My old girlfriend, Penny, had a great fondness to wear her dad’s old army shirt. From the first time I saw her, I was totally smitten with her. This essay is an attempt to answer one of my most commonly asked questions about my writings.
To Answer The Question: Why?
By Richard Mabey Jr.
One of the single most commonly asked questions that people have asked me about my writings, are variations of this one: “why do you write about your old girlfriend Penny so much? We’ve all had break-ups, what made this one so special that you write so much about this one girl?”
To me, Penny represented the ideal girl. She was incredibly beautiful, endlessly romantic, outrageously outspoken, furiously jealous, amazingly conceited, cleverly humorous, Einstein intelligent, and she believed in me in a way that no other girlfriend ever did.
I was 17 years old when I met Penny. Penny was 16. She used to wear her father’s army shirt a lot. From the first time that I ever saw her, I was totally smitten with her. We were friends for quite a while before I got the nerve to ask her out on a date. I simply thought that she was way out of my league.
I often asked myself, when I was looking into Penny’s eyes, “what the heck does she see in me?” Monday morning quarterback, I think she saw a boy who was very earnest and steadfast in his goals in life. I was painfully shy then. I was basically a good student, though I had to work very hard to get good grades.
Penny came to my Eagle Scout Dinner. She came to the Town Council Meeting when I was given the honor to be the “Scout Mayor” and actually run the Town Council Meeting. This wasn’t a joke. It was something Mayor William Dixon and the Town Council took very serious. So, from seeing me in these roles, I think she saw a certain potential in me.
Penny read and critically analyzed all of my articles that I wrote for the Lincoln Park Herald and for my college newspaper, Youngtown Edition. She was an endless source of inspiration and encouragement to me. When I started college at County College of Morris, I brought Penny to the college one Saturday afternoon in early September to see the campus. They were showing a movie that Saturday evening in the college auditorium.
Penny and I walked by the office of Youngtown Edition, the college newspaper. Penny asked me if I was on the staff yet. When I told her no, she punched me in my left arm and told me that I had better get myself into that office on Monday morning and sign up. I remember telling Penny that I didn’t think that I was that good of a writer. Penny got so upset with me. She simply told me to go to the Youngtown office Monday morning and sign up. Needless to say, that’s exactly what I did. I really don’t know if I would have done that, were it not for Penny’s powerful encouragement.
Penny’s father had mixed feelings about me. Things went sour when I started college. I think that I was a threat to his idea of keeping his eldest child, to remain his precious little girl. Penny was now in her senior year of high school. She was transitioning from being a very innocent girl to becoming a grown woman. This disturbed Penny’s father very much. He saw me as the problem. He thought that I was encouraging his eldest daughter to give up being a little girl to becoming a woman. The fact is that I was, but that’s just the way life goes. For that reason, Penny’s father strongly disliked me.
Most of the time Penny referred to me as “my Richard.” It made me feel very special. She was the only girlfriend that I ever had who referred to me as “my Richard.”
I know that some of my old girlfriends read my blog from time to time. I appreciate all of their kind words of encouragement. I don’t mean to be unkind. I want to be very sensitive here. But this is the plain truth: no other woman has ever touched that deepest part of the inner chambers of my heart, the way that Penny did.
The bottom line is that there were forces that wanted to see the romance between Penny and myself to come to a close. It’s a long story. The people who worked so hard toward this goal, probably sincerely believed they were right, in working so hard to convince Penny to break away from me. But the bottom line is that it was pure selfishness on their parts. But then, that’s just the way life goes.
When I was a boy in high school, I was very shy and sensitive. I didn’t have much self confidence. Scouts helped me a lot. I would lose myself in playing the drums, for hours upon hours. But it was Penny who gave me the punch in the arm, to do my very best. I mean it. She would actually punch me in the arm when I expressed self doubts.
My dad once told me that I’ve been dearly blessed. I’ve had three plays produced. For a while, I owned my own newspaper. I’ve had hundreds upon hundreds of stories and articles published in various newspapers and publications. I worked in the corporate world. For five years of my life, I hosted a weekly television talk show. This is no joke: I don’t know if I could have done even half of that, if it wasn’t for the confidence that Penny instilled in me.
In November of 2012, Penny went Home to be with the Lord. She had lost her battle with cancer. I know all the sayings, including: “she’s in a better place now.” Still, it still hurts like hell. While the romantic flame had died years ago, Penny remained to be a dear friend to me through the years.
First, I loved Penny as a friend. Then, I loved her as girlfriend. Later, I loved her as a sister in spirit. From time to time, I still cry for her loss.
Peace and harmony,