“Hi, how y'all doing?”
That’s how it started back in 1961 at Fulton Junior High School in Van Nuys. It was the start of the fall semester and I was a new student recently arrived from Dallas. She was in the ninth grade, the homeroom secretary.
I had been walked to homeroom by the front office staff and turned over to the teacher. The teacher in turn called her up to the front of the class and introduced us. "Judy, this is David, he is a new student here. Would you please show him around the school and answer any questions?" I smiled at her and said, “Hi, how y'all doing?” She later told me that when she looked up and saw my blue eyes, and heard my Texas accent, her heart just melted.
We would hang out a lot during that school year -- just as friends. At the junior high school graduation, I introduced her to my parents and she introduced me to hers. After the graduation ceremony, I told my parents, “I’m gonna marry her.” They scoffed and said, "Sure, son."
We started dating in high school. We attended football games together and ate lunch together. Every day after PE class, I would wait for her. On one occasion, we were standing by the PE building, my arm around her shoulder when a female PE teacher told us to report to the vice principal's office. The teacher claimed we were getting "too hot and heavy” and we were told to cool it. One day, Judy brought a diamond ring to school to show me. Having heard that diamonds are the hardest stone and can cut glass, I asked if I could hold it. I proceeded to carve our initials into one of the classroom windows.
We married when she was 19 and I was 20.
We began our life together in a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Van Nuys. She would walk up to the bus stop and catch a bus to her job at a department store. I would drive our only vehicle to my job at an aircraft/defense plant in Santa Monica. Life was simple, life was good. I was earning $2.25 an hour, and could pay the bills and still have fun. About a year into my married life, my best friend’s father asked me if I wanted to spend my life working in a sheet metal shop at the aircraft plant. He then suggested I think about going to college.
She supported me for the four years it took to get a degree from the school that later became Cal State Los Angeles. That degree allowed me to apply for and become an investigator for the U.S. Department of Justice.
While I was at my training academy in Washington, D.C., she came to visit one weekend with news:
“Honey, I have something to tell you. I’m pregnant!”
The one-bedroom was exchanged for a two-bedroom apartment, also in Van Nuys, to accommodate our first daughter. Five years later, our second daughter came and we moved into a house in Granada Hills.
My job took us to Mexico for four years, where my wife learned very passable “kitchen Spanish” and how to drive around some of the narrow colonial-era streets in Merida, Yucatan, where we were stationed.
We both retired and were looking forward to enjoying travel and grandkids.
Then in 2011 the lump was found.
Then the biopsy, and then the news.
We continue to fight this disease as best we can, but we know what the outcome will be.
Every 10 years or so after we graduated from high school, we would go by the high school and to see if our initials were still there, carved into the classroom window. Those initials stayed there, until 2001. That year, on Valentine’s Day, my wife presented me with the window. She'd gone to the school and explained the whole story to the principal. The principal had one of the maintenance people remove the glass from the frame and give it to her. (My wife made a monetary donation to the school to replace the window.)
We still have that window pane.
In December, we took off to Hawaii to celebrate our 50th anniversary and renew our wedding vows.
We look forward to as many days, months or years together as life will give us.
Every morning, I still ask her: “How y'a’ll doing?”
The author lives in Simi Valley and wrote this as a 50th anniversary gift for his wife.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. We pay $300 a column. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.