So I’m lolling in the pink bathtub browsing through the antique store in my brain when I hit upon the fact that it’s Dec. 17. Oh! I say, my eyes popping wide open. Oh.
It’s the 35th anniversary of my first date with Fred Lick, who changed my life. We met at a Christmas party at my brother’s house. I was divorced, my latest relationship come to a disastrous ending. I had quit my newspaper job to sing with this country music show that was supposed to travel the country and make us all rich, but we only got as far as Redding, California before it went bankrupt. I was doing temporary secretary work, singing a few gigs with an accordion-playing friend, and living with my parents again. Everyone else seemed to be coupled and happily employed, and I felt like a 31 ½ year old loser sitting by the Christmas tree with my parents.
I went to the kitchen to get a drink. There was Fred, sipping wine by the refrigerator. He had been my brother’s boss in the San Jose Recreation Department—back before Mike became a hotshot lawyer and judge—and now they were friends. I had met him once before, but he was with his wife then and seemed so very married. Now, his marriage of 25 years had fallen apart. We started talking. It felt easy and right. He asked if he could call me. Suddenly everything looked bright and shiny.
On our date, Fred took me to Mirassou Winery to pick up wine he had ordered for Christmas—who buys that much wine, I thought—to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and then to a video store to pick up a couple VHS tapes to watch at his cozy rented house in Willow Glen. One thing led to another and . . . we didn’t see the end of the second movie. Gasp. Should I tell you that?
That was the beginning. We knew right away that this was it.We were married in May 1985 in the amphitheater at Evergreen Community College by a Methodist minister. Yes, Catholic friends, it wasn’t in a church, but I know God was there. I’m sure God brought us together. The men wore Mexican wedding shirts, I wore an embroidered dress imported from Mexico and a garland of baby’s breath flowers in my curly hair. The music for the wedding came from a mix tape we made of our favorite songs. We held the reception in the backyard of the house we were renting on Ardis Avenue, using tables and chairs borrowed from the recreation department. Our friend Pat Silva cooked a Portuguese feast. Our favorite piano bar player Scotty Wright played my piano in the patio. It was wonderful.
Fred was the best. As most readers know, he died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011 after nine years of that rotten condition. To the end, he loved me probably more than I deserved. And he gave me so much. I miss him all the time, especially during the holidays. But I am grateful.
Now, in my pink bathtub, I think about all he gave me, including this oversized house and enough money to keep living here, where I can loll in my pink bathtub with the big dog just outside the door and my office in the next room. But it’s not just tangible things. He gave me a love like I had never felt, and he taught me to love life. Life is good. People are good, he always said.
Where would I be without him? Still living in the one-bedroom apartment two blocks from my parents that I rented shortly after I met him, the one where ants kept invading and my elderly neighbor Vicki Schultz covered my counters with bay leaves? Or maybe I’d be far from there, having had to follow the newspaper jobs wherever I could find one. And what would I have done when the newspaper business started laying people off by the hundreds? I fell victim to several layoffs over the years, including the one at the Hayward Daily Review shortly after Fred and I were married. But thanks to Fred, I didn’t need a full-time job anymore. I could work part-time and write the books I’d dreamed of writing. And sing. Fred was always my biggest fan, happy to be my roadie and attend every performance.
Shoot, without Fred, I couldn’t even afford a microwave. I was lucky to have a car that worked some of the time. Ooh, flash back to that horrible temp job in Sunnyvale where my dad came to tow my dead, dented, primered VW bug with me in it behind his truck down Lawrence Expressway—oh my God. Fred, thank you for saving me.
I would not be in this house on the Oregon coast, where I can hear the storm-tossed ocean churning nearby. I probably would have stayed in California. I could have wound up in Paradise, the town that just burned in the massive Camp Fire. I interviewed for a job at the paper there ages ago. One of those destroyed homes could have been mine.
By the time I met Fred, I was sure I’d be alone forever, but I might have married someone else. I might have had children and grandchildren instead of just dogs. But surely we couldn’t love each other as much as Fred and I did. I have never met anyone as kind and smart and funny as he was. He wasn’t perfect, but that’s okay. We traveled, we sang, we laughed, we made love, we held each other when we cried. We were blessed.
Yes, we had a good first date. We used to celebrate two anniversaries, Dec. 17 and May 18. And now Dec. 17th has come again. It’s too early in the day for wine, so I’ll drink an orange juice toast and wish Fred a merry Christmas in heaven.
Now let’s buckle up. They say the storm coming later today is going to be a whopper.