Betty was a high school secretary who spent most of her spare time, including every weekend, working at her parent’s grocery store. Her life was good, but she longed to be married and start a family. At age thirty-five in 1957, her biological clock was ticking loudly.
She was reasonably attractive, with a warm, outgoing, personality so it would have been expected for her, in that time, to have settled down many years earlier. However, that didn’t happen. She was a strong-willed, independent, opinionated woman a hot temper and a mean streak, the result of the Scot-Irish blood on her mother’s side. If you disrespected, cheated, or offended her, you regretted it. She could verbally filet you in a matter of seconds.
Betty had a much higher intellect than anyone realized. Her good grades in high school got her accepted into college, no small accomplishment for a woman in 1939. However, the stress of living on campus triggered a serious nerve condition. The attack damaged her eardrum and permanently affected her hearing. She returned home after only a few weeks of studies and never went back to college again, opting for vocational training which led to her secretarial job.
Oh, there had been many suitors over the years, attracted by her friendly personality, and perhaps her family’s wealth and social status in the community. But the men either could not handle her powerful personality or they failed to meet her high standards. Either way, the pool of prospects had run dry.
She would not have described herself as desperate. She was raised never to complain about life, even when life was hard and it hurt. You sucked it up and went on and did the best you could. But this time, the best had apparently not been good enough, and even though there were no outward signs of desperation, the inward fears were growing.
Gene had grown up poor in Pennsylvania Dutch country. He was the illegitimate son of a former school teacher. She had lost both her job and possibility to ever teach again when she became pregnant out of wedlock in 1921. Unfortunately, she had few skills to fall back on, so she and her son were dependent on family members to provide basic food and shelter during all of Gene’s adolescence. Gene’s uncles helped raise him, providing good male role models and a quality upbringing.
However, it was a tough childhood. Gene was small in stature and was teased, ridiculed and roughed up often because being illegitimate in those days was an oddity that left you highly vulnerable. He did, however, did receive a solid education in that small Pennsylvania schoolhouse. That he only was able to earn a high school degree was one of the greatest hindrances of his life. For he was a literal, high-level genius. He learned as a boy how to repair car engines by observation. In later years, he taught himself electronics by studying mail-order books. There wasn’t anything mechanical or electrical that was beyond his ability to repair. He could have been an outstanding engineer, but there was barely enough money for clothes, let alone college.
After serving as a mechanic in WWII, Gene and his mother moved to Akron, Ohio. The family arrangement had soured somewhat in Pennsylvania, but there were other family members who had moved westward. Soon after arriving in Akron, Gene was able to find a good job as a machinist, and he and his mother eventually were able to move into their own house.
However, this arrangement severely interfered with Gene’s social life. He was highly amicable with decent looks and a job. However, he was also shy, nervous, and lacked confidence due to his background, and he also had an explosive temper. There were relationships, one even long-term, but he was reluctant to commit to a woman if that meant weakening the commitment to his mother, the only parent he had ever known, the woman who had protected him and guided him his entire life. Likewise, women were unwilling to commit to him, with his mother coming along in any deal. In effect, you weren’t just marrying him; you were marrying them.
However, Gene’s situation changed dramatically when his mother met and married a widower who moved in with them. Suddenly, he became the additional person in that house. The good news was Gene was finally free to pursue relationships without the baggage. He yearned to be a father because he never had a father. But he was now thirty-five years old, and most of the hot prospects were long gone.
Fate Is a Funny Thing
So you have two people, eight months difference in age, living in few miles apart, wanting the same exact thing out of life. And desperately, painfully desperately, seeking love as the sand is pouring out of the hourglass. The obstacle, of course, is these two people live in vastly different environments, travel in non-compatible social circles, and thus have no common friends, none. Now how is this thing ever going to happen?
Well, fate’s a funny thing, isn’t it? You wake up on a Wednesday morning to the same boring existence like every other day. You expect the time to go by without any significance, then go to sleep that night and get to go through the same motions tomorrow. Yet, on those few extraordinary, memorable dates, fate intervenes, and by day’s end your life has changed forever.
It’s Wednesday afternoon. Betty is driving home from the school and decidesshe needs a break before getting home and working her evening shift in the grocery store. She stops for a drink at a bar on the road home. Gene has just completed his first-shift job at the factory, and because his mother now has companionship, he is in no rush to get home. He decides to stop for a drink at a bar on the road home (coming from the opposite direction).
(End of Part 1)
Coming Next: Part 2 – Oh yeah, this involves a bar pick-up of magnanimous consequences