Our Lives

Last tale before goodbye

CorrespondentMarch 24, 2009 

The scene: A ninth-grade civics classroom at West Brunswick High School in coastal Shallotte.

It was 1984 and my friend Robert had just told me Duran Duran were coming to play the Greensboro Coliseum.

"Get off the floor, Leigh Ann," Mrs. Grissett said, trying to regain control of her classroom after my outburst.

"I need to go use the phone, it's an emergency!" I pleaded.

"Sit down, Leigh Ann," she replied.

I have no idea what was taught that day -- must have been something about the Department of the Interior, because to this day I don't know what that particular branch of government does. I was a Duran Duran-crazed 14-year-old girl who'd never had a boyfriend, and I believed with all my heart that if I could be in the same room with the band, Nick Rhodes would see me in the crowd and sweep me away to live in a castle in England.

"Please Daddy, please Daddy, please," I begged over the school's one pay phone during my lunch period. Surely, he would understand that, as I said, I would just up and die otherwise. Or, as I implied, "whine and badger you until you can't take it anymore."

Three months later, Daddy, my kid sister and I drove four hours away on a school night to see the objects of my adolescent obsession live and in person. I wore my best parachute pants and had my standard 30-plus Duran Duran buttons pinned to my jacket.

When the house lights went down, my dear Southern, good ol' boy daddy stayed in his seat, arms laden with Duran Duran merchandise I'd purchased with saved-up baby-sitting money. I grabbed my sister's hand and fled down to the edge of our upper tier to send mental signals to my beloved for the duration of the two-hour set.

On the drive home, my daddy did his best to deal with my shrieking sobs of unrequited love mixed with bliss that only a star-struck, 14-year-old girl can feel.

Daddy was sensitive enough to wait until I'd graduated college and no longer had Duran Duran posters plastered all over my walls to start reminding me of my teenaged proclamation that they would be bigger than the Beatles.

Last year, I wrote some words for a promotion with N.C. State University. As a result, I got a pair of on-court tickets for a basketball game. My daddy bred me in red, so instead of calling my English husband, I immediately called my daddy.

"Hey, what are you doing Saturday?" I asked.

"I don't know, probably fishing," he replied.

"Would you rather come up here and watch your Wolfpack play from the floor?"

I could hear the sound of pickup truck tires screeching.

We got to sit at a table on the court, just feet from the goal, and we felt like total rock stars. We could see and hear everything our Wolfpack and Coach Lowe were doing, along with every grunt and sneaker squeak. We yelled ourselves hoarse and grinned like idiots throughout the game.

We ducked when the players rushed the basket feet from us, though both of us would love the irony of smiling down and seeing the cause of deaths in our obits read: "Trampled by a 7-foot-tall N.C. State basketball player."

And State won.

I don't know how to compare a 14-year-old girl's complete passion for a poncy British boy-band to a 60-something-year-old man's utter joy at seeing his alma mater team kick butt from a floor seat. There's no gauge. But those two moments are in the top of my list of great times. And I got to share them both with my daddy.

I'm glad I got to share the story with you in this, my last "Our Lives" column. I've had a blast telling silly tales and hearing from so many warm, wonderful people from across the Triangle. Thanks for all the kind words and well wishes. I hope you'll stop by my blog, thatgirlfromshallotte.blogspot.com, and say hello.


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