He wasn’t my first choice, though he could have been. His curly black mullet and long eyelashes were more than enough to lure me in Eddy’s direction, but it was his best friend, Jim, who swooped in and made the first move.
Best friends since childhood, Eddy and Jim were students at Ninnekah – a tiny Oklahoma school located in Grady County. I didn’t come along until the 4th grade. Up until then, I attended West Elementary School in the nearby town of Chickasha. I was a year older than Eddy and Jim, so I didn’t know either of them until Junior High when the three of us took Mr. McGuire’s Algebra class. Even then, we did not interact; it wasn’t cool for a freshman like me to associate with 8th graders. For the entire year, Eddy and Jim sat on one side of the classroom, and I on another – each oblivious to the ties that would bind us three years later.
There were two groups of students at Ninnekah High School: those who were destined for college upon graduation, and those who weren’t. Eddy, Jim, and I fell into the second group; we didn’t have the financial backing to attend college until later in life. Thankfully, Oklahoma had a program that allowed high school Juniors and Seniors to learn a trade through occupational training. For four hours every morning, while our peers sat in stuffy high school classrooms, Eddy, Jim, and I attended Canadian Valley Vo-Tech and gained valuable on-the-job training and experience. Eddy was in the Auto Body program, Jim took Machine Shop, and I was in Secretarial Training. I saw Eddy and Jim every morning in the Vo-Tech parking lot. I parked my Chevy Chevette on the south side across from Jim’s 1968 Cougar, and Eddy’s 1971 GMC step-side pickup. It was in this parking lot where the first words among us were spoken.
“You left your lights on,” Jim told me as I hurriedly walked by him and Eddy on my way to class. I turned around and saw that I had, in fact, left them on. “Thanks,” I said, returning to my vehicle. It was still uncool to associate with younger students.
Vo-Tech was half a day; therefore, we took normal classes back at the high school after lunch. As I headed to Mrs. Stockton’s Marriage and Childcare class, Eddy and Jim sauntered over to Mrs. Pruitt’s Typing class. Unfortunately, neither showed any promise of ever learning to type. After two weeks, Mrs. Pruitt kindly recommended they withdraw from her class – and that his how the boys ended up sitting at my table in Marriage and Child Care.
Eddy and Jim were hilarious. Like Abbott and Costello, the comedic duo fed off each other’s humor, charisma, and charm. They started to grow on me; they made me laugh.
Towards the end of the semester, Mrs. Stockton assigned Jim and I to a research project that involved planning a wedding and honeymoon on a fixed budget. We got an “A” on the assignment. Before the semester was over, Jim and I were dating.
Meanwhile, Eddy met a girl named Sheri. She was from Chickasha. The four of us double dated every weekend. When we had money, we went to Pizza Inn and shared two large pepperoni pizzas. When we were broke, we played Wahoo and drank beer at Jim’s house.
The four of us were inseparable, so when an Air Force recruiter promised Eddy and Jim they could sign up and serve together, we were all in. Known as the Buddy Program, this recruitment tool enticed future Airmen with a promise to attend Basic Military Training with a friend. If they played their cards right, the recruiter said, they could even attend the same tech school and get stationed at the same base! The boys took the bait. Both signed the dotted-line, entered the Delayed Entry Program, and got hitched while they waited to go to boot camp.
Eddy and Sheri were married first. I was the Maid of Honor and Jim was the Best Man. Eddy returned the honor four months later and stood next to Jim at our wedding. Everything was going as planned, then the Air Force suddenly changed the play. Eddy was called up to attend Basic Training in December 1991; Jim wouldn’t get to go until June 1992. Uncle Sam failed to keep his promise; we were devastated.
Phone calls, letters, and Christmas cards allowed us to stay in touch after we went our separate ways. Every few years, we took leave and met up in our hometown. Each visit felt like old times. Eight years passed when the visits came to an abrupt halt at the news of Eddy and Sheri’s divorce. Having known Eddy longer, I naturally gravitated towards him to offer support. Ironically, he did the same for me two years later when divorce invaded my own life.
Eddy and I bonded through our experiences. We talked on the phone on a regular basis and emailed daily. When I completed my bachelor’s degree in 2002, Eddy sent me a large bouquet of yellow roses with a note that said he was proud of me. The phone calls started lasting for hours; on many occasions, our conversation outlasted my phone battery. It had been four years since our last visit; we decided it was time for a reunion.
I was living in New Mexico at the time and Eddy was stationed in Utah. We decided I would fly to Utah and then he would drive us to Las Vegas for a 4-day mini vacation. Seeing Eddy again felt like home. I had missed my friend.
You know that old saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? Well, in our case, what happened in Vegas did not stay there. In fact, it followed me home. What happened in Vegas was I fell in love with the Best Man.
Soon after our Vegas trip, I moved to Utah. Eddy proposed shortly thereafter. Being the honorable man that he was, and is to this day, Eddy insisted upon receiving Jim’s blessing, to which Jim happily provided. Eddy and I were married in 2003 in a little wedding chapel in Edmond, Oklahoma. This time, the Best Man and Maid of Honor were Eddy’s children – my new bonus children – Wade and Shani.
He wasn’t my first choice, though he could have been. But one thing is true: Eddy was and always will be my Best Man.