We were more a small family than co-workers. We were young, all in our 20s, some of us barely in our 20s. There were eight, maybe 12 of us in all.
We’d work like mad at the Grand Avenue Pizza Hut on Friday and Saturday nights, then get together after work to decompress until the wee hours of the morning. Between work and play, we spent a lot of time together. We grew close.
That’s how Susan and I came to be a couple. We’re at upper left in the photo above. It’s from 1976 or 1977.
We were friends first, and then she and I eventually paired off.
Susan didn’t like to go out. I think we had one date that could be called a conventional date. Which was fine. She was more comfortable with joining our Pizza Hut pals at their places or with the two of us hanging out in the living room at her house, watching the late-late Saturday night horror movies.
We were together for a short time. She was the first to realize that we were better as friends than as a couple. So she broke it off. That stung, but we remained friends, still working side by side at the Pizza Hut.
We were tight, our Pizza Hut family. Kerry, the guy with the black hair and mustache on the bottom of the picture, was the wise big brother I never had. Kerry was in his mid-20s, a soft-spoken Navy vet who mentored me — five years younger — on a lot of aspects of life.
Mary, the young woman on the other side of me in that picture, was the spitfire big sister I never had.
I messaged Mary this morning with the news that Susan has died. Complications of ALS, which neither of us knew she had. Gone too soon.
[We also lost Kerry too soon, 10 years ago now.]
Susan and I saw each other only once later in life, at our 30-year high school class reunion in 2005. It was awkward. I’d heard she was reluctant to go. We said hi, but she seemed surprised that I would be there. Truth be told, I was surprised she was there. She hadn’t been one for class reunions.
Perhaps they were out of her comfort zone. Susan’s obituary suggests she spent her life after the Pizza Hut much as she spent it with us, more comfortable at home, and with her family. Which, again, is fine.
Susan and I weren’t together long enough to have a song that was ours. But this one was part of the soundtrack provided by the jukebox as we worked together at the Grand Avenue Pizza Hut in Wausau, Wisconsin.
“More Than A Feeling,” Boston, from “Boston,” 1976.
Hearing this song always takes me straight back to that time.
So many people have come and gone / Their faces fade as the years go by
Yet I still recall as I wander on / As clear as the sun in the summer sky
I heard it while working out last night, before I read the news about Susan.
I hide in my music, forget the day / And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away / She slipped away