Although I had sworn off men that summer, I was persuaded to go on a blind date by a charming young man, Barry Beall.
He arrived in a convertible with another couple in the back seat. I was not impressed with his looks or his car, and he seemed to be rude and arrogant as we rode into Albany and out to a rented house on the creek. I knew a crowd had gathered by the number of cars parked on the grass. I also knew I would not know them. Being shy anyway, the ordeal of this party I had agreed to attend filled me with anxiety. My throat tightened and I hoped this stranger with the blond crew cut and nice smile would help me fit in.
It didn't happen. We entered to a full chorus of Here's Barry, and he beamed. While I sat at the bar alone, he sat on the fireplace hearth and played guitar while he serenaded the girls and guys sitting on the floor in front of him. I wished I had listened to my instincts when he called. I wished I said no and then I'd not be sitting here in a room full of strangers who did not know me or care whether I was comfortable or not.
After a while, I walked down to the water's edge and listened to the frogs singing. The dark ripples slowly nipped at my toes. The serene setting calmed my thoughts. I felt completely alone with the creek and the frogs. When Barry's hand touched my shoulder, I almost jumped away, not thinking it was him.
"Water's nice, isn't it?" I looked up at his remark.
"Yes, it's dark and looks deep."
"Would you like to go out on the boat?"
Awhile ago I had wanted to just go home, so I don't know why I said, "Yes, that would be nice."
As we moved over the quiet water, Barry, who had been an Eagle Scout, maneuvered the flat boat with not one sound. The oar slipped in and out with barely a break in the surface.
Eventually he sailed us into a quiet cove. It was dark from the shade of the tall trees on the bank. I have no idea of what we talked about. I can't remember one word of the conversation, but I became completely enthralled. The chemistry between us was combustible.
Later with friends we sat in the car and watched the fireworks, but I don't remember seeing them. I remember snuggling in the backseat, laughing at his cute remarks, and I remember the good night kiss when he walked me to my door.
I don't remember the minute I knew I was in love with Barry, but the next day my sister-in-law, Mary said to me, "You are going to marry that man."
I had no intention of marrying anyone at that time, and I hardly knew this man. But I could not sleep for thinking about him. Before I came inside that night, he asked me to go home with him the next weekend to meet his father and mother.
July 4th holds bitter sweet memories for me. July 4, 1963 was a day that changed my life and maybe it was the most important day in my life. For forty-five years we celebrated the holiday and our own anniversary. Sometimes we were part of the boat parade on Lake Chatuge. Some nights we watched fireworks with our friends, but we were always in a happy mood.
That is, until July 4, 2009 when Barry was in Emory Hospital fighting for his life.
We talked about how much we wished we were with the Morings and the Clarkes that sunny day, and I said, "Next year, we will be there celebrating America's birthday and celebrating the day we met." But next year never came.