"Happy birthday, John."
"It's not my birthday."
Hmmmm. What a jerk.
That's how our first encounter went back in October 1981. Fast forward to January 1982.
It was the coldest day in the history of Chicago-the night of the annual Illinois-Eastern Iowa Circle K Holiday Embrace. I had visited my brother, Mark, for a couple of days in Indiana. Then taken the train to visit my brother, Larry, and his fiance, Wendy, at her parents' house in Wheaton, IL. Next up, have Larry take me to Lisle to catch a ride with some friends and the jerk to the dinner dance.
"Hi. This is Susan Schlosser. I need to get directions to your house."
"To go to Holiday Embrace. Sharp told me you could give me a ride."
"I think the car is too full."
"I don't have any other way to get there."
"There's really no room."
"I can sit on someone's lap."
Finally, "Oh, alright, here's the address."
Hmmmm. What a jerk.
Six of us--five guys and me--squeezed into the car. I was in the middle front, next to the jerk. Fortunately, two of the other guys were friends of mine. All of them named John. We made it to the dance while actually having some fun conversation along the way.
The dinner dance was quite fun. I sat at a table with all three Johns. (That doesn't sound very good, does it?) So the jerk and I talked. And danced (slow ones).
After the dance, we went to the home of another district member. Remember, it was the coldest day in the history of Chicago. I was wearing dress sandals. When we got to the after-party, my feet were freezing. John offered to go get a pair of socks out of his car for me. I accepted. We all had a good time during the party. Finally, it was time for the revelers to leave so that the rest of us could get some sleep. At the door, John hugged and kissed a girl goodbye. Then he turned to me. "I don't know you well enough to kiss you yet." I had to be satisfied with a hug.
So it began. The jerk wasn't such a jerk after all. And, as I've heard recounted many times, John returned to his car with his friends and said, "Sharp, I want that wench!"
When I returned home, I washed the socks and got ready to mail them to John. Then I had an idea. A Valentine's Day dance was coming up at Quincy College Circle K. Instead of sending the pair of socks, I sent one. Enclosed was a note that if John wanted the other one, he'd have to get it from me at the dance. And I didn't even have to mail the first one. A friend was going to visit John and offered to take the package. So I decided to include a second package. I bought a large bag of M & M's and another small bag. I carefully slit open the small bag, filled it with only green M & M's, sealed it so you couldn't tell it had been opened, and sent it along with the sock. John attended the dance.
I neglected to mention that at the time, John lived in Bloomington, IL and I lived in Springfield, IL. About 70 miles apart. Not a great distance, but for a poor grad student and a poor freshman, it might as well have been opposite sides of the country. Keep in mind, this was before computers or cell phones. So phone calls were limited as long-distance was about 10 cents/minute. The end of February loomed, and we still hadn't had a date. Finally, John called and asked if I'd like to go out that weekend. He'd come to Springfield. Are you kidding?
I spent the week walking on clouds--except for the twinge of guilt I felt about my current boyfriend who was going to school in Decatur, IL. But I had had the feeling that that relationship was on the way out. We were friends, but nothing deeper. We both knew it. Finally, Friday, February 26th arrived. John didn't like going to movies because he couldn't talk to his date. We decided to go bowling. Probably not the brightest idea on a league night, but we managed. We had a great time--despite the comment about my clown feet (I can't help it if I wore a size 9!).
After bowling we went somewhere for something to eat, then back to my house. Everyone was already in bed asleep. So we sat in the family room and....talked. I swear that's what we did. Mostly. Until 5 am. Then my father appeared in the doorway. "Susan, I think it's time for your company to leave." Oops.
So John headed back to Bloomington. He was having a hard time staying awake when he noticed a woman hitchhiking. He stopped to give her a ride. She accepted. Then she called her friends--two guys, one of whom was a midget. Still not sure if they were there all along, or in his fatigue if John never noticed them. At any rate, they were a band whose car had broken down on the way home from a gig. They managed to keep John entertained until he got home, where he crashed for the rest of the day. It wasn't until much later that I found out that it was imperative to John that we go out that specific weekend. He had an unbroken streak of 100+ some odd months of having either a girlfriend or a date. He didn't have either for February yet. I kept the streak alive. Hmmmm. The jerk. But he was now MY jerk!
That summer John accepted a job at Springfield College in Illinois, the college I was attending. Meanwhile, I was accepted at Illinois State University, where John had been going to grad school. So he moved to Springfield just as I moved to Bloomington. This would set the tone for the next several years as I spent summers in Springfield, the school year in Bloomington, then did my student teaching in Jacksonville. I graduated in December 1984 and moved in with my best friend's sister in Springfield. And waited.
In August 1985, after no proposal from John, I took a leap and moved to Bullhead City, AZ to teach. Not totally random as my brother, Larry, and his wife, Wendy, lived there. It was an interesting experience, which I still appreciate. But I hated being that far from John, even if he hadn't proposed. So I moved back to Springfield, moving in with Grandpa Schlosser. It just so happened that John lived right next door. Convenient. Then John bought a house on the other side of town. He had me go with him to view every house. That had to be a good sign, I thought. So I helped pick out a house, helped furnish it. And waited.
In November 1987 I gave John an ultimatum. If we weren't engaged by 11:59:59 on December 31, my brother was bringing a truck from work on New Year's Day to help me load up the stuff in John's house that belonged to me which was almost everything. I had no idea of where I'd put anything as I was living in a furnished apartment. But that wasn't my most pressing concern. I knew I loved this man and wanted to marry him. But if he wasn't able to commit, then I needed to move on. I wanted a family before I was too old.
In December my parents and a couple of siblings came to town (they had moved to Wisconsin in 1983) to spend Christmas with my grandmother. They were supposed to have come down around the 20th, then had to change plans. John seemed a bit upset about this (Really? He and my mother had not had the best relationship over the years.) In fact, he was just kind of weird all week. Ok. Maybe it was the fact that I had invited my entire family to have dinner at his house. (Really? He and my mother had not had the best relationship over the years.) After everyone left after dinner, John and I played a rousing game of Nerf basketball. As we collapsed on the couch, sweating and panting, John asked, "Love me?" This was his way of teasing me because I always said that to him early in our relationship. "Of course." Then the question that rocked my world, "Enough to marry me?" And he pulled a ring box out of his sock, got down on one knee, and proposed. After we celebrated for a bit, I called my parents. To my surprise, they already knew and were thrilled. (Really? He and my mother had not had the best relationship over the years.) John had asked my father's permission that night after dinner. So they were waiting. I'm not sure what they were waiting for. After almost six years, did they seriously think I might say no? It was December 23rd. Nothing like cutting it close to the deadline! I always tell people that the reason it took him so long to propose was because I wasn't listed in Consumer Reports, and John never got anything without checking it first! My parents and I spent the rest of their visit setting up anything we could for the wedding. My dad was in charge of a reception venue. My mom and I picked out a dress, arranged a caterer, a d.j., a cake person, and found a photographer. All in about 3 or 4 days. We were on a mission!
We set our wedding date for July 16. Not great for my parents, who owned a fishing resort in Wisconsin. But for John and me, both in education, it was perfect. Two weeks before the wedding I went to visit my parents. When I returned, I stopped in the church office to pick up my paycheck and finalize details for the wedding, now about 5 days away. The secretary cheerfully informed me that they hoped to have the air conditioning working by then. Say what? Temperatures had been in the upper 80's and low 90's for a week, and were expected to get hotter. My vocalist was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and my mother, grandmother, and father all had heart conditions. Heat was not good. The night of the dress rehearsal (it had been 99 degrees that day), there was no a/c. It hadn't been fixed, so rather than risk running it that night, it was decided that it should be turned on the next morning to try to squeeze whatever we could out of it for the two weddings scheduled that day.
The next day dawned bright and clear. I was up early, of course. I spent the night at my grandmother's so I could be surrounded by family before the wedding. To this day I still wonder if that was one of my better ideas! My dad followed me out to Petersburg so I could drop off my car at my mechanic's. What better time for him to have it for a week than when I wouldn't be needing it?
With the aid of several large fans, the church was, if not comfortable, at least not totally miserable. Although I think one of my bridesmaids might disagree. I didn't know until later she almost fainted. It was 100 degrees that day. I believe it was the second highest temperature on record for Springfield. My parents walked me down an aisle covered in rose petals from my great aunt and uncle's flowers that I had plucked that morning (I rented my garage apartment from them). I was wearing the most beautiful gown in the world, and I had a smile on my face that just wouldn't stop. After almost 6 1/2 years since our first date, I finally said I do to the man of my dreams.
The reception was a blast, despite the fact that we had no table decorations other than twisted crepe paper down the centers, and we had instructed my parents to let people start going through the buffet line before we arrived. I say despite these things because, God love her, my grandmother was horrified by both of these. John had wanted to have basketball hoops on all the pews, which I nixed, of course. However, the box for gift cards had his Nerf basketball hoop attached so that cards had to be "dunked". And I had asked the woman who did the wedding cake to make a special groom's cake--a basketball. Unfortunately, the almost fainting bridesmaid thought it would be funny to slam dunk it on John. She mostly missed.
We postponed our honeymoon departure until Monday since our families were staying in town through Sunday afternoon . That way we could go to my grandmother's and open all the gifts.
John and I decided to attend our first Mass as husband and wife on Sunday night after our families left. At the time John was on multiple softball teams. He had a game Sunday afternoon. As he was getting ready to go, he took off his ring. Seriously? So at my urging, since we had only been married 24 hours, he agreed to leave it on. I didn't realize until later that batting, or rather, actually hitting a ball, while wearing a ring can be painful. He's never worn it to a game since. Sorry honey! The plan was to meet up at church. Mass was at 7:00. I waited in the back of the church until after the priest had entered. No John. Finally, I went in and sat by myself. Fuming. About 7:15, John slipped into the pew. I was glad he was there, but still angry. Married just over 24 hours and he was late going to church with me. Not a great start. After Mass he explained that the game had gone into extra innings. Normally he would have just left, but the pitcher wasn't there, so John was pitching instead. He couldn't just leave them, could he?
Thus began 25 wonderful years of compromises, triumphs and disappointments, fears and fun. And my mother quickly learned to love him! I wouldn't do it any differently (except maybe waiting so long to give him that ultimatum!). Now with a new job starting for me, our oldest having moved out a month ago, our middle moving out (maybe) in another month, and our youngest starting her junior year of high school, I look forward to whatever the next 25 years has in store. With John at my side, I know we can face anything, and we will have lots of fun along the way.
I love you, John.