There's something I didn't tell you in Part One that adds to the story.
Kenny had been born with Cerebral Palsy and had two twisted legs that could walk with the aid of a crutch. He was in constant pain, but never complained. He hated being treated special in any way. He did almost everything a 25-year-old young man could do, except play sports. He made up for that with his passion for basketball and baseball and was a great encouragement as coach to the athletes on his college teams.
Kenny was also brilliant! He was at the top of his class academically and was smart as a whip. I tend to find intelligence attractive so we made a good pair. I've often wondered what smart men found in me! :) We quickly fell into a routine of dates that would start out at a sporting event and end parked somewhere discussing anything from politics, to philosophy to the Bible. We LOVED to talk and found each other's conversation quite stimulating. Very quickly Kenny became one of my best friends. He was a safe place to float ideas and work through thoughts.
Anyway, I started telling you all about our dating relationship because of the outfit I wore in my senior picture. We had only been dating a few months when Kenny took me out to dinner to a nice restaurant. On our way back home he parked the car in the small urban park that surrounded our County Courthouse. The trees sparkled with small white lights in the darkness of night. Honestly, I got a little nervous (he seemed nervous), but then he pointed out something through my window. I looked away, but when I looked back at him he had placed a beautiful lavender glass heart necklace over the rear view mirror. It glistened in the sparkling lights. He then put the music from Somewhere In Time on with his cassette player and began reading me a story. The story was about a prince who had been lost and a princess who rescued him. She had captured his heart. It was sooo romantic! After he read the story he took the necklace off the mirror and put it around my neck. He said, "You know what would look good with that?" I said, "What?" He answered, "Look in the back seat." There he had laid out this gray suit and burgundy blouse. Wow! I couldn't believe that he had purchased an outfit for me. I was a giddy school girl and he loved it!
I will be honest that I didn't like gray and NEVER chose to wear that color. I loved burgundy and gave it a try when I got home. I LOVED it! I wore the outfit for several years and often thought of the romantic way it was given to me. I think that's the only outfit he ever purchased for me. It certainly was the only one that sticks in my memory, but what a sweet memory it is. I still have the necklace. In telling you this story, I pulled it out of my jewelry box and looked at it fondly - remembering a dear friend.
Kenny and I continued dating for 2 1/2 years. I dated a few other boys during that time, but the summer before going off to college (after I was 18!) Kenny dropped hints that he was serious about our relationship. In hindsight, he was on the marriage fast-track, but I was somewhat oblivious to how serious he was getting. That was until one night as he dropped me off at my door, he leaned in and gave me a quick kiss. He said a hurried good-bye and rushed out to his car. I remember closing the door and thinking, "Oh, no...that was like kissing my brother!" Really.
During that summer my parents had released the rule of dating monthly. Our family had moved to within an hour of his college so we were seeing each other weekly. The next time we saw each other we knew all was not well. We talked about the kiss and came to the realization that God had given us a friendship, but that marriage was probably not His plan for us. In some ways I think it broke both of our hearts. We were buddies! We could talk about anything, but marriage takes more than an understanding of the minds and that's all we had. We dated a few more weeks, but our story ended soon after I went off to college several hours away from him.
My mom made the observation that maybe the Lord brought us together so that I would be protected and would have a wonderful example of dating and the opportunity for Kenny to do a little growing up. Although he would say he didn't want to be treated differently because of his disability, he actually had to own up to his words when I would wait in the car for him to get my door or wait at a table for him to pull out my chair. It surprised him, but he loved it and I think it made him a better man to have someone believe that he really didn't need to be treated any differently than anyone else.
Kenny went on to date others and got married, just as I did. I entitled these posts as Remembering a Friend because Kenny is no longer living, but the sweet memories I have of our friendship will always remain with me. I know someday I'll get to see him walk with perfect legs on streets of gold. What a joy that will be!