A couple of months after my 18th birthday I ran away from home and joined the Army. Seriously, I did not tell a soul that I was leaving until the day the recruiter came to the house to pick me up and put me on a plane to basic training. Now, I am sure this confuses some, but most of you will get that the home life was not exactly stellar. Joining the Army may seem a bit extreme but to me at that time it was the only way out. Not telling anyone that running away to join the army is the right path, just that it saved that ordinary young woman extraordinary arguments. To face facts the younger me was not up the weight class of my mom in arguing, so I jumped ship, ran for the hills, got out of dodge! I guess at 18 I was an adult and did not need to actually run away, but it seemed the best at the time. When we are young extremes seem much less extreme. Really, how is joining the Army to go off and get shot at better than dealing with family drama? Boggles the mind and really not recommending this as a solution to others. Heh, I learned that we drag all our issues with us wherever we go – just saying. So might as well learn to deal.
So two months in South Carolina for basic training, then nine months in Georgia for Military Occupational Specialty training led me to my permanent duty station at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Before going to Maryland, I flew home to California to pick up my clothes and car and made the drive to Maryland for my first duty station. My grandfather, Popo, made the drive with me, five of the very best days of my life. When we made it to Maryland, one more night in a hotel then I put Popo on a plane home and headed to my first unit. Since it was Labor Day weekend, I was assigned a temporary room and given directions where to show up on Tuesday after Labor Day.
No sense of unpacking the car of more than necessities when I would be moving rooms in a couple of days, so bored I headed to the day room. A day room for you non-military folks is basically a common area in the billets for soldiers to relax and socialize. The room often contains a television with a variety of seating areas. This particular day room had one other feature, the extra duty soldier responsible for manning the desk and answering the phone. A very cute guy with who I commenced flirting. We chatted, laughing and both of us flirting like mad for the better part of an hour before anyone else showed up in the day room.
The new guy who entered the room was a mess. Seriously, a complete mess. He had on very old and threadbare cut off jean shorts, a t-shirt that I was pretty sure was also threadbare in the places that still had fabric. Definitely his Sunday best, holy for sure! Do not get me started on the ball cap on his head, really let’s not go there. I will just say that I have seen better caps on the side of the road that have been run over by dozens of 18-wheelers. Enough said. Add in a pair of shower shoes, a fashion maverick in the making. On top of this fashion wonder was the road rash on one whole side of his body, cheek, elbow, knee all scraped to hell and gone. The icing on the cake here was the BCG’s he was wearing too! (BCGs is military talk for Birth Control Glasses, in other words the most butt ugly glasses the Army will provide for you free of cost!)
New guy inserted himself into the conversation (read flirtation) I was enjoying with the desk duty guy. Ok, so new guy was sweet, and funny, geeky and just would not go away. Sort of annoying really, but really sweet. An hour or so later, new guy asks if I had seen anything of the town yet, and what I was planning for dinner. I had not, and had no plans. Not sure how it happened but just a few minutes later I was in a car with new guy on my way to a tour of the local town and to grab a quick dinner. During the driving tour I found out that the road rash was from a motorcycle accident the previous week. The BCGs were because he could not bend his elbow enough to get in his contacts. The clothes, well let’s just say there is no real explanation that I have figured out, and I have lived with the guy for 30 years now, so yea, no taste at all in his personal clothes.
The whole evening was wonderful, we had dinner at a Roy Rogers since as a California girl I had never heard of the place. We drove around for hours and ultimately ended up in Gambrill a state park not far from the base. The lookout points were amazingly beautiful in early fall, still so green with just a few hints of the fall colors starting to show. The park had a swing set that we sat on for hours more, talking, always talking. We had so little in common, yet so much in common. It was strange and wonderful. Over those hours new guy went from sort a sort of goofy looking geeky guy, to a handsome young man who I was starting to really like.
The whirl wind began. From a goofy guy inserting himself into a flirtation to a guy I could not get rid of. Seriously, he was everywhere I was, every turn he was there. Persistent devil, I will give him that. I tried ditching him. I tried flirting with others, the lets just be friends route. All of it was sort of flattering really in an annoying sort of fashion of why the hell can I not get this guy to leave me alone you stalker you! I think we had been dating for a month before I realized that we were dating, and that he was serious. Capital letter SERIOUS. How did I know he was serious? Well because he told me he was planning to marry me, raise a family and grow old. All with me. After only ONE month!
To say that I was taken aback by that conversation it to understate it excessively. A couple of months later, in a hotel room in Georgia (after we had just spent a day as six flags in Atlanta). My soon to be husband pops the question, sort of. What he actually said was “so when are you going to make an honest man of me?” He was giving me those sad puppy dog eyes, looking so put out as if I was purposely compromising his virtue. I laughed, a lot then I took pity on him and we were married nine months after we first met. Yep we met and married in nine short months. My husband likes to tell people that he went away for training and came back to a wedding. And he did not want to disappoint me, so he married me. Huge favor he was doing me, the ass.
We were both on active duty and could not get any leave time to go meet each other’s families before the wedding. I got to talk to his parents frequently on the phone. Since he came from a military family they completely understood our not visiting before the wedding. My family, sigh, let’s just say the drama never goes away. Running away did not change it, or fix it. I think the thing that hurt the most was when my baby brother called in tears. Evidently, my mom told him that the reason I was not going to be coming home to get married (grew up in California – married in Maryland) was because I did not love him (my brother) enough. At least that is how an 8-year-old interpreted his mother’s rants. I was seriously annoyed, enough was enough. Called dad and told him I was flying my brother out for the wedding. Dad took care of everything, which means that mom came out with my dad and brother. Yea!
My soon to be husband spent the two days before our wedding, and the day after our wedding annoying my mom. I think he was having way too much fun. She hated him, and he just kept up the hick routine to annoy the hell out of her. That and he would hum random tunes, or whistle through his teeth random notes. At the time I could not figure out what was up with that nonsensical noise. Honestly, I think he did it to keep me sane. Pretty sure he did not like my mom, and every time I would be close to tears he would start again. The whole long weekend I was not sure if I wanted to smack the crap out of him, or laugh hysterically. I chose laughter, a theme in our marriage. We celebrated our 29th anniversary this year. Years of love, laughter, tears, and fears. An anything but ordinary beginning for an enduring relationship that started with flirting, with someone else!