No one knows Billy Channing like I do.
We’ve been married for forty-one years. For heaven’s sake, we can finish each others sentences. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes is our favorite dinner and blue is our favorite color. We like the same kind of movies. He knows when to hand me his folded handkerchief before I even start to cry in the sad parts. Of course, we haven’t been to the movies in years. Now, like most folks, we hold hands on the sofa and I sip a glass of merlot and he drinks root beer out of the bottle. Sometimes we have popcorn, mostly for the kids.
“You’re tired, Cap’n. Why don’t you hit the sack?” That’s what Billy usually says to me. “I’ll be up after the movie.”
That’s one of his nicknames for me – “Captain” – because Billy says I’m in charge of the house, keeping it ship shape, tending to our crew, and keeping us on course.
I wish people could know Billy like I know him. He hasn’t changed much over the years. Maybe a little grayer and a little thicker in the middle, but then who isn’t?
Ever since we were teenagers in high school he loved sports – baseball, basketball, and of course, football. He wasn’t the star but no one worked harder. And he lettered in all three sports. I wasn’t a cheerleader or anything like that. Those girls were pretty and petite and … that just wasn’t what I brought to the table. “Brought to the table” – those are Billy’s words.
I remember he gave me a clipboard not long after we started dating in high school and he drew horizontal and vertical lines and columns, each with a heading, so I could learn how to keep statistics on his play.
Then after each game, every game, after he’d showered and had pizza with the team, he’d come over to my parent’s house and we’d sit on the porch swing and relive the whole game. I don’t believe I ever missed one – home or away.
Billy got a scholarship to State in football and when he asked me to come with him, I didn’t know what to say. My family couldn’t afford college for me. I’d focused on business courses in high school and planned to work as a secretary in town and live at home. That first year, Billy sent me long letters – which I know was hard for him – telling me how lonely he was without me and how I should look for a job on campus so we could be close. Long distance phone calls were expensive then and no one even imagined email, much less text messages which I still don’t understand. I waited for the mail and wrote back right away. I saved his letters for a long time but can’t find them now. Guess I lost them when we moved to this house. They might be here somewhere but I don’t have the energy to look for them.