I was in New Jersey for my 50th Morris Catholic High School Class of 1966 reunion. I’d heard that my “high school hero” was in an Alzheimer’s home. Back in the day, Bob was older, wiser – the coolest of the cool. He drove the hottest, baddest ’55 Chevy. His brothers warned me of his deteriorating condition: unresponsive, unable to recognize anyone. But I had to see him – one more time …

In 1965, my pals were lining up junior prom dates. I joked at the local diner that I was planning to ask Michelle “Mickie” Dittner. Everyone laughed. Except Bob. I could have said “Sophia Loren.” Mickie was a legendary goddess and a senior at the public high school. Her boyfriends had cars. I had acne (and the nickname “Boudreaux”).

“Ask her, Boudreaux,” Bob decreed.

“I’m only kidding, man. Mickie’s major league! … I can’t.”

“Yes, you can!” he insisted.

Finally, I did – and Mickie said, “Yes.” Stunned, I asked, “… Ya sure, Mick?”

I don’t know what Sophia Loren wore that night, but Mickie had to have been poured into that dress. She was the inspiration for whoever invented the bikini.

Bob chauffeured us in the ’55. I escorted Mickie into the decorated gym. Jaws dropped. I’d never seen nuns with dropped jaws. My pals stared in awe. We danced cheek-to-cheek – but when Mickie put her head on my shoulder, I was grateful to still be able to dance.

Afterward, parents were picking revelers up in station wagons and Ford Falcons. Bob rumbled up in the ’55 with his own date. Now I’m thinking: “Dare I risk kissing Mickie good night?” No matter. Bob drove down to the local beach, backed into a space and kept the ’55 purring so as to stay warm (I was already sweating) and listen to some tunes.

Young, naive Catholics back then were slow to “French kiss,” but here I was smooching with Mademoiselle Dittner. When the Mello-Kings sang “Tonight, Tonight” (classic make-out doo-wop) on the radio, I lost consciousness. Years later, Tina Turner had a hit with “Steamy Windows” – and I’ve often wondered if Tina might have been in the front seat with Bob that night.

End of the story? Nope. Driving home afterward, Bob asked, “Have fun tonight?” A rhetorical question, that. He continued, “Don’t ever think anyone is ‘out of your league,’ Boudreaux. Someone might say ‘no,’ but the next one will say ‘yes.’ Mickie did, right?” Again, with the rhetoric.

Bob, Mickie and the Mello-Kings punched my self-esteem/confidence card that night. Even Sinatra would’ve been proud.

I last saw Bob sitting in a big, overstuffed chair at the Alzheimer’s facility. I walked over. Our eyes met. He smiled, and in his slight whisper-voice said, “Boudreaux …” Ushering me down the hall to his small, tidy room, he pointed to a frame on the wall – a picture of that ’55 Chevy.

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