This story is a little different than most of the ones I have written.
I actually wrote it for my fellow Marines, but I think anyone who has ever served in the military probably will enjoy it and a lot of those might remember serving with someone who, in some small way, reminds them of Master Gunnery Sergeant Samuel Obediah Lewis, Sr., U.S.M.C. Retired.
I have, in fact, heard of at least one Marine who actually named his daughter ... well, you will have to read the story to find out.
For you civilians, I hope you will also enjoy the story. It is a fact that lots of people tend to name their children after well-known athletes, and entertainers. After World War II, well-known military heroes became a popular source for baby names. For Marines, there are LOTS of legends about those who have gone before us and set the standards.
“Sam? Sam?” I heard a voice say. “Sam, you need to wake up. The nurse is going to be bringing breakfast by in about 15 or 20 minutes.”
I slowly woke up and started looking around. It took a few minutes to realize I was still in the hospital, recovering from being shot twice.
The voice belonged to my co-worker and friend, Rebecca. Actually, as I had realized the night before when I woke up for a few minutes after my surgery, Rebecca was more than a friend. A LOT more.
“How are you feeling, Sam?” she asked.
“Well ... now that I see your beautiful face ... a lot better,” I said. Rebecca actually blushed but I could see how happy my words made her.
Almost immediately though, I could see tears forming in her eyes.
“Oh, Sam,” she began crying, “It’s all my fault. You were shot trying to help me, trying to rescue me from those two ... two scumbags.”
“No,” I said, perhaps a little harsher than I had intended. I could see Rebecca’s eyes open in surprise at my tone.
“No,” I said, much softer, then reached up with my hand and began wiping the tears away.
“If it is anyone’s fault, it was those two guys,” I told her. “The biggest mistake they made in their short lives was putting their hands on you. Putting their hands on someone I ... I care a great deal about.”
I could see some more tears in Rebecca’s eyes, but I think for a very different reason.
“In fact, Rebecca, there is something I need to tell you now,” I began.
Just then Rebecca’s cell phone beeped.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Sam,” Rebecca said, “That may be Holly. She just left here a few minutes ago on her way to church and told me she would send me a message if she heard from your kids.”
I waited as Rebecca read the message.
“Oh,” she said, “That was Holly, telling me your two sons and your daughter just arrived at the hospital and are already on their way up. In fact, they should be here any second.”
Rebecca didn’t say anything for a moment, but I could see her face turn ghost white and could see the fear in her eyes.
“Oh My God!” Rebecca stated and I could also hear the fear in her voice, “Your kids are going to hate me ... thinking you nearly died because of ... because of me!”
“Nonsense,” I answered, “They are going to love you ... love you just like I love you!”
I nearly laughed out loud at the expression on Rebecca’s face. I don’t think it would have been possible for her eyebrows to raise any higher, and the questioning look on her face was absolutely adorable.
“I hope they brought some food,” I continued, “I am about to starve!”
“And did the doctor say anything about when I can get out of here?” I asked.
“What ... what did you say?” Rebecca finally asked in an incredulous voice, “What did you just say?”
“I asked if the doctor said anything about when I can get out of here,” I answered, very matter-of-factly, not giving any indication I said anything unusual.
“No, no,” Rebecca replied, “before that. What did you say before that?”
“Oh,” I answered, “I said I was about to starve and hoped my kids brought some food.”
“SAM!” she exclaimed, and I could hear the frustration in her voice, “What did you say before that?”
Before I could say anything, we both heard a new voice coming from the doorway.
“Before that, the big ugly ape said his two equally ugly ape-like sons and his beautiful, adorable, brilliant daughter – who happens to be the only REAL Marine in the family – were going to love you just as much as he does!
“God, I think I am about to puke!” she continued.
The voice, of course, was coming from my daughter who looked absolutely resplendent in her full Marine Corps Dress Blue uniform with ribbons and badges.
She and my two ugly ape-like sons all walked into the room.
My two sons were also wearing their uniforms, but in their case, the Dress Blues “D” or Delta uniform: which consisted of the Dress Blue pants (with red or blood stripe down the side), and a short-sleeved khaki shirt, complete with ribbons and badges.
Without missing a beat, my daughter continued a one-sided monologue.
“You must be Rebecca,” my daughter said, nodding to her, “I am Major Amanda Lewis, and the bigger, ugly ape-like one in the back is Master Gunnery Sergeant Samuel Obediah Lewis, Jr. That means his initials, and those of his ugly ape-like Dad, are ‘SOL’, which in Marine Corps vernacular is ‘Shit Outta Luck.’ Although the initials wouldn’t work, it would be just as accurate to say ‘Shit Outta Brains,’ also, or even ‘Shit For Brains’ in their case.
“The smaller, but even uglier ape-like one is Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Puller Lewis.”
“Hey, Princess,” my middle son said, causing my daughter to flush red, “Don’t forget I still out-rank you!”
“Oh, go suck a big, green wiener, Archie,” my daughter responded. “I’ll have you know my name is already on the Lieutenant Colonel list and I am just waiting for the actual promotion. Which, by the way, is a full two years faster than YOU made it and THAT means you will only have a year time-in-grade on me. That also means I will probably make Colonel before you do!”
“There goes the freaking Marine Corps!” my second oldest son lamented.
“Just so you will know, Rebecca, the name ‘Archibald’ comes from Archibald Henderson, who served as Commandant of the Marine Corps for 39 years and spent a total of 53 years active duty. His nickname is ‘Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps.’
“The ‘Puller’ part comes from Lieutenant General Lewis B. ‘Chesty’ Puller who is regarded as the finest Marine who ever lived. He earned five Navy Crosses, which is the second highest award anyone in the Navy or Marine Corps can receive for heroism. I will never understand how Dad could profane that name by giving it to Bozo over there!”
“Now YOU go suck a big, green wiener, Princess!” he retorted.
“I am just SO thankful my Dad got all the idiot names out of his system, before I was born,” Amanda added.
“No so fast, Amanda,” my middle son interrupted. “My sister was a little remiss in the introductions, Rebecca.
“Her full name is Amanda P. Lewis, and ‘P’ actually stands for ‘Princess.
“Yes, our ape-like father still had one idiot name left in his system. He named his daughter, Princess!”
Amanda’s face flushed ever deeper red and I could see temper flaring in her eyes.
“Don’t forget one thing, ARCHIE,” she shot back, “I always beat your ass before and I can STILL beat your ass!”
“Well, Princess,” my middle son responded, “That’s only because Dad always said it’s not fair to pick on the mentally impaired.
“Besides, if Mom hadn’t absolutely put her foot down when you were born, Dad had already decided to name you ‘Marina Cora.’ Get it, Rebecca, Marine Corps and Marina Cora?”
I knew it was time for dear old Dad to get involved. I mean I knew they loved each other, even with the endless teasing, but sometimes things could and sometimes DID get a little out of hand.
“CHILDREN!” I proclaimed in my most authoritative Marine Corps voice.
Hey, it still worked!
They both calmed down and turned to face me, rather than facing off against each other. Not quite standing at attention, but close.
“Try to remember you are in a hospital, not in a barn somewhere.
“I’m sorry you had to witness that, Rebecca,” I said, turning to her. “Often I think I should have stopped with just one child!”
“Especially since the first child was nearly perfect,” my oldest responded. “The trend has definitely been all downhill since I was born.”
My middle child immediately suggested his older brother go perform an act upon himself that is anatomically impossible.
“Hey, Dad,” Sam Jr., said, turning to me, “Do you have a map and a compass we can give little Archie? Something to keep him out of trouble?”
Now it was my middle son’s turn to flush bright red.
“It is something of a Marine Corps joke,” I began explaining to Rebecca, “that if you give a newly-minted second lieutenant a map and a compass he would become hopelessly lost.
“Unfortunately, in A.P.’s case, that turned out to be only too true. When he was a second lieutenant, he got his platoon so lost it took three days to find them.”
“A.P.?” Rebecca asked.
“Yeah, he prefers to be known by his initials, rather than Archie,” responded Amanda. “Of course most people call him A&P, after the failed grocery chain.”
I could see that Archie, er A&P, I mean A.P. was about to lose it again.
“CALM down, everybody,” I barked, using the Marine Corps voice.
“I may be in a hospital bed, but I can still get up and whip all of your asses.”
Amanda finally walked over to my bed.
“Oh, God, Daddy,” she began, and I could see the tears in her eyes. “I was so scared when I heard you had been shot and was in the hospital. Of course then I heard you had only been shot in the head and I knew no bullet could ever pierce that lump of granite you call a skull!
“It wasn’t until I met up with Dumb and Dumber at the airport I found out you had also been shot in the chest and had a collapsed lung.”
She hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t you EVER scare me like that again, Daddy!
“So, how are you doing?” she asked.
“Not bad,” I answered. “Now that I have all three of you ... and Rebecca here with me ... not bad at all. And it was ONLY a partially collapsed lung.”
“And I finally get to meet the mythical Rebecca,” Amanda began as the two hugged. “I have read SO much about you.”
“You ... you read so much about me?” Rebecca asked, very puzzled.
“I guess I need to explain,” Amanda said. “Dad writes us all a letter each week and has for as long as any of us have been in the Marine Corps.
“Not a different letter to each of us. That would be inefficient and Master Gunnery Sergeant Samuel Obediah Lewis, Sr., USMC Retired, is nothing else, if not efficient. He writes one letter, then makes copies and mails it to each of us.
“He starts on Sunday, writing a couple of paragraphs, then adds more paragraphs each day through Friday. On Saturday he makes the copies, perhaps adds a few personal comments individually and mails the letters, then starts over again on Sunday.
“While ... while Mom was alive, he always included his awful puns. At least one each day, but sometimes would have two or even three on some days. So every week we all had to read anywhere from six to 10 of the worst puns in creation.
“After ... after Mom died he continued to write ... but hardly ever included any puns.
“Then ... about six months ago, he wrote he had taken a part-time job and within just a couple of weeks started writing puns again. And started including puns that, according to him, ‘some girl at work’ told him.
“Soon, we had to slog through his awful puns, plus the even worse puns ‘some girl’ told him.
“Then one week we all got a letter and instead of having the puns from ‘some girl’, now the puns were from a woman named Rebecca. Naturally, I started and I think, Sam Jr., and A.P. also started, asking questions about this Rebecca person.
“At first, he would tell us almost nothing. We kept badgering and badgering him and he finally said she was very tall and slender and finally added, weeks later, was very, very good looking,” Amanda continued and Rebecca blushed some.
“I finally just came right out and asked Dad if he was banging this Rebecca person?”
Now Rebecca’s face turned scarlet red.
“For once I was very glad I had an entire ocean between Dad and me. I’ve never known Dad to write something so angry, so ... blistering ... before. I’m amazed the paper didn’t catch fire from what he wrote.
“I will leave out some of the more descriptive adjectives he called me, but his answer was, No, he wasn’t ‘banging’ Rebecca and how dare I even ask something like that. Rebecca was just a friend, just someone he worked with and he resented I would even suggest there was something going on between them.
“Not to mention Rebecca was only two years older than I was and even if he were to become interested in someone, he certainly wouldn’t become interested in someone who was young enough to be his daughter.
“He must have written two or three pages defending your ‘honor.’
“That was, I think, when I knew he was falling in love with you,” Amanda added.
Amanda looked over at me and immediately started laughing.
“Dad, if you don’t close your mouth, bugs are going to fly in and start breeding,” she laughed.
“You ... you ... you knew I was falling in love ... with Rebecca? How? I mean, I didn’t know it until ... until last night or even this morning,” I stammered.
“That’s why women are smarter than men, Dad,” Amanda quipped. “I knew months ago that Rebecca was a lot more than ‘just a friend,’ even if you didn’t.”
“So ... let me ask the question again since you are both here.
“Are you two banging each other yet?”
I am not sure who blushed the reddest. Me or Rebecca.
Have you ever seen a Marine get mad? I mean red-faced, fire-breathing mad before?
Amanda and A.P. both had the biggest shit-eating grins on their faces while Sam Jr. (who had known me the longest) was just shaking his head, probably figuring he would have to hide the bodies.
I was starting to sit up in bed so I could unleash Hell’s Fury onto my children, then before I could say a word, Rebecca stepped in, told me to shut up and lay back down.
“Now just a damn minute, young lady,” Rebecca began, “Whether or not, or when and if Sam and I ever start ‘banging’ each other, it is nobody’s business but ours.
“Now I will say this one time, and ONLY one time. Sam and I are not ‘banging’ each other ... YET!
“That may and probably will change as soon as they discharge him. In point of fact, the two of us haven’t even kissed ... YET!
“And I think it is high time for that to change NOW!”
With those words Rebecca turned back to me, took my face in both her hands and then leaned down and threw a lip-lock on me that took my breath away. I think she was trying to suck my appendix out through my mouth!
I’m not sure how long we kissed. I finally heard some clapping and opened my eyes (I hadn’t even realized I had closed them) and saw all three Lewis kids applauding.
“Damn, Dad, I think you have found a Marine Corps worthy woman,” Amanda said. “Remind me to never really get on her bad side!”
Sam Jr., and A.P. both came over, shook hands with Rebecca and then gave her a hug each.
Finally ... finally they came over and shook hands with the patient and asked how he was doing.
I guess I really can’t blame them.
Rebecca is a WHOLE lot better looking than I am.
In a few minutes one of the nurses brought my breakfast in, and while I was eating my three kids and Rebecca were all talking like they had known each other for years.
After listening to them for a few minutes, I soon realized most of the conversation revolved on some of the more – well I would use the word “colorful” while they all seemed to insist on the word “idiotic” – things I had done in the past.
I still don’t see what is so bad (or to use their word, idiotic) about wanting to name a girl Marina Cora! I think it would have been a beautiful name.
After I finished eating (all by myself with no one to keep me company, I might add), Rebecca FINALLY stopped talking with my kids long enough to come over and say she had a question she wanted to ask.
“Earlier ... earlier you said you didn’t realize you were in love with me until, I think you said, last night or even this morning?”
I nodded yes.
“You were asleep all day yesterday, recovering from the emergency surgery Friday night to remove the bullet fragments. What did you mean, ‘last night,’” she asked.
“I actually woke up late last night ... at least for a few minutes,” I began. “You were actually asleep in the chair with your head on the mattress right beside me. And you were holding my hand.
“I could tell you had been crying because your eyes were red and puffy.
“I ... I knew then ... you were a lot more than just a friend ... that I was in love with you.
“I caressed your hair, and actually said ... said out loud... ‘I love you, Rebecca.’ You smiled in your sleep and whispered, ‘I love you too, Sam.’”
“Oh, My God,” Rebecca exclaimed, “I ... I remember. But I thought I was dreaming. I woke up and you were sleeping, but now you were smiling in your sleep.
“I actually ... actually stood up and leaned over and kissed you very gently,” she added.
“Aww, that is so swwwweeeeeeet,” Amanda interrupted our conversation, and gave an extended pronunciation of the word ‘sweet.’ Can I throw up now?”
When I looked over at Amanda, the smile on her face and the tears in her eyes belied the words she had spoken.
“Does that mean I am going to be an older sister, at least older half-sister before long?” she asked.
“Since you are only about half-human,” A.P. interjected, “that would be an accurate description of you.”
“Stick it up your ass, Archie,” Amanda shot back.
I once again had to employ the Marine Corps voice to restore order.
“Actually, I think that is a fair question to ask,” Amanda resumed, once order had been restored.
“I mean Dad is so old he has probably forgotten how, but we could start drawing pictures for him to help his fading memory. Tab ‘A’ into Slot ‘B’, that kind of thing. It will probably take a while, at his age, but Rebecca looks like she has quite a few breeding years left.”
Once again my daughter had managed to make both my face and Rebecca’s face blush bright red. Not for the first time I wondered why I hadn’t stopped at two children!
“You know, Amanda, it has been quite a few years since I turned you over my knee and spanked you,” I told her in my sternest voice, “but even at my advanced age, I still remember how to do that!”
She stuck her tongue out at me! Actually stuck her tongue out at me and laughed. Kids!
Just as I was about to unleash the Fires of Hell onto Amanda ... I yawned. And not just some little piddling yawn. When a Marine yawns, he yawns all the way.
Dammit! I was so fired up and ready to rain fire and brimstone down upon my kids. The yawn totally destroyed my mood.
The fire and brimstone mood was almost restored when Amanda and A.P. started making snarky remarks about “old people needing their sleep,” but by then I was halfway between giving them hell here on earth and taking a nap.
Getting shot and having surgery sucks!
The kids decided – since old people need naps – to go downstairs to the hospital cafeteria and get some breakfast of their own.
And when they invited Rebecca to join them – what was I supposed to say? I knew Rebecca was hungry as well.
I have to admit, though, I was more than a little worried when they told Rebecca they would also tell her ALL about Master Gunnery Sergeant Samuel Obediah Lewis, Sr., USMC Retired.
Once they left, before sleep claimed me, I began to reflect upon my life and how I came to this point.
You already know my name and the fact I am a retired Marine.
I actually enlisted in the Marines six months before high school graduation, in the Delay Entry Program. I graduated high school, and five days later got off the bus at Parris Island, S.C.
I had excelled in sports in high school, especially baseball. I was a little over 6’2”, but only weighed 180 lbs. I was a fair receiver in football. Good hands but not the fastest person on the team. Or the second fastest. Or the third fastest. Or the ... okay, I was slower than molasses, but very good at running routes.
Anyway, the running and exercise I did in high school really helped once I got to Boot Camp.
Twelve weeks after reporting for duty I was 6’4” and weighed 210. It is amazing what a 12,000 calorie a day diet does to you. Especially coupled with running ... and running ... and running. Not to mention endless calisthenics and other exercise.
I was promoted to Private First Class (PFC) in Boot Camp. It was while undergoing Advanced Infantry Training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., that I discovered my “niche” in the Marine Corps.
For four years in high school, I had been taking Karate lessons, and was, in fact, a black belt. I quickly learned in Boot Camp, that didn’t mean a thing. Part of Boot Camp is training in hand-to-hand combat. While none of the members of the platoon stood a chance against me, the first time my Senior Drill Instructor “invited” me to show him some of my moves, I spent more time flat on my back than I did standing up.
He did, however, flag my records as showing “promise” in hand-to-hand combat. When I arrived at Lejeune, the instructors there noted the “flag” on my records and, while other members of the platoon were relaxing in the very rare moments we were not in training, I was having my ass kicked by people who were bigger than me, people who were smaller than me, people who were skinner than me, and, even, by people who were fatter than me.
But I didn’t quit and kept getting better and better.
The upshot to all of this is I was recommended for Marine Corps Force Recon. Most people have never heard of Force Recon, since only a few hundred of us exist at any given time.
To try to make a long story short, we train with the Navy Seals. We train with the Army Delta Force. We train with the Army Rangers. We train with the Air Force Pararescue. We train with the Marine Corps Scout/Snipers. Not to mention the extensive and exhaustive training the Marine Corps puts us through, both before and after the training with the other services.
Someone once said the difference between the Navy Seals and Marine Force Recon was the Navy Seals are trained to blow stuff up and kill on special missions, while a successful Force Recon mission usually not only ends with no one dying, but the enemy not even knowing we were there.
Not that every mission is so pacific.
Mission types are usually broken down into two types, “Green Operations,” where we enter, obtain information or Reconnaissance (that’s where the “Recon” comes from); and “Black Operations,” or “Black Ops.” Black Ops are the ones most people see in the mostly made up “action movies” which Seals, Delta Force and Force Recon consider to be funny since it is so unbelievable. Arnold and Chuck wouldn’t last a minute against any of us.
Our motto as Force Recon is “Swift, Silent, Deadly.”
After completing training, I served on a number of missions which are still classified – some more than 40 years after the fact.
Some of those missions began as a “Green Ops,” but based on the recon, or intelligence we gathered, immediately became a “Black Op.” So you always had to be prepared for ANYTHING!
I also became an instructor for Force Recon, specializing in hand-to-hand combat. As such, I studied virtually every form of unarmed combat used anywhere in the world. And taught others what I had learned.
Was I a bad-ass? Someone once wrote that while he, himself, wasn’t necessarily a bad-ass, the bad-asses around the world didn’t mess with him. At least not more than once.
And, in case you are wondering, yes, I did teach all three of my kids. The fact of the matter is, they are all deadly weapons – armed or unarmed. So when Amanda told A.P. she used to regularly kick his ass, and she actually did – it was only because he made sure to never really go all out against his beloved baby sister. Not until she was older and more than able to handle herself.
Most of their later actual “fights” ended in draws. More than one bloody nose or busted lip or twisted knee or elbow, but usually a draw.
But God help the person who hurt Amanda in either word or deed. A.P. would be all over them. And God help the woman, or man, who hurt A.P., in either word or deed. Amanda had, on more than one occasion, beaten men and women who said something bad about A.P., in her presence.
Finally, after 24 years of training other Marines in the most efficient way of protecting yourself, which is actually sort of a euphemism for killing the other guy first, I decided to hang it up.
I was then 42 years old, with three children. I had gotten married to my high school sweetheart after completing Advanced Infantry Training. Sam Junior was born when I was 20, and like me, enlisted in the Marines when he was 18.
A.P. didn’t come along until I was 25, and Amanda was born two years later. A.P. attended The Citadel, in South Carolina, one of the nation’s foremost military schools. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps when he was 22.
Amanda earned an appointment to Annapolis and was also commissioned as a second lieutenant when she was 22.
So, what does a former Marine, who was one of the most skilled and deadly people in the world in hand-to-hand combat, do after rejoining the civilian world?
I had a number of private security firms interested in my coming to work for them, and the pay would have been outstanding. I was really burnt out on the whole “security” issue, though, and passed for something that, while it didn’t pay nearly as much as I could have made in the security field, offered its own rewards.
I entered the world of retail.
One of my hobbies was woodworking, and my two favorite stores were Lowe’s and Home Depot.
I applied at both, and Lowe’s called first and offered a job.
For the first five years I worked in nearly every department in the store as a department manager. I then applied for the position as assistant store manager, or zone manager as they later renamed it.
Five years of serving as zone manager led to my being offered a store of my own and for the next 10 years I managed four different stores (in three different states), earning Store Manager of the Year honors three different times. I was also runner-up for that honor a couple of other times.
As I was nearing my 20th year with Lowe’s my wife and I had several discussions about how much longer I wanted to work. I had built up well over seven figures in my 401k plan, and that, coupled with my military retirement pay and social security meant I could pretty much retire as soon as I became eligible for social security.
Then six months before my 62nd birthday my wife found a lump in her breast. By the time she found it, the cancer had metastasized, or spread throughout her body. Within two months, and less than a month before our 45th wedding anniversary, my wife was dead.
I went ahead and retired from Lowe’s, then piddled around and piddled around and piddled around for six months. One day I saw a notice one of my friends posted on her Facebook page that the company she was now working for was looking for a permanent, part-time person. The company designed, sold and installed kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
Twenty hours a week working in the warehouse pulling orders (no heavy lifting) and the pay was not bad. Plus it would get me out of the house and around people again.
That is how I met Rebecca. She also worked for the company, but as a kitchen designer.
I had met all the employees on my first day, but since there were about 25 or 30, I must confess I didn’t remember everyone’s name at first. I think at least 20 of those were women. I was later to learn there were an additional 20-some employees, but those were mostly installers and service technicians who were usually working installing cabinets and fixing things that had gone wrong with prior installs.
My first impression of Rebecca was ... well not necessarily the most positive. When my new boss was introducing me to everyone, Rebecca was on the phone, so all I could really see was mostly her back and just the side of her face and the phone.
“This is Rebecca,” he said, and she glanced back a little and waved her hand before turning away and resuming her phone call.
About two hours later I was in the breakroom getting a glass of water when Rebecca walked in.
Wow! As I have said, I’m 6’4”. Rebecca was at least six feet tall. It is very unusual for me to meet any woman near my height. She was also very, very slender. But damn, she really filled out the pair of jeans she was wearing. From what I could tell from the blouse she was wearing, she didn’t have much up top, but that really wasn’t important. I have always been more of a leg man myself.
She had long, long blonde hair and the greenest eyes I have ever seen. I simply could not keep from staring at her eyes. In fact, I think I embarrassed both of us I was staring so hard at her.
Rebecca apologized for not being able to “properly” meet me earlier, then held out her hand and we shook. She introduced herself as “Rebecca McIntyre.”
I introduced myself, then asked if she had heard about the helicopter pilot who was flying over a remote Scottish island.
When she said “No,” I began.
“Well, there was this helicopter flying over a remote Scottish island when the pilot began experiencing engine problems. He was forced to land but luckily there was a small cottage nearby. He walked up, knocked on the door and asked the woman who answered if there were any mechanics nearby. She thought for a minute, then said, “No, but there are some McKay’s and some McIntyre’s just over that hill over there.”
I’ll be the first to admit it was not necessarily one of my best puns, but I was trying to think of something that would use her name in it.
I was already thinking Rebecca was one of the prettiest young women I had met in a long time, but when she smiled and laughed it transformed her face. Suddenly, she was not just “pretty,” but really, really pretty. If I had been about 25 or 30 years younger, I probably would even have said beautiful. Unfortunately, I also figured she was probably about my daughter’s age, which put her off limits as far as I was concerned.
Rebecca immediately told me one of her jokes, which MIGHT have been an even worse pun – if that is possible.
Don’t believe me? Try this one:
Rebecca asked if I ever went to concerts. I admitted I used to go to concerts fairly often, but hadn’t been to any in years. She then told me the singer Elvis Costello and the Swedish group ABBA were planning on going on tour together. The only problem was, they couldn’t agree who would get top billing. So, Rebecca told me, you will have to watch for advertisements for ABBA and Costello to see Who’s On First.
I don’t think I had laughed that much in a year.
After that we exchanged puns nearly every day.
Just friends. That was all we were, and due to the age difference, all we could ever be.
During the months I had been working, I found out the rumor mill at the company was incredible. I learned more than I ever really wanted to know about some of the people I worked with.
I really didn’t want to know that Rebecca had been divorced two years earlier after her then husband was arrested and convicted of embezzling money from the company he worked for at the time. Rebecca had reverted to using her maiden name.
I really didn’t want to know that about six months before I started working, her then boyfriend had gotten roaring drunk one night and beat her so severely she spent a week in the hospital.
I do remember I was so mad, finding out what had happened to her, I was literally shaking.
I also didn’t want to know since the night of the beating, Rebecca had not had a date with anyone.
I had been working a few weeks when one of the girls asked if anyone had told me about the company tradition for the last Friday of each month. When I said, “No,” she explained. Usually on the last Friday, a group would go to a local nightclub which also had live entertainment.
Sometimes there might be 15 or more going, sometimes there might only be four or five.
That day happened to be the last Friday of the month, but I begged off, saying I was supposed to meet someone at the house about replacing the roof. Not actually the truth, but I had also realized I was at least 15 years older than the next oldest employee, and probably closer to 40 years older than the youngest.
That continued for the next four months. Someone would invite me and I would find an excuse not to go. A couple of times Rebecca invited me and I was sorely tempted, given what had happened to her, but common sense prevailed.
Until just a few days earlier. I had now been working for six months, and again Rebecca asked if I were going to the nightclub. Again, since it was Rebecca asking, I was tempted but finally had to decline.
“Well, if you change your mind, we will be leaving in an hour,” she offered, then left the warehouse part of the building where I work. I could almost swear I had seen some tears in her eyes.
About 10 minutes later our H.R. Manager, Holly, paged me and asked me to come to her office.
Holly and I had known each other for over 20 years. She was actually the H.R. Manager at the first Lowe’s I worked for and actually was responsible for hiring me, both at that first Lowe’s, and then this job. It was her notice on her Facebook page about the opening at this company that was responsible for my being here.
When I walked into her office, Holly asked me to close the door.
“I haven’t said anything so far, Sam, but tell me why you keep refusing to go to the office get-together?” she asked.
I explained that it had only been about a year-and-a-half since my wife died, and I just did not feel it was appropriate to get involved in something like office parties.
“Nice excuse, Sam,” she countered, “Now tell me the real reason. Especially since I know you like Rebecca and Rebecca has invited you at least three times I know about.”
I admitted I did like Rebecca. Perhaps more than I should, but then pointed out “Rebecca is 25 years younger than me. It would be like robbing the cradle.”
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for you, Sam,” Holly said, “but to tell you the truth, you are a fucking idiot!”
“I know you heard about her ex-husband being convicted of embezzling,” she began.
I nodded, “yes.”
“Did you know she lost EVERYTHING, including her house, and was actually living on the streets?”
I didn’t have to say anything. Holly could see the surprise in my eyes.
“Did you know she was raped by her step-father when she was 12? Did you know by the time she was 15 her then boyfriend turned her into a drug addict and forced her into prostitution to support their collective habit? Did you know when she was 17 she and her boyfriend were arrested for robbing a convenience store?
“Luckily her public defender managed to get the charges dropped on a procedural error by the arresting officer. Did you know she entered rehab and finally got her life together and met and married this supposedly wonderful guy when she was 20?
“Only to have 15 years of a less than wonderful, loving marriage turn into a living hell?
“Every step in her life she has been betrayed by the men she thought she could trust. That finally ended up with her nearly getting beaten to death and spending almost a month in the hospital. The rumor mill says a week, but it was actually a month.
“She told me ALL of this when I interviewed her for this job.
“She’s been working here for almost a year, and in that time she has only met one man ... ONE MAN ... she felt like she could trust. Might possibly trust.
“And that one man won’t even give her the time of day! Won’t spend even a couple of hours at a nightclub with her.
“Do you have any idea ... any IDEA ... what it took for her to ask you to go to the nightclub? And you have turned her down three times because she’s too young! When did you become so concerned with what people say or think about you?
“Nobody’s asking you to marry her, you jackass!
“Just go with her to the club, be nice to her and show her not ALL men are complete jerks. And what if the night ends up with the two of you together? She is not a child. She is a 37-year-old woman who has been through more hell than anyone I know.
“Just be the kind of person I already know you are, Sam. Just be her friend.”
What could I say? Once I had wiped the tears away from my eyes I told Holly she was right, and I was being a jackass. And I would take Rebecca to the night club.
“Don’t tell her I told you all of this, Sam,” Holly asked. “If she wants you to know, she will tell you.”
By the time I left Holly’s office, everyone was getting ready to go.
I walked up to Rebecca and asked if the invitation still stood, and almost couldn’t believe the smile on her face and relief in her eyes as she said, “Yes.”
We rode together in my pickup truck. Once we arrived at the night club, Rebecca linked her arm in mine as we walked inside.