Family Names

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

My Valentine

I met Wayne at my best friend Karen’s 21st party. Karen & I had been best friends all through high school, and we spent most of our free time together.

Karen came from a family of 4 children and what seemed like hundred’s of Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. I would often attend Karen’s family informal family events and met all of her aunts and uncles with the exception of one family. I was always known as Karen’s little friend.
In 1980 we moved away I began living in another suburb, attending a new high school, and making new friends. Karen and I were no longer living within walking distance from each other and we drifted apart.

A few years later I was working at the Austin Hospital as a student nurse when Karen called to say her Uncle had been admitted to the Austin and could I visit him and check that he was ok. We had drifted apart but I was pleased to make the connection again and went to visit her Uncle Geoff in the cancer ward. He was the one uncle that I had never met, but he was still pleased to see me and with a broad smile on his face he said: “so you are Karen’s little friend”.

Photographer unknown, The Benton family taken just before Geoff died, 1981, Cheltenham Park, Cheltenham, Victoria, Australia [ben017]

Geoff passed away soon after that meeting on the 9th November 1981 in hospital, leaving a wife and 3 grown children behind.  On 26 May 1982, Karen celebrated her 21st birthday in a local hall, all her cousins and relatives include a dashing (or so I thought) young man named Wayne.  I don’t remember much about the night in general but I do remember the details of my first encounter with Wayne.
I remember seeing him across the room in his very tight light green jeans and tight jumper talking and laughing with others. 

During a quiet moment, I approached and asked him to dance, which he politely declined saying he had a gummy leg. Not deterred I asked another two times until he eventually agreed to dance with me. My heart fluttered. I had expected for him to return to the crowds straight after our dance but like in the fairy tales we filled space between dancing with talking, never really leaving the dance floor until the end of the evening.

Phtoographer unknown, Sandra  & Wayne(Sandra Wearing the dress that she met Wayne in), circa 1981, Location not known –[ben056]

We talked about a lot of things including my visit to his father before he died and how happy he had been when I saw him in hospital. I was determined not to be fooled by his charm and began to run through my elimination questions which I used to help me determine whether I should proceed in engaging in conversation with a potential partner. I can’t quite remember what all the questions were but I do remember looking for his reaction when I told him that I owned and rode a motorbike rather than a car. His demeanor did not change to disapproval nor did he seem to be “shocked” by the revelation.

As the evening came to close he asked me if he could drive me home. It seemed a bit ridiculous after all I was staying at Karen’s for the evening.  But everyone encouraged me to let Wayne drive me the short distance to Karen’s home.  We pulled up in the front of her home and sat talking in his car for some time. Eventually, we saw the venations blinds being separated and we knew that everyone was peeking through the blinds watching to see what was happening.  I could feel the colour rise in my cheeks. It was only then that Karen’s younger brother Craig came running out of the front door with a ridiculous grin on his face and asked what was wrong. At which point Wayne asked him if he could get him a pen as he wanted to write my number down, and neither of us had a pen. Craig ran inside with a great sense of urgency and return with pen in hand.  The Venetians now had several eyes peeking through them watching our every move.

I gave Wayne my number and got out of the car and went into the house. I don’t remember much after that other than everyone kept telling me what a nice fellow Wayne was. Most likely Karen and I would have spent the remainder of the night talking about the evening sharing stories until we fell asleep.

Photographer Mark Williamson, Wayne & Sandra on their wedding day 21 June 1986, Mt Waverley, Victoria Australia [Ben056]

It felt as though we had been destined to meet we had been moving in similar circles but somehow in those years our paths had never crossed. 

Photographer Lisa Lionnet-Swaan, Wayne Benton & Sandra Williamson, March 2017, Sandringham
Over the years we have attended quite a few events with Wayne’s extended family, where I ironically know more about his extended family than he does having grown up visiting them all (except Wayne’s family) as Karen’s little friend.

I still see my friend Karen but now only at funerals or weddings. Wayne & I have now been together for almost 36 years. Since then we have only danced a few times together as he always laughs and says he has a war wound and can’t dance.

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