My wife and I have been married for 10 years and together for close to 15 – having once upon a time, inked a plan for that pivotal First Date, way back in the Autumn of 1996.
It was the events that transpired on a little vacation getaway we took a short time after we began dating that have me shocked we lasted more than 5 months – let alone 15 years. After all, we almost kicked the bucket way back before we began living together.
But whatever doesn’t kill us merely makes us stronger, right. With a decade and a half under out belt, I’d say Andi and I are proof positive of that musty old maxim.
But that’s a tale for another day (next week – actually).
Today, I want to tell you all about how we began.
In October 1996, Andi had had enough. No longer could she bear the thought that such a delectable eligible bachelor like myself was strutting his feathers, peacocking through the office in a bid to court whichever dame was game so she decided to lock me down tight. Having used her feminine intuition to determine that I was interested (if the 23 visits to her desk weren’t enough reason to believe then surely my penchant to strutting through the office topless sealed the deal). So – she made a pass at me – asking me if I would like to have lunch with her someday.
I saw her bid and upped the ante – replacing lunch for dinner and swapping the caf for something a bit more romantic. Something seaside.
So a plan was etched. Saturday night. Dinner in Plymouth followed by ice cream and a walk along the harbor. Maybe we’d take in “the submarine races”.
We fast forward through the week and get to the magic hour – Saturday at 6 p.m. – the exact moment I needed to leave my apartment in Mansfield to pick her up at her Aunt’s house. As I was exiting, I realized that I had no idea where she lived let alone where her Aunt lived. But, I did have her phone number scribbled down on a tattered TPS report somewhere around here.
A frantic search of my wallet, my car and the apartment yielded nothing. My eyes kept darting to the clock – willing that second hand to just slow a bit so I could think, dammit, THINK!!! With each ounce of sand that drained from the hour glass I was edging myself perilously close to that point of no return where no matter how great the date may turn out, the girl would always recall just how late you were.
I’d never get that second chance to make a first impression – and if you are late for that first date; you are marked. You can kiss dependability good-bye – and as girls start to move into their later 20’s – the hunt for a dashing young rogue gets replaced by the need to find a man they can count on. One who’s there when he says he’ll be there.
I couldn’t bear to let one more second fly-by. This was my future, we were talking about.
So, I hit the phone book and let my fingers do the walking – looking up every Diman I could find in the entire Tri State area. And then, I grabbed the phone and began trawling through my lengthy scroll.
The first few calls yielded nothing – short of this one creepy chick who let me know that “There’s no Andrea here… but I’ve got nothing doing so you’re welcome to come on over and have a little Boone’s Farm – maybe watch some Sabado Gigante.”
I refused to be tempted by the fruit of another and kept on working my way down that list. Once I began pronouncing her last name correctly (subbing “Die-Mon” for the “Dee-man” I had lead with, the number of hang-ups ceased. After all, who wants to be cold-called by a desperate devil worshipper that close to the Sabbath?
Finally I hit on one.
The sweetest, kindest little old lady answered the phone. It was as if America’s Sweetheart, Betty White, had stepped in to help a fella’ out, way before the Internet would be invented, thus propelling Miss White to heights we morals can merely dream about.
“He-ll-oooo“; she called into her vintage Western Electric type 294 Fiddleback.
“Yes… Hi. I’m sorry to bother you tonight”, I said in a breathless race to get every last syllable out before I lost track of any more time. “My name is Ed Humphries and I’m supposed to be going on a date with a beautiful girl named Andrea Diman and I’ve lost her number, I have no idea where she lives… and with every second that goes by, the future lives of my children Colin and Aria are in grave jeopardy. If I don’t reach her tonight… and only tonight… I may just tear a hole in the fabric of time that will threaten the very course of human civilization. For all I know, my inaction and complete and utter stupidity tonight may kick start the End of Days a good decade and a half before the Mayans say it’s gonna’ happen and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna’ spoil that great party the Earth has planned for 2012 so please… oh please… tell me she lives there?!?!?”
“Myrtle… Is that you?!?!?”
Oh, for of the love of Matlock, why did I have to get Clara Peller?
So, I went back through the same spiel… this time with more emphasis on each vowel and playing up the butch in my bark so she’d know she was talking with a stud Mack-Daddy and not her canasta cohort and finally it all sunk in.
“Oh – I’m sorry. I thought you were my friend Myrtle. Say, did I ever tell you about the time that Myrtle and I were driving rivets on the B-29s out at Willow Run when a couple of Dapper Dans entered and started making with the sweet talk?”
“DAMMIT ETHEL – There’s no time for this. Stay on target. Stay on target.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. We’ll save that for another day. Now who did you say you were looking for? Andre the Demon?!?!?”
“ANDREA DIMAN!!!!!!!” – I hated to get so hot under the color but in glancing at the clock and fearing the glacial pace this conversation could crawl, I was hitting the panic button fast and furious.
“Nope, no Andrea Demon here. Sounds like such a lovely girl, though.”
“It’s pronounced DIE-MAN… like diamond… and that she is. Ohhhh, what am I gonna’ do? I ended this before we even got started. This could have been something. This coulda’ been a contender, Ethel. But now it’s nothing. You hear me Ethel?!?!? NUTHIN’!!!”
From the other end of the line came a deep, guttural snoring. Oh great, I’d lost her. Oh well, this was a lost cause from the outset. Time to jump ship and head further down the list – as hopeless as that proposition may sound.
“I’m doomed“, I muttered to myself.
“Wha-wha-what was that sonny?”
Something brought her back to the land of the living. As warm and inviting as that white light promised, Ethel decided to get busy living. She’d slap on her detective hat and solve the case like her hero Angela did every Sunday night following 60 Minutes. Despite the fact that no matter where Angela traveled weekly, murder seemed to follow her; Ethel never once questioned that perhaps it was Angela bumping people off in a bid to keep her lucrative publishing contract alive. Or if the thought did enter her mind, she quickly killed it off. Best not to cross, Miss Lansbury.
“I’ll help you, sonny… and I have just the tools to do it, too.”
Ethel was on the case. I was saved.
Excitement!!!, she wrote.
From my end of the phone, I heard some rustling and the occasional muffled old-timey curse. “Oh, fiddlesticks – now where did I leave that dagnabbit doohickey… Oh there you are, you dirty birdie, you.” – I just prayed I never found myself snowbound a stone’s throw from Ethel’s manse. Misery loves company, after all.
“Ahhhh, Andrea Diman. Here we are.”
And as she began to rattle off a series of numbers, I was incredulous. How did she do it? I had to know the secret of her success.
“Ethel, you’re a miracle worker. How did you do it?”
“Ahhh, the phone book my good man.”
“But I tried the phone book. No luck.”
“For which town“, she replied.
And then I found my folly. In my feverish hunt to nab that number, I’d simply grabbed my area phone book. Although we lived just a few towns apart, it didn’t stretch all the way out to her burg. But – through my chance encounter with this kindly octogenarian, I now had those precious digits in my mitts.
As a great man once said, “Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose.” Such truth in that saying.
Before I hung up, I thanked her profusely – on behalf of me, and Andi, and our future kids Colin and Aria – everyone. And before I could hang up, she left me with one last sentiment.
“Glad to help, my boy. Who am I to stand in the way of young love… now, just promise me one thing. If this girl is the one… indeed, THE ONE… you’ll invite me to the wedding.”
“It’s a deal Agnes”, I said… “Now don’t you go dying on me.”
As I was hanging up, I heard a hushed “It’s Ethel, jackass” but I couldn’t wait. I needed to punch those digits and make right what once went wrong.
As I hit the last the last number, a thought occurred to me. She wouldn’t be there. She was at her Aunts. Oh well – worth a shot.
The phone rang… and rang… and rang… and then finally someone answered in a very sleepy, groggy voice. I remember her telling me that her Mom worked nights and slept all day so here I was – making yet another bad impression. Well, I could repair this bridge later. I needed to sprint across the first one I was in the midst of burning.
I got the details for where I could find her and hit the road. Her Mom said she would call ahead to let her know I was coming. “Yeah, I’ll tell her… jackass”, was the last thing I heard.
And so began the most frantic 20-minute drive of my life… and this one coming in a lifetime where I’ve been in a doctor’s office with Andi, on Aria’s expected due date, and given the textbook medical diagnosis – “IT’S GO TIME!!!” – “Get her to a hospital, stat.”
That doesn’t hold a candle to the day I arrived 75 minutes late for my first date. Afterall – if I didn’t get there in the first place then there would never be a need to get her to that hospital, stat. This time travel stuff can mess with ya’, man.
But eventually I made it there and as I made my way up the stairs and Andi met me at the front door, with her cousins peering through rumpled curtains hoping to get a sneak peek at the “no-good rotten bastard” their older cuz had been cursing out for the better part of an hour – all those concerns melted. I explained my plight and pledged that this is as late as I’d ever be. Hell – now I had a pretty good time to beat.
I’d set a pretty damn good precedent for myself. If I was merely 48 minutes late for our second-date, it would be a marked improvement. There’s nothing but upside in coming in as the lowly heel.
Fortunately, the rest of our date went famously and the worst impression Andi walked away with was “He likes to talk.” Better than that insufferable silence that suffocates so many flames before they can ever spark.
No, for this first, oh-so important date – the air was filled with prattle and chatter and… laughter – the most important element towards securing a second engagement.
I may have talked on and on and on but I was just making up for lost time.
Of course, you know how the rest of the story goes. We dated. We moved in together. We got engaged. We got married. We bought a house. We bought a dog. We bought a second dog. We bought a second house. We bought a second kid… errr… we had a second kid.
And the next thing you know, you’ve made inroads into a damn fine life together – with so many shared memories, there isn’t a hard drive nor scrapbook big enough to catch ’em all.
Oh, the promise?
Yeah – we never invited that broad to the wedding. She was probably dead by that point, anyway… probably…
But she certainly gave us a gift…
She made ‘us’ possible.