Monday, November 13, 2006

Gene's Wrinkles

Gene moved frequently when he was a young boy. His father was killed in a car wreck when Gene was two years old, a loss that perhaps triggered something in his Mom that filled her with the desire to move. Gene went to 14 different schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. This nomadic childhood played a big part in who he is and the way he is today. He is outgoing, friendly, and easily bonds with people.

Gene’s favorite place to live was right here in middle Tennessee. When he was in 2nd and 3rd grades, he attended LaVergne Primary School, Smyrna Primary School, and an elementary school in Antioch that he doesn’t remember. Tennessee offered things to do that were away from the California lifestyle. He felt safe here, and his Mom trusted that he could be safe here.

Gene was a Boy Scout while living in Tennessee. Although his Mom moved to several different towns, he remained with Pack 116. The stability of Pack 116 allowed him to go fishing for the first time, gave him his first camping trip, and let him shoot his first gun. He got to swim in Percy Priest Lake and he learned to skate at the Smyrna Skate Center. The two years in scouts passed too quickly before his Mom was ready to move on.

Gene eventually found himself in Ohio. His Mom worked for a minister, one who Gene doesn’t remember with fondness. He says he’s been in enough churches in his lifetime to instantly recognize whether ministers are good or bad, real or fake. Gene and his family were secondary to this particular minister, making life difficult. When his Mom had enough, she took the kids to a revival and left Gene home to pack the house.

Gene spent his 16th birthday packing boxes with clothes and other belongings. The next day, they moved to California and stayed for two weeks. He thought his Mom was joking when she said they were returning to Ohio. In one month, Gene packed, moved, unpacked, stayed two weeks, packed again, and came back to Ohio. Ironically, he and his family returned to the same apartment they had left because the manager didn’t realize they were even gone before they moved back in.

Although I don’t know his Mom, Neil Young’s lyrics to Unknown Legend remind me of her:

“Somewhere on a desert highway
She rides a Harley-Davidson
Her long blonde hair flyin' in the wind
She's been runnin' half her life
The chrome and steel she rides
Collidin' with the very air she breathes
The air she breathes.”

Gene’s life is more settled now. He and his wife Kristina have been married 12 ½ years and live with their cat, Popcorn, on over two acres. Gene met Kristina when they both worked as security guards in California. She was working to put herself through school; Gene was working to get paid. Although Kristina was engaged, they hit it off. Gene described the first time they talked as meeting your long lost friend for the first time. He later learned that they shared a friend when someone came by to say hello during. The three friends chatted for awhile, and Gene and Kristina went back to work after he left.

Kristina turned to Gene and said, “You know Arthur?”
Gene said, “Yeah, I know him and his wife.”

Kristina didn’t say a word, so Gene didn’t realize that Arthur was more than just a friend to her. Several weeks later, they were assigned together on another post – a fire-watch for an empty metal building. That’s when she confided in Gene that Arthur had been her fiancé.

While she was telling Gene about the nightmare of getting Arthur out of her life, he realized Kristina was single. Gene furiously courted her: he called her, brought her hot fudge cakes, and made a presence in her life although she was clear that she just wanted to be friends. One evening they found themselves at Las Bristas Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California drinking strawberry gold margaritas. After dinner, they went for a walk on the beach and kissed, with the sound of ocean becoming “their song.” Within five months, Gene and Kristina were married. Kristina is the love of Gene’s life, and with her he has finally put his roots down.


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