For the past several years (it actually goes back further than that), I’ve been attempting fill in the blanks where my early life was concerned. Being the child of an Air Force serviceman, our family traveled from base to base every three years. Because of this, good friends that I made were left behind. That was typical for military kids before social media came along.
I made a concentrated effort to reconnect with not only them, but former teachers as well. I was successful in my endeavor; through the assistance of many people, especially my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My purpose in doing such was to write a story or stories that I could share with my grandchildren. I wanted them to know more about Grandpa Michael’s life, than what I recall of my own grandparents.
Just recently I told my wife, Joleen, that I believed I was finally finished with the project. There are over 100 short stories plus three times that amount of newspaper and magazine articles. It’s time for sending this info to a printing company to be made into five books; one for each grandchild.
Joleen asked me if I’d ever written a story on how we met. I told her that I hadn’t. I’ve been publicly open about my past while she’s much more private with hers. Only the family and close friends know how we got together. Getting her permission to compose this missing chapter as I call it completes my mission.
In my perspective, how I met my wife is quite different than most. I suppose every couple believes that. It began with our family moving to Alaska. My mom, dad, brother, and I lived on the east side of town. Jim went to East Anchorage High School while I attended Clark Junior High. The mascot for East High is a Thunderbird with the mascot for Clark being a falcon. This was most fitting for an Air Force brat. Most likely only those with Air Force connections would understand why.
When my family eventually relocated to the south side of Anchorage I was supposed to attend Dimond High. Because all of my friends would be going to East I talked my parents into letting me do the same. That took some finagling. I had to use our old eastside address as my current address. Thankfully, I was able to purchase a 1961 Mercury Comet before 10th grade began.
During the years 1969 – 1972, I commuted each and every school day via the Comet at first before upgrading to a 1954 Chevrolet. After school I worked for my dad at his Texaco service station. There was no time for sports or belonging to school clubs. My English teacher tried to persuade me to write for the school newspaper, but I sadly had to turn her down.
A poem written as part of an English assignment was published during the freshman year. I was afraid my pals might see it. They would’ve thought it funny or bizarre. That piece of poetry was officially my first recognized composition.
After graduation, one of my activities each weekend like many teens was to cruise Northern Lights Boulevard. This was a favorite place for young people to hang out. Being into Hot Rod cars it was the perfect form of entertainment for me and my pal, Jeff Thimsen. Both of us were car nuts.
One evening as we aimlessly drove around town we came upon an orange 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. It was a T/A 340 six-pack model (3 x 2 barrel carburetors). There were two girls inside and I tried to coax the driver to punch it. Soon after our encounter my ‘68 Dodge Charger developed a flat tire.
As Jeff and I sat alongside the road swapping tires the girls drove back by and honked. I believe it was the next weekend that we bumped into them again. This time we talked for a bit and I found out the passenger, Joleen Freeman, lived less than a block from where I once did (by this time mom and dad had moved again). Had I attended Dimond High as the school system intended I would’ve rode the same bus as her.
Asking Joleen for a date she accepted. We went to this offbeat little place called “The Bridge Restaurant”. The only food item on their menu was Mulligan stew, with apple cider or water being the two beverages. How could anyone forget a dining experience like that?
The following day I took Joleen on a long snow-machine ride through the back country of Anchorage. That seemed to impress her. On a Friday night (it was summer and the sun stayed up ‘til midnight), we drove to Bird Creek and walked the railroad tracks near Beluga Point. Scenic Turnagain Arm sat like a portrait in the background. I impressed her on my skill to walk on a single rail without falling. Things really clicked for us after that.
We went together four years before getting married in 1977. I have a good feeling that had I went to Dimond High, Joleen and I would’ve added another four years to our relationship. Unfortunately, my having to be an East High Thunderbird took precedence over such.
Joleen and I have been married 41 years now with the number growing each September 19th.
In a nutshell that’s how we came to be one. We’re sticking by this life journey till death do us part!