It was now Sunday afternoon and I was back in Terre Haute for a few days, and Otey was in Missouri. That long drive from Tifton to Nashville had just added another layer to my feelings for Otey. I was crazy about him and the thought of being apart was almost unbearable. We would see each other again in four days. In four days we had another college rodeo. This time the rodeo was in Jonesboro, Arkansas and just so happened that it fell on Easter weekend. During those four days apart, Otey and I talked a ton. Every night I laid in bed and talked to him for hours. I was like a stupid 16 year old who walks around punch drunk on new love. You know the kind? The girl who applies every song she hears on the radio to her own life? That was me. Once again I am painting a vivid picture of what my love for Otey McCloy turned me in to…
a warm and fuzzy dork.
Thursday finally arrived and I found myself in Jonesboro hours before Otey arrived. I could not wait to see him. To hug him. To bask in his perfectness. I was in the announcer stand working when I saw the rig he was coming in pull up in the parking lot.
Butterflies filled my tummy and my head began to race… ***Does my hair look okay? Does my breath stink? Do I look happy to see him but not TOO happy to see him? Do I look like I’m working hard? Should I run out and hug him? Word is starting to get out that we are TOGETHER… does that mean I can act like I like him in front of the students in the region? Will he hurry up here to see me? Should I go down and meet him in the parking lot? Why does he always make me talk to myself?***
I decided to play it cool. I waited for him to make his way up to the announcer stand. Since we had some what came out of the closet the weekend prior, it was a little more comfortable of a work environment. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t make out on my desk or anything (not that I wouldn’t have if he’d asked) but we were able to at least be around each other without feeling like we had to hide the fact that we were more than just friends.
I specifically remember when he came up the stairs to the announcer stand that Thursday afternoon. My desk was facing a wall just inside the door so when you came up the stairs, I was sitting on your immediate right… I mean IMMEDIATE… like two foot inside the door. As he came in the door I remember my heart seriously skipping a beat and he put his hand on my shoulder as he squeezed in the door. He smiled his big smile. The one that makes the deep lines around his eyes appear. The same smile that made (and still makes) me die every time. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but I was too busy dieing. There were other people in the announcer stand with us so I’m sure it wasn’t anything profound. I was so happy to see him, to feel his hand on my shoulder that I didn’t care if he stood there and said the Pledge of Allegiance. I just wanted to look at those deep lines around his eyes and die three more times.
We made it through the performance and the slack that night. Thursday night is always very late, so we ran through a drive through after the slack and sat in the parking lot of his hotel and talked for awhile. I drove back to my own hotel that night so happy and content, and yet so nervous thinking about the next day. The next day…. I was going to meet Otey’s parents.
Friday morning I again beat Otey out to the rodeo (rodeo secretaries are always the first to arrive at the rodeo arena, and usually the last to leave). He got there about an hour after me carrying his coffee and looking as handsome as ever. He told me that his parents were on their way, and that his Mom told him she had an “Easter surprise” for him and his little brother Ben. A little later he came back with an update on the “Easter surprise”.
Otey’s Mom called and said she was bringing her two grown sons an Easter gift. Each of their Easter gifts came in their very own Easter kennel. She said she was bringing them bunnies. Otey thought she was joking, but then Otey’s parent’s arrived, bearing gifts…
Yes my friends, Otey’s Mom brought her two grown sons GIANT BUNNIES for Easter! How flippin’ funny is that?
I was still finishing up my work after the slack when Festus and Rastus (that’s what Otey & Ben named them) arrived, but the buzz made it to the announcer stand. I called Otey’s cell phone to see if it was true and he confirmed. He was standing in the parking lot looking little Festus right in the eyes. He wasn’t holding little Festus because little Festus… he didn’t like to be held. Little Festus was a little grumpy and had a tendency to scratch anyone who wanted to do more that stare at him through the wire door on the kennel. Oh my gosh I still am cracking up even seven years later typing this. Is that not the funniest thing you have ever heard? I wish I had a photo of those two bunnies to post here. They were HUGE.
After Georgia (Otey’s Mom) had time to enjoy her handy work everyone except for Otey and I headed off to the restaurant to eat. There were a whole bunch of people that went. There were a couple other sets of parents that had drove down from Missouri to watch their sons compete. So, Ben, Georgia & Bill (Otey’s parents), and about 12 more people went ahead of us and were saving two seats with our name on them.
I was about to meet Otey’s parents. Not only was I about to meet Otey’s parents…. but I was also about to meet about four more sets of parents and sit at a table with 15 people who had known each other for YEARS.
You know that awkward feeling when you are the only one who doesn’t know everyone? The awkward feeling when you don’t get the inside jokes and old stories? Well, cross that with the awkward feeling of meeting the love of your life’s parents… your future inlaws… for the very first time. THAT’S how nervous I was.
I finished up my work and we headed over to the restaurant. When we pulled in to the parking spot, Otey turned off the truck and as I started to jump out, he grabbed my arm on the console and stopped me.
Otey: “Wait… there’s something I need to tell you before we go in.”
***What the heck? Is he an ex-con? Does he have a wife and kids somewhere that I don’t know about? Did he pick his nose and eat it when he was a kid? What is he scared they are going to tell me? What could possibly be weighing so heavy on him that he feels the need to have a big talk RIGHT before I meet his parents for the first time?***
Otey: “I just want you to know before we go in there that my Mom could possibly say anything at any moment and she’s probably going to say something funny and try to embarrass me”.
Now I walked across the parking lot of the restaurant, holding Otey’s hand, with a near vomiting feeling in the pit of my stomach. Like my reoccurring nightmare of being in front of my high school assembly in just my underwear. THAT kind of feeling. I decided to just march in their with confidence and face the music. I knew I was going to marry Otey. I knew that these were going to be my inlaws, so there was no time like the present to meet them.
We walked up to the table where 15 PEOPLE I DIDN’T KNOW (except for Ben) sat all together and the introductions started. We quickly sat down and Otey introduced everyone at the table and I awkwardly said hello and then made a mad dash for the buffet. Thank you Lord for a restaurant with a buffet. Not only could I escape the table, but I also could inhale 42 hot roles to calm my nerves. When I came back and sat down everyone was involved in their own little conversations and it was surprisingly comfortable. Otey and I talked amongst ourselves and I occasionally fielded a “Where are you from” or “How’d you end up secretarying rodeos” question. ***I don’t know what Otey was so worried about. His parents are really nice. His Mom hasn’t tried to embarrass him. She has been so nice to him and I both. They haven’t even asked about “us”. Both his parents are wonderful. Normal. Just parents. He had me all worried for nothing.***
We finished up eating and started saying our goodbyes. When it came time to tell Bill and Georgia goodbye, I politely thanked them for lunch and before I could get “It was nice to meet you” out of my mouth, Otey’s Mom said (and this is an exact quote)…
“We’re just glad Otey brought a girl with him. We were starting to think he might be gay.”
If you know Georgia personally you are laughing out loud right now. She had held it in for the hour we were at the restaurant. She had been on her very best behavior and made an effort not to scare me at our first meeting. She had been so quiet, so good, but she JUST couldn’t let us leave with out slipping one in. And that my friends is a wonderful trait in a mother-in-law. At that moment I knew that not only did I like Otey McCloy, but I also liked his parents.
Friday night’s performance went off without a hitch and by the time Saturday rolled around Otey and I had decided that we couldn’t spend that next week apart. He was going to leave with me after the rodeo Saturday night, and make the all night drive back to Indiana for my family’s Easter celebration. Then instead of me staying in Indiana all week and preparing for the next weekend’s college rodeo, I would drive him back to Missouri on Sunday evening and spend the next four days with him there. That decision made Saturday wonderful. Instead of spending the entire day dreading saying goodbye that night, I was able to just enjoy every minute with him. That Saturday I took Otey on his first major shopping outing with me. We drove to Memphis to find a Toy’s R Us that carried the exact scooter that my niece wanted for Easter. We drove around in circles for hours and braved the Memphis ghetto for that scooter. Otey never complained once. He must have been just as warm and fuzzy inside as I was.
Saturday after the rodeo we headed to Indiana. We got to my parents house in time to shower and get cleaned up to head to my aunts house. I’m bummed that I don’t remember the exact moment that Otey met my parents, but I do remember introducing them and giggling inside my head thinking ***You don’t know it yet, but he’s going to be your son-in-law***
We all headed for the annual family Easter Egg hunt and lunch that my ENTIRE family attends every year. We’re talking Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Nieces, Nephews… EVERYONE. The ironic part of that specific Easter Sunday gathering was that none of my family even knew I was dating anyone before I showed up with Otey in tow.
That seems like such a tiny little word to describe what I was actually doing. I wasn’t “dating” Otey McCloy. “Dating” suggests a kind of trial period… a time to determine if a person is worth investing your heart in. I was already invested long before my family even knew Otey existed. We were technically only two weeks into our relationship. Just two weeks prior I was driving home from that first weekend at his house. Just two weeks and two days earlier we were only work acquaintances and now there he sat on my Aunt’s sectional with four little heathens crawling all over him. My littlest niece, Lenzi, took a real liking to Otey that day. The only thing in the whole world I loved more than my family was Otey, and now those two worlds had meshed together forever.
We hunted some eggs, ate a big meal, and made it through twenty more introductions.
We loaded up my Durango and headed west for Missouri.
To be continued…
And because I’ve been getting hate mail asking for photos from this story… Here’s the only one I have from that weekend. That’s sweet little Lenzi (who is now almost a teenager) in the photo with me.
Yes, I’m wearing bib-overalls?! I don’t know why.
Yes, I was about half a person skinnier than I am right now. I do know why (too many donuts).
Yes, I am squinting and I have bad hair. Sorry, no excuses for those.
Check out the camera in my hand. That was a brand spankin’ new film shootin’ “Elf”. Minus the whole gaining a half a person thing, I’ve came a long way.