While I was on my choir trip in Europe, The Dude was on a similar school trip and we were actually in some of the same cities at different times. I thought that was so romantic and appropriately pined for him when I wasn’t singing or dancing in the streets in every city we visited.
As the summer progressed, The Dude and I continued to spend time together, driving around aimlessly, hanging out at friend’s houses and talking endlessly on the phone. He was a great listener and genuinely showed care and concern for the things I was experiencing at home.
I continued to work at the video store and had a lot more freedom than any summer of my life. I didn’t have a single activity and that was strange to me. I really liked being busy.
In past summers, I was usually part of the summer high school musical, dance classes, or had cheer or drill team practice or camp. I joined my first softball team in second grade and through the Noon Optimist Club (the friend of youth!) and our local park district, I think I was on a team of some sort non-stop until this summer of 1988.
There were two incredible summers, early in my high school years, when I was able to travel to a remote island in Canada with my high school church youth group, Luther League. Those trips were before I knew of my mom’s illness. Our days were filled with canoeing, swimming, blueberry picking, card playing, worship time, and so very many laughs.
In my later high school years, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I felt like I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone at church, I know for a fact that I distanced myself from that group of friends. That was a definite regret.
Having new time on my hands was a different experience for me. I filled it with visits to the hospital, time with my friends, work, and as much time with The Dude as possible.
Taste of Chicago was my favorite summer event in Chicago. Lots of food vendors would fill Grant Park and offer a sample of their menus. It was an affordable way to try new foods and enjoy the beauty of Grant Park and the lakeshore.
The Dude and I planned to attend one night with another ‘couple’ from our little friend group. We weren’t yet officially dating, but we also weren’t talking to anyone else. This felt like an important night.
We parked in an alley near the house of our friend’s adult brother, within walking distance to the park, and set off for a fun night. It was still light out, the air was warm but not overly humid, and I was so excited for this night out with The Dude who-wasn’t-my-boyfriend-but-maybe-would-be.
As we walked, our friend said, “You guys are going out, right?” The Dude looked at me, smiled, grabbed my hand, and said, “Yeah, we’re going out.”
I may have passed out right there in the alley. I HAD AN ACTUAL BOYFRIEND! He was funny, kind, cute, and he didn’t drown my face when we made out… This was shaping up to be the best summer of my life.
Well, except for the fact that my mom appeared to be dying from cancer.