1988. I was working two jobs, one at a company that made the front end gear for pocket paging systems and a part time job at a local video store (remember them?) I was content, for a change. I was making a little money, had an automobile and … not much else. Later in the summer, I was laid off from my full time job (who buys paging equipment anyway?) and went full time at the video store. In management. Which, for me, was kind of funny.
My first assignment was at a store in Colonial Heights. It was a very busy store and a challenging position. Second Assistant Manager. Oh boy. I was a MANAGER! I was there for a few months and was transferred to a store in Richmond’s west end. This store, as I was told, was a mess. I was to help straighten it out. I was promoted to ASSISTANT MANAGER too. A plus, since it meant a raise.
Well, my first day at the store was uneventful except for my introduction to one of the staff. A perky and young person, she was very friendly and seemed to get along with everyone. I was smitten. Toward the end of her shift, she asks if she can leave a little early. Jokingly, I look at my watch and said ‘yeah, I suppose so!’. She gave me an odd look, thanked me and left.
After a few months, I was completely taken with this person and gathered up enough courage to ask her out. She turned me down. Not once, but several times. One day, though, she said sure. Now, today, I probably would have gotten into trouble for asking a subordinate out, but it was a different time then.
That first date? Well, it was terrible. We saw the movie ‘Ghost’ and both had had bad days. We did agree, however, to try it again. That second date was way better, though I could not tell you what we did or where we went. I’m sure it was dinner and something, but I forget. That first date, though? I still remember it. Unfortunately, nothing remains today of that date. The restaurant is history. The movie theater is now a Kroger. The cars we had? Both are gone.
We went on to more dates and I eventually married her. We bought a house, which is now someone else’s home. We had a child, who is now graduating high school and is no longer my ‘little’ buddy.
June 7, 2015 marks the fifth anniversary of Jo Ellen’s passing. And, while I do miss her, I know that she is no longer in the bad spot that trapped her for the last two years of her life. That life is gone, but the happier memories remain. As I go through boxes that have lay dormant for four years now, I find pictures, yearbooks and other mementos from that part of my life. I am happy to find them and I realize that life, my life, has gone on.
And, so too is my desire to write about it. This will, likely, be the last time I write about that part of my life. I have another wonderful wife, two more wonderful kids and look forward to making more memories with them.
Jo Ellen’s death was devastating for me, my family and our friends. It was unexpected and seemingly out of nowhere. One day she is in the hospital for muscular problems and, then…the ICU and she’s gone. I will never forget the lifeless stare or having to tell my then 12 years old son he has lost his mother. It is seared in my memory forever. The decisions I had to make that day will haunt me as well. But, there is a bright side. She is no longer in pain. She is no longer suffering the deep depression she had fallen into and she is at peace.
After five years, my life is completely different. While I do miss her, I have gone forward with life. I have married another wonderful woman who has accepted my son as hers and given me another biological son and a really cool step-son. Jo Ellen would approve, she always told me I needed to remarry if something ever happened to her because Chase needed a Mom and I needed someone who could tell me where my socks were and what day it was. She was right.
Oh, and the comment I made to her that first day and the odd look? Well, I found out, years later, that she thought I was an ogre! She did not realize I was just having some fun. I’m glad she, eventually, realized that.