It is mid-morning, and I am sitting on the floor of my sister’s bedroom. I cannot remember why I am sitting there, but the phone rings and she goes to answer it. It is Jim Something Long, she tells me. I say, of course, who? She doesn’t know, she hands me the phone. When I hear the voice, I know immediately who it is, and I start to wonder why I thought his name was Paul Andersen and why I never thought to ask what his name really was.
I met Jim at my job. I was the office manager for the Sports Medicine Center in Cherry Hill. His mother, the victim of a serious traffic accident, is a patient at Sports. She is outgoing and extremely friendly, and we look forward to when she comes in for her therapy because she is so nice to everyone on the staff. I start to look forward to her visits because she has this very adorable son with oh so cute dimples. He is a sailor. Wouldn’t my father be thrilled? He usually has his nose buried in a book when he brings his mother for therapy, but I always say hello and try to be polite.
At one point, as she is waiting for her son to pull the car to the front of the office, she asks me if I would consider going out with her son. She says he has been away with the Navy and has lost touch with local friends, and it would be nice if he had someone to go see a movie with or something. I say sure. A couple of days later, after his mother is in the car, he comes back in and asks if I’d like to go out sometime. It is a Friday. I hand over my phone number, and he promises to call.
So, expecting my call from Paul Andersen, I am surprised to get a call from Jim Skamarakas with the voice of Paul Andersen. I ask him on the phone about his last name, because his mother’s name is Andersen. She is divorced and remarried. I do not ask him why his name is Jim. I chalk that up to an error on my part and the fact that despite knowing him for several months, we have never formally been introduced.
He asks if I’d like to go to the movies later that evening, and I accept immediately. We agree to meet later at my office, since I think it’s much easier to meet him at a place he already knows rather than having him drive out to Medford to pick me up. My stomach is churning like crazy when I see his car pull up in front of the office. He has chosen the movie – which sets the tone of the relationship, as I do not believe I have gotten to choose a movie since – and we go to see Alien Nation. Now, I can tell you almost exactly which parking spot we were in at the AMC in Deptford, but Jim will tell you to this day that we saw the movie at the AMC in Marlton. I know that I am right, despite his argument of why would we drive all the way to Deptford if Marlton was right down the street from where I worked. I wish I could see the movie schedules at both theaters from back then so I could prove him wrong. No matter, I know where we were.
I don’t think I have ever felt immediately comfortable with anyone in my life – not even my own family – but I do with this man. I almost don’t want to go into the movies because I want to spend more time talking with him and getting to know him better. I do not think we held hands in the movie theater, but we did hold hands walking back to his car – a brown Ford Mustang. We spend some time sitting in the car talking, and then we are making out like teenagers. It gets later into the evening, and we finally drive back to my car in Cherry Hill. It is very hard to leave, but we share a kiss goodnight, and I head home. I do not think I slept more than an hour or two that night, I am so excited.
I cannot wait to go out again, but I do know that due to his work schedule, he is only available to go out on Wednesdays and Sundays. We go out again on Wednesday.
There is a slight wrinkle at this point, as I am technically engaged to someone else. I say technically because we have already set two wedding dates, and cancelled both (one only 5 days before the wedding). I still have the ring, which I wear sometimes, but with his schedule with his job, his volunteer work, and his family, we do not get to see each other often. The day after the second date with Jim, I call this other man and tell him that I think it’s time to move on. He does not give me a hard time about it, but he does start calling more often after this news. He was an odd one to figure out.
After 3 weeks – or 6 dates – we are already saying “I love you”. At Christmas time, I cannot imagine not spending every holiday with this man. By February, we have moved into an apartment together. Two years later, we are married.
Life has not always been easy since October 9, 1988. We’ve gone through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. There have been things that happened that I wish had not happened, but we have gotten through the worst of what life has to offer and shared the best.
Jim is half of my heart. I cannot imagine being able to breathe if I am not by his side. We have grown up (and gotten fat!!) together, and we now have the privilege of raising three beautiful daughters. I know that if everything else in my world comes crashing down tomorrow, I will always have Jim there to help me pick up the pieces. He has done it time and again.
I do not to this day know why I thought his name was Paul. But I am eternally grateful to have answered the phone when Jim called. And 17 years later, my stomach still churns when he pulls up at the end of the day. It’s an awesome feeling.