In the fall of 1958, a romantic and life altering event occurred while I was seated in the Duke Hall auditorium...during 'freshmen orientation' at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) in Harrogate, Tennessee. The Dean of Students, after spending thirty minutes to explain the campus rules and dress code for students, paused to shuffle through his notes for his next agenda item. All of a sudden, I glimpsed an unusal motion out of the corner of my right eye...the fluttering of delicate, wispy wings. Lo and behold, I recognized that Cupid was hovering near-by, yet in that beautiful moment, the Dean began to lecture again.
"Two LMU cheerleaders will now teach you freshmen the school alma mater and the cheer words they will lead during basketball games."
Suddenly, I again glimpsed movement to my right; Cupid was now much closer. I could actually see his face and he was smiling devilshly at me. Without a word of warning and in one continuous motion, Cupid drew an arrow from its quiver, inserted it in his bow…and drew back his arm. Zing….An arrow was soaring toward me. I froze, unable to react before Cupid's arrow pierced my heart with a slight thud. Yet, I felt no pain, only "love".
Days…weeks…eventually that entire school year passed, and still I hadn't introduced myself to the girl I believed to be the love of my life. I passed her often on campus, but she was always with a male upperclassman and I was too shy to approach her when she was with some one else. Still, I attended every basketball game, and, each time she took the floor to lead cheers, my eyes fixated on her every movement. And, each time the buzzer sounded to end the game, I hustled to the gym floor, with a burning desire to speak to her, but invariably another guy would beat me to her side and I would shy away. My freshman year ended and I still had not met her, but I had learned that her name was Shirley Jean Garrett, from Kingsport, Tennessee.
For our first date, Shirley asked me to be her date for the annual Delta Sorority "Gypsy Violins" formal dance in the old gym at LMU. During our first waltz together, I held her lightly in my arms, with proper distance between our bodies, yet that was enough to convince me. "This girl was worth waiting for."
Later, I learned that Shirley, before going to bed that night, mentioned me in her daily entry in her diary. The book was thick, with many pages on which she had religiously recorded her impression of all her previous dates with boys, and most comments were quite lengthy, yet the one about me wasn't. "Had first date with Kenny Fields…Had a really great time…."
I have an inkling about the exact moment when Shirley started loving me; I think it occurred when she wrote her last diary entry. She knew in her heart then that I would be the love of her life. But, she won't admit that….As for me, I'm one hundred per cent sure that my love of Shirley began the moment when Cupid pierced my heart with his arrow, and I have never, ever, considered pulling it out. I love Shirley even more now, 57 years later, if that is possible.