By Tom Blake
Kirk Orahood is in his fifth year as the director of tennis and head coach for both the boys and girls tennis teams at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano. While having lunch at my Dana Point deli one day, he noticed my How 50 Couples Found Love after 50 book on display and said, “I have a story that would have fit in your book.”
Kirk said that on October 11, 2007, he and his twin brother Keith were driving home from work on Pacific Coast Highway when they noticed a woman with short blonde hair who reminded them of Valerie, Kirk’s sixth grade (1964) girlfriend. Kirk and Keith had a conversation about her and how she would likely look now. Kirk hadn’t communicated with Valerie in 43 years
The next day, Kirk received an email, which, he said, changed his universe.
“Emblazoned across my computer screen were the words, ‘Do you remember me?’” Kirk said as he described the message as very strong coincidence that makes one suspect the power of ESP. The email was from Valerie.
“Anxious emails revealed that we were both divorced and unencumbered. Subsequent emails became phone conversations, which led to another revelation, a sweet, sexy, Southern accent—definitely not acquired in Bakersfield, where we had been in the sixth grade together. Valerie had been living in Nashville for years,” Kirk said. “One of the first questions she asked was, ‘Do you remember declaring at recess one day that you were going to marry me?’ I replied, ‘No.’”
A friend of a friend of Kirk’s was attending a convention in Nashville had lunch with Valerie. She and the friend of a friend had wagered $1 to see who could locate the most classmates.
“Valerie coyly suggested he locate ‘the twins,’ meaning my twin brother and me. He agreed, accomplished the task via Classmates.com and Valerie gladly paid up. She then contacted me through my tennis website, Kirk said.
“Valerie asked if I ever visited Nashville. Yes, I had, for tennis events long past. But more importantly, I had three tickets to come see my daughter play college tennis in that area, when tennis season resumed in the spring.”
They planned to see each other then.
Kirk said Valerie became impatient. So much so that waiting until tennis season was no longer an option. She decided to buck the plan and bought a plane ticket to visit Kirk in San Clemente at the end of January.
“I greeted her at John Wayne Airport. Valerie was so awesome and classy. Her smile was still the same, which is what I remembered the most about her,” Kirk said.
“We enjoyed an incredible sunset at Fisherman’s restaurant. I gave her a big ‘Gone with the Wind’ kiss as soon as we returned home from the romantic evening on the pier.
“We had a great reunion, caught up on old times, present times and future times. She admitted to always loving me, having never forgotten me. I’d never forgotten her either. I believe good qualities that attract young people are inherent, still present in the mature version.”
Tennis coach Kirk is a pretty romantic dude. For Valerie’s birthday, he wrote and recorded a love song titled; “A Friend of a Friend, of a Friend of Mine,” which was based on the luncheon in Nashville that Valerie had with Kirk’s friend of a friend. After singing the song to her, he presented her with a framed copy, CD in front, sheet music in the background and told her, “Every word in the song is true, including these: ‘You moved to the South, me to the coast; your cute little smile what I remembered most.’”
During their getting-reacquainted discussions, they discovered they had encountered brief near-sightings of each other in Crested Butte, Houston and Nashville, which prompted these words in the song: “We led separate lives, not too unlike, our paths never crossed, the timing not right.”
Kirk also included words in the song based on another coincidence—they both have a boy and girl, the boys sharing the same unique first name, Hunter: “We both raised two kids, we did our best, you in Music City, me in the West.”
Kirk invited Valerie back to Southern California for the 2008 Valentine’s Day week-end. He surprised her by driving to the Colonel Nichols Elementary School in Bakersfield.
“There on the exact playground spot where I made my marriage proclamation 45 years ago, I asked Valerie if she would like to share the rest of her life with me. She said ‘yes’ and we were married in June, 2009,” he said.
Valerie moved to Southern California and they bought a home in Laguna Niguel.
Unfortunately, after unsuccessful attempts at finding suitable employment here and difficulty with selling her Nashville house, Valerie has temporarily returned to Tennessee.
“We are back in our bi-domicile relationship until something changes,” Kirk said.
The couple, however, is keeping the romance alive, commuting often to spend time with each other.
Rest assured, the romantic, creative tennis coach and his wife will soon figure out a way to be together permanently.