The next day, Saturday, I invited Virginia over for lunch. My parents were home for the day and, as we chatted during lunch, my mom, with her all-seeing eye, knew something was up when Virginia and I didn’t banter between the two of us.
“Okay, what’s going on?” She asked. “You two are moping around like the sky is falling. Did your dad get his orders, Virginia?”
“No, ma’am. He just found out he got extended here for another year.”
“Then why the long faces?”
I decided that the direct approach had worked before so I’d try it again.
“Mom, dad, I got Virginia pregnant.” I began. Speaking rapidly, I filled them in. “We just couldn’t leave each other, believing that she’d move away in such a short time, so we just weren’t careful enough one night. I’m sorry I let the both of you down. It was a really juvenile thing to do, but I’m not ashamed we did it. I love Virginia. I want to be with her always. You know as well as I do that teenage romance rarely lasts for more than two or three months. We’ve been together for almost two years. This is the real thing.”
It was the longest thing I think I had ever said to either of them. They sat back in their chairs and digested what I had just told them. My dad cleared his throat a couple of times, started to speak, and then sat back again. Finally, my mom found her voice.
“Well, I think you and I, Virginia, have a wedding to plan. Have you seen a doctor yet?”
“No Ma’am. My mom made an appointment for next Tuesday at the Ob/Gyn clinic.”
My dad sat, stunned, by this news. I could see conflicting thoughts running across his face in rapid order: disbelief, anger, relief. He finally settled on calm.
“Virginia, have you given any thought as to where you two will live?”
“Well, no. Not really. With my parents or here maybe?” She said with a shy smile.
“We’d love to have you join our merry group Virginia. Welcome to the family.” Said my mom.
She wrapped her arms around Virginia and they quietly wept a little until my dad cleared his throat again.
“Have you told your parents yet, Virginia?”
“Yes, sir. They cried a lot, but gave their permission for us to get married. We would like to have your permission also.”
It was a simple, declarative statement. Virginia had a knack for coming right to the point. He thought about it quite some time, several eons went by, and then he gave his answer.
“You have it. Welcome to this slightly nutty household.”
She jumped up and hugged his shoulders tightly.
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” She chirped, brushing at tears. “I am so happy!”
“As for a place to live; we have a spare bedroom here in this house that I’m sure I can get housing to allow you to live in. They probably know how to deal with things like this. Let me call them on Monday.”
“Thank you, dad.” I said. “We won’t be a burden at all.”
“No, sir.” Virginia added, with a huge grin on her face as we had passed the final hurdle.
“Maybe you could just call me ‘Dad’”
“Sure … Dad.” She said shyly, reddening slightly at the cheek and neck.
“Now, let’s get on with this lunch.” He said, addressing his ham sandwich.
I have pieced together the first conversation our two fathers had from recollections of the both of them in their later years. They met for the first time in my dad’s office:
“Colonel, there’s a sergeant from the motor pool here to see you. Do you have time?” His Exec asked.
“Sure, send him in – and, no interruptions. I know what this is about.”
“Yes, sir. No interruptions.” The Executive Officer backed out and held the door for a really large Sergeant to enter.
The door closed behind him as he stood there in the office, just a little uneasy at what the protocol was for this type of thing. My dad put him at ease by coming out from behind his desk and shaking his hand.
“I gather we have a wedding to plan, Sir.” Virginia’s dad stated, breaking the silence. “Your son is a hell of a guy and I’d be proud to have him in my family.”
“Funny you should say that. My wife said the same thing at lunch the other day about Virginia when they broke the news to us. Her name is Betty, and I’m Joe. Whatever we say here is between two fathers and nothing to do with the military. Is that okay?”
“Suits me fine, Joe. I’m called ‘Bear’, but my real name is Elwood.”
“Bear will do fine I think. My XO seemed a little wary when you showed up. You are one big guy.”
“Yeah. That’s one reason I have a lot of respect for Tom. He stood right up to me and told us what happened. You raised a great young man.”
“I sure hope so. They both have a lot of counseling to go through now. All of that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when you get right down to it. What counts is that both of us are going to be grandparents.”
“Oh, shit, I hadn’t even thought of that. That’s a strange thought. Grandparent.”
He rolled the name around a few times in his mouth, spoke it several ways, and then just nodded his head.
“We’re getting old aren’t we?”
“That we are, Bear. That we are. They’re young, but that’s what will make this work I think. I’m told that most teenage love affairs last around two months. They’ve been together for almost two years. That, to me, means they just might have the commitment to hack through the bullshit and have a life together.”
“Lord knows they’re going to need it. I need a drink. I’d be honored if you’d come over to the NCO Club and hoist a beer to our two kids.”
“It’s nearing lunch anyway so let’s go. I hear you guys have some really fine food over there.”
“We do indeed, Joe.”
They left for the Club walking side by side. An occasional salute was rendered and returned. Two dad’s about to be joined as family as it should be forevermore and always.
* * *
We picked a wedding date fairly soon as we didn’t want to embarrass anyone with her showing a baby bump. Her parents and mine got into high gear and rented a room in the Officer’s Club for the festivities following the rehearsal. Her dad booked the NCO Club ballroom for the reception.
Of course we still had to go to school. Things were pretty much normal for the first couple of days until Virginia’s best friend tumbled to the ring she was wearing. It wasn’t in its normal place, on a chain around her neck and hidden under her blouse. Also, it wasn’t a simple class ring. It was on her left ring finger – right in plain sight.
“Is that an ENGAGEMENT ring?” She warbled out loud right there in the hallway in front of her locker.
Heads turned and several of her friends gathered to look. Virginia held up her hand and waved it around. Her friends oohed and ahhed at it, touching it for good luck, and generally carrying on. From my locker, which was just down the hall, I could see a growing knot of people and thought she might need some help. On my way up the hall, Bernie, my absolute best friend, knocked me on the shoulder a really good blast.
“What the hell, beanpole. You can’t even tell ME about it?”
I couldn’t very well tell anyone, even if I’d wanted to, the real reason we were engaged – and how short the engagement would be – so I didn’t tell him. That may have been a mistake in judgment, but not insurmountable.
“Okay, Bernie. We’re engaged to be married. Now you know.”
There was much squealing, hopping, and clapping of hands to mouth as the girls continued to congratulate Virginia. I was in the background, but she was center stage, and enjoying it fully. She looked so damn happy about it. She finally begged off and barely made it to her next class.
By the time I made it to gym class, every one of my friends knew about it. I was back-slapped, hand-shook, and congratulated by all of them. Bernie told me that he’d known for some time that Virginia and I were special and that we’d be together for a long time. He ended with a heartfelt ‘Mazeltof’.
Mr. Espana, our photo club leader, told me that he’d known from that trip to Paris that something great was happening between us. He asked when we were going to get married so I told him the day after graduation, which was only a month away. He told me that if there was anything he could do to help just ask. I thanked him.
© Copyright 2016 Tom Oldman. All rights reserved.
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