LOVE ME--LOVE MY DOG--- MY CATS AND---ALL MY ANIMAL FRIENDS.
We met on the stage of The Miss America Pageant in 1958, during the first rehearsal. He was one of six male escorts who walked each contestant down the decorative long staircase for Evening Gown Competition. Of course these male escorts wore white tie and tails like the pageant’s famous host, Bert Parks and-- they looked so young and handsome.
His name was Henry Van Zandt Hyde, Jr. and he was from Bethesda, Maryland. His father, a medical doctor, apparently knew someone on the Board of the Miss America Pageant and that’s how Henry was selected as an escort.
We developed a friendship during the competition and several months after the Pageant was over, Henry flew to Arkansas to visit me and my parents. Later, we corresponded for several months---until--- my Mother demanded I stop communicating with anyone except the man she’d decided I would marry ---- as soon as my year as Miss Arkansas ended. (My Book: “The Beauty Queen” details my Mother’s seriously-sick control of my life.)
I liked Henry. In fact, I've liked many guys during my lifetime BUT---I was only “in love” with a few. Henry and I never saw or communicated with each other after 1958 until---one day in 2013--- when I received a Friend Request on Facebook from a Henry Hyde. This particular Henry Hyde had been married since 1961, had no children, and lived in Arizona. I accepted the Friend Request and indeed it was my long-ago friend, Henry Hyde, from Miss America days.
From time to time, Henry would make a casual comment or two on my Timeline. He seemed to stay current on Politics, continued to work with his own public relations firm, and was definitely a conservative. More recently, I stopped hearing from Henry but---between selling my house in Little Rock, moving, writing/ publishing/selling my book, settling into Hot Springs Village and—taking daily hikes with Cubby Dog ---I didn’t have time to miss anyone on Facebook. Then one day, thirteen months ago--- my phone rang--- and the calling number was from Arizona.
Henry, now 85 years old, wanted to tell me--- his wife had died two weeks earlier. He didn’t elaborate as to the reason for her death but immediately expressed his wish to visit me in Arkansas—again. I could hardly believe that sixty-three years had passed since his initial visit. He’d checked the availability of flights, considered the cost, and was ready to book a flight in three days. Would I make plans to meet him at the Little Rock Airport?
To say the least—I’m not prepared to entertain anyone now, for any reason. My house is older, outdated, and---- an ongoing-work-in-progress. My car is older and not qualified to serve as a shuttle service to and from the Little Rock Airport. But most of all-- I’m older and-- after experiencing the most challenging, complicated, and unpredictable life-ever--I’m not sure it’s in my best interest to renew a brief friendship from 63 years ago.
When I suggested we spend a little-time on the phone, talking about the “possibilities”-- I heard: “I don’t have time to waste; I need to decide if I’m comfortable-enough with you and your present living situation to move you to Arizona to live with me.”
He mentioned his very-large house was paid for and--between the two of us--our combined incomes would probably allow us to live quite- comfortably. Besides, he believed, strongly, in frugality. He wasn’t sure about my animals since he and his wife never liked animals, especially in the house, but---he could assess my animals and their “value” once he met them.
I was dumbfounded. If you know anything about me---then you can probably “guess” my reply to Henry. After everything I’ve lived through--for all these years---does anyone actually believe I would jump at the chance to move-in with a complete stranger--just to have a “free” roof over my head?!?!? Forget the fact I'm making hefty payments each month on a new roof--after crooked ALLSTATE refused to cover my hail damage!!!
When I suggested Henry fly me to Arizona so we could meet again, renew our friendship, and discuss the “what-ifs”---he immediately-rejected the idea. No. He couldn’t bring me into his “tight” neighborhood---the neighborhood that had provided such solid security for him and his wife for “all those” years. It wouldn’t be “fair” to his dead wife’s memory. It could only happen “if and when” he introduced me as his long-time friend who would now be his lifetime companion. But first---he must come to Arkansas to “check-out” our compatibility.
It didn’t take long for me to-- very-kindly—tell Henry Hyde---“thank you but---no thank you.” After hanging-up the phone, I blocked Henry’s phone number then—unfriended and blocked him on my Facebook Page.
My life is no-longer a Beauty Pageant. I’m well-past the days of being judged on my looks, having my talents evaluated, and--- believe me--- my days of competition—are completely-over. No one--- including an 85 year-old man who “just-might” choose me as his live-in partner--- will ever-again control me or dictate the terms of my life.
ACTUALLY--- Henry lost me and our long-ago friendship--- in the very-early minutes of our phone conversation. When Henry first mentioned----“his need to assess the value of my animals”----he cut his own throat and ---as far as I'm concerned---he's dead forever.
LIFE CAN OFFER WORSE FATES---THAN BEING ALONE.