As soon as the Christmas holidays were over, Mark had to go back to Biloxi, Mississippi to finish tech school. That spring, I flew down to visit him. He found a beautiful condo for me to stay in and it was a great long weekend. We went to the beach, I met his friends and went out to eat and sight see. We thought about driving over to New Orleans for a day, which is kind of funny because New Orleans is now one of our favorite places, but we decided not to because it was just a little too far.
On the last day I was in MS, as we were driving from lunch to the airport, my legs started to hurt. They hurt so bad in fact that I could not sit still. I just kept squirming and wiggling and then I started to feel sick Not nauseated, just sick and tired. By the time I got on the plane, I felt like I was starting to run a fever. By the time I got to my layover in Memphis, I was so sick I barely knew which end was up. I managed to get to my connecting flight’s gate and found a seat right under the speaker where flight announcements were made. I concentrated on listening because I knew I had to get home. Suddenly, I heard the words “last call” and “Cincinnati.” I realized that I was about to miss my flight. I stumbled to the gate, stumbled down the jetway, stumbled to my seat and passed out for the entire flight to Cincinnati. The flight attendant had to wake me when we landed. I exited the plane and walked right past my waiting mother, I couldn’t really see. She grabbed me, got me home, took my temperature and found out that it was 104. I don’t remember anything about the next week. Apparently, she took me to the doctor who diagnosed me with the flu.
I don’t recall talking to Mark while I was sick but I’m sure I did. When I recovered, I found out that he and half of his squadron had been in sick bay because they all had it too. Whether I took it down there or got it there and brought it home we never could figure out. In our family lore however, it is still referred to as the time I almost killed half of the Air Force with my Martian flu.
Not long after this episode, I got a very interesting phone call. AH had been dumped by his B and he called me. He told me how sorry he was for what he had done and asked me if I would go to dinner with him to talk. I chuckled and told him no thanks. When he asked me why I told him that I had found someone who really loved me, who would never cheat or lie. I told him that he should have thought about what he was doing before he did it. The conversation lasted a little longer and there are more details that have been lost to time, but I DO remember the end. He told me again how sorry he was and that it took the end of his relationship with her to realize he’d been played for a fool. He realized that she never completely broke up with her REAL boyfriend and he realized that I was the root of her attration to him. He told me he felt like an idiot and that he had made the biggest mistake of his life. My response? You ARE and you did, click. I had never before or since felt so fulfilled by hanging up on someone.
In May, tech school was done and Mark came home for a couple of weeks before he left for his first real assignment at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico; a sort-of Godforsaken place about 90 miles north of El Paso, Texas. Rumor has it that the valley had been a fairly verdant place before the nuclear bomb tests at the nearby Trinity Site, but that is for later in the story.
When he came home in May, he started working on me in earnest to get married and move to N.M. with him. He’d been suggesting it for a while, but I wasn’t ready. Finally, during that trip home, he convinced me that we at least needed to be engaged. We went shopping for a ring, found one that fit that he could afford, and got engaged. He wanted to give it to me in one of his signature romatic methods, but I had already seen it and I just wanted to get the show on the road if you know what I mean. So in a very unromantic, mall associated location, he asked me to marry him, put the ring on my finger and sealed the deal with a kiss. Even thought it was not the ideal proposal due to my impatience, I was happy and excited.
When I got home, my mother completely ruined it. Even though I had told her that I figured we would get married sooner than later, she apparently didn’t believe me. She was already in bed when I got home. I ran up to her room, which wasn’t really dark, held out my hand and said, “Look what I got!!” She responded in a less than enthusiastic manner. The only words I remember exactly were mine. The gist of her reaction was, why? Why would I want to get married and move away? Why would I want to marry a boy in the USAF? Didn’t I know how hard and lonely my life would be? On and on and on. Sucking away my happiness and trying to talk me out of it before the ring even had a chance to warm up on my hand. She and my father had a life-long unhappy marriage and when I responded to one of her complaints, that just because she was unhappy in marriage didn’t mean I would be, she completely lost it. She got right in my face and and asked me how dare I throw that up in her face. She then took her wedding ring off, gave it to me and told me to get married with it. She then turned her back to me and wouldn’t talk to me anymore that night.
I went into my room feeling sad. I was so happy with my choice and I wanted my mother’s approval. I made up my mind that there was no way I was going to let her talk me out of getting married the way she had talked me into breaking up with my high school boyfriend. I loved Mark and for the first time in my life, I was going to directly and openly defy my mother. Although the wind had been knocked out my sails, I was still happy and the next day would be the beginning of the plans.