Friday, June 6, 2014

Dating Dad...A Wrinkle in Time

I can’t remember ever “meeting” Dad…it seems like I always knew him. Growing up in San Jose, we attended the San Jose 1st ward that met on Cleaves Ave.  John’s father, Gilbert Nieman was the bishop for ten years…most of my childhood. However, since we went to different schools and because John was two years older, we really had little to do with each other. I do remember John sitting on the far side of the Seminary class room, but don’t ever remember speaking to him.  But Grandpa Roger was John’s Explorer leader, and told me that “he didn’t care who I married, but if I could find someone like John Nieman that would be great.”
About the time John graduated from Del Mar High School, Grandpa Gil was called to supervise the “missionary building” program instituted by the Church in Australia and New Zealand. Grandpa Gil, Grandma Virginia, Eddie and Jeanne headed to Australia; John, who had started at San Jose State, remained in the family home being rented by a young couple in the ward.  He didn’t do too well scholastically, spending more time playing fast pitch softball and basketball than he did on his studies. After a year he “sent himself” on his mission to Austria. 

The first time I really had much to do with him was in the fall of 1965; returned missionary John had been admitted to BYU (majoring in “guided studies”) and called me up to go see BYU play San Jose State. I was a junior, living in the new Deseret Towers near to the stadium. That was fortunate since John didn’t have a car yet and we had to walk to most of our dates.
He told me he couldn’t take me to a dance yet because he was currently enrolled in a ballroom dance PE class and had to finish it first.
He did borrow his cousin, Ray Hillum’s, car occasionally for a “driving date”.  Our dates that fall were mainly to football games. We did go see The Sound of Music…as it had been made in Austria while John was on his mission. He always loved that movie, especially the song, Edelweiss. 
After football season, basketball started and our sport dating continued.  Being rather “bookwormish” I had not had a very active social life so didn’t have high dating expectations.  I had little interest in sports either, but was interested in being John Nieman’s girlfriend and knew what was required. Besides, my dad was really delighted that I was dating John. 

John was kind of a “no frills” boyfriend. He seldom called me during the week except to let me know what great tickets he had gotten for this week’s sports event!  Thus passed the fall semester; in the spring I left for the BYU Semester abroad to Grenoble, France.
John wrote me while I was gone…his letters provided keen insight into what might be required of me as a wife. He told me he didn’t think a wife should gain weight as she got older…his mom had always been a little overweight…years of child bearing and menopause didn’t seem like good enough reasons to carry an extra twenty pounds…hmmmm, he never said anything about husbands gaining weight!
I did gain a lot of weight(35 lbs!) while in France; the stress of not being able to speak French forced me into many pastry shops (about every fifth store) where I couldn’t resist the strawberry tarts and napoleons pastries. And at that time women wore little loose fitting “Twiggy” shifts rather than pants,,, that made it difficult to realize that one’s waistline was expanding. And  I only could weigh myself on the scale in the public park…but it weighed in kilos…and who knows what a kilo is! I was an English major!
Returning thirty five pounds heavier, carrying my guitar bought in Barcelona, with my long straight hair…I probably resembled Mama Cass. To John’s credit he didn’t dump me…just picked me up each night after I got off my summer job  at Payless Drug Store and had me go run a few miles around the elementary school track.

Twiggy dress...hard to tell if I was losing weight!
 That summer John came to San Jose to work even though by now his parents had returned from Australia and settled in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake City. I don’t flatter myself that he came to SJ because I was there, although that might have been a slight factor; mainly he came because he could work for Barnhart Construction Company which his dad had been a partner in; since he had no family home to live in, he lived in the underground bomb shelter of some family friends, the Pace’s. 

John worked for Barnhart on various construction sites from 8-4 each day. Then he would go to the Pace’s, shower, cook two TV dinners for himself and go to sleep for 3 or 4 hours down in the nice cool dark bomb shelter. About 9:30 I would come over with his “lunch” for his night job, driving a fork lift at the cannery from 10 pm -6 am. Then he would drive to the construction site, sleep in his car for an hour, wake up and start all over He took frozen cans of Nutriment for lunch.
 He certainly was a hard worker!  There was not much dating done that summer…considerable making out, but not much dating.

Starry eyed...or just tired?

In the fall we returned to BYU where we were pretty much a “couple” for my senior year. I had moved “off-campus”, so now after football or basketball games, John would come over to my apartment where I was allowed to cook for him! He especially liked sweet and sour meatballs.
  But still John was not a very involved boyfriend. Other roommates’ boyfriends were always hanging around…John was happy to hang out with his own roommates…dating me only meant after getting up early to get in line for basketball tickets,  he got two instead of one…because he would have gone to the game anyway. We did go to a few movies and dances… and once we went to a pretty fancy restaurant in SLC. I remember wearing a black dress borrowed from my skinnier roommate and wearing a “black widow” under it (TMI?) which was so “restrictive” I could hardly eat anything!
The next summer John spent in San Jose again, working and letting me cook for him…before the end of the summer he had presented me with a ring…no fancy candles, flowers…just gave it to me in the bomb shelter! I learned early not to expect much romance when it came to John Nieman. But needless to say my dad was very happy!