He pulled up to my house in a brand new, white Trans Am sports car (without the traditional trademark “GAUDY” bird on top). That’s an important detail if you are old enough to remember what now is referred to as one of the most memorable “Muscle Cars” of all time. Without the bird, it showed me this guy had some class. Please don’t take offense if you had or have one, donning the traditional trademark fowl; it’s just a personal preference. Either way, if you’ve ever owned a Trans Am, the car rocks!
It just so happens that I have an odd kind of over the top affinity for fast sports cars. I’ve been told that this obsession, for lack of a better term, is even more unique because I’m a member of the female gender! I find that a little stereotypically sexist; I’m not offended. For me, moving fast is the only way to go, much to my husband’s dismay. Whether I’m riding horse back, running a race or driving my car, for me, the faster the better. In fact, I’m still driving a fast little convertible beauty to this day. So, when I saw the car, he had my attention!
He was there to pick me up and take me to an “A” league softball game that he’d be playing in that afternoon. Actually, after watching the game, he wasn’t just playing in the game; he was the STAR of the event. The local newspaper interviewed him on the spot and ran an article to prove it. I was there to take it all in. Again, I wasn’t “with” him. I wasn’t his date. In fact, we’d never met. So imagine what I was thinking when, on a steamy hot July afternoon, this Particular Man, complete with a steamy hot car, unexpectedly pulled up and was sitting in my parents’ driveway. I was expecting someone to pick me up. I wasn’t expecting him.
In order to explain, I need to back up a bit. Actually, all the way to back to high school I’m afraid. Here’s what happened:
A few days before Gerald entered my universe, my Mother and I were running errands downtown (In Ithaca NY. that is), when we heard a car horn blaring in our direction. The driver had obviously intended to get someone’s attention, as horns are meant to do, but I had no idea it was directed at us. I was oblivious. My Mother, on the other hand, saw the whole thing. “Candy (that’s what everyone called me, until Gerald came along and insisted on referring to me by my actual birth name 'Candace')....wasn’t that Mark Howl?” my Mother quipped, with a curious enthusiasm. “I think you used to call him Woody”, she said. He wasn’t driving; he was in the passenger seat of that sports car. The plot thickens.
You see, all through high school, I had dated one young man; Yep, just one. I had a “boyfriend” or two in middle school; all through high school it was John Yengo, a nice Italian boy whom I cared for deeply. He was the Captain of the basketball team; I was the Captain of the cheerleading squad. It was that kind of thing. Ask me back then and no doubt I’d have said I was in love with him. In fact, we had been so close for so long that according to most, if had I not broken up with him at Senior Prom (I know, a little harsh right?), we’d be married today. I’m sure of it too. Well, we’d have gotten married, but stayed married? I highly doubt it. SO looking ahead, with my “old soul” mentality in full swing, I assessed my situation. I thought of the ugly consequences of what staying with him most likely would bring. THANKS be to GOD, I ended our relationship at the conclusion of our High School Experience.If by chance you run across this blog John.....no offense. It just wouldn’t have worked!
Other young men had made their interest known in playful flirtations. Being committed to my choices, in my mind if I was with this guy, I WAS WITH HIM – end of story! There was one, however, that always interested me more than the average Joe. While passing me in the halls, his line was always, “You still with that Yengo? Dang girl, give a guy a chance”! He was fun and friendly and, FYI, the school mascot. We were known as the “Little Red Skunks”. Looking back now, what probably made him the BIG MAN ON CAMPUS was, undoubtedly, linked to the fact that this guy could pull off wearing a skunk outfit at our football games on Friday night and still hold his head up high come Monday morning. That kind of thing takes a BOAT LOAD of self-esteem and self-assuredness. Traits that are not only appealing, but when coupled with just the right amount of humility...quite sexy as well. More overwhelmingly so when you possess it during the often crippling self-conscious years of high school. He had dated a beautiful girl for years as well who just happened to be a competitor of mine in the horse show arena. Just telling the truth and using full discloser, truth is I always beat her. It was just that I had more experience and honestly, trained harder…that’s all. Looking back now, if I’m being honest, the connection somehow made his attraction to me all together a bit more interesting. He was one year ahead of me in school. So he had been out of the building and off of my radar for over a year when he made his presence known to me yet again.
Apparently, Mark had met Jerry through a group of mutual friends earlier that year and had become close friends in their own right when, what we now refer to as “the car honking incident” occurred. I found out later what had happened through Jerry’s recounting of the event; he remembers it well. Apparently on that particular Saturday afternoon, they’d just been driving around and goofing off when Mark spotted our car. He yelled, “Hey, honk the horn Jer, honk it. That’s Candy Chatham…come on, blow the horn”!
To appease his overly zealous friend, he obliged. Jerry says that when he looked to see what the big deal was all about, he’ll never forget seeing my face. I didn’t see him, I didn’t see either of them, but he saw me. Jerry tells me that he couldn’t believe how amazingly beautiful he thought I was and asked Woody (Mark), all about me. “Amazingly beautiful”, is something I find hard to accept no matter the circumstance, but I don’t know how one can conclude anything even close to that about a person in the few short seconds it takes for one car to pass another. Having said that, I can tell you this, I’d like to believe him.
The next day Mark called my house and after a few awkward pleasantries, asked the same old question, “So, you still with Yengo”? This time, the answer was no and he asked me out. For some bizarre reason, which still bewilders me to this day, my Mother unrelentingly prompted me to do so. I wasn’t particularly interested. For the first time in a LONG time, I was unattached. I was only going to be home for another two months at most before leaving for college and getting on with my life. Her reasoning, “Oh, why not go out with him. Everybody says he’s such a nice guy. Yes you’re leaving for school anyway so why not. You know, just for the heck of it”? So, begrudgingly, I agreed to go. Mark didn’t tell me where we’d be going. He only said that he’d pick me up around noon and not to get dressed up. I got ready; when he came to get me, well, you know by now that he wasn’t alone. My Mother looked out the window, “Candy, know what…I think that’s the car we saw the other day”. Again, Mark wasn’t driving. Seems he and Jerry had not only become close friends, but also played on the same softball team. Mark came to the house, said his charming hellos and we quickly left. We got to the car and Mark introduced me to his friend, “Jerry, this is Candy Chatham. Candy…Jerry Grasso. We play on a softball league and have a game at 1:00 p.m. Thought you might like to come and cheer us on, then grab a bite or something. Sound good?” Well of course I said sure. What else would I say? Off we went.
It’s important for you to know that right after we were introduced; Jerry could hardly bring himself to speak to me. He hardly paid me the time of day and, for the most part, looked at the ground and not my face when he did converse with me. In fact, though it wasn’t done with any rude undertones, I had the distinct feeling he just didn’t like me for some reason. I mentioned this to a couple of their friends who joined us at the game and EVERYONE told me that it wasn’t his usual demeanor. Something I was soon to discover in a way I couldn’t have imagined possible. I remember having fun that night and through my “date” with Mark, I also found a new, fun and interesting click to hang with for the summer. I should have noticed it odd that even though he had appeared to diss me at first, I remember thinking how much I found myself looking forward to seeing Jerry each time we all got together. Even though I was now dating his friend, HE seemed to be on my mind. I was more than taken a back by that. HE wasn’t my usual type; yet, I was drawn to him.
Actually when I say he wasn’t my ‘type”, on second thought, I can’t really have know that for sure. When you’re 18 years old, I don’t really suppose we even have enough life under our belts to have figured what “type” we are, much less be able to recognize our opposite sex counterpart that would be a great match. I must admit, that his age alone made him strangely sexy. He was ten debonair years my senior. Yeah, that’s a turn on! (Was that out loud? Sorry, I digress). He had memorable green eyes and a lean athletic build and does still to this day, I might add. To add fuel to the unexpected, emotional fire I seemed to have for him, at the ripe old age of 28, he was the Controller of what is now a Fortune 500 company. As a result, he was not only successful in business but also more than financially secure. So, again, he had my attention.
As he became more comfortable with me, I found his dominant forward feature was his sense of humor; I loved it. Apparently, I was smitten. Even so, somehow I wasn’t fully aware of it yet myself and for sure nobody else knew it either, including my boyfriend Mark. Then, without warning, this seemingly shy and quite man suddenly launched an aggressive and unapologetic campaign to gain my attention and affections. What made this so overwhelmingly attractive to me was that it was quite clear that he didn’t care what anyone thought about his over the top, public display of flirtation. I know this for sure because most of it was done right in front of Woody. We may have only been dating a few short weeks, but there was no mistaking, he WAS my boyfriend and I was off limits. Now that’s kahonies!!
I have lived with this man for 32 years now and I can HONESTLY tell you to this day, I’ve never seen him close to showing a passion for, or willingness to pursue anything in like fashion, as he did when he went after me. Two short weeks into our knowledge of each other’s existence, without even a first date under our belts, he told me I was the woman he wanted to marry.
Then something happened; something that neither of us can explain. It had never happened to either of us before. God had made this only for us. To this very day we consider it our sign and seal of a Godly guarantee that we were given, a guarantee that we were meant to be.
I ceased a quiet moment and got him alone. I was overwhelmed with him and I wanted him to know. I confessed that our feelings for each other were the same and we kissed. Just writing it makes me gasp a bit. Oh how I wish you knew that I wasn’t embellishing what I am telling you now. We kissed. He shook. Something happened. A feeling that we can’t explain passed between us. It was again, other worldly. He stopped, stepped back and said, “Candace, I have to stop”. I knew what he meant and I’m glad he did it. I wasn’t so sure I could have.
That’s was it. I needed no other proof. Planned or not, he’d swept me off my feet. I thought myself “unsweepable”. I was in control. I called the shots. Then along came this wonderful wrench thrown in the engine of my tightly wound world. He brought with him, a peace to my existence that I’d never known. I didn’t have to prove anything to him. I don’t to this day. I’ve literally grown up in front of this man and he’s accepted my every turn. He loves me and our daughters with unselfishness that boarders on the ridiculous. Here’s how I can best describe my feelings for him today. I am a self-assured woman. I’ve traveled the world alone many times without him. I’ve climbed and summated peaks without him. I’m strong and feel confident and capable of passing through this mortal experience without him. I can do that. I can live without this man, but God help me… I never want to! When we’ve been apart, even just for a full day of work, when he walks into the room…I find the fullness of my breath! No one is more surprised than I am, trust me. I feel that my physical breathing reaches the deepest part of my soul when he is physically in my presence. It’s a warm, peaceful, safe, full and otherworldly feeling to be curled up by his side. In Genesis 2:24, the scriptures tell us that (speaking of marriage), “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh”; we are. For without him, I’m not fully complete. Without me, he’ll tell you that he isn’t either. We know this and nothing shall put us under. God knew we'd need a special love like this .
We have been blessed in so MANY ways and to be sure, "blessed beyond all measure"; But with those blessings - we have been tested down to the threads of our faith. Tested in ways that have had us consider wether or not we could bare up under the pressure and withstand all the pain. But with each passing year... God’s loving and all sufficient grace has become more apparent to us. With this revelation and the gift of eachother, we've learned we can weather the storms that were radar locked in our direction and as it is with everyone...our bountiful blessing and termultious trials will continue to come. It's a part of the human experience.
It's been thirty years of marriage now and a total of 32 together. What have we learned? Plenty! But in a nut shell:
With God at the Center of what HE has joined together - WE ARE GIVING THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE to let no man or woman - no one - nothing - no storms - no trials, nor any other thing...tear us apart nor bring us under.
Still enjoying our 30th wedding anniversary on the Big Island of Hawaii. in Kona's Four Seasons at Most Magnificent 'Hualalai'.....I'll be back in touch when I touch down on the mainland again (10days and counting).
Live Abundantly....ALOHA and POWER ON,