Leaving the Ship

During the next six weeks (September 6 – October 11, 1982),  you were training others on the ship as you were changing stations from the USS Saipan to the Naval Annex/Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.  October 11 was your last day on the ship.  

I was taking classes at Ashland Community College (ACC) and began a job at Balloon World, where I would dress as a clown most of the time but sometimes a character like Yoda and deliver balloons.  

In your September 30 letter, you wrote, “I have a question. When did you decide you were in love with me? I fell in love with you after or during our second date.” We talked about how natural our love story began a lot over the years, but it was so sweet to read it again in your handwriting. I remember you told me you love me for the first time during that date, and I responded that I loved you, too.  So, it was during that second date for both of us.  

The letters tell a much more detailed story, so I won’t reiterate it here.  I remember that time so vividly in our lives.  Fall in love for the first time is so sweet!!! And, we were lucky enough that we were each other’s first and only love!


THE Ring

This story has been told almost as many times as the “engaged in four days” story through the years.

You flew home on Friday, September 3. Your flight landed at 3:30. When you saw me, you handed me a barf bag. I thought you used it for trash and began to drop it in the trash can. You said, “Oh, no, that’s not trash,” in quite a calm manner and told me that my ring was in there. You thought that was hilarious. I, in turn, through that yelling or creating a scene might have been called for as I almost threw away such a priceless treasure. Yet, this was part of your sense of humor.

I immediately opened the bag and put the ring on without giving yo a chance to do the get down on one knee thing. Yet, that was never your personality anyway. You were quietly romantic!

I always thought the timing of this visit was special. You had written, “Which weekend in September would you like me to come home?” I, of course, said the first one, so you made that happen. I was convinced from the very beginning that you could do anything. You were my Superman.

We had set the date for August 20, 1983, at this time to give me time to finish the Summer semester at ACC. Now, the explain why I went to ACC because it is all about us. In the very beginning, I wanted to go to Harvard. My group of nerdy friends from high school decided to all apply to Harvard to see who could get in, first, then who could get the most in scholarships. I got in, but the cost was still going to be more than Mom and Dad could afford even with scholarships. The next choice was Mount Vernon Nazarene College with Jim and a bunch of other friends from church. I applied and was even assigned a room-mate that I had already met when we went up for the regional choral competition held at Mount Vernon as that was the regional college for the Nazarene church. Yet, this was in late Spring 1982 during the school year – before I met you.

When I met you, everything changed. We fell in love so quickly that I wanted to spend as much time with you as possible. If I was at Mount Vernon, you couldn’t visit because I would be in a dorm and Public Displays of Affection (PDA) were frowned upon at Mount Vernon. So, I instantly made a decision to stay home and go to ACC. This was actually good for all. It would be much less expensive for Mom and Dad; I would be home with the family longer before we married; and I could be with you more.

You came into my life and transformed both me and it. I, all of the sudden, had confidence that I never had before. I was never the same after I loved you. You made me better! And, you always said the same thing. We were a great team!!

We spend these few days just being together. We loved going to the movies and stopping at Baskin Robbins just a few stores down from the cinema in the strip mall on U.S. 60 toward downtown. The cinema is still there in 2021. You had to fly back on Sunday. Your flight left at 3:30, which gave us exactly three days together.

Cards, Flowers and Letters

You were back on the USS Saipan from July 19 through September 2. You sent me a dozen roses almost immediately when you got back to ship. I got them on the 21st.

The mail on the ship seemed to bulk ship only a couple days a week, so I took to writing the actual dates on the outside of the envelopes. I was so funny when I got the boxes back out. They spoke so much of our personalities. Yours were piled in a shoe box. Mine were in date order in a fancy box.

This was a long separation, because you were assigned a special project around the end of July and couldn’t leave until it was finished. And, you had taken all of your leaves day, except holidays, to be with me in June. So, it was during this separation that you began the tape exchange. It was originally an Alvin the Chipmunk cassette that you bought at a bargain table. You taped over it on one side with what you were doing and romantic, much stuff. I then taped over you with a return message. We continued that exchange throughout our time apart. We kept the tape until we got it out when we moved into this house (Wooded Forest Road). As we were moving boxes, we rediscovered our boxes and thought it would be fun to listen to that tape. It had been about 14 years ago, so the tape was indistinguishable. It was a bargain tape to begin with after all.

You bought my ring during this time. From both memory as well as re-reading the letters I can’t tell who’s more anxious – You to give it or me to see it. Your love has always been so deep and sincere. It was and continues to be my foundation.

You bought the ring in early August and picked it up on August 14 when you went to the mall with your ship friends, Mose and Chet. Most of part of the “ose” brothers with you, and Chet was a really good friend and was trying to find a girl, too. Those stories are in your letters, but you always told them so much better.

“Stolen” Time

You had Friday, July 16, off so you came home for the weekend. We each had counted the days until we got to be together again. You rode to Ashland with a friend from Ohio who was going home on leave and then went back to Norfolk on the bus. I thought, and not think it all the more, how sweet it was that you missed me so much that you were willing to take the bus back. That was a long trip.

We didn’t do anything grand during these days, but each day with you during this time deepened our love and our relationship. We were both sure that God smiled on us when he brought us together and that he blessed our relationship because the love came so naturally. We talked a lot through the years how we loved each other from the very beginning. You said you knew you loved me during or after our second date, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Long Distance

July 1, 1982, began the long distance part of our relationship. We wrote each other at least daily and called frequently, but we had to be careful about calls because this was in the day of long-distance charges. Each minute ran up the phone bill.

Bob talking to me on the phone in his room on base.

We each kept our letters – mine in a fancy box with blue flowers, yours in a shoe box. We always laughed at how that represented our personalities. I was thrilled that you were romantic enough to keep yours. I would soon learn that you were much more romantic that I.

This first separation lasted two weeks (July 1 – July 15). You were on the ship during this time and wrote such romantic letters. I love to read them over and over. It’s as if I can hear your voice and recall your wonderful sense of humor directly from your mouth.

Bob at his desk on the ship

The ship went to New York over the July 4th holidays, and you got to see two Broadway shows. Because you were in uniform, you got to go backstage. Raquel Welch, the star of “Woman of the Year,” signed your program and kissed you. You loved that story and told it several times through the years.

The teen group from church went to King’s Island one weekend during this time. Mom chaperoned, so Jason went along as Dad worked Saturdays. We all wrote a postcard to you. I always thought it was so special how the family embraced you from the very beginning. Mom always said that you were easy to love, because you were so genuine and giving.

I spent a large part of my time already planning the wedding You always poked fun at our “over the top” wedding, but you actually loved how girly-girl I am.