JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Time for a love story
Guys and gals, it's time for a love story. Everyone should tell a love story at least once a year and this is my turn to tell mine. Love stories are like watching a group of high schoolers going out to eat before their high school prom. They help us remember the really good things in life like when we first met our soulmate.
My love story began in 1965 at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. I walked into the student union with a friend and I saw this cute college coed sitting at a table with a cigarette in her hand. I went over to the table and introduced myself. I told her that I was from Waterville, Minn., and that I attended Luther College and then transferred to Mankato State College. I also told her that I was a member of Phi Sigma Omicron fraternity. I tried to impress her with as many "hey, I'm important" experiences as I could.
The co-ed didn't seem to be too impressed nor did she seem at all interested. I asked her where she was from and she told me that she was from Detroit and a graduate of the University of Michigan.
After hearing that she was a Wolverine and wolverines always eat gophers, I realized that I was not in her league and went on my way. Years later, I would ask this co-ed (Kathy) if she had remembered our first encounter and she said that she really couldn't. I probably made the right decision to move on but love has a way of correcting things.
This incident happened during our Peace Corps training. We did not have too much interaction during training nor during our first year in Uruguay. She was in a rural youth program in the country and I was in a basketball/sports program in the city. About the only time we did interact during our three-month training was when we were bridge partners. That's about her only recollection of me—a pretty good bridge player from some tiny town in Minnesota.
When we arrived in Uruguay she went her way and I went my way. Our paths wouldn't cross for about another year.
Love stories have twists in them that make them a love story. The twist in our love story was when Kathy secretly arranged for us to go to the same home to have Thanksgiving dinner. It was a custom for diplomats to invite Peace Corps volunteers over to their homes on holidays. In this case, our Peace Corps secretary, under orders from Kathy, arranged for us to have dinner at the same house. Kathy just happened to be in Montevideo.
We sat together on the bus and talked about our experiences. I made a point not to mention Minnesota. After the dinner the host gave us a ride back to the city and he gave Kathy a carton of cigarettes. A week or so later I received a letter from Kathy (which I still have) telling me that she enjoyed herself. I believe I wrote back and suggested we get together and see a movie or something the next time she was in the city.
We eventually did find ourselves going to a movie and having dinner. This became a pattern for several months whenever she happened to come to Montevideo for meetings. That same New Year's she invited me to her home in Young to meet her Uruguayan family. Since I enjoyed traveling to the interior of Uruguay, I accepted her offer.
We went to a dance and left early, which was frowned upon by her family since young men and women were expected to be chaperoned. Kathy and I sat on a park bench and I kissed her for the first time. In 2005 on a vacation trip, we returned to that same spot and the bench was still there. We now had no need to be chaperoned.
Several months later, Kathy came into town but, unfortunately, I happened to be traveling to the interior to conduct a basketball clinic. On the way, one of our jeeps collided with another vehicle and we had to cancel our clinic. I hopped a ride on a passing bus and returned to Montevideo with hopes that I could find her in this city of over a million people.
I was literally running down the streets to her hotel. I asked the clerk if Kathy was in and he said that she had left. I turned around and there she was Kathy coming through the door. She said that she had been sitting in a cafe with another volunteer and had seen me running by.
Whenever I tell this part of the story I envision a young man and woman on a beach running towards each other with the golden sun sinking in the background, the waves lapping at their feet making footprints in the sand. They come together, hug and kiss, and that is the end of the movie. I think we have all seen that movie.
Katherine Hepburn said that, "Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get—only with what you are expecting to give—which is everything." That's what has kept Kathy and me together for so many years.
This all happened in March of 1967. We were married a year later in Livonia, Mich. Love stories always have happy endings. Now, what is your love story?
Riddle: How do you get the attention of someone you love? (By screaming out so everyone can hear it.) Or, you can write a column, which does the same. Te amo, Kathy.