A Florida Blessing……….#255 (the 90’s)

Don and Katherines Grandkids

Don with the  grand-kids

Gary’s journeyed from Groveland to his sister Nancy’s residence in Columbia, discovering an aura of tranquility,  just him and a magnificent Border Collie named Kizzie,  the serenity a change from the assembled congregation of grandkids visiting his sister Katherine. The return to Columbia  enabled a return to the internet and a resumption of  his NASDAQ day trading, plus an opportunity to  visit with his ICQ acquaintances.  Gary having been disenchanted after traveling from the lake house on an earlier occasion that year to meet a California ICQ lady friend whom he had visit with from his apartment in Kansas.  Pat was in Merced, the meeting was cordial and it was apparent the picture she had sent him was taken years earlier and pounds lighter, but that was not unexpected.   Gary dressed in what he thought was appropriate for a first meeting,  short sleeve shirt and tie, his internet friend dressing more casually in jeans ,  the two meeting at a Pizza Hut.  He was aware from their previous correspondence that her husband of thirty years had passed two years prior,  Pat mentioning that her solitude being the  reason for her ICQ participation.   Gary finding the lady very congeal, especially when she offered to provide a tour of  Merced in her pickup,  their brief ride ending up at Yosemite Lake, a small lake bordering the town.   Pat relating remembrances,  giving a reflection of  her late husband, the two having spent decades fishing this lake, Gary listening with understanding as she added that the Hmong influx from Thailand and Laos having proclaimed the east side of the lake as theirs and the Hispanics having occupied the west side, sadly expressing it was no longer safe.   Gary not being familiar with the demographics of Merced suspected her concern was warranted, upon leaving thanking her for an enjoyable afternoon.

Yosomite Lake - Merced

Yosemite Lake – Merced

Gary’s dog sitting duties coming to an end with his sister and mom’s return and with Katherine’s grandkids still camped at the cottage, he decided to remain in Columbia for the time being.   Having established over 48 ICQ acquaintances there was an inaugural lady that he had an ongoing repose with since initiating ICQ that really intrigued him, her name was Fran and she lived in Orlando Florida.   The two maintaining a steady correspondence on ICQ,  Gary totally enjoying their conversing, finding the lady captivating with her knowledge of about any subject discussed,  her total recall for dates, places and events and inherent proclivity for the music. Gary not really giving thought of meeting Fran with the distance to Florida somehow seeming like half way around the world, but taking notice that their online relationship was beginning to developed into something more than conversation,  an inner feeling from within began raising to surface.  Gary still somewhat hesitant about traveling from California to Florida, it wasn’t like he could jump in the car and visit, it would entail planning by both as Fran would have to arrange for time off from work and to keep down the cost he would have to have to schedule airline reservations at least two weeks in advance. It was when he received an email picture of her and the grandkids that all uncertainty evaporated, the decision to fly to Florida was made.

Fran's email

Fran’s email

Fran's House on Granada Drive, Orlando

Fran’s residence on Granada Drive, Orlando

  The circumstances were rather unusual, Gary having made reservations with United Airlines to fly out of SFO at 10:00 a.m. on Monday July 16th., what was unusual was that July 15th was Fran’s birthday as well as his sister Katherine’s.  Gary addressing the occasion wiring Fran flowers but somewhat curious that his brother-in-law Don was at his mother’s in San Mateo rather than in Groveland for his wife’s birthday.   Gary driving late Sunday afternoon to San Mateo to spend the night at Don’s mother residence, Don having offered to drop Gary off at the San Francisco airport on his way to work,  the Florida bound not  wanting to leave the Buick at the SFO long-term parking.   The west coast to east coast flight with a change of planes in Houston arriving after dark in Orlando, disembarking walking down the United Airlines galley-way into the terminal not knowing what to expect having never met Frances Marion Wilcoxson.  The debarking passengers clearing and before him standing by a post was the picturesque lady  looking absolutely like her photograph.  The long acquainted two finally meeting, on their way to the car rental, Fran mentioning how her daughter Jeanette gave her a lecture about meeting someone whom she met on the internet and was reluctant to leave her mother alone at the airport.  Gary assuring that he understood her daughter apprehension, questioning if she had received the flowers that he had sent the day before for her birthday as it was a Sunday.  The newly acquainted proceeding to Fran’s residence on Granada Drive in Winter Park a small suburban town northeast of Orlando,  Gary introduced and accepted by Sammi, Fran’s ‘deer chihuahua, discover the lady was an inherent canine person which was a plus, soon realizing that she was everything and maybe more than he had expected.

Fran - everything & more

Fran – everything & more

Liz - Dollar Tree Manager

Liz Loreti – Dollar Tree Manager

Gary was just as impressed with Fran in person as online, finding comfort in her demeanor and address to life. Her employment responsibility at Dollar Tree was put on hold to accompany his stay, Gary being introduce to the store manager Liz Loreti,  whom had nothing but accolades for her.  Gary very much aware of the round trip ticket date, an urgency building within to convey to Fran who and what he was as a person, it was difficult but searching his resume’  he found a solution.  Driving through the business district of Orlando,  he took notice of a sign, Orlando Piano, parking, the couple entering,  Gary asking the proprietor if it was alright to try out some of the models,  the two venturing thru the displayed pianos,  the sales person nodding his approval to play any of the stores inventory.    Gary seated before the keyboard of a baby grand, the music of Andy Williams hit More coming forth, followed by he Impossible Dream, the pianist at ease with Fran standing beside him  performing his proclivity on the keyboard.   The pianist giving her a presentation of the inner feeling than only music can express,  songs of remembrance from their youth, the storied epics of love, a grand finale with the Chariots of Fire. To his surprise the staff and customers at the store applauding,  Gary suspecting that they knew what he was up too, acknowledging the couple  on their departure.  Gary was surprised when discovering  Sunday Church was an integral part of Fran’s life,  the two attending the local Baptist Church,  Gary finding solace again,  having neglected this most important celebrate of life,  because of his inherent life  in Groveland and Columbia.    Both his sister’s, Katherine and Nancy proclaiming to be agnostic,  using this for his failure to attend church during his stay at both premises,  recognizing he had become abortive of his faith.

Laney, Jeanette, Trent and Corrina front and center.

Laney, Jeanette, Trent and Corrina front and center.

Space Shuttle Discovery - July 27, 1999 ST-96 launch

Space Shuttle Discovery – July 27, 1999 ST-96 launch

Gary’s round trip reservation return trip date about to arrive, a decision was made to postpone the event, an overwhelming desire to spend more time with Fran.   The ensuing week found the two engulfed in conversation of reality, both experiencing a inner feeling that they were destined to be together plus an added influence for Fran to move westward.   Her oldest daughter Jeanette and two grandchildren having made a decision to move to John Day Oregon, another daughter Donna and family having already taking up residence there.  The dawning  Florida evenings would find the two sitting outside exchanging memories of years past with each other,  a coherent understanding of life being accorded and during one night attention given to the night sky,  the glowing fiery trail of a launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Spaceport could be observed in the Orlando July 27th night sky.  Gary now quite positive having seen a sign in the sky,  a proposal of matrimony being extended and with Fran’s acceptance, Friday July 30th was calendared to consummate the ceremony.

With this ring I do thee wed

With this ring I do thee wed

The July 30 1999 morning sun welcomed the inauguration of a special day, the wedding of Gary Michael Willson and Frances Marion Wilcoxson.   The couple leaving the Winter Park Granada Drive residence journeying to 325 North Orange Ave.,  Suite #355 in Orlando’s Orange County Courthouse.  Entering the matrimonial office, Fran’s employment store manager Liz waiting their arrival,  her enthusiasm blossoming for the event that was about to unfold.  Gary seeing that the  formality of contractual papers and license fee’s were fulfilled,  the couple not the only ones to be joined in matrimonial union, a waiting period commencing for two other couples..   A door opened and a joyous couple accompanied by several guests who exited , Gary, Fran and Liz entering the specially designated room for the ceremony,  a state authorize matrimonial clerk with the title Justice Of The Peace introducing herself informing them she was to perform the acceptance of the wedding vows.   Gary and Fran standing on a raised arbor platform before the Justice of the Peace,  with the banding of rings, both emitting the effervescence  of the  ceremony as they were pronounced husband and wife.  Surprisingly Liz was the emotional one, Gary realizing that Liz valued Fran friendship far more than just a loyal employee.   The climatic ceremony fulfilled having no other functions to proclaim the couple returning to their parked rental car,  but upon approaching the car Gary noticed a slip of paper beneath the wiper blade discovering a police citation, the rental having  been ticketed for an expired license tag , the two finding a little humor to start their first hour of marriage.

County Courthouse Orlando

County Courthouse Orlando

You may kiss the Bride

You may kiss the Bride

Gary, Liz & Fran

Gary, Liz & F

The couple having discussed the pro’s and con’s of remaining in Florida or moving to California,  Gary letting the decision rest with Fran, but knowing that  Fran’s  daughter Donna and her family was now residing in Oregon and her eldest Daughter Jeanette and her two children having just left for the eastern Oregon town.  Gary was understanding, realizing that Fran was sacrificing years of effort, leaving her home, friends and an established life placing a blind trust in someone she had corresponded with for over a year but in person for only two weeks   Fran having acquired many friends during her employment at the Dollar Tree store,  among them were those which she called the scooter brigade,  a proud group of elderly people whom traversed in electric scooter chairs to provide their shopping chores.   Upon hearing of Fran’s Marriage and that she would soon depart the scooter brigade made an appearance, the couple being invited to Richard and his friend Christie’s small apartment for dinner.   The elderly couple providing a delightful meal,  Gary couldn’t help but smile noting the jars filled with individual packaged condiments,  salt,  pepper,  sugar,  mustard,  ketchup and other complementary supplements provided by fast food establishments,  lightheartedly understanding there  were many with disabilities and retirement age stressed with deficit financial burdens.

24 Ft. Budget Rental

24 Ft. Budget Rental

The moving endeavor beginning in earnest the newlyweds deciding on a yard sale to reduce some of Fran’s accumulated household item.  The yard sale having little response from the ad placed in the paper, Fran’s landlord purchasing the appliances and yard equipment.  Gary proceeding to the Budget Rental Complex north of town, judging that a 16 ft box van should hold all the household goods.   With the help of Richard, who conveniently rose from his motorized wheelchair to help,  the loading began  but there was a problem,  Gary had misjudged the amount of furnishings, it became apparent  the 16 foot truck was too small.   The only alternative was to get a larger truck,  the 16 ft. rental already three-quarter full would have to be returned, the Florida hot August afternoon temperature influencing his decision.  Gary driving the partially loaded truck back to budget, explaining the situation, the Budget complex manager agreeing to have the load transferred to a 24 ft truck, but for a loading price, but what could one say, it was the only game in town.




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