It was my "young and dumb" years. I left home when I was 18 and moved to Sacramento. I was not active in church and had no intention of changing that status. Bitterness on that end abounded. My testimony remained strong (and that is not an oxymoron -- most inactive members are inactive for other reasons, contrary to popular belief). Occasionally, when the desire to go to church would hit, I would slip into the back of the chapel late for Sacrament meeting, and then leave prior to closing prayer to be long gone before anyone noticed me -- or so I thought.
Danny noticed. In fact, Danny notices everything. He wasn't quick enough to catch me, but he managed to get my phone number from a friend of a friend of my roommate, who was a recent convert. He called, found a way to introduce himself, and asked me out. I'm not sure why I said yes, but I did.
Our first date was less than perfect. As a matter of fact, it was awful. Danny had a very bad cold, and should have cancelled. Instead, he picked me up in his old rattletrap Plymouth. The passenger door was broken, so I had to crawl in on the driver's side. He apologized for driving with one contact lens because when he gets a cold, he gets cold sores in his eyes. He took me to see the movie "Earthquake." For the benefit of the younger generation, let me explain that when you see this movie on television, it is NOT the way we experienced it in the theater. There were special sound effects that made loud rumbling noises under your feet that made you feel like you were actually experiencing an earthquake. Danny had no way of knowing that I was born in the worst earthquake Nevada has ever seen, and I'm just superstitious enough to believe that there's a good possibility that with an entrance like that, my exit might just be as dramatic. I was terrified, and he was trying to be a gentleman (or maybe it was the cold), so he didn't even hold my hand.
The second stop on the date was Pizza & Pipes, where there was a real old time Wurlitzer organ salvaged from silent movie days with a live organist. I loved the place, and it remained our favorite pizza place until they finally went out of business when my kids were teenagers. In light of his cold, however, I sat on the opposite side of the table from him, as opposed to sitting next to him, an act which he still has yet to forgive me.
The entire evening, he talked about his ex-wife and his divorce (between nose blows) -- not smart. I went home and told my roommates that he was looking for a wife, and I was NOT interested -- especially since he had been married before, had a son, and was 12 years older than me. I refused to go out with him by avoiding his seemingly endless phone calls for the next eight months.
Eight months later, I walked into the back of the chapel late and exited early. He must have been wearing his running shoes. In order to get away from the church quickly, I agreed to let him call me.
The following Sunday afternoon, he called extremely excited, and his voice was very animated. He wanted to come to my apartment and show me the pictures that he had taken of his 3-year-old son at Sears. I let him come over. As he showed me the pictures of his son, two things happened. I didn't realize it at the time, but I fell in love with this man who so obviously loved this adorable tow-headed little boy. I also fell in love with the tow-headed boy before I ever met him. It would take many months (and many fights) before I would figure all that out, however. I finally figured it out the day a drunk driver hit him and totalled his new Datsun. I had injured my back and was working with a heating pad. When I got the call that he had been hit, I took off at a dead run and ran from my office at 7th and K Streets to the scene of the accident at 5th and P Streets. You can do the math. The next day, he was fine, but I was flat on my back in bed contemplating why in the heck I had done that.
The drama didn't end when I figured out I loved him, however. Danny and I had the stormiest courtship on record. As a matter of fact, we fought more the year before we were married than we have in the last 33 1/2 years of marriage. I gave the engagement ring back three times -- but that's a story for a future post.