During this season of the year, people’s thoughts are on the traditional holiday celebrations. That’s also true for Kate and me; however, December 19th is also a day we celebrate. On this day 59 years ago, we had our first date. We attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah on the campus of TCU where we were students. This began a lifetime attending many musical and theatrical performances together.
Despite remembering the date, I only recall a few other things about that night. One of those is picking her up at a neighbor’s house where she and her family were having dinner with very close friends who had known Kate since birth and were like an aunt and uncle to her.
Another was that sometime during the evening, Kate said her father wanted her to ask me a question. He wanted to know if I knew a doctor, then living in West Palm Beach, who had been a groomsman in her parents’ wedding. She was surprised when I said that I had gone to high school with two of his children, was in Key Club with one of them, and that he was my dad’s orthopedist. We were off to a good start.
We had an interesting courtship. In January, I took a job as an ambulance driver with a funeral home. That job played an integral role as our relationship became more serious. My responsibilities also included assisting with funerals. Sometimes I found a few stray flowers. When I did, I took the opportunity to drive by the campus and put a flower or two in the front seat of her car. Other times I was asked to drive to another city to bring back the body of someone who was to be buried in Fort Worth. When I did that, the funeral home would pick my meal expenses. I usually took Kate with me. I was pinching pennies at the time, and that was a good way to have a date without its costing me. (The owner of the funeral home knew I took Kate with me, and he picked up her meals as well.)
I had intended to return to Florida after graduation; however, by late March, it was clear that we were getting serious. I decided to stay in Texas. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Kate’s mother was also noticing the signs of our budding romance. In 2013, after my dad’s death, my brother found about 100 letters I had written to my parents during my days at TCU. Among them was a letter from Kate’s mother to mine. It included the following paragraph.
I wish you could be experiencing with us all the fun and excitement of their friendship. Yesterday was the 19th and on Dec. 19th, Richard had his first date with Kate to attend the “Messiah.” So they celebrated a six-month dating anniversary with 6 lovely red roses. They have such wonderful times, and it keeps us young just watching them.
Appropriately, we became engaged on the first anniversary of our first date. Since then, December 19 has been special for us. Kate has long forgotten that, but I will always remember. Happy Anniversary, Kate. Because of you “I have been changed for good.”