At Home With Vivian: How I Met Your Father

My mother believed in fate. She’d often say, “It will happen when it’s supposed to happen but it wouldn’t hurt to help it along.” When something happened, good or bad, she’d say, “It was meant to be.” On one fateful day in 1973….

My college roommate, Katie, knew that a young man from the sixth floor of our building, BJ, was coming to visit me that chilly October evening, as sort of a pre-date date. As all good friends and roommates do, Katie vacated the premises for the evening. We were living in Mary Ward Hall at San Francisco State at the time.

Perhaps through serendipity a girl from down the hall, dropped in to hang out with me that very same night. She was in no hurry to leave even with all the hints I threw at her. A tall, husky, brunette with doe brown eyes, Sandy planned to visit for the evening, and I didn’t have the chutzpah to come right out and tell her to beat it.

There wasn’t much furniture in our dorm room – two desk chairs, two beds, and an old box television my Grandma gave to me. When BJ arrived, the three of us sat on my bed with a bag of chips and talked about everything and nothing.

We were sitting on the granny square afghan my mother had crocheted. There was a four foot inflatable banana hanging over my bed from the ten foot high ceiling. My desk was neat with everything in ordered piles. A peace symbol was tacked to my cork bulletin board. My books were stacked in size order on the shelves. My mother would be proud.

From my side of the room we looked at Katie’s side. I wasn’t a neat freak until I moved in with Katie. The messier she got, the neater I became. It was probably some subconscious way to balance my world. Katie’s side of the room had piles of clothes on the floor, chairs, and on the top of her desk. She hung her undies to dry from the bust of Beethoven that sat on the shelf above her bed. That was a neat day for Katie.

BJ and I threw a lot of hints at Sandy, but she must have been very lonely or very obtuse, because she just wasn’t taking the hint that it was time for her to leave. It’s hard to get to know someone with a third person in the room. After an hour or more of chit chat, BJ left, saying he’d be back shortly.

At his knock, I opened the door to find BJ standing there with a young man I had never seen before. I felt my eyebrows rise in surprise. What a handsome guy! Then I noticed that the newcomer was dressed as a gangster from the 1930’s! He had on a gray pin striped suit, wore a fedora cocked to one side, and held a martini glass in one hand and a cigarette in a long black holder in the other. He had sky blue eyes, dark blond hair, a fake scar on his cheek, and walked with a Frank Sinatra swagger.

Young Vivian and Jeff
Young Vivian and Jeff

BJ introduced me to Jeff, a friend of his, who he had found wandering back to the dorms from a Halloween party on campus. It was BJ’s plan to have Jeff take Sandy out for a walk. Well, it didn’t work. Jeff saw my old television and that was that. There were very few televisions in the dormitory community and an addict had just found his stash. The problem was that my grandmother’s set in my dorm room only got one station, and that station came in fuzzy. The dormitory was a concrete block building with no television antennae. Jeff, I discovered, was a Sherlock Holmes fanatic. At home in Santa Cruz, he watched Basil Rathbone every night in reruns. He sorely missed his television.

“Do you have a wire coat hanger?” Jeff asked. I got him one from my closet. He and BJ straightened out the hanger. They attached the wire to the back of the set, and then ran it up the concrete wall next to the window. No luck. They turned the TV this way and that. “Do you have another wire coat hanger?” Jeff asked. Several coat hangers and scotch tape later, the wires grew up the wall, then out the window. Voila! Semi-success. If you stood to the right of the set and put one finger on the wire, the station that ‘Sherlock Holmes’ aired on came in loud and clear.

Jeff looked up at me with a triumphant sparkle in his eyes. I smiled back. What else was I going to do? This polite stranger had come into my room and commandeered my television. In the meantime, BJ and Sandy had gone out for a walk and became an item from that day forward. So what to do next? Jeff and I watched television until about one o’clock in the morning. We watched Sherlock, and then McHale’s’ Navy and the Phil Silvers show. When the station finally signed off for the night, he looked over at me like he was surprised to see me there. He had been so involved with the television I think Jeff forgot where he was.

“Thanks for letting me watch your television,” he said on his way out the door. “What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked as he eyed the television set one more time.

“A bunch of us are going to the movie theater downtown to watch Disney’s” Fantasia” tomorrow afternoon if you’d like to go,” I told him, not knowing if he was interested in me or my television.” He said “Maybe.” And then he left.

The next day my friends and I were standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus. I looked around and that young man I had shared my television with was nowhere to be seen. I was a bit disappointed, but life goes on. The bus pulled up and just I was getting on, Jeff stepped in behind me.

Seeing a Disney flick with college kids was very different than seeing it as a child with my family. For one thing, you know that new guy? Well, he reached over and held my hand during the show. He’s been holding it ever since.

If my best friend, Katie, hadn’t stayed out late that night, or if Sandy hadn’t come uninvited and left with my prospective beau, or if my Grandma hadn’t given me the television set, would I have still met Jeff? Well, I believe my mother would have said “It happened when it was supposed to happen, and they helped it along.”

Little did any of us know on that chilly San Francisco night, that Jeff and I would still be together. Happy 40th wedding anniversary Jeff! It was meant to be.

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