STORIES FROM OLD JOE
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22
If there is one year in my life that I am most sentimental about, it is the school year of 1964 and 1965 when I was in my first year at Stanford. It was a year of new adventure, happiness, of sunshine, of riding in the TR-2 with the top down, of new classes at the Stanford Business School, of living in sunny Los Altos Hills in an old Italian looking farmhouse. But most of all, it was a year of new joy and mystery because of a girl named Cherry.
The previous year, I had worked for Boeing, and I was making more money than I ever had before. I had dated a lot of girls . . . and with the exception of one . . . only twice. But there was no one that I was interested in being married to. So I came to Stanford with the bloated, arrogant idea that I would not date women for a year, and that I would concentrate on my studies and demonstrate to the world what a smart guy I was. Was I wrong on both accounts!
As I mentioned in another of these recollections, in early October I was sitting in the library with my friend, Craig Duncan, when he suggested we take girls to the upcoming Stanford-USC football game. Not thinking twice about my crazy pledge to not date anyone for a year, I came up with three names of girls I would be willing to go out with, and he told me that of the three, Cherry was the one to take out . . . that she was really nice. She had graduated from Westmont College in June and was a third grade teacher in rough East Palo Alto.
On Craig’s advice, I called her that night. She seemed very pleased and said that she would love to. On Saturday at noon, she met me there on campus, because we had Saturday morning classes until noon. We got in the TR and drove to Uncle John’s pancake house for lunch. I remember being surprised at how tall she was, and I remember her noting how high we both sat up in the sports car. That’s because the seats had been so rotten, I had replaced them with TR-4 seats, and indeed we sat up a lot higher than we should.
We began getting acquainted at Uncle John’s over lunch, and continued getting to know more about each other driving to the game. Being at the stadium with Craig and Chris, his date, was very enjoyable. Driving Cherry home after the game, she mentioned that her mom had told her to ask me over for dinner that night. (Probably only if she’d had a good time!) Of course, I was delighted, having eaten mostly my own cooking for the past year and a half.
Her mom’s roast beef dinner was delicious. It was nice to be in their home. I had to play her father the obligatory number of ping-pong games, and then I drove home. I had really had a good day. Cherry had been delightful to be with. She was attractive inside and out. There was a goodness about her that I liked, but couldn’t quite define. There was an interest in me and my life that was genuine. She was an honest and open person about her life and seemed very easy to get to know. She had beautiful eyes and when she smiled, the world brightened.
The next morning at church, I was really looking forward to talking with her, but by the time church was over I had not even seen her. So as I was leaving I took an extra turn around the parking lot to see if I could find her. Right before I left the lot, there she was standing on the curb with a pitcher of orange juice. I pulled right over, popped out of the car, and we almost stumbled over each other’s words smiling and saying the same thing. “I really had a good time with you yesterday and wanted to say thank you.” She gave me the pitcher of orange juice to take home with me. I propped it up behind the seat, and it promptly fell over the first time I turned a corner. It was well worth it . . . I was so glad I’d seen her.
Tuesday before dinner I called her to see if we could have coffee about nine that night after I had studied. We went to Denny’s on El Camino, and took up where we had left off . . . really enjoying each other’s company. I loved being with her, and sensed that it was very mutual. On the way home . . . adventure. The TR-2 got stuck in the downtown intersection of Los Altos. It would go forward about five feet, and backwards about ten feet and then would just clunk to a stop. Something was hung up in the car’s rear end. Even though it was close to eleven Cherry insisted on calling her dad. He came right over, handed me some overalls and told me what to do. Sure enough, a bolt had come out of the ring gear and was clogging the works. I removed it, and the car was fine. Fixed it permanently later.
That began a sequence of cheap dates for the two of us. We’d see each other at church, and church events, and I would take her home after. She had a birthday right about that time, and that was the first night we kissed . . . while listening, incidentally, to a record that her ex-boy friend from college had given her. She began sending me a card or two every week, and I loved getting them. She would say a lot about her feelings in those cards that she couldn’t say in person. I really liked who she was, and she assured me that she felt the same way.
One Saturday we drove down to Carmel in her blue and white ‘56 Ford. Spent a great day there. I noticed that she got very tired climbing back up the hill to on Ocean Avenue. It turned out later that she had mononucleosis, but didn’t know it. She’d probably had it for a long while.
Christmas break came along, we said a temporary goodbye at a lovely restaurant on El Camino. Early the next morning I left to drive an Avis rent-a-car with a fellow student up to the northwest to deliver it. That way the ride was free . . . we only had to pay for gas. Ran into a major snowstorm at Shasta that continued all the way to Tacoma.
I really missed her while staying with my parents and we called each other a lot. But, I did have a date with someone from my UW years while home (not concealing this from Cherry). A pretty, vivacious woman who was the life of the party type. Being with her made me realize the comfortableness of being with Cherry, a woman who didn’t bring attention to herself. Looking back on it, I was stupid to even take her out. But young and stupid does stupid things.
I arrived back at school, and we continued to spend a lot of time together. Craig’s and Chris’s relationship was also developing, and Craig and I would share our feelings about these women over our daily lunches at Tressider Student Union. One day I told Cherry that I thought Craig’s and Chris’s chances of getting married were probably 75/25 and going up daily. She told me later she really wanted to know about our chances but discretion and not wanting to be pushy held her back.
Looking back, I acted selfishly sometimes in the relationship. Because I had gotten tired of always having to visit her at her parents’ house, and them being aware of me keeping her up late, I talked her into getting an apartment with Sue Connelly. At this point her mono was kicking in more and more. Probably because I was keeping her up too late. And I told her that I couldn’t tell her I loved her yet, because that would be tantamount to asking her to marry me. But I told her that she could tell me she loved me if she wanted to. Which she did! Cowardly on my part, though.
She did finally develop full-blown mono and was told at Easter break by her doctor, that she was to drop out of teaching for the rest of the year and had to be on bed rest. So she moved back home. It was a very difficult time for her, spending all day in bed, which was the treatment at the time.
By this time I knew I had really fallen for her. I also knew that I didn’t want to act ahead of God’s permission and blessing. Marriage was a forever thing. So I prayed. Many nights that spring I would go outside after dark, sit on a bale of hay in our backyard, look up at the starry skies, and ask God to show me whether it was okay to ask her to marry me. I told him that I was a pretty logical guy, and did not have any clue as to how he would let me know. But that I would wait for him to show me. I would not ask her without him telling me. And I often realize that I was praying to the same God who David had prayed to many nights as a young shepherd 3000 years earlier.
On Saturday morning, May 22nd, I woke up to warm sunshine streaming through the two windows in my 2nd story bedroom. This wondrous and incredible sense of peace was permeating the room. I had never felt anything like it before. Nor since. It was as though God had written on the walls all around the room in big letters. “I thoroughly approve. Ask her today!” I got up so excited. Today was the day! I would ask her this afternoon. I thanked him.
So that afternoon I picked her up and we drove to my favorite secluded spot at Stanford. A beautiful, quiet garden with a pond and a swinging sofa kind of thing, straight out of Southern Living Magazine. It was a beautiful setting. We sat in the swing, I put my arm around her, drew her close to me and said, “Cherry . . . uh, Cherry . . . uh . . . would you . . . would you . . . like to go over to the student union building and have a coke with me?”
I couldn’t believe myself! On that walk over to the student union building I told myself over and over again that I had never met a bigger chicken in my entire life!
Anyway . . . gotta end this story soon . . . the next evening in her backyard, we were standing looking out toward the walnut orchard and I realized it was now or never. She was talking about something but I interrupted and blurted out, “Cherry, would you marry me?” I don’t remember if she verbalized anything, but her thirty-second hug said it all. We hugged some more, laughed, and walked over to the picnic table in the yard. There we sat and prayed together, asking God to put his blessing on our new life together. Which he did!
Three months later we were married.