As a radioman, the Navy had taught me to type and file, and I decided to use those skills, plus a five-point veteran's preference, to apply for a Civil Service job. I took the test, and went home to wait.
"Home" was a rotting studio apartment that had been built on top of a garage sometime during the Wilson administration. I will say it had a certain flair about it. It also cost $90.00 a month. I got $88.00 every two weeks on unemployment, and had to buy food in there somewhere, but luckily, just about the time my savings were running out, I was called ("mailed" actually) to take the Civil Service test. So, it was onto my second-hand bicycle and down to the Federal building to prove that I could count and knew the alphabet. A week or so later, I was summoned to the Civil Service Commission office to be sent out for interviews. On the fifth one, I went to the Naval Air Station at North Island, and was offered a GS-2 on the spot. A GS-2, for the uninitiated, is one level above whale poop on the bottom of the ocean. Other places had offered more, but they wanted to interview more people, and see if they liked somebody else better. I opted for the bird in the hand.
So the following Monday, I went to work at Maintenance Support Package Branch as a Locator Clerk, keeping tabs on 110,000 small aircraft spare parts in a warehouse the size of a soccer pitch. In the office were three women. One was old and married, one was young and married, and one was about my age and single. Now remember, I had sworn off women as bad business, and she was everything I didn't want in a woman, anyway. She was chubby, and dark, and quiet, and subdued where my dream woman was an athletic blonde nymphomaniac with a smart mouth and a sassy attitude, but there we were.
Bonnie, her name was, and she was a GS-5, supervisor of the typists. It didn't take me long to see that she was also the office whipping boy. I had lived my life in solitude, spent ten years as a karate student in various schools, the last two as an assistant instructor. I had been to Vietnam, I had defeated three thugs who had tried to take my wallet, I was death on a city bus. I began to offer her moral support. Every time they drove her down, I reminded her that she was unique, and beautiful, and a valuable human being. I fortified her with Taoist meditations, and the stronger she got, the more the other people in the office worked harder to make her feel worse. Finally, at the end of one especially difficult day, I gave her my number and told her to call me if she wanted to talk. She called that night, and asked if she could come see me.
She came, we talked, we went for a walk, we were up all night. I was amazed to realize how cute she was, like I was seeing her for the first time. She was easy to talk to, though she had (and still has) a penchant for the melodramatic, and fun to spend time with. I invited her to an upcoming KISS concert. She accepted.
You need to understand that her record rack was filled with Mitch Miller, the Ray Coniff Singers, Hugo Winterhalter's Orchestra. She probably thought KISS was a nice little band from Oshkosh. Rush opened for them, and tore the house down before KISS came on and threw it out the door. Her face was priceless, like a child raised in a convent seeing her first carnival. I was smitten. This was no blonde nympho surfer chick. No, instead, this was someone who made me look forward to each new day. I began to look for new things to do with my new best friend.
I took her out to our local desert, took her hiking up a mountain, on which she came within a ten foot slide of falling to certain death. I got my grandma's Plymouth Duster stuck in the sand. She sat on a rock with an unfathomable expression while I worked like a field hand to get the car out. I couldn't do it, and exhausted, trekked five miles to the Ranger station to ask them to bring a Jeep and pull us out. She didn't have much to say, and the whole time, I had visions of her looking at me as the guy that almost killed her. I figured this was it. It had been a fun month, and now it was over.
I had to take her home before I could go back to my place. She lived in Chula Vista, about twenty miles from my North Park bachelor pad. I was too exhausted to drive after walking, and shovelling, and walking some more, so she drove to her place while I literally passed out in the passenger seat. When she woke me up, we were parked at her apartment. Imagine my surprise when she declared that I couldn't drive any farther that night, and invited me to stay the night. I slept on the couch and there was no hanky-panky, but any woman as mad as I thought she was would have handed me the car keys and walked away without another word.
We had met at the end of March. By July, we were living together. We married on her birthday, Christmas Eve, in front of the tree in her mother's living room. By the next March, she was pregnant with our twins.
It's been a hell of a ride since then, good times and bad, like the saying goes, sickness and health, richer and poorer, and all that jazz, yet through it all, she's been right there in my corner, watching my back rain or shine, right or wrong, taking my side no matter what, no matter who; it's us against the world, except when we're enjoying it, which is more and more these days. Without this woman, I would be a hermit in the middle of the city, if I was alive at all, and probably not caring whether I died in my sleep tonight. With her, life has been the wonderful adventure it is in works of fiction. We've never been able to travel, or have the nicest things, but together, life comes to us. Schopenhauer was most definitely right. This Prussian philosopher said, "The more you have within, the less you need from without ." Truer words were never spoken. Sometimes it has seemed that hell itself has opened its gates in our living room, but we have never wavered in our love and support for each other, and we remain to date undefeated.
As much as I saved her, she has saved me. We were 27 and 29 that long lifetime ago, and thinking that we might start a family; now we are 62 and 64, and have three kids and seven grandchildren. Father Time has given us a sound hiding, and yet we are still fresh in spirit, as interested in the world as a couple of six-year olds, and look forward to the start of each new day. There's no point to this post, and no reason that anyone else should be interested, but I have this soapbox, and I just want to shout from the highest rooftop that I LOVE THIS WOMAN! Bonnie, this is for you, and if I had to start over with nothing but our broken down pickup truck and a bag of dirty laundry, I could face it without a blink with you by my side. Thank you, my love, for more than you'll ever know...