Al and the Wonderful Summer
Al's blue and white Buick drove up to my house about 15 to 7 but I was waiting. "I hope you don't mind if we give a friend a lift to her job first,” he said.
“That's fine,"I replied. Nothing was going to spoil my first date with the man I'd dreamed of so long.
When I got to the car, a tall skinny rather plain blond girl started to move to the centre of the front seat, but then she said, "Oh, I suppose you had better sit there." She was wearing jeans and a sweat shirt - and her work for the summer was in an outdoor play which was put on each summer at a Fort Lincoln, (where General George Custer started his Last Stand) about 5 miles out of town. Al made the introductions and then he and Shyla, which was her name, started to talk about mutual friends and happenings in Hazen, their home town, and a boy named Chuck who turned out to be Shyla's boyfriend. They chatted
easily and happily almost as if I weren't there between them. When we
arrived, Shyla jumped out and said, “Nice to meet you Jean. Thanks for the lift Al. See you later."
Al turned back towards Bismarck. We were both silent for awhile. Then it suddenly occurred to me who Shyla was. "She's your Lutheran minister's daughter isn't she?”
“Yes, how did you know? Oh yes, you've met her before, haven't you? You asked me to greet her for you when you sent me that card."
"No, I didn't know her before - only of her."
"We had something pretty special going for awhile," Al mused.
"Yes, but now she's going with Chuck instead of you" He grimaced.
"We broke up at Christmas. They both go to North Dakota University. Romances from long distance are hard to carry on."
We approached the auditorium where the play we were going to see was soon to begin. It was a local church effort and rather amateurishly done. After Al made some rather loud and rude remarks we decided to leave about a quarter
of the way through and drove to the local drive-in for cokes. We gradually relaxed, getting to know each other again. We talked of school (he was majoring in drama and I was doing Food and Nutrition at North Dakota State University) of life, of friends. When it got to be 10 o'clock, he took me home as he had arranged to pick Shyla up at Chuck's house at that time to drive her home. I was more than a little disappointed when he didn't try to kiss me and no future dates were mentioned.
But the middle of the following week I had a note from him asking me out the next Saturday and from then on we went out at least once each week for the
rest of the summer. Sometimes we went to movies or out bowling, but mostly we just went for walks and did what we felt like doing on the spur of the moment. For instance we drove by the Jewish temple one day and I said, "I wonder what that is like inside.”
So Al said, "Let's go and see." It was locked but with a good pull on the door it opened. We wandered around inside looking at all the little hats and the sacred books. It was rather disappointing really and I felt nervous that someone might come in and find us there. We relocked the door as we left, and we hadn't done any damage, but I felt guilty anyway. But because I'd done it with Al, it took on a thrill that my life had hitherto lacked.
We went out to the Catholic priory one day to see Sister Maxamine, the chemistry teacher who had accompanied Al to Indianapolis. Another day we met Sister Eileen, the teacher who had told me what a fool I was making of
myself. I was so proud to show off that he was my boyfriend now. I wanted to whole world to know what an attractive man I was dating.
My parents didn't really approve of Al and he was very ill at ease in their presence. Mom was sure he would hurt me. But I was so in love that perhaps I
was oblivious to all the signs that others could see. His parents didn't want him to date Catholics so Al kept it from them that he was seeing me.
One evening when he came down to see me he decided it would be a great shame for me to have to end the date early because of my work. I was working as a nurses’ aide in the maternity ward at the local hospital and at that time was on night duty, going to work at 11:45. So he told me to call in sick. I had never lied about that sort of thing before, but because Al asked me to do it, I did it. I made sure he kept me out really late on that date to make it worth the lie and the guilt that I felt as a result.
I was very inexperienced in my dealings with men. I had had a few dates but
never more than two with any one person. I had never been in a situation before where sex was a worry or a problem. I remembered that our priest at school had told us that kisses were like popcorn. The more you had, the more you wanted, and we were told that five kisses was just about the right amount. I actually kept count when I went out on dates, and that may be why I didn't get asked out again by most boys. Sex in this summer romance was fairly lacking too, but I didn't really realize it at the time. Al would kiss me a few times at the end of each date, but I doubt if it ever exceeded the five kiss limit and I never got seriously aroused (and I presume he never did either, but at the time I wasn’t all that sure what the signs were). I never felt that anything was missing because I had nothing to compare it with.
I was a staunch Catholic in those days and Al was from a Lutheran family with fairly firm ideas but he told me he was really an agnostic. I was worried by
that and we spent quite a lot of time with me trying to convince him of the existence of God and the importance of religion. We argued about the differences in our religions - most of all the business of contraception. He felt that the Catholic Church's attitude was wrong and unreasonable (a view I agreed with once I was involved in a serious relationship). On the business of not eating meat on Friday which was still a church law in those days, he was very scathing. One Friday evening we went out for a pizza and I unthinkingly agreed to have salami. I didn't remember it was Friday until later, but Al did, and he had great fun in telling me the great sin I'd committed.
It was a sparkling, glorious summer and I'd never been so happy before
in my life. But before long it was over and we both had to go back to our respective colleges. He had a few days more vacation than I did and he stopped en route back to Iowa at my college town for our last date of the summer. We were sad and nostalgic that night. We went out for a meal, danced, walked the streets. When it was time for him to take me home our parting kisses seemed more intense than ever before. I suddenly knew I loved him and wanted to be with him always. If he had suggested eloping, I think I would have agreed, religion and parents notwithstanding. We had previously decided that we wouldn't write to each other regularly when we went back to college, that we
should just let the relationship end at the end of the summer but now I was no longer willing to do that.
"I love you," I said, for the first time out loud. There was silence for a long
time before Al told me he loved me too. I gave him my golden key-pin and told him that it was the key to my heart which he said he'd treasure always. He stayed the night in a hotel and I stayed at the house of my sorority sister-mother, Karen. About 4 a.m. I called him at his hotel and asked him to come and pick me up for breakfast before he left on the rest of his journey. We had decided we'd write to each other after all, and had a sad parting. (to be continued)