Family Non-Fiction posted April 2, 2023 Chapters:  ...9 10 -11- 12... 

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Son joins Air Force and meets a Texas girl

A chapter in the book Angels Unaware

Made in his Image

by forestport12

Growing up in a violent and broken home, Tom graduates, joins the air force, and settles in Texas where he finds love and purpose for living.
After graduation I joined the Airforce to see the world. I started in Texas basic training and then got stationed twenty miles away in San Antonio. As a New York Yankee, one proud Texan explained to me, his state was worth more than a trip around the world.

Returning home on leave, I wanted my father to be proud of me. He had served during World War II in the Army Air Core. Once again, he reminded me of how fragile life can be. His favorite Army story was how he signed up to go to Pearl Harbor just before it was bombed, but a friend of his talked him into signing up for Alabama because the girls were drop dead gorgeous. So much for a call to arms.

As I stepped off the plane in my Air Force dress blue and reached the top of the escalator, I found my father standing below. When his eyes met mine, it was like he must have seen his young self in me. Tears filled his eyes. He didn't have to tell me he was proud of my accomplishments. His wet eyes told me what I needed to know.

My new home became Texas. Most of the guys wanted to make the bars and chase the local girls. I wanted to find a church family. I found a little church directly across from the base and it didn't take long before I was asked to build a youth group, since everyone was a generation or two older.

I quickly went to work calling former families with teens to join a fun youth day at church of volleyball and food. It was like a famous line from the movie, Field of Dreams, "Build it, and they will come."

It was no exaggeration that I had teenagers showing up from vacant lots and street corners, beside parental car drop-offs. One girl in particular kept staring at me. I found out later, she had just turned sixteen. She had hair of gold and eyes of hypnotic blue. I found out her family had just moved from Arkansas back to south Texas.

I tried to focus on getting the volleyball net up. I had to run into the church building to get something to help keep the net in place. She followed me inside. When I went out, she had me practically cornered in the vestibule. She was a beautiful distraction. We spoke without words. Her eyes fixed on me as if to say, "I believe in love at first sight."

The bus ministry was next on the agenda. The pastor made it clear that cute sixteen-year-old Mary knew where to find the children that wanted to go to church. My first stop would be Mary Blakely's house in the country. When I got to the front of the house and cut the engine, it sounded like the place was in an uproar. It seemed this loud family didn't mind if the rest of the world heard them. I wasn't sure if I should honk the horn or take my chances at the door.

Jimmy, Mary's father came out first. He was a wiry man with a leathery face. He skipped the small talk and gave me the run down on his eldest daughter, Mary Ella, in case I had other intentions. "Now, I heard tell, you got you one of those dang motor bikes. You don't ever take her for ride on it cause you could kill her quick as lightning. She has seizures. She can pass out on one of those dang things. This day is about church business and not a thang else."

I nodded. "Yes sir."

Mary and her younger sister Cynthia got on the bus. They directed me around the small town of Cibolo and then near the base to find kids interested in riding the bus to church. It turned out Cynthia was easy to work with directing me to locations while Mary sat behind me boring into my soul with her eyes. I wore aviator glasses on the bus, and she finally told me I should take them off cause, she couldn't tell what I was thinking, as if my eyes held clues.

The air conditioner didn't work from the beginning. By the time I dropped the girls back home, we all worked up a lather of sweat which hid the nervous layer. Cynthia skipped off the bus first. Mary lingered behind. Then she grabbed my bicep, sending a sensuous but nervous jolt through me. Before she stepped off she said in a deep Texas drawl, "I love you. Now what you aim to do about it?"

I had no words for Mary. I think I did pull my sunglasses down as she bounded away in a sun dress and sneakers. All I could think about was how her father might shoot me and hide me in his back yard unless I could win him over first. She was one dangerous catch.

First time I met Mary, it was no exaggeration, and to this day she will vouch for every word in this true story.
Cast of characters:
Mary, my future girlfriend
Jimmy Loiyd, Mary's father
Cynthia, Mary's younger sister by a few years
Tom Jr. Me
Tom Sr. Father

**I posted an old picture of my father from his days in the 1940's Army Air Core.

**When I popped into the church one day there were maybe five or six very old men who were deciding whether they should disband and close the doors. Once I and other airmen infused new life in the church with a youth group and bus ministry, the church rebounded with new life.
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