Michelle Osterholm retells a favorite story…
My grandfather told me this story more times than I can count. I distinctly remember the way he broadly smiled and gently shook his index finger as he said "That's What I Want."
It was a humid day. In this part of Texas, September is decidedly still summer. I was sitting uncomfortably in the back seat of my friend's hand-me-down Chrysler, wishing for a bit of reprieve from the weather and the girl next to me.
I turned to her. "What have you been doing this summer?"
She started talking, but my mind wandered. I'd had a rough couple of years: a bit of time in college and a bit in the military. I hadn't quite found my way. It was like there was something missing.
"Lee Roy? Did you hear me?"
Clearly, she had just asked a question, but I had no idea what it was. "I'm sorry, my mind was wandering. What were you saying?"
"I was saying," she said, deliberately slowing her speech, as if I was having trouble interpreting her words, "your friend said you grew up in a small community called Macey. Tell me more about it."
"Not much to tell really. It's a little speck on the map, near Four Corners. That's where the Navasota River crosses the Old San Antonio Road."
I went on to tell her a bit about the one room schoolhouse with a wall of books as its library. I'd read every book in the collection. Reading was my escape, an adventure, and I just couldn't get enough. I smiled at the memory.
She had clearly lost interest. I turned away to look out the window, and was struck anew by the beauty of this part of Texas. We'd had a bit of rain, so everything was green. The sun was finally beginning to dip behind the trees, offering a bit of relief from the blistering heat.
My friend maneuvered the car toward a little house just past the railroad tracks. It was a homey place with an inviting front porch, a few shade trees, and a small, well-tended garden to the side. I could tell that it was lovingly maintained, and could almost feel the love of the people who lived inside.
We joined the small group of people in the yard. Again I found myself trying to be polite, smiling and laughing with the group. But I was drawn to the house in a way that had me quite distracted. I quietly asked my friend, "Whose house is this?"
As he started to answer, a girl stepped onto the porch.
I never heard what he said. She had curly dark hair, and a stunning smile. I could tell from that smile that she had a ready laugh and a kind heart. Plus, the twinkle of her eye told me she had a bit of mischief in the mix.
I said, "That's what I want."
"Excuse me?" said the girl who'd been in the back seat with me.
I had forgotten that she was supposed to be my date. But at that moment it didn't matter. I apologized for my rudeness, and extricated myself from the conversation. I walked over to introduce myself, with a growing certainty that my life was about to change.
"Hello, I'm Lee Roy Williams."
"How do you do? I'm Lola Faye Poteet."
At this moment, the missing piece fell right into place. Now I've been accused of many things in my life, but ambiguity isn't one of them. I know what I like, and I'm not afraid to say it. That girl in the car certainly didn't appreciate my forthright approach to life, but this girl on the porch was the one for me. I knew it from the first moment I saw her.
My grandparents married six weeks after this meeting, and made happy memories together for fifty-six years.