Whenever I meet new people I like to tell them the story of how I met my buddy Roger’s wife Wanda.
There are a number of reasons for this. Mostly, it’s a stinkin’ funny story. But it also gets a few things about me out there which saves time as well as lets people know that I’m not hung up on a lot of things.
At the time Roger and I were stationed together with 3rd Recon Battalion in Okinawa. Roger and I had struck up a friendship that we still maintain today.
One day, during martial arts training, Roger and I were trading hip throws when he suggested that we all go out to dinner that night so he could introduce me to Wanda. She and I both grew up in Hawaii so he was sure we would hit it off.
Since Wanda had heard there was a local boy around she was naturally excited to meet someone from home. The usual battery of questions ensued. Since we had the islands in common these questions went something like this:
“Do your parents still live in Hawaii?” Wanda asked animatedly.
“No, not anymore.”
Her enthusiasm as yet undiminished, she pressed on, “Oh, what does your father do now?”
“Well he passed away a few years ago so he’s not doing a whole lot.” This was true. It’s not something that keeps me up at night. He had led a good, adventurous life with no regrets. Works for me.
“Oh Michael! I’m so sorry to hear that.” Wanda turned in the passenger seat in the front of the van and gave me a sympathetic look. At the time I was not yet America’s 1stSgt, so this was forgivable.
Unbowed, Wanda immediately brightened up moving on to a subject less depressing as death.
“So where does your mother live then?”
“She has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home in California.” This was also true. Alzheimer’s sucks and wishing death on someone is less cruel than wishing them this disease. But once again, it was a fact of my life and not something I spent a lot of time bemoaning.
“Oh my gosh! Michael that’s so sad. I’m sorry.” Wanda was no quitter though. Gamely she moved on to better and brighter topics.
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” She beamed hopefully.
It is a well known fact by friends of mine that I am an only child. Some would even venture that this fact alone could explain any number of things about my character. People closer to me would say those friends don’t have much of an imagination. Me? I have plenty of imagination.
“My brother was killed last year in a drunk driving accident.” Sighing, I slumped my shoulders in artificial melancholy.
“OH MY GOD MICHAEL, I AM SOOOOOOOOOO SORRY!”
At that point, poor Wanda was truly grieving on my behalf. She also felt utterly sick that she had dredged up what were no doubt feelings of great loss from the inky black mire of my broken heart.
Roger, who knew my true sibling status, valiantly tried to keep the the van in between the lines on the road as he endured what can only be described as a grand mal seizure attempting to stifle his laughter.
Dispirited and sorrowful, Wanda caught her husband’s full body spasms on the edge of her field of vision. Realization crept into her eyes as she turned to face my crooked smile.
“YOU ARE SUCH A JERK!”
Wanda totally digs me.
Now America’s SgtMaj