It wasn’t your classic love story.
There were never any lines like, “You had me at hello.” Or “Love means you never have to say you’re sorry.”
Nothing like that.
It was a pretty inauspicious beginning. Nothing that would have suggested wedding bells.
And it wasn’t a date, either. Me and the college gang I ran with at the University of South Florida were invited to a beach party at Diane Topping’s home. Her mom was there so we weren’t expecting a wild time. That wasn’t the crowd I hung out with.
But we knew how to have a good time, without drugs or sex stuff, even though it was the time of “free love.”
That just wasn’t us.
Diane’s house was close to the Gulf of Mexico and we spent time at the water, and then back at the house.
I knew everyone at the party, with the exception of Diane’s sister, and a friend of Diane’s from school, Nancy Horne.
It wasn’t an end-of-the-year party. It was during Easter break. We were getting ready for the third and final trimester of my junior year. It was a good time.
The main attraction at the house was their waterbed. I had never experienced a waterbed before that day. But I spent plenty of time on it during the party. We all did.
Several of us were reclining on it most of the time.
I remember reclining on it and drinking copious amounts of beer.
I also spent a lot of time talking with Diane’s friend, Nancy.
A lot of time.
I talked about my Down’s syndrome brother, Jimmy, who I ‘ve written about. It kind of made me warm and fuzzy, talking about my little brother. And I probably talked about my family too. I’m one of seven siblings so there was plenty to talk about.
The problem was, because of all the beer I’d consumed I couldn’t remember what we talked about. I knew it wasn’t anything embarrassing. But by the time we got in the car to head back to Tampa I was pretty shot.
I liked Nancy, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted or expected to see her again. It was all that beer. I figured with everything we talked about, or me talking about, I would be repeating myself over and over again.
And who wanted that.
A week or so past as the schoolyear resumed began and I hadn’t seen Nancy.
I was relieved.
But one day between classes, I think I was on the third floor of the Lang-Lit building. Nancy also attended classes there.
I was in the College of Communications specializing in advertising. And Nancy was a Speech-English major.
I guess it was inevitable. One day I was going to run into Nancy.
And this was that day.
I think she was coming out of the elevator. And I was going to get in it. I was about 10 feet away from it.
She hadn’t seen me. Yet.
But I saw her first. And I started to panic. I started backtracking.
I didn’t want to talk with her.
It’s not that I didn’t want to see her. There was some type of attraction. Some type of chemistry.
But I didn’t want to talk about something she’s already heard that day on the waterbed.
What was I to do. So, I ran. Or almost did.
I thought I was free and was getting ready to turn around when I heard, “Rufus.”
If you haven’t read some of my previous blogs, Rufus was the nickname I gave myself when we began playing intramural sports. I needed a name for the back of my football jersey.
I don’t even know if Nancy knew that my name was Rick.
But I later learned that Diane had been talking about the gang. I was an eligible candidate. But to be honest, all the guys had girlfriends with the exception of Mike Johnson. And he wasn’t a threat.
Regardless, I later learned that Nancy had set her sights on me.
So, there I was on the third floor of the Lang-Lit building, and Nancy had seen me.
I had to talk to her.
“So, do you want to come back to my apartment,” I lamely asked.
She said yes.
And she said yes 15 months later when I asked her to marry me.
And the rest is history.
But that’s another story for another day.
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Author and historian Rick Reed has been writing about Florida's Lake and Sumter counties since 1991 in The Daily Commercial, The Lake Sentinel and Lake Magazine. His Reminisce column, which looks at local history in Lake and Sumter counties has appeared in The Daily Commercial since 1998. He served as the City curator of the Leesburg Historical Museum from 2003 to 2008 and wrote the Sesquicentennial History of Leesburg in 2008, a 240-plus page book of Leesburg’s history.