It's Valentine's Day... and that always brings back memories. On February 14, 1990, it was my first time to cover National Signing Day for KVUE. I got up early that morning, ready to cover signings at LBJ and Reagan, and excited about the Valentine's "Thank You" phone call I knew I'd get from the girl I had a crush on. She was in Temple area and I sent her a dozen flowers for that special Wednesday. And I hoped, in my shy ways, that she'd ask when we'd see each other again and I could take that opening to suggest that next Saturday night. Dinner, maybe a movie, and I'd give her the Valentine's Teddy Bear that I'd bought the week before.
It didn't work out that way.
Let me start with some background about me. Outgoing, but shy. That was a pretty good description of me in Junior High and High School. Outgoing as a good student and someone who tried to be a leader on athletic teams. But a guy who was terribly shy around girls. At that age, it’s easy to find an escape from your “troubles” and I could have easily turned to drugs, alcohol, bad grades, or mischief. But instead, I decided to rely on God. (Remember that phrase!) And God was good to me through the years. Girls that I happened to meet, or who happened to be in a class, or who happened to live in the same dorm. I won't bore you with stories, but He gave me plenty of chances. But while I say I decided to “rely on God”, what I really mean was I wanted God to do all the work. There were countless times when I would see a girl or meet a girl and hope sparks would fly, but the most I could get out of my mouth was “Hi”. And I relied on God to help that girl see that this guy was smart, athletic, handsome, fun, a great catch.
In the spring of 1988, I was a Resident Assistant at a dorm at UT and had an off-property party coming up (a “casual cruise” on Lake Travis) and I had to get a date. In the previous year and a half as an RA there had been two parties that I needed a date for. One, I asked a freshman, was terribly nervous the whole time, and another RA spent the next six weeks after the party saying “Mike, do you know Paige” at every meal in the cafeteria if we were within 50 feet of each other.
The next party I chickened out. I asked an old friend to go as “a friend”.
Now this casual cruise was a couple of weeks away and I was a basket case. What was I going to do???? I finally think about a cute blonde in my broadcast journalism class. I decided to give it a try. I looked up her phone number on the class roster and started rehearsing what I was going to say. I sat down at the desk in my dorm room and dialed the number. She answered, and I said hello and took a breath to give my “Will you take pity on me and go out” spiel. Before I could ask, she said she was just thinking about me and asked if I wanted to go to a sorority party with her the week before my party. I stammered… YES!!!... and proceeded to ask her out. She said yes. It was fate. There was lots of innocent flirting between the two of us in class for the next week. I was on top of the world!
The two parties were similar. College parties. Lots of drinking. Lots of dancing. And I didn’t really do either. I was completely out of my element. There was one week of school left after the second party and any flirtation that had gone on between us vanished. Fate was on my side and I messed it all up.
I moved out of the dorm after that semester and moved into an apartment for the summer and fall before I graduated. I called her a couple of times over the summer and had friendly conversations. But there was no spark. No “when can we get together.” No “let’s give it another try”.
In December of 1988, before I graduated from UT, I sent her a note (before the days of email!) wishing her well and apologizing for things not going well on our dates. I was relying on God to do the rest. She called me and we had another friendly conversation. But nothing more.
I moved home to Duncanville, living with my parents and started looking for a sportscasting job anywhere I could find one. Three months later I got a job waiting tables at Spaghetti Warehouse in Dallas. In May, I sent a note to one of my best friends still in Austin and asked him to deliver the note and a dozen roses to the girl, as I congratulated her for graduating, wishing her good luck, and hoping it would open another door. Again, taking a small step and relying on God to make BIG things happen. She sent a polite thank you note back.
A month later, I got my first job in Bryan/College Station making $4.50 per hour. I got paid for 30 hours a week. I wound up working 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s all I did. I didn’t really know anyone when I got there and had no love life so all I did was work.
On October 17, 1989, I was at the A&M football press conference when another former college classmate came into the room. He worked at a Waco station and it was A&M-Baylor week. We said “Hi” and started talking about old classmates. He said the girl I went out with was working at KWTX in Waco. It was before noon on a Tuesday when I got this news and my mind was fuzzy the next several hours.
My heart raced as I tried to decide what to do. I sat down in the sports office to log the World Series game between Oakland and San Francisco, still hoping to come up with a plan, when the San Francisco earthquake hit. Big news, but now there was no game to log. So I forced myself to pick up the phone and call KWTX. I was told she worked in the Temple bureau and they gave me the number. I called and she answered. It was fate.
We had another friendly conversation and I lied and said I was going to be near Temple the next day, would she like to go to dinner. She said YES!!!! God had rewarded me for my patience.
I drove to Temple the next day and we went to dinner and had a very friendly conversation. I was much more in my “element”. I talked myself into making various phone calls to her over the next few weeks. I asked her to come to College Station for the UT-A&M game and she stood on the field with me for the game. I got the job here at KVUE and moved back to Austin in December of ‘89. I drove to Temple and took her to lunch in January of '90, and got a little nervous, forgetting to leave a tip at the table.
Everything was working out perfectly. Except there was no romance. One arm hugs. That was it. Not that I cared. I just really liked her. But I started planning for Valentine’s Day, 1990. I went out and bought a HUGE stuffed bear to give her. I ordered a dozen roses to be delivered. I started making plans to go to Temple the weekend after Valentine’s thinking I might finally get to kiss her.
On Valentine’s Day, I had the plan and just knew it was going to work. The flowers were delivered, I had fun covering signing day and putting a story together. But that "thank you" phone call I was waiting for, didn't come and didn't come and didn't come. My plans were wasting away before my eyes! Finally, at almost midnight, my phone rang. It was a quick thank you and a friendly conversation. Nothing about seeing each other. Nothing about romance. Nothing that gave me hope.
I decided I was doing something God didn’t want me to do. If He wanted me with this girl, He’d give me a sign. I had to stop calling her and wait for her to make a move.
Two months later, on April 15th, I broke down and called her again. Yet another friendly conversation, but nothing about why I hadn’t called in two months and when we’d see each other again.
I was devastated. I vowed to never call her again. I hoped my new Jeep Wrangler would be my “babe magnet” around Austin. I was on TV here as a sports reporter, I was young and good looking (well, I thought so for some reason!) and I was rich (in my mind), making $18,000 a year. So I started driving around Lake Austin and Lake Travis on the weekend, knowing the babes would flock around me. When they didn’t I decided I must not look cool enough in my jeep, even with the top down. I started driving with a tank top or no shirt and without a seat belt to show off my muscles. If that didn’t attract the babes, what would?
It was more than six months later, in November of 1990, and the “babe magnet” wasn’t helping much. I still relied on God to do all the work. Even though I’m a sportscaster, I’m told I have to be a “field producer” in College Station for the Phil Gramm campaign on election night. I was livid. I tried everything I could to get out of it but still found myself driving that jeep to College Station on that Tuesday afternoon, wondering why God was punishing me.
I found out when I got there and saw her. Hadn’t seen or talked to her since April, but there she was. If this wasn’t a “sign”, what was?
So I sat in my field producer chair all night, trying to do my job, while also trying to devise a plan. After the hour long 10pm newscast ended at 11pm I made my move. We had our usual friendly conversation and I asked for her phone number. She gave it to me.
I had failed in my romantic attempts with her before, so I needed some help. I talked to one of my best friends who was great with girls. He told me to quit being so nice. To quit giving her flowers and gifts. I said OK.
But this was the girl of my dreams. So for Thanksgiving a couple of weeks later, I sent a cornucopia of flowers but didn’t sign my name. Two weeks later it was her birthday, and I sent her roses, but didn’t sign my name again. That was my way of abiding by the rules.
I still had a week’s vacation to burn in the middle of December so I went home to Duncanville, stopping by her apartment in Waco along the way. I took a cookie cake for her birthday the week before and gave her that big teddy bear, telling her there was a long story behind it. No flowers and no romance, so I was doing as I was told. Sort of.
But I was antsy. I needed better direction.
The first few days I was home in Duncanville, my parents were out of town. The house I grew up in had a big game room with a pool table and a big open bar. Could’ve been the makings of a great party. But instead, I spent every day putting up tons of Christmas lights. I spent every evening reading the Bible. And I spent every late night running. I’m not a runner, but I jogged 2, 3, 4, and 5 miles over those four nights, talking to God the entire time, trying to figure out what He wanted me to do.
By the end of that last run of 5 miles, I remembered that I hated jogging, but also realized that I should do more than just “rely” on Him. I had to do some work and trust Him. TRUST GOD!
I went back to Austin the next week and had one of the best weeks of my life. Worked on a Cotton Bowl special. Sent a card (but no gift) to the girl in Waco. And Westlake made it to the State Championship football game that was going to be played in Waco on Saturday December 22nd. I’d get to cover it and edit at her station, where I’d get to see her before Christmas.
But on my way to work on that cold and icy December 22nd, I got into the wreck. Shouldn’t have been that bad, as I got T-boned at the intersection of Steck and Mopac, but I got into the habit in my babe magnet of still not wearing a seat belt. I figured I was big and strong and could take care of myself. I was wrong.
I flew out of my jeep on impact and had serious head injuries. EMS took me to Brackenridge Hospital and they somehow got a hold of my parents in Dallas. They drove down an icy I-35 and found me in Intensive Care, practically in a coma.
The girl in Waco found out about the accident and talked to someone at my TV station. Then she, somehow, got a hold of my Mom at the hospital. I had given my Mom a little hint about the crush I had that week before when she asked why I was 23 and never brought any girls around. So Mom knew this girl was “special”. But my Mom told her she should go home to Houston for Christmas and keep in touch, because visiting at the time was kind of useless because of the condition I was in.
On the 23rd and 24th, I got no better. On Christmas, I still didn’t open my eyes and didn’t talk and barely moved when the doctors and nurses did their tests. My parents were told I might stay that way the rest of my life.
On December 26th, the girl I liked was going to drive from Houston to Dallas for a wedding, but decided to detour through Austin. She had this feeling she should visit me. So she called my Mom and was told when she could see me during ICU visiting hours.
She arrived at the hospital and met my Mom in the ICU lobby. My Mom told her that doctors wanted visitors to talk to me and touch my arm so that I’d know they were there.
She and my mom walked into my ICU room and my Mom said “Mike, there’s somebody here to see you.” The girl touched my arm and said my name.
I opened my eyes, grabbed her hand, and started talking to her.
I got out of the hospital five days later. A week after that, we kissed for the first time.
Kim and I will celebrate our 21st anniversary this March!
Trust God... and miracles can happen!
Happy Valentine's Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!