Back in September of 1968 my grammar and high school friend, Joan, and I were freshman at Monroe Community College. Joan and I attended St. Andrew’s together, but it wasn’t until we went to Mercy High School that we became best friends. We did everything together. We were inseparable. I could write pages and pages about our high jinks.
It isn’t surprising then, that we decided to attend Monroe Community College together. (I didn’t really have much of a choice – my father didn’t want me to go away to school). We were pretty naïve young girls. We were excited to be free from an all-girls school and were more than ready to be around boys! MCC had plenty of them, so we were happy.
Joan was lucky enough to have her own car. Her father had given her his old ’58 Chevy back when she got her license. Even in high school, we had a lot of good times in that car. They were innocent, silly escapades and they were wonderful.
Since we attended the community college, we lived at home. Joan’s house was about a block down the street from my dad’s grocery store. Her house was on the corner of Fernwood Avenue and Rustic Street. Our future husbands, Doug and Tom, also attended MCC. They rented a half house about 5 houses up Rustic Street.
Doug and Tom had a third roommate, Tim. One morning, early in our first semester, Joan and I were in her Chevy on our way to class. As we headed toward Goodman Street, I saw Doug and Tim walking toward the bus stop. I recognized Doug from a chance meeting at my dad’s grocery store. He was in shopping one day just before the semester started. He told me about his roommates. They were older than Joan and I. They were transfers from other colleges, trying to catch up and figure out what they wanted to study.
So, on that September morning, Joan and I stopped and asked Doug and Tim if they needed a ride to class. That’s how it all started.
After that Doug and Tim drove with us often. We were all just friends at this point. Joan and I had not yet met Tom. He had his own car and his classes were at different times so it took a while before we finally got to meet him.
Tom was the quiet one. But his “hot” car made up for his introverted personality. Tom drove a dark green Ford Torino. It looked very much like the one pictured here. When Joan met Tom, I think it was love at first sight. I’m not sure if it was the car or the man, but it wasn’t long before she and Tom began dating.
From 1968 through the next ten years or so, the four of us were tight. Doug and I were in their wedding party, and Tom and Joan were in our wedding party. We gave birth to sons a month apart in 1976.
I’ve turned back the clock the last three days. It’s 1968. I’m 18. Steppenwolf is a popular rock band. And, while everyone loves, “Born to be Wild,” it’s their hit, “Magic Carpet Ride,” that is on my mind. The chorus plays over and over in my mind:
Well, you don’t know what we can find
Why don’t you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride
You don’t know what we can see
Why don’t you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free
Close your eyes girl
Look inside girl
Let the sound take you away
To this day when I am listening to oldies and I hear that song, I think of Tom. The song was his favorite back then. How I remember this I haven’t a clue. But I have never forgotten Tom driving the “Green Machine,” with that song blaring from his car speakers.
On Friday, the St. Andrew’s girls planned to meet for dinner and an evening of fun and laughter. This is the group I wrote about back on February 19th of this year. Roz was hosting. Early Friday morning she forwarded an email to us. It was from Joan letting her know she would not be joining us. Tom was in the intensive care unit. The email wasn’t totally clear. Tom had been sick and had gone into cardiac arrest. Her message said he was without oxygen for something like eight minutes. It was a long story. She would tell us more later.
She texted Roz later on Friday to say he was doing better. That was three days ago. I haven’t heard from Joan. I’ve sent her a couple of text messages to let her know that she and Tom were in my thoughts and prayers. Tom’s been on my mind since I’ve heard.
I haven’t been close with Tom and Joan as a couple since 1979. Joan and I keep in touch through our St. Andrew’s group. We meet for breakfast or lunch a few times a year. We exchange Christmas cards. We’ve buried our parents. We’ve each lived through the joy and drama of our own life stories.
Still, I consider Joan one of my oldest and dearest friends. No matter how much time passes between our visits, we are the same once we are together. I cannot imagine that we are now at this place in our lives. We will turn 61 this May, me on May 10th and Joan on May 24th. I’ve never forgotten our birthdays being so close.
I called the hospital today. Patient information tells me Tom is in satisfactory condition. Hopefully, we will hear from Joan in the next couple of days. She is busy with Tom and her family. They have each other and that’s a good thing.
I’ve listened to Tom’s theme song a few times today on YouTube. It’s a classic. It takes me back to such innocent and happy times. So, Tom, this one’s for you. I’ll be waiting to see you when you are up for visitors. In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.