“I’m going to marry that girl.”

Quote.

Those were the very first words I spoke, as I laid eyes her for the very first time.

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I grabbed my best friend Lenny’s arm and said, “Dude, did you see her?  I’m going to marry that girl.”  He responded, “Get in line, pal, because, if anybody’s marrying that girl it’s going to be me.”

Lucky for both of us, Len was talking about a pretty blonde named Kathy.  I, on the other hand was talking about Charlene.  And I meant it, by the way.  From that moment on I was absolutely certain I would spend the rest of my life with her.

Love at first sight.  Many believe, it doesn’t exist…I am here to tell you, while it may not be common, it is very real.

The feeling however was absolutely NOT mutual.  She was decidedly not in love at first sight.  I don’t think she was in love at 1000th sight for that matter.  If anything, she found me to be creepy, as I could do little more than stare at her. 

For ten months, Charlene held her ground.  She didn’t like me “like that.”  But she loved me “as a friend.”  I was devastated but undeterred.   I became a shoulder to cry on, a confidant to confide in, comic relief to make her laugh when she was down.  We became very good friends.  From the get go, she was NOT attracted to me.  Which was a point of confusion because the night we met, I looked goooooood. 

I had on my best “Joe Bod” T-shirt.  The shirt was purple, with a white velvet Brooklyn on the front, Joe Bod on the back with Lightning Bolts and a Playgirl Bunny on each sleeve with Rhinestones in each eye.  I had on black sweats, rolled up to the knee, with black joints on my feet.  I was huge Guido and Charlene did not beg me to marry her right on the spot is a question for the ages. 

The occasion for our first encounter was the callbacks for the musical Grease at my high school.  I was called back for a shot at the roll of Kenieke and Charlene was called back for Frenchy.  I could not concentrate.  My audition was a blur.  All I could do was stare at Charlene.  Neither of us got the part, as I creeped her out with all the staring and she could not get comfortable. 

The other, sort of interesting plot point to the story is that I auditioned at all.  I had decided to audition in the first place because this girl named Tina asked me to.   First of all, I had never auditioned for anything.  So just showing up was a big step in courage, for me.  There was however, another wrinkle. 

My mom helped my friend and me prepare for our singing auditions.  After the practice my mom stated very somberly and 100% seriously, that she did not think I should audition, because, “You can’t sing.” 

Excuse me?

“You can’t sing.  You are tone deaf.  You can not sing.”

I was crushed, but still that girl Tina wanted me to audition, so I was going to audition!   But the next day, “You can’t sing.”  Kept ringing in my ears and I came VERY close to bagging the whole thing.  But I did audition and I made the show as the lead male dancer and Charlene was cast too, as the lead female dancer.  .  Astonishing as I can NOT dance.  Kismet.

It took 10 months.  Ten months, of chasing, of begging and pleading.  Then one Saturday in mid October, Charlene took a ride with me to pick up dinner for the Stage Crew.  I was a senior now, so I had a car and I got to do things like pick up dinner.  We bought $150 worth of Wendy’s and were on our way back to the school, when Charlene did something so cute, we giggled and giggled and then suddenly we were kissing.  And kissing.  And Kiiiiiissssssiiing.

We kissed in the parking spot for a long time, and then we drove.  We drove fast and tried to get stopped at EVERY light so we would have another chance to kiss.  I was speeding to lights and slamming on the brakes to steal another smooch.  By the time we got back to Stage Crew I had a small lake of soda and soaked food, all completely destroyed in the back seat of my brown and orange 1980 Thunderbird.   That was a Saturday in October 1985.

More than half of our lives have been spent together.  Charlene is still the most beautiful girl I know.   She is still my best friend. 

We have had an amazing time.  There has been much joy, our three beautiful curly girlies at the top of the list.  And, there has been much pain.  (The loss of my Dad, her Grandma, our friends Eric, Joe and Greg.  Charlene’s had multiple concussions.   Me, Parkinson’s)  I would want to go through it all, with no one else.

We always say, “no matter what.”  We’ll stay together, love each other, no matter what.  It’s not just a catchy phrase.  We live by it.

10/20/85 to 10/20/2010.

25 Years seems like 25 minutes and like we’ve only just the begun.  Charlene, thank you.  I will love you forever…no matter what.