1981-1982 Finding Mr. Right

A few days after I turned 26, something wonderful happened. I met my husband at a Halloween party. It was shortly after I decided I would never find true love and I should give up the search and begin my life as an independent woman. I mailed my last law school application a day or so before the party and began planning a trip to visit law schools in the Midwest. I have always believed that one reason the relationship was a success is that I had finally decided to be me instead of trying to be who I thought the guy I was attracted to wanted me to be.

Was it love at first sight? I’m not sure what that means – I was immediately attracted to Rick, but it took a bit longer for the relationship to develop. One of my housemates worked in the building where Rick was doing his PhD research so we immediately began planning when and how I could see him again. An upcoming party at our house seemed to be the perfect opportunity.

Now we are entering territory that some of you (including our children) have heard before – “How did you meet, where did you go on your first date, when did you decide to get married etc. etc. etc.”

Duke Play Therapy Staff with Dr. Katz - Head of Pediatrics - 1981
Duke Play Therapy Staff with Dr. Katz – Head of Pediatrics – October 31, 1981

So here’s the official version. We met on Halloween at a party I almost didn’t go to. Halloween was a big day on the pediatric ward. The play therapy staff had dressed up as characters from the Wizard of Oz – I was Dorothy.  I was exhausted when I got home and didn’t have the energy to think of a costume or go out, but my roommates convinced me to join them. I threw together something fun at the last minute – it was fun to be something other than Dorothy and I went.

 Definitely not Dorothy
Definitely not Dorothy
Rick as a priest
Rick as a priest

As a brief aside – happy anniversary of our first meeting,  Rick. Can you believe it’s been 34 years!

We talked briefly but the music at the party was loud so it was hard to hear each other. I think we danced (that seems so unlikely because Rick doesn’t like to dance but I recall that we danced) and we got the basic information about each other. Rick was a graduate student working on his PhD in Immunology. He was from California. That was pretty exciting in and of itself! California held a mystical appeal for me ever since I was ten years old and our family talked about camping our way across country one summer. That trip never happened but ever since then I’d wanted to go to California.

The night of the party at our house finally arrived and I was looking forward to seeing Rick again. He’d been told that I wanted to get to know him better so he was interested enough to come to a party where he didn’t know anyone. Anyone who knows Rick knows – parties and making small talk with people he doesn’t know are not high on his list of favorite things – so obviously he wanted to get to know me better too. The only problem was that the people I lived with had been telling all the single guys they knew that I was single and really wanted to meet someone. Let’s just say, I was “in demand” on the night of our party.

It seemed like every time I started talking to Rick another guy would come up and I would stop talking to Rick and start talking to the next guy. I’m not quite sure how long this went on, but Rick grew impatient because it didn’t seem that I was interested in getting to know him better, which is what he’d been told. At some point one of my housemates came over to let me know that Rick had just left the party. I remember running to the door in time to see him drive away. I was disappointed – to say the least – but intrigued – looks like he was going to play hard to get.

A few weeks later, at my suggestion, we met in the hospital cafeteria for lunch. Much more conducive to getting to know each other than a loud, crowded party. We had our first date on December 5, 1981 – dinner in Chapel Hill followed by a movie “True Confessions” with Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro. Duvall&DeNiro.1981

TRUE CONFESSIONS, Robert De Niro, 1981, (c) United Artists
TRUE CONFESSIONS, Robert De Niro, 1981, (c) United Artists

Rick was impressed that I ordered a dark beer and shared an octopus appetizer. I remember his yellow Fiat with the blue California personalized license plate – FWG 4 – his curly hair and his Roman nose. He was less thrilled about my curly hair – I’d gotten a perm in between the time I’d met him on Halloween and our first date. He liked my short, straight hair just the way it was (or had been.)

Rick was going home to California that Christmas but he gave me a dozen red roses before he left. I’m not sure I’d ever gotten a dozen roses from anyone before.  I gave him a shirt for Christmas that I spent a long time picking out and thought would look good on him. I could tell something was wrong when he opened it and checked the label. That was when I learned that he only wears shirts that are 100% cotton! And to this day that is true and he washes and irons every one of them himself.

By March or April of 1982, it was pretty clear that this was a serious relationship for both of us. The only problem was that I was about to leave Durham to start law school. I had been accepted at Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Maryland in Baltimore and I was on the wait list at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. About a week before school started, I got into UNC law school and wondered whether or not I should stay in North Carolina. We jointly decided that the Washington DC area was a likely place for Rick to get a fellowship or post-doc position after he finished his PhD so I decided to attend the University of Maryland in Baltimore. I moved to Baltimore in August 1982 and was very excited to start law school.

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6 thoughts on “1981-1982 Finding Mr. Right

  1. 😮Kalen you made me call my son Nick who has been bugging me for years to put on tape my wonderful life with good times and bad to be included. Thanks a million for entering my life until the day I opened you text and thought this cant be happening a person I never new ex. Strange how things hsppen in ones life. I will be waiting for your information of your next part of your travel here on this wonderful world. Thanks again for finding me. Dominic and Gene Renzi and family😊😊😊😊


    1. Dominic – I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since we visited you. Thanks so much for sharing your memories and stories. I’ve gotten so busy since we got back from New York that I haven’t had much time to keep up with Trovando. I’m sure as I get closer to my class in Pittsburgh (this summer) I’ll be posting a lot more. Thanks for all the pictures.


  2. I love true stories of romance. Yours is an excellent one.


  3. I can’t wait reading the rest of the story.


    1. Thanks Peter – It was fun to get back to it. I’m working on a schedule for blog posts for November so I should cover a few more years. My husband agrees that it was how he remembers it too. That’s a good sign. I hope you are doing well.


      1. Thanks, Kalen! Our ‘time lines’ are exactly 20 years apart. In 1962 I met my future wife for the first time under most unlikely circumstances, which I will describe in chapter 17 on my weekend posts. By the way, I would have reacted the same way as your husband did at your house party. Greetings to you both! Peter

        Liked by 1 person

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