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December 22, 2008


WanderWoman and ‘Starting Over’


I write another blog...on a newspaper site.

And the site "posts" a photo that runs with all your entries. 

I started using the following photo as I.D. awhile back.  Not sure why.  It's nearly 40 years old....found in a box of photographs, rummaging through the closet recently. 

Bloggers started asking me questions about the photo.  Who’s the woman?  When was the photo taken? Am I wearing a Navy uniform? Why do we look so sad?, one asked. 


blog post photo

(Photo, San  Francisco airport. June of 1969. )

       Anne (woman in the photo) and I had been college sweethearts.  And I got leave from the Navy – before heading for Vietnam – to go back home to Kansas City for a few days, so Anne and I could get married.

Which we did.

Through Anne’s brother, who lived in the San Francisco Bay area, we’d arranged to rent an apartment in an old hillside house not far from Twin Peaks…and half a block up the street from where Janis Joplin lived and caroused.  (Which is another story).

Having almost no money, Anne and I could not afford a U-Haul type rental truck to drive and move from Kansas  City to San Francisco. 

So we gave furniture to relatives and most of our clothes, and packed up the remainder in about 8 large boxes; shipping them cheap as “excess baggage” on our flight to the West Coast.

This photo was taken by a passerby in the SF airport.  Shortly after the plane landed and we’d collected our 8 boxes of clothes, books, records, dishes, pots and pans.

If I look upset (which bloggers tell me I do), and we both look tired…for good reason.

For starters, the San Francisco airport was not a very "friendly" place for people wearing military uniforms in 1969.  Everyone under 30 who walked by made a point of giving us The Peace Sign. 

And here we were: in the airport.  

With all the boxes. 

Moving into an apartment. 

Only 5 days before I would leave for Vietnam. 

And the Car Rental Agency at the airport would not rent us a car because I did not possess “a major gas company credit card.”  (Other ones.  But not a major one.)

So we were wondering what in the hell to do, when this photo was taken.

After about 4 hours, one of the Car Rental Agency people, who got tired of us sitting in the nearby baggage claim area, took pity on us.  And rented us the car to transport all the stuff.

We made it to the apartment. I made it to my ship. 

Anne soon got a job in a medical laboratory.  And we had many good times over the next three years, in Japan, Hawaii and San Francisco,  when I was home on leave.

Returning to San Francisco from a final Tonkin Gulf deployment,  Anne meet me at the Naval Air Station Alameda pier when the aircraft carrier came in.

I got off the carrier.  Hugged her.  And she broke the news.

"Jim, we need to talk.  I want you to meet the love of my life," Anne said, gesturing to the young woman standing next to her.

All in all, a rather strange homecoming from the military service.

Anne and I soon divorced. 

She eventually moved back to Kansas City. 

And my career took me many places, eventually to Battle Creek.

But we would see each other for coffee, when I came to Kansas City to visit my parents.

In 2003,  I was in Kansas City to attend my Mom's funeral.  After the service and cemetery, I sat in my car on a bitterly cold morning; waiting for my car to warm and the drive back to Michigan.

Suddenly, Anne tapped my driver's side window.  And asked if we could talk for a few minutes.

We sat in the car and she explained that she'd "changed lifestyles" and that "perhaps we could start all over."

We had a nice chat.  But, I said it seemed a little late for starting over.....

In 2005, I tried to call Anne in Kansas City.  Her sister, Deborah, answered the phone. 

"Sorry, Jim. Anne died two days ago of breast cancer," Deborah said.


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