung up, he looked at his friend and co-worker, Marcus , and stated, “I am going to marry that girl one day.”
So early (for me) Saturday morning I bee bop over to racquetball, with my clip board and list of brackets and paperwork for the players and started ordering people around (Jim’s words, not mine). I was just trying to make sure everyone knew which court to be at and what time to be there. He said he looked at me and thought to himself, Who is she? Doesn’t she know we have all done this before? We know where to go and when.
I sat up above the courts and watched as Jim easily defeated his opponent. I noticed he had really nice legs and mentioned this to my friend, Cathy, who knew him and was watching with me. She told me he was single and a good guy. Hmmm. After his match, he offered me some of his always present Oreo cookies and peanut M & M’s. (Again, he later confided that was his way of letting me know he was interested) I teased him and told him if he got a medal (he still had to finish out his bracket) I would buy him a Grolsch beer. He won. And I didn’t hear from him for the remainder of the month while I finished Corporate Challenge. A few days after everything was over, I received flowers at my office. The note congratulated me on a great job (I think we got second place over all that year) but it wasn’t signed. It drove me crazy trying to figure out who they were from. I had hoped to hear back from Jim, but after he turned me down over and over for other events and showed no interest after that initial Saturday, I had pretty much given up on him.
So, I called and told him I had his medal and asked when I could drop it off. He asked if I wanted to come watch him play softball (he was on several teams) and then he could collect that beer I owed him.
I went. Sitting at his game, while the other wives and girlfriends cast suspicious glances my way, by myself and watched him have fun while playing a game he loved. He certainly was athletic and pretty cute too.
We went for the beer. He forgot his wallet. We talked and talked and talked. For several hours, barely drinking or eating. Just becoming completely mesmerized by the other, making a connection and recognizing commonalities. I was hooked.
As he was walking away from my car, he said, “I’m glad you liked the flowers.” They were from him. He hadn’t forgotten about me after all.
That weekend I was taking a group to Disneyland. I could take a friend. I called Jim and asked if he would like to go. We were leaving at 5 a.m. and wouldn’t return until about 2 a.m. That would be almost 24 hours together. He didn’t hesitate; he said “yes.”
Barely knowing each other, we started the day polite and unfamiliar. I had to go over rules, get the movie started, etc. He sat on one side of the aisle and I sat on the other.
By the time we were watching the fireworks display during the evening parade down Main Street I was in love. Jim bent down and gave me our first kiss. We rode back next to each other with my head on his shoulder and our hands entwined.
I called my parents shortly after and told them I had met the man I was going to marry.
We moved in together a month later. (partly because of the armed robbery I had endured a few months before and the fact he was building a new house). My parents hadn’t even met him yet. I am sure they were not very happy. I can’t remember what they said. It didn’t really matter. I was hooked and so was Jim.
We were married May 3 the following year.
Today. Today was our first “date”. It set up our whole lives together…sports and talking.
Our real anniversary. The one day there was never any going back from. Today I close my eyes, as tears seep out and picture all that we had before us. I feel the excitement and the tenderness. I am so happy he said “yes”. I am so happy we had all of those years together. I am so happy he chose me.
I miss him and all that was going to be. I miss all that was. But I am so very, very grateful we had the journey together and I would never change April 30, 1996 for anything.