Grand Theft Auto (Who Needs a Rehearsal Dinner)

All is Fair in Love and War and Divorce.

I have shared with you the story of meeting (and parting ways with) my first husband. It is only fitting, I suppose, to do the same with Husband #2, Russ. (The problem now is I will have to remarry and divorce again in order to make this a running series.)

I would also like to make a disclaimer. Russ passed away over a decade ago. We had already divorced, but it was still a sad time and a tragic set of events. I would never want or set out to speak ill of someone who has already passed on. This is the story of one event that took place on the eve of our wedding.

I have also checked the Statute of Limitations in the State of Virginia, so we should be all set.

Russ was one of the kindest and most generous men I have ever met. He was always helping someone, in more ways than I can recount. He was also always being taken advantage of.

I met Russ when I was 22; which made him 20. We were both living in Virginia and working at The Daily Press. I was a very young divorced single mom with a baby. I worked in the advertising department and walked over every afternoon to get ‘hot off the press’ papers. He had a truck route delivering the afternoon paper, so our paths crossed every day. In the interest of time, let’s just suffice it to say that before long we were a cute little happy couple.

One snag in our budding relationship was a Girl Named Wanda. (Seriously, that was her real name. It just also works well thematically.) She was his ex-girlfriend. And co-owner of a brown van they had purchased together. You know… the old story. She needed a car, couldn’t afford a car, so he co-signed for one. Since he had a vehicle, he let her take the van when they split. Unfortunately she did not make regular payments and then decided to move home to Oklahoma. (This was an extremely strange coincidence, since my ex also was from Oklahoma.)

Russ would never hurt a fly. But I never knew anyone to really challenge him either. He wanted the van back since he was now making the payments. So we planned a trip to Oklahoma. Now, by we, I mean, Russ, myself and his best friend Curtis. In reality, I was probably an afterthought. I’m pretty sure I insisted on going. (Ex-girlfriend vs new girlfriend kinda of thing.) The idea was to show up at her house (her mother’s house) under cloak of darkness and drive away with it. Simple….right?

We drove straight through. It is quite a haul from Virginia to Oklahoma. I will spare you the bodily function stories, but we made excellent time with very few stops. And we did indeed time it to arrive under cloak of darkness. We pulled up across the street. The van was sitting as pretty as you please on the side of the house. (Now mind you, this is NOT the night before our wedding, so it should come as no surprise that our mission was unsuccessful.) I was asked (sure… I’ll say asked) to lie down in the back seat so as not to be seen. What I thought would be a quick and easy get away quickly deteriorated.

For some reason, known only to Russ, at the last second he decided to knock on the front door. Curtis gave me the play-by-play from the front seat that included Wanda coming to the door, a brief conversation and Russ returning empty handed for a very long defeated drive back home.

Fast forward 1 ½ years. We were getting married! I was happy. It was a simple affair, but still sweet. Small gathering of friends and family in the back yard of Russ’s home. Tiffany was going to be the flower girl. (She was 3 years old.) We were pretty much following traditional expectations. (Except using Queen’s version of the Bridal March.) The only hitch (pun intended) came while we were sitting around the afternoon before the rehearsal and talking. Russ’s Uncle John was there. His two best friends (Curtis and Alan) were there. Someone, somehow, for some reason happened to mention that Wanda had moved back to Virginia….with the van.

(It never occurred to me at the time to question why, on the eve of MY wedding, the discussion turned to an ex-girlfriend. Who had kept up with her, her whereabouts, and why?) Never the less, again the location of the van was known and another commandeering mission was put in place. It was decided that after the rehearsal, the guys would drive out to where she was living and once again attempt to retrieve the van under cloak of darkness. Originally I was told I could not go. But I don’t really take kindly to such proclamations. It was finally agreed that I could go, but I had to ride in the last car and not actually go into the subdivision. If something bad went down, I would be able to get away. (Can you feel the tension rising??)

So we had the rehearsal. It went fine. Everyone was goofy and laughing; having fun like those occasions call for. When things finally wound down; however, we started to make serious covert van apprehending plans. Some of the details are a bit fuzzy. It had been almost 30 years after all. However, I believe it was three vehicles. Uncle John and Russ in the lead. I am not sure who drew the short straw and got stuck in the rear car with me. It was about a thirty minute drive to where Wanda was currently living. This trip went much quicker. They went on into the subdivision; while we parked on the side of the road and waited. It seemed like a long time, but in reality I do not think it was. One minute everything was quiet and dark, and the next there were lights and horns and cars and a victorious Uncle John driving a brown van past us at a pretty high rate of speed. We made the much happier return trip to the house and stood out in the yard giddy with adrenaline and accomplishment and vindication. I dare to say the high of that moment probably outdid the afterglow of the typical rehearsal dinner.... Think along the lines of The Fast and The Furious.... I’m sure that is who we all thought we were. My guess is that Uncle John was on watch for the night and the rest of us went to bed.

Now here’s the problem with vindication. There is no end to it. What I do to you; you do to me. Especially when mixed with youth and immaturity. It’s a useless cycle. While my wedding day dawned beautiful and things went exactly as planned, I spent the entire day looking over my shoulder expecting flashing blue cars to pull up and haul my new groom away. Because even though technically his name was on the paperwork somewhere, it was a pretty bold and reckless thing to do..….in hindsight. Fortunately for us (and the guests that took the time to be there) we were spared any pre-You Tube theatrics that day.

The authorities did eventually get involved and lawyers hired to sort it all out. It was quite easy to unravel once all the facts were known. Russ retained custody of the van. To be honest, I could not tell you what happened with it or Wanda. I guess we kept it for awhile and don’t think we ever heard from her again.

Looking back, it could have gone wrong in so many ways. But it didn’t. Instead I have a pretty exciting; uber-cool, (don’t try this yourself) not-too-many-people-can-tell Wedding Eve Story.

It is nice to have one or two of those types of adventures in your life. (Even though I don’t specifically recommend hijacking a car to have one.) Being married to Russ actually brought about a series of adventures. He didn’t believe in dull moments. I cannot say I loved all of those moments. I can say that I loved Russ. The marriage didn’t last unfortunately; but it did produce my second beautiful daughter; Victoria. She is currently expecting a little boy herself and we recently discussed how she believes her little boy will look like her father.

That made both of us smile.

Hope Out

PS…After much thought and consideration, I believe I will be changing the name of my blog. At the time of its inception, The Struggle Is Real seemed to fit the moment. And while sometimes the struggle still DOES seem real, I have decided my focus should be ‘brighter’…. So stay tuned……


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