The Best Revenge

“So, do you want my phone number?” Darryl asked me.

“I think that’s my line,” I responded, laughing.

Valentine’s Day crept up on me this year. Exhausted from the past twelve months of hell dealing with the pandemic, I remembered this sweet moment from the beginning of my relationship with my husband and smiled. The innocence of that moment, the humor, and the promise take my breath away almost forty years after that conversation.

On October 23, 1981, the puzzle pieces of the life God had already laid out for me began to come together. I couldn’t have been more clueless at the time. God’s plan and ours are so often different.

I had been through some rough years at Alexander Junior High and my sophomore year at North Mecklenburg High School had only been marginally better. It was the beginning of my junior year and only six weeks in, I had experienced a break up with a boyfriend. In the fallout, he transferred to Olympic High School in Charlotte. It just so happened that on the Friday following the breakup North’s football team would face off against Olympic’s at our home stadium. As usual, I attended the game with my best friend, Terri. We got in the gate for free on my dad’s announcer’s pass and made our way to the hill near the end zone where most of our friends congregated. We had been there less than half an hour when my recent ex-boyfriend walked up with his arm around a girl I didn’t know. Terri and I walked off and went over to the concrete bleachers on the home side of the field. Terri spoke to her old neighbor, Darryl Holder, a guy I knew only slightly from a brief meeting at Putt Putt back in the summer, and his best friend, Mike Phillips. We sat down beside them and, after some small talk, I asked, “So, do you guys want to help me make someone jealous?” They were up for it, so a few minutes later, I strolled over to the visitor’s side of the field with a good looking guy on each arm. As soon as I knew my ex had seen us, we went back to the seats in the bleachers and I sat there between Darryl and Mike for the rest of the game. 

When the game was over, Mike told us he and Darryl were going to Pizza Inn after he picked up his girlfriend, Lisa, who was just getting off work at Bojangles, the newest fast food restaurant chain in Charlotte. He asked if we wanted to go, too. We said sure. Kids from North hung out at both Pizza Inn and Godfather’s Pizza after every game, so this was nothing new. Darryl rode with Terri and me to Pizza Inn and when Mike and Lisa arrived, we joined some other friends at their big table. When it came time to leave, Lisa and Mike wanted to go somewhere by themselves, so Darryl needed a ride back to his car. Terri was riding home with her brother, so that left Darryl and I alone on the drive back. When we got to Lisa’s house where Darryl had left his car we sat talking in the moonlight in her driveway. Somehow, after a while, there was a first awkward kiss. Then, when he started to get out of my car, that question from Darryl: Do you want my number?

Truthfully, I did most of the pursuing in the beginning. Darryl was in my dad’s Graphic Arts class two periods a day and I think he felt it would be weird for him to date his teacher’s daughter. He soon overcame that fear and, before I knew it, we were together every morning as soon as we got to school, on the phone for hours every night, and going out every weekend. My strict mother only allowed me to go out on dates one night a week and almost never on school nights. Darryl was allowed to come to our house on the weekend night we didn’t go out, so, we planned our Friday and Saturday nights around those rules.

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Like most of our peers, we spent a lot of time at Eastland Mall: seeing movies, shopping, and circling the mall looking for our friends. From there, we would go to Putt Putt on Albemarle Road to play video games and talk to everyone else hanging out there. Almost every weekend, we would go to Darryl’s Restaurant, our favorite, not just because of the name, but also because they had great food at reasonable prices. I had always been a lover of music and we saw nearly every early 1980s concert at the old Charlotte Coliseum. We spent a lot of time watching television on the couch in my parent’s formal living room, even though, in winter, it could feel like 100º in there with the wood stove going. (I always figured my dad stoked the fire up to keep us from getting too close. LOL!)

There were some bumps in the road for Darryl and I after high school graduation in 1983. Our two year relationship was tested first by my anxiety disorder, which first reared its ugly head as we prepared to go off to Appalachian State University, and, again, by a reappearance of the boyfriend who I’d been trying to make jealous at that football game that got Darryl and I together in the first place. Darryl and I broke up for nine months while I sorted myself and my feelings out. I found out a lot about myself during that time. Most of all, I found out I was miserable without Darryl. Luckily for me, he felt the same way. We were back together by March of 1984, engaged that August, and married on June 15, 1985.

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I had transferred to UNCC in December of 1983 after one semester at Appalachian. Darryl had decided to come home and go to work after a year at App. My dad and I started CRC Printing Co. in June 1984, after my first semester at UNCC. By the end of the school year in 1986 the business had grown to a point where Dad could leave his teaching job at North. I graduated college a semester early and went full time with the printing business in December 1986. Darryl was working for a printer in Charlotte, so we stole him away and brought him onboard at CRC.

Thirty-five years later, Darryl and I are still working together every day and, since Dad retired in 2002, we have now owned the business longer than he did. Clients tell me all the time that they don’t know how we work together. They say they would kill their spouse if they had to spend so much time together. I think it works out for us because we are polar opposites. I am Type A all the way. I handle the deadlines, the details, and the finances. Darryl is Mr. Laid Back. He never gets stressed and he has an excellent work ethic. While I am freaking out, he is steadily plugging along, making the donuts, so to speak. He couldn’t balance a checkbook if his life depended on it and I can’t turn on most of the equipment in the shop. We don’t often step on each others’ toes. Our strengths and weaknesses complement each other. We balance each other out.

Since we have been together more than two thirds of our lives, I’m asked sometimes for the secret to our marriage. I think there are many. First, we were blessed to have parents who had ’til death do us part marriages. We grew up with that example of perseverance. We saw our parents weather the storms and stick together. I put a lot of stock in that. Most of my friends whose parents are divorced have experienced a divorce themselves. I believe we most often learn what we live.

I also place great stock in the fact that we don’t share a bank account and haven’t since about six months into our marriage. That’s all the time it took to figure out that our vastly different personalities (Type A + Type B) couldn’t handle co-mingled finances. I watch my friends steam about their spouse texting them three seconds after they make a purchase to ask why they were spending X amount on whatever and I just shake my head and wonder why anyone would put their self in that position. We never argue over money. Never. At least not since 1985 when we got those separate accounts.

You would think since we get along so well and spend so much time together that we would have everything in common. You would be wrong. Darryl loves “space shit” (my words) like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Close Encounters. He loves science fiction movies; the louder the better. He loves football. Every one of those things I just mentioned are torture to me. I love reading, with the sound of ocean waves in the background (real or created by Alexa). I love Jackson Browne. I love Ryan Gosling movies like The Notebook. I’m pretty sure if he just read that, Darryl rolled his eyes. Luckily, we are both very independent. When he wants to watch The Walking Dead, I am perfectly content to go in another room, close the door, and lose myself in a good novel. He’s willing to watch Sunday afternoon Panther’s games out in his woodworking shop while I cross-stitch in front of the television tuned to the Investigation Discovery channel.

now

We both love the beach. We both love to go to the movies. We both love good food. We both love spending time with our friends (though they have scattered to different states over the years making it harder to get together as much as we used to). We both love and value our own and each others’ families. He loves my cooking and I love that he does dishes. Those are our commonalities and our strengths.

The beautiful thing about time is how it gives you perspective. When I was going through some of those rough times in junior high that nearly broke me I so wish I could have had a window into why they were happening. Now, over forty years later I can look back and see that all of it was part of God’s plan. If I hadn’t had the trials and the losses I did, I would not have been in the Putt Putt that night, meeting Darryl briefly for that first time. Had it not been for the boyfriend troubles on that October night in 1981, I would not have taken that seat in the bleachers and asked for that favor that led to that kiss and that question I remember so fondly. Had we not had the rough patch, the break up that showed us how much we missed each other when we weren’t together, we might have taken what we have for granted. All of it, every trial and triumph was God’s plan for us. I truly believe that and can so clearly see how the moving parts were orchestrated to bring us together under the vapor lights so long ago.

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