So much of who I am is grounded in my wife and three kids. They’re truly my foundation. I have the courage to go out and face the world each day because I know that they are always going to be there to love me when I get home and catch me when I fall. I figure if you and I, faithful reader, are going to really connect on the journey that is BigCalfGuy, I thought we should go back to where it all began.
Picture it, 1992…
Freshman year at Schenck High School, East Millinocket. The air is full of excitement as the incoming Frosh from Medway join the East Mill kids for the first time. A beautiful young girl notices the maturity, of all things, in a geeky young man named Ryan. Ryan, not nearly as mature as Bethany has come to believe, notices her cute butt. Shakespeare this ain’t.
Given the nature of film photography, and the world that was 1992, I have very few photos from that time. Given that it was 20+ years ago, I can’t find the ones I do have.
Ryan plays no sports, has terrible acne, HUGE glasses and even bigger hair. I think I may have had braces. What’s the word for an awkward kid who gets great grades, has very few close friends, and can’t dribble a basketball? That was me. Bethany was just up from Medway Middle, where in her eighth grade year, she ruled the school. Now she was part of the incoming minority in a school filled with new faces. She was shy.
Our very first trip to the top of Mt. Katahdin. I can only guess by the UNE t-shirt that I’m wearing, that it’s at least 1996.
The pairing of our young couple may never have happened if not for a mutual friend, also named Beth. For the sake of conversation, let’s call her Beth2. Beth recognized the spark between Beth and I, but also recognized that neither of us knew what to do with it. She took Beth for a walk around town, stopping at my house “by chance” and inviting me along, spurring on the conversation. There were other friends, and other examples, but it’s clear this thing wasn’t getting off the ground of its own accord.
I had finally gotten the courage up to ask her to our Winter Carnival, which is East’s version of Prom. This takes place in March. We began dating from about that point in the spring. When I went to my family’s camp in the summer, we drifted apart. Mostly because I was a boy, and had her number wrong. In the fall when we re-connected, we found we had drifted too far. We broke up for about 2 weeks, during which time Beth wrote me a letter detailing how she felt. It was exactly as I had been feeling, too. The next day after English class, I again asked her out. The first time, Beth tells me I said “for lack of a better way to put it, do you want to go out?” The second time, I was less eloquent, “wanna try again?” Both times my answer was ‘sure’.
My hawaiian themed 21st birthday party in Portland, ME.
We were pretty inseparable after that. My Mom was dating the Assistant Principal at the time, and we were once pulled out of class when my little sister started rumors in the Jr. High, and he wanted to talk to us about it. Small town. If we even tried to give each other a little peck before separating to our respective classes, we always got caught. I swear Mrs. Rosebush lurked behind doors and in lockers. She would spring out of anywhere to catch us. By Senior year, we had been to three Winter Carnivals. I was Editor of the yearbook and Beth was Executive Assistant to the Editor. It was a position that had never before existed, but even our faculty advisor knew he couldn’t keep us apart. I was manager of the cross country team, just to be with Beth. I went to all the basketball games because Beth was in the band. We acted in plays together. Like I said, inseparable.
One of the annual semi-formal dances at UNE. Note the cool wall hanging!
By 1996, we were seniors and had been dating FOREVER in teen years. Beth had applied to the University of New England (UNE) in Biddeford for Nursing, and I was applying there myself for Physical Therapy. We were going to spend our first summer as grown-ups waiting tables in Bar Harbor. I had rented a room in a very scary house; Beth was staying at the YWCA with Beth2. We, of course, worked the same shifts at the same restaurant. We even went back there between Freshman and Sophomore years in college. Great times! The restaurant was a little greasy spoon. There was no fast food on the island, so people would invariably find their way to us before the ends of their vacations. It was the only place in town where you could feed a family of 4 for $25. It was the place where you’d enter and see your waitress take a final bite of her own meal, take one last drag from her cigarette, grab a menu, and come say Hi. A one of a kind experience.
Beth getting her nurse’s cap after her first semester of Nursing School.
At UNE, we were in the same dormitory and I was named the only honorary male member of Padua Hall First Floor. I think they even made me a certificate. By our third year, it was time to get off campus and find an apartment. Our first apartment came with a revolving door of ‘roommates.’ We weren’t grown up (or married) enough to live together without at least SOME supervision. Biddeford being the gem of a city that it is, we only had the one attempted murder outside our place. My truck was only vandalized the one time, and after a few months, the trains that rolled by across the tracks and shook our apartment six times a day was hardly noticeable. But it was home. It was a three story, two-apartment wide complex and we were on the second floor. Two of our ‘bedrooms’ didn’t even have windows. They just opened into the kitchen or the den.
Our first meal in our very first apartment. Melissa, our first roommate, took this shot. Pretty classy!
When we graduated in 2001, I had a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy, and Beth had gotten her Associate degree in Nursing, passed her boards, became an RN, and had gone back to school for her Bachelor degree in Elementary Education. We graduated in May, got married in June, and were pregnant by September. But that’s another story…
Now, in 2013, we’ve been together for 20 years, having dated for 8 through high school and college, and celebrating our 12th year of marriage this past June. At this point in the game, Beth is as much a part of me as I am. We finish each other’s sentences, have each other’s backs, and work pretty damn well together as a team. I am a lucky guy.
Beth and I at graduation in 2001. Me with my Master’s hood, her with her Bachelor in Elementary Ed. Note her magna cum laude ropes.
Mr. and Mrs. Whitehouse entering the reception hall after our wedding, June 9, 2001.