You never know when you will find someone. It seems to happen when you are not really looking. So it was with Corey’s mom.
Woody just happened to be home on leave the same time I was there waiting for my deployment date to roll around. It was a good thing too – I needed someone to talk to about the real possibility of not coming home. That is just something you do not talk to your mom or even you dad about.
Woody and I hit the old spots, but especially the little “quick stops” that would sell us beer in high school. Our favorite was a little grocery/gas station in a remote area called Bitter Creek. The store is still there today and only a few miles from where I live today.
It is strange how boys are always old enough to fight and die for their country, but not old enough to drink or vote. Makes no freakin’ sense whatsoever!
One evening Woody asked me to accompany him to Connie’s. I did not know her but I knew her best friend Betty Anne, and Woody’s sister. I do not remember if Woody was trying to date Connie, or if they were just best friends, but after that first night, Connie and I spent almost every waking moment together.
She was fun loving and seemed to enjoy my wicked sense of humor. We also shared a love for music, but it was a much more tranquil taste in music than I developed in later years. We loved Dylan, the Mamas & Papas, The Righteous Brothers, Johnny Rivers, Bob Lind, Percy Sledge, Simon and Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Temptations, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, Aretha Franklin, and of course, the Beatles and Elvis.
I think it was the mood that set the tone for the songs we liked. We both knew I was leaving and that a “sad goodbye” day was coming soon. So, we did not listen to the Stones, the Byrds or the Yardbirds, Paul Revere & the Raiders, or groups like the Beau Brummels – much too upbeat.
But one stupid song still resounds in my head, but it says more about the time than I could ever write. The chorus from Bob Lind’s “Elusive Butterfly of Love” goes:
Don't be concerned, it will not harm you
It's only me pursuing somethin' I'm not sure of
Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love
In any other state of mind, I would have hated that song, but it reflected my inner feelings at the time. I did not know if I was falling in love or if I was just holding on to someone because I was afraid I was about to die. She comforted me in my hour of need. The other question that puzzled me was it her, or just because she was there.
Nonetheless, we filled up each of the thirty days I had with dimly lit quiet times in each other’s arms, listening to soft moody music.
Another song that still rattles in my brain from that uncertain time was “Monday, Monday” from the Mamas & Papas. It seemed to hauntingly remind us each time that there was a Monday coming that we dreaded:
Monday Monday, can't trust that day,
Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Monday Monday, how could you leave and not take me.
Monday finally came and it was time to go. I had said my goodbye to Connie the evening before, and now it was time to tell my mom and dad not to worry. “I’ll be okay…I’ll be back before you know it!”
My dad and I posed for a shot the day they took me to Knoxville. It was one of the few times he and I actually hugged. Most of our affection was displayed through wrestling matches in the living room floor, where he usually pinned me and tickled me until I almost cried!
On the way we stopped at Shoney’s in Oak Ridge and had a last meal together. The concern they had for me was obvious in their eyes, but we actually said little to each other that morning.
All the time I was offering these words of brave support, I knew inside why I could never dream forward in my life. This was the reason I could never imagine myself with a nice car, a pretty wife, and children. It was destiny playing out, and so I left for Vietnam with the thought in my mind that I was never coming back.
A month after arriving The Stones released their “Paint It Black,” which to me was prophetic:
I see a line of cars and they're all painted black
With flowers and my love both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a new born baby it just happens ev'ry day
I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and it has been painted black
Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts
It's not easy facin' up when your whole world is black
Obviously I made it, but until I arrived home a year later you could not have convinced me otherwise. I lived one day short of a full year under this mental anguish. Monday has always had a bad connotation for me, and even today when I hear the word, I think back to that Monday in March of 1966, and how hard it was to walk away and toward my perceived destiny.