I was at that age where men believe their own mythology and the barbershop’s broom had a part in the middle.
Gail and I were young, in love and getting married. We were so young, we even thought of ourselves as being young.
We’d met two hours after another girl had eaten all my licorice. It was the good black licorice. I was a woman-hater for nearly an hour after that. Gail cured me.
We were farm kids and college students. One of us was much better at the student part than the other. I won’t say which one, but it wasn’t me. As now, there were more smart women than men. I didn’t realize I was 17 until I was 20.
I was broke. I’d lost my part-time job at the buttonhole factory. Neither of us was good at falling in love with rich people. Being short of money didn’t seem like a high hurdle. It was all about where we were going, not where we’d been.
When I told my father I was getting hitched, he said, “Thank goodness. Now you’re someone else’s problem.”
I liked my future father-in-law. I’d heard that most prospective fathers-in-law tried not to be nice to prospective sons-in-law. The comedian Bill Engvall explained how he’d handle a young man come courting his daughter: “I’m going to pull him in tight next to me so only he and I can hear the conversation. And I’m gonna say to him, ‘Boy, look at me. You see that little girl right there? She’s my only little girl, man. She’s my life. So if you have any thoughts about hugging or kissing, you remember these words, I’ve got no problem going back to prison.’”
I stopped by the farm of Gail’s family to pick her up for a date. We were going to a bad movie. Gail was typically ready on the dot, but the dot often arrived late, so I had some waiting time to invest. Her father grabbed the cribbage board and we played cribbage. I’m not sure what else you play on a cribbage board. I didn’t know how to play cribbage, so he beat me like a drum. That seemed to please him.
I needed to talk to my future father-in-law. I wasn’t going to be pushed around like a borrowed wheelbarrow, so I’d practiced what I was going to say to him. I was so full of hot air, I could whistle the school’s fight song through my ears. However, what I blurted out was, “Married.”
Gail’s father gave me an odd look before asking me what kind of a question that was, and saying he and his wife had been married for many years.
I might have used hand signals to indicate I hoped to marry his daughter.
I had no money. I had no job. I had no prospects, but I was over-the-moon happy.
My mother had given me some advice. She told me that when questioned about my prospects or the lack thereof, I should answer “God will provide.”
My future father-in-law asked how I intended to provide a roof over his daughter’s head. I replied “God will provide.”
He asked how I expected to put food on the table. I told him God will provide. He questioned as to how I’d be able to clothe future children. I assured him God will provide.
After I’d achieved escape velocity and scrammed from the premises, my lovely mother-in-law asked him how the meeting had gone. My father-in-law shook his head before saying: “That boy hasn’t got a clue or a lick of ambition. His brain is stuck in neutral and his body in park. The only good thing about him is he thinks I’m God.”
I bought Gail a used refrigerator to seal the deal. You should have seen her eyes light up when she opened it. We married. Money was tight. It wasn’t long before a visitor said, “You’re heating your house with candles? What did you heat it with before you used candles?” I’d reply, “Fuel oil.”
My first and only wife and I have been married since Moby Dick was a minnow. Years ago, I wrote a fictional account about a couple that had been married for a long time. “I love you so much,” he said.
“And I love you, too,” she said.
He added, “I don’t know what I’d do without you. I don’t think I could live without you. I just hope I die first.”
She smiled and replied, “I do too.”