December 31, 1964 – The Independence Sanitarium: Scott Andrew Sutherland
57 days later, just down the hall…
February 26, 1965 – The Independence Sanitarium: Greta Rains Williams
September 1977 –
Amidst that horrific blending of various feeder elementary schools, nervous 13-year-olds, and the unmistakingly rancid smell of fallacious “coolness” wafting through the air above the aroma of fresh sneakers and newly sharpened #2 pencils, a not-quite 13-year-old boy, stylin’ a mile-high blonde afro – a recent graduate of Luff Elementary School – walked through the doors of Palmer Junior High School. Arms around the shoulders of his buddies, they swaggered and laughed, shoving each other immaturely while cracking a few nefarious jokes for the benefit of all the cute girls that were potentially within earshot of their humor.
Somewhere behind him, was a somewhat quieter not-quite 13-year-old girl – a recent graduate of the now defunct Alton Elementary School – consuming her new environment, staring wide-eyed through her large-framed inverted glasses. As deftly as prepubescently possible, she was carrying her beautifully labeled spiral notebooks and purse that held various types of pencils and pens to be used according to her current whim – never knowing if she’ll feel like taking Science notes with a .5 lead pencil in Miss Whitaker’s class or perhaps she’d feel wild and spontaneous taking Mrs. Shields’ Math notes with a fat Sharpie felt-tipped pen. All these whims need to be accounted for and on the ready at any given moment. Feeling pensive about her new surroundings, she carefully patted them subconsciously through the outer lining of her corduroy purse, feeling immediate comfort at their close proximity.
Classes came and went.
Semesters turned into years.
And within 3 years, the tall Afro Boy and the loud-laughing Font Loving Girl graduated from their junior high experience and entered into that next pivotal phase of educational splendor: their Patriot days at Truman High School.
He, a swimmer.
She, a singer.
Taking differing paths of concentrated interest, their paths crossed less and less. She no longer rolled her eyes at his infectious clowning and he no longer wondered what it was that made her so awkwardly stand-offish with guys.
He set records in the butterfly stroke.
She won awards for her oratory skills in Forensics.
Fast-forward 32 years from 1977 to 2009.
Sitting at my kitchen table in Columbia, Missouri, working on my computer, a Facebook message popped up:
“Scott Sutherland has requested to add you as a friend. Confirm or Ignore.”
Confirm!, of course.
Hey!, I remember that guy!! My mind immediately remembered his easy smile and ready laugh. Chatting back and forth on FB for awhile, I eventually told him I had to go back to work to finish up some deadlines before going to sleep for the night.
Funny, I couldn’t tell you what our easy online chatting consisted of, but I do remember the last line he wrote: “Do you have time for a quick phonecall before you get off for the night?”
That ‘quick’ phonecall lasted for well over an hour. Catching up on our lives took awhile! Again, I can’t remember the majority of that phonecall, but I do recall the overall ‘spirit’ of his words: “light”. Scott sounded so proud of his kids as he described each one: Jessica, 21, Haleigh, 16, and Luke, 12. He talked about his parents and how they remain to this day, his biggest heroes. He talked about them separately; not just an innocuous “I love my parents. They’re great” type of thing. He spoke highly and specifically about each one of them. His Dad teaching him how to work with his hands. Always being outdoors with him, learning to hunt or rebuild a car engine. Then speaking about his mother and her desire for him to learn domestic tasks as well. Baking, sewing, even macramé! Since then I’ve heard Scott and his brother, Mark, laugh and say, “Oh you know…, back when Mom was trying to turn us into girls.” -ha.
The Scott I remembered from high school: light and funny and silly, was still the same Scott on the other end of the phone, decades later.
And that began what seems like a lifetime of phonecalls, texting, Facebooking, and personal visits.
I recently heard an interview with John Lithgow who described his long-time wife and how they met. He said, “We absolutely found each other.”
There couldn’t be a better explanation of what has transpired between Scott and me this past year. We picked up a nominal friendship from junior high and instantly turned it into a love story of a lifetime.
Scott met my daughter, Hannah, first. They instantly hit it off. To this day they have a very unique connection that has absolutely nothing to do with me; rarely do they notice I’m even in the same room with them!
At the time, my son, Baird and his girlfriend, Ryann were going to school in Oklahoma. But their school semester had come to an end and Baird was moving back to KC. Scott volunteered to take his Durango down to Oklahoma to help Baird move back. And that was Baird’s first introduction to Scott: an 8-hr trip in a ceiling-high packed SUV – the three of us. Since that time, Baird and Ryann have turned to Scott for help with computer downloading questions and/or building such things as say, a headboard with tufted material. –ha.
Slowly, more and more of our families have met and have begun intertwining the lives that would eventually include such wonderful things as the melting of names and the development of new holiday seating arrangements.
Scott is the Ty Pennington to my Martha Stewart. I light up with a new idea and he gets excited about its execution process.
He is as light-spirited as I am high blood-pressured.
We just fit. A good team of off-setting personality tendencies with a heavy dose of similar interests and likes.
It became more and more evident that this was something big.
Yet while the 30+ years of separation didn’t throw a kink in things, the 200 miles was a more challenging issue.
Scott, a 20 year veteran of Union Pacific Railroad, was located in Iowa.
Scott has spent untold fuel dollars, driving back and forth along Highway I-29 every single week for almost a year to visit me and will continue to do so until his daughter, Haleigh, graduates from high school at the end of the year, in December 2010.
Despite the distance, marriage was looking more and more like the eventual outcome.
After months of discussion and weighing of the pros and cons (yes, lists were made from the more obsessive compulsive of the two individuals), a very non-traditional alternative was reached:
Scott continues to live in Iowa.
Greta continues to live in Missouri.
Commuting (a lot of it) would be the buzzword for 2010.
And so, in January, Scott and Greta walked into the Truman Memorial Building in Independence, Missouri, the building being used for marriages in lieu of the Courthouse that is currently being remodeled. Many of you reading this know exactly where the Truman Memorial Building is…
On the left you will see Palmer Junior High School. A short walk across the street leads you to the building on the right: Truman Memorial Building.
Almost 33 years later, Afro Boy – now Graying Temples Man and Font Loving Girl – now…well, Font Loving Woman, crossed the street and entered the doors of a familiar looking building.
We stood before a minister, repeating our marriage vows. The setting was quiet and intimate. No distractions. No performances. But so much love that it brought me to tears looking into Scott’s trusting and confident eyes. I ‘heard’ every word that Scott spoke. And I conveyed my words from the depths of my heart – knowing they would be securely held by Scott’s immense love and wrapped up in his carefree smile. It was the most beautiful and deeply meaningful experience. When we closed our eyes to pray, I know that God smiled in return.
Walking down the hall afterwards, we held hands and grinned like the almost-13-year-olds we once were, 32 years past and just across the street. Giddy with excitement and secrecy; our lives now inseparably bonded.
Driving away, Scott suggested we stop by QT for a Diet Coke. Bumping into others in the confines of an overly-packed convenient store, we held our secret from the world of construction workers and bustling business suits. Standing in line to check out, Scott leaned over and whispered, “Hold on a second. We need wedding cake!”
He momentarily stepped out of line while I held our spot. Returning, he held up…
Laughing ridiculously, we got in the car, tore apart a Twinkie, interlocked arms and took the first bite of our wedding cake!! (camera phones are so great!)
The rest of the day was packed with extended family coming into town for my mother’s funeral that was held the next day. No one knew about our morning’s activities but my father and sister; both of whom joked with us in hushed whispers in the confines of the kitchen or later that evening when Dad called and left a voicemail on my phone: “Mrs. Sutherland, you left your purse over here.”
One by one, we began to talk to each of our children, parents and siblings. Everyone laughing at our secret, but no one questioning our love.
And now we’ve “come out of the closet” with everyone else and are Facebook Official!! It is the most incredible feeling in the world.
I feel blessed beyond imagination for having found such an incredible love. And the greatest blessing of all for me?………
Scott feels exactly the same way.