Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Then Came Tom," in HOME IS WHERE...

         In March 1964, a local girl, Margie, asked me to go on a blind date with her boyfriend’s brother, Tom, who would drive. The brothers were from Brooklyn and came up every week-end, from March to September. Every week Margie would have to find Tom a date. I said that I didn't know but I'd let her know tomorrow, and the next day I said, ”Alright, but just this once.”

         So on April 11, 1964, Tom and I had the blind date. I was only 15, but when I came home after midnight on the 12th, I was 16. This same Tom has been my husband now since August 15, 1964, after four months of dating. It has been 50 years of marriage as of this year,  a wonderful marriage to my best friend, companion, and care-giver.

         When I was dating Tom for the four months before we got married, he would come up from Brooklyn on Saturday morning, and he and his family would stay at their country home. He would come to pick me up, and we would spend the day together and go to the movies at night. Sunday was church and afterwards a ride and then they would go back to Brooklyn. During the week, Margie and I would go to the post office to get our letters and then over to Watt’s drugstore for a Maybrook special, a sundae for $.25, and then we would go back home.

                 It was a very long week before I saw Tom again. One Saturday when he came to get me, Mommy had the day off. She came over to the car, opened the back door, and put Nancy in, saying, "Oh, I'm sure it's all right if she goes."

                 What was Tom supposed to say?

                 We talk often of the Saturday night he came to pick me up for our first blind date. There we were: me, Mom, Grandma, Daddy, and Nancy. I wonder what he was thinking.

         I know it was a big shock to many when we said we wanted to get married, but we were dead sure this was what we wanted.

         Finally, my mother and father said okay, and we were married on August 15, 1964. Afterward, we moved to Brooklyn to live in an apartment next door to his mom and dad. We had a five-room apartment for $35 a month, but I was scared to death of the neighborhood, and we moved back to Maybrook in February. Someday I would like to see again that street and apartment where we started our married life.

              Before I met Tom, his mom, his brother and he used to shop at Chaffee's. Doreen worked there, but not I, and his mom was trying to fix Tom and Doreen up for a date. It didn't happen, but she got another Blake girl for the family anyway.

              My dad liked Tom a lot. I believe he thought he had finally gotten his boy, a son. Tom would help him do things around the house and take him places. Dad used to collect scrap metal and take it to Newburgh for his “mad money.”

              Tom, Mom, and Dad loved Grandma Blake. Tom’s dad used to listen to stories she would tell. He really enjoyed them. He called her "Ma Blake."

              In February 2011, after being sick with I-didn't-know-what, and having gone to three different doctors, I had a lung biopsy and was told that I had a terminal lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, a death sentence within three to five years. Dad said (I call my husband "Dad"), “Oh, hell no, you are not going anywhere.”

              I had been going to this doctor for two and three-quarter years but switched to one closer; on my first visit, she told me I didn't have pulmonary fibrosis, and that it doesn't have to be a death sentence, anyway.

              My husband has been my support and cheerleader. Thank you, God, for this blind date!


              We are serializing Kathleen Blake Shields's upbeat book, Home is Where the Story Begins: Memoir of a Happy Childhood, available in paperback from its publisher, Outskirts Press, and from online booksellers such as and I am proud to have coached Kathy and edited for her.

              My writing-coaching-editing site is

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