Chapter Twenty-six: Sam Goes to College

Finally, the fall of 1981 rolled around and Papa Sam enrolls in the University of Las Vegas. He has finally made up his mind to follow in his father’s footsteps.  In addition to enrolling in college, he signed up for the ROTC. Since he wanted his own place, he got a job at the local grocery store stocking shelves.  His girlfriend Tammy also got a job as a waitress at Binion’s Steakhouse. Between their two salaries, they were able to afford a small one room apartment near the college. The living conditions weren’t ideal, but they weren’t expecting them to be at the start.

Much to Papa Sam’s chagrin, Tammy almost immediately got pregnant but fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, she had a miscarriage three months into the pregnancy. 

The birth control pill came out in 1950, though it was not readily available until the 1960s. In 1972, it was finally made available to single women. After the close call, Papa Sam and Tammy decided it would be best to take precautions, so she started taking birth control pills prescribed by her gynecologist.

Life was hectic for the young couple with setting up a new home and getting used to living together. But you have to give credit where credit is due, Tammy never complained. Even though she was inexperienced in running a household, she did her best. Tammy’s mother always worked, so there was little transference of housemaking skills to her daughter. So, Tammy was starting from scratch. When they moved in together, she could barely boil water. So to not only stay busy at night but to learn how to cook and run a household, Tammy took cooking and home economic classes at the Community College on the nights Papa Sam was taking his own classes. In her free time she would also watch Julia Child’s cooking show on the public broadcasting network. Within six months, the change in her cooking was remarkable. They no longer needed to buy pizzas at the last minute when she ruined their dinners.

Papa Sam had to admit that he was really proud of his Tammy. She could have done a lot better than him. After all, she was an attractive cheerleader who had half the male population at his high school drooling over her. So there is no doubt in his mind that she traded down when she chose him.

The only concern he had was when he went overseas. He worried that since she was such a passionate person, he was not sure if she would be able to remain faithful to him. He knew it was wrong for feeling this way, but he knew that human flesh was weak, especially when there was a lot of temptation. He was amazed that his parents remained faithful to each other when his father was overseas as much as he was. However, he knew love like theirs was special and subsequently something to be cherished.

Despite his concerns, life went by like a blur. His days were full of classes and study work on the weekdays, while his ROTC filled up his weekends. Subsequently there was little time left for Papa Sam and Tammy. However, they did manage to find some time here and there to spend together. One thing that they both insisted on was eating at least one meal a day together. Papa Sam had to admit that as time went by this “meal time” became more enjoyable. All of her hardwork was finally paying off as she definitely was becoming a better cook.

Thanks to “the pill,” there were no more close calls. Mind you not because Papa Sam had anything against a family. He just wanted to be married with a good paying and stable job before they started raising a family. There is no denying that at certain moments when she smiled and her whole face lit up, the thoughts of making a baby with her were almost irresistible.

Time really did fly by for them and before they knew it the spring of 1985 and graduation came. Papa Sam’s parents, Grandpa Gordon, Mama Clara and his sister Christine, and her new husband, Mark Spencer, whom she married last year in addition to Tammy, came to his graduation post party. It was nice to finally see his parents since they had been overseas traveling so much. He had to admit that retirement agreed with them as they looked so happy and fresh. During the last four years he has managed to spend some time with his sister Christine. The two couples had made a point of going out to eat together at least once every couple of months as time allowed.

Later that week, Papa Sam and Tammy took a few days off and drove up to Utah to spend some time in St. George. While relaxing there he proposed to Tammy. His proposal caught her offguard and she was justifiably overwhelmed with emotion. When she finally composed herself, she quickly said yes. Afterward to celebrate, they went out to a restaurant and had a nice meal. Later on while waiting for their check, he told her that once they were married, he was going to join the Air Force.

Tammy replied dejected, “I knew that day was coming as we had discussed it before we moved in together. I know that I won’t see much of you when you are in boot camp. I think I will continue taking classes at the Junior College to stay busy and also to start working on my associates degree in hotel and restaurant management.”

Tammy added excitedly, “When we get married we can get on base housing so that will save us a lot of money”. Papa Sam spoke in a consoling way, ” I will also get extra pay once I become a pilot. As long as we remain strong and faithful to each other, we will get through the rough times. If my parents were able to do it, we can also do it.”

The next morning, Papa Sam took the bus downtown to the Air Force recruiting office. When the recruiter heard him say his name, he asked him if he was related to Major General Gordon Anderson.

Papa Sam hesitantly said, “Yes, he is my father.”

The recruiter replied kindly, “I feel sorry for you. You certainly have big shoes to fill.”

Papa Sam nodded in reply.

The recruiter further added, “I am sure that you are aware, your boot camp will be in Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and will be 8.5 weeks in duration.

“Yes Sir.” said Papa Sam standing at attention. “If you mind me, sir ,when will I be leaving for boot camp?” he continued.

The Recruiter matter-of-factly replied, “0800 Monday morning.”

Papa Sam finished signing his paperwork and left the recruiting office to break the news to Tammy and his parents.