Sitting in the weekly rental apartment, I wondered if I had made the correct choice. However, the thought was quickly dismissed. I had given Chuck every opportunity to make our marriage work I refused to look back with regret. After all looking back had kept me with him as long as I had stayed in the first place. The decision that I needed to make now was whether or not to leave the state.
It had been six weeks since the divorce was final and I could not say I was feeling bad. Chuck either glared at me during the proceedings or looked at his hands. He didn’t have anything to give me but his dreams. I wanted no part of them anymore. I was tired of giving everything of myself, doing things his way, and never having anything for me. I felt like I lived in a soap opera or a bad romantic comedy. How could I know that in the course on 9 months I would be as happy as I could ever imagine, my financial state would be secured for a very long time, and I would lose the romantic love of my life forever.
When Chuck and I met, I was completely single. There was no man of significance in my life. Chuck was handsome and a smooth talker. He looked like and gave the impression he had it all and he could give it to me. I would later find out all he was consisted of “pipe dreams” and lies. What should have been a friends with benefits relationship took a wrong turn and ended up in the land of matrimony, eventually to both of our dismay. We had the twins the very next year. Then Chuck really started to perform.
He stayed out until all hours of the morning, spent ridiculous amounts of money, and did a fair amount of cocaine. I stopped caring about him very rapidly. The kids were toddlers when we started going for counseling. Chuck kicked the cocaine habit, but he was never faithful. He used to sing a song “Don’t Fence Me In” when he came in late and I would protest. I was finished, I was ready to walk out the door, but I put my children’s needs ahead of mine.They adored their father. I kept putting off the inevitable; first when they were in school, then when they were finished with high school. Upon their college graduation, I finally figured it was my turn. 30 years and 4 months from the day I married him, I walked out of our house never to return. It was frightening, but it was long overdue.
I picked up my cell phone and called my cousin, Phil. We had grown up together and he was divorced now as well, or should I say again. Phil was a pretty successful sports writer and did a bit of traveling. He knew what was going on with me and Chuck; I finally decided I would take him up on his offer and relocate to Florida. I would stay with him temporarily until I figured out what I would do permanently.
Since cooking was my love, and baking was my passion, a career in the food industry was a natural choice. I had taken a couple of cake decorating classes before Chuck and I split up. Well why not put it to use, until I figure out what to do as I waited on my retirement. I got a job at the local big chain supermarket, Publix. It was ideal I could walk to work from Phil’s apartment. The beach was walking distance from the store where I would spend many hours, after work and lunch breaks as well. Life was amazingly simple for me now. I didn’t have to see Chuck nor worry about running into him. I missed the kids, but they had lives of their own. Their visits would be cherished and fun.
I was decorating a small chocolate ganache cake early, when I looked up there was this tall( about 6’3″) handsome man of clearly Italian decent smiling. His skin was olive, his teeth were white and straight, he had a full head of salt and pepper hair. He said, “Beautiful, I must have.., oh and I would like the cake too.” I flashed a quick fake smile, but I was flattered. I asked, ” Would you like this one? He nodded in affirmation and said, “Yes. Please.” “Can I get you anything else, sir?” as I began packaging his cake. He leaned forward and said, “I am sorry if I was forward. I didn’t see a ring and there aren’t many of us, you know, our age who are clearly single. I love your hair. You don’t color it. You’re bold.” I replied, ” So are you.” He rubbed his hair,” Well I have a little more salt than you do, but seriously it , your hair is gorgeous.” I handed him the cake. He smiled and in a lower tone he said, ” And so are you.” He smiled, winked, and walked away. I didn’t see Rick,the store manager when he came behind the counter and I was slightly startled, when he began talking to me. Kent was quite impressed with you. I said, ” Who?” “The gentlemen who just bought the cake. He is a regular customer, he told me you were a wonderful, talented, and charming individual.” I laughed, ” Really, hum Rick if I wasn’t old as black pepper I’d swear he was flirting and you were aiding and abetting….” Rick slipped me a business card and walked away.
KENT IMPERATO Professional Golf Course Design. What it did not say was he was on the PGA tour and had quite an impressive record. However, if you followed golf you would know that. I was too wrapped up in me to follow anything right then. I knew he looked familiar or was it just that he was so tall and so handsome. Probably a little of the first plus a lot of the second and third. It was a flirt and it felt good.
Phil was on his way out when I was on my way in. He told me he would be back by the weekend. He was always rushing about. I sat my bag down and laid the card on the counter with my keys. Phil glanced at it and looked at me with a question mark on his face.. “Kent Imperato.. the pro?” I replied, ” I dunno, I guess”. Phil said, “Really.. I know he is in the area, but.. when.. where did you see him.” Oh he came in the store and bought a ganache… Phil interrupted,” and he gave you his card… what is this cuz?” I squinted at him, “Phillip don’t you have a plane to catch?” Yeah I do but you won’t get off that easy”, he said as he walked out the door.
Two days later I got another visit from Kent at the store. He came up to the counter and smiled, “That was one fabulous cake.” Oh well I am so glad you enjoyed it”, I replied. “What can I get for you today?” “Did you get my business card”, he said quietly. I said,” Yes I did, but I am not a golf enthusiast, I am sure you are quite good but..” He interrupted again, “But you don’t have a phone, you couldn’t call, you don’t like golfers?” “You aren’t a bit shy are you, I said. “Have lunch with me, please?” I was filling the display case. “Listen, I am flattered, but.. He said, “No really listen, I won’t take no for an answer so just say yes and I will be back to pick you up at… I relented, “1:15″My lunch was actually at 1:30, but the time mislead was to see if he was serious and punctual. The large clock in the front of the store read 1:14 and I watched my lunch date walked over to the display case. ” Ready”, he asked. I raise my index finger indicating one minute and I disappeared to the back of the bakery. When I emerged, Rick and Kent were talking. Rick said, “Man if you keep hangin around this bakery you’re gonna get fat.” He smiled at me and walked away. Kent smiled and said, ” So where would you like to go?” I replied,” Well, seeing as I am all dressed up I figure we should go someplace really nice.” He smiled again. “I have just the place in mind”, he said.
I did not know what to expect on any level. I hadn’t been on a date in more than three decades. He was driving a Buick Rendezvous, it was black. I did not give his vehicle another thought, except it drove nice and smooth. We were headed up the coast, the waters from the ocean were aqua blue and rather calm. We parked and Kent walked around to my door to open it for me. I got out and looked around. There were people on the beach, a lifeguard tower, but no place to eat was visible. This was fine with me, because I was in my work attire and my time was limited, a walk on the beach would be nice. I saw a blue and white cabana .
“I can image what you look like when you aren’t working,” he said. What do you like to do, what kind of music do you listen to, do you dance?” My reply was, “Which question do you want answered?” Wait I have one for you, no two. Where are we going and what are you doing here with me?” We reached the cabana there was a young man there we had a picnic table and there was food. Kent said, For an afternoon at the beach I like junk food, but I told Lyle to bring some fresh fruits and cheese, healthy stuff just in case. Tami this is Lyle. Lyle nodded and smiled. “Hello Lyle”, I said. “Afternoon on the beach.. Kent I have a job that I have to be back at in about 30 minutes”. He pulled out his cell phone and pushed a button and looked at me. I looked at him as he began speaking .” Yes may I speak to Rick Henson, store manager… Rick hey man this is Kent, yeah remember the favor I asked you about ? Well if you would kindly relay that information to this lovely lady with me I would greatly appreciate it.” I took the phone with a suspicious look on my face. ” Hello, who is this speaking?” I asked. “So tell me the store number and how about my hire date. Well you can’t blame me for being cautious. I see. Again, you can’t blame me for being cautious. Regular schedule tomorrow? Ha, yeah right. I’m sure. Do you need to speak with him. Very well, see you tomorrow. Bye.” I pushed the end screen and handed the phone back to Kent. “Alright, we have more than 30 minutes for lunch, let’s take it one step at a time.” Kent simply smiled.
Kent was actually my age just shy of my birthday, by one day. He had made quite a roar in the world of golf and he had clearly always liked blondes. I did do some research. I knew the last thing I was looking for was some cocky pro golfer, spending his free time polishing up his trophies, all of his “trophies”. He had obviously done well financially, investments a few endorsements here and there as well as a very successful ad campaign for a fledgling sportswear company, his own. I was out with a relatively wealthy man. I was out of my league and I knew it, but I was enjoying the spoils for the moment. Hey, a nice lunch, the afternoon off, no harm/no foul.
We walked on the beach, to exercise lunch away. Since my attire was white pants and a coral polo shirt I was over dressed but not too noticeably, without my name tag and bare feet, you could assume I picked the outfit. Kent was wearing his company’s signature polo shirt, sandals, and khaki shorts. Before I knew it the afternoon gave way to the evening. As we drove back to my apartment, dozens of questions ran through my mind. It made me very quiet as David Sanborn played “Try A Little Tenderness” in the background.
I had enjoyed the afternoon and the company of this man, but there are no manual to instruct a 50+ year old woman how to act or what to expect on a first date. I was way out of practice. The sun was setting on the horizon, I asked myself “Are you going to let it set on you?” Kent took hold of my hand and we exchanged looks. We pulled up in front of Phil’s building and Kent parked. He walked around and opened my door. He took my hand and helped me out. Here it is the moment, “do I want to kiss him, I think I do, but only if he wants to kiss me, no that’s not right…” He kissed my right cheek and said, “I had a really nice time we MUST do this again”. Without giving myself time to think I kissed him on the lips, smiled and said, “We must”.
Getting older the games of romantic involvement must have subsided. Kent called on his way home to again tell me what a good afternoon it had been. He warned me that he planned on taking up a considerable amount of my time. I told him we should do like they do in A.A., take it one day at a time. Our next date was for dinner. I told him I wanted to go somewhere that I could put on a dress. I wanted to feel elegant. I had plenty of gowns, just never a occasion to wear them. We went to a country club on one of the golf courses he had designed. Elegant I wanted, elegant I got.
Kent was now making his way to the senior tour, but at present remained on the regular ranks of the PGA. We first appeared in public at Pebble Beach for a charity event in support of S.M.A. “Fans” for golfers are a little different than other sports groupies, the main difference being they are quieter. Everyone on the inside knew what was going on and they all knew what Kent liked in a woman, in turn the women knew as well. I was not it. The guys were nice in an obliging way, the women were as women are, “catty”. I was not in the “club” and I didn’t want to be. As the resident alien, I would bring my friend(s) with me to watch Kent play. It had all the scandal of a high school nobody hooks the most popular school jock. The magazines would take pictures of me generally with a bottle of water and my BYOF(bring your own friend). I rarely ate at the clubs. Kent and I would have a really big breakfast before he played, we would work out 30 minutes later for and hour and a half, afterwards he and I were good for the day. It became our ritual.
KENTAMI’S(pronounce ken tah meez) opened amid quiet ceremony. As the cliche’ of the times; a specialty cupcake bakery whose name was the merging/fusion of the couple-owners first names. It could have been worse, my parents could have opted to spell Tami the traditional way with a double “m” and a “y” . It flowed. I joked with Kent, ” They must have known about you long before I did.” The day was busy, a number of the wives of the tour pro’s stopped in and made purchases. Lots of pictures, Kent signed some golf balls and gloves. Later that night when it was quiet and dark in our quaint little bakery, we sat in the window on two of the tall bar stools, drinking sparkling apple cider. I was tired, but it was a good tired.
Kent placed a little package in front of me that was wrapped to look like a mini-cupcake box from the store. I didn’t want to open it, things were really good between us. I was “shell shocked” from “The Chuck Years”. This was a man, had I met earlier in life, I would have had children with, but now that was a “pipe dream”. “Aren’t you going to open it”, he asked in an almost whisper. I looked into his beautiful dark eyes, I examined his face, his deeply tanned skin, the thick salt and pepper hair. “Kent aren’t we happy, I mean things are good. You are a vibrant man, you should have babies I can’t do that for you. Let’s just enjoy what we have… He interrupted me and said, ” What do you think is in there, a ring? He laughed, ” Oh baby no, I don’t want to get married…” He took the box from in front of me. Now I was a bit embarrassed, a bit annoyed as I watched him fumble with the box, then I looked away trying to compose myself. I have to admit I was a little pissed, but looking at life stages, I realized the days of dreaming about youthful romance were long behind me. I caught a glimpse of him in my peripheral vision and the window reflected his image behind me. He swung my seat around and dropped to one knee, ” I don’t want to get married to anyone but you. So just say yes cause I won’t take no for an answer”. I was breathless from his words. He kissed my hand and put the ring on my finger. He continued,” And this, this is not a ring but a reminder that we have a commitment to one another that is for life.” The ring was what I considered too much 5 carats; 3 1/2 carat baguette cut stones on each side of the anchor stone which was a 2 carat princess. “What do you say”, he asked smiling, he already knew.
When his plane crashed I knew I would never be the same. Kent was so vibrant so full of life being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life would not work for him.He was angry and bitter. Most of the time he did not want to see me so I would go and sit in the waiting room for hours. I went home with him for appearances sake from the hospital. I left the house at 3 a.m. I would never see him alive again. I wear a pendant that is made from the platinum and diamond engagement ring, he had made for me. It has his name engraved in it, and his soul is engraved in my heart.