Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Little Red-headed Girl

September 2, 2009.
Thirty-three years ago today a young couple stood in a small den on Hondo Drive in Winston-Salem. He was 18 and she was still just 17. He was wearing a white leisure suit and she had on the same white dress she had worn to the the prom just a few months before. He looked ridiculous in the leisure suit and a basketball-sized afro. She was stunning with her red hair falling halfway down her back.
Her mother stood by and watched as her father gave her away. His best man was his old running buddy Frank. Her maid-of-honor was Tina, her oldest friend there in Winston. There were only a few others in the room. Her sister, his brother, the younger of his 2 sisters, Tina's husband Jeff.
Her friend and father-figure Ted did the honors. He was an ordained minister who worked in pastoral care at the hospital.
The vows were short and sweet, the basic repetition lines that have been used by couples for ages. There was giggling and wise cracks, threats of following them to the hotel for a party. It was not a particularly serious event.
Yet the vows, although not spoken very somberly, were taken very seriously. There were countless times in the next 32 years that the two of them could have easily decided that it had gone on long enough , that they had made it longer than they were supposed to anyway, and the spark just wasn't there any more.
But it always was. Sometimes it was hard to find, but it was always there.

I have been to this blogsite countless times in the past 8 1/2 months. I have come here prepared to write a new post each time. There have been numerous events and happenings and experiences that have occurred during that time that I felt I should write about. I have finally seen a game in Fenway Park - with many of my friends from Joy of Sox, no less. My Tar Heels, one of the 2 primary reasons for this blog's existence, won a national championship. The National Championship, even! There have been great musical shows I've seen and a few new friends that I've shared some great times with. And of course, there have been countless bittersweet moments that remind me of my beloved Cathy, and that are testaments to the life she led. Many times I have said to myself - "this is a huge moment, an important milestone. I should really write about this."
But each time I would see that post at the top of the page and would be stopped in my tracks. Some times I would be drawn into reading the whole story again, and would not be finished until I was falling asleep and couldn't even think any more about writing. Some times the subject I was getting ready to write about would suddenly not be very important at all, certainly not important enough to take the place of that story at the top. Somehow the idea of moving that story "down the line" just seemed inappropriate and even a little disrespectful.

Maybe now.

Today is the anniversary of our marriage. Well, it is after midnight, so technically it was yesterday. I had been saying to the few people I talk about this with that it ..would have been... our 33rd anniversary. But today I realized that was wrong. It IS the 33rd anniversary of our marriage. This will always be our anniversary, regardless of what the future may hold for me.

I suffered through an agonizingly ordinary day. Even worse, I was working on a particularly tough job. One that really called for undivided attention, and one I could not just leave because I was simply not into working that day. I would have liked for this to be one of those days when I could just catch up on some paperwork, talk with my kids and my friends, run a couple of errands, pick at my guitar, and just not really do much of anything all day. I would have liked to have been able to listen to WFDD all day, so I could hear the tribute I gave when I signed up as a Day Sponsor back in the spring. I never did hear it until that evening late, while in the shower. It seemed all day as though I should be telling everyone I spoke to - "today is my anniversary". But I didn't tell anyone. And everyone treated me as though it were any other day. Why wouldn't they?
A few people did hear the announcement, however, and called to tell me so. Our dear friend Mary, ever the thoughtful and positive one, asked me what I remember about that day. I started talking and might not have stopped if not for an appointment she had to keep. I'm sure my customer was wondering just how long I was going to be on the phone by the time she had to go. But that conversation had already worked it's magic. I spent the rest of the day in reflection, even as I worked. Even as I went to choir practice at the Temple in preparation for the upcoming High Holy Days services. And I knew what I should do.

It is time to start writing again. Cathy encouraged me to write, even more than I ever did. She understood how much I enjoyed it, and wanted me to do more of it. She also knew it was cathartic to me and undoubtedly knew it would be healthy for me when the time came. As I have noted before here, she was always looking out for me.
I'm sure that I will find myself dwelling on stories involving her from now on. But I will write about other things as well. She would insist on it.

Memories are not bad, they just are. The traditional Jewish prayer says "May their memory be for a blessing". A blessing indeed. Although the memories may evoke a wistful longing, or even a tear once in a while, in the end they make me smile. And I hope they make others smile as well. She would insist on that also.

Tina and Jeff did show up at our hotel room that night. That would be at the Holiday Inn about 2 miles away from the den on Hondo Drive where we said our vows. Honeymoons at age 18, when one set of parents has little money, and the other set objects to the marriage, are very cost-conscious. The knock came at the door around 9pm, and I opened the door expecting to see the hotel manager, who just happened to be someone we knew. He had given us a bottle of champagne upon our arrival, and gave us the "honeymoon suite" at regular room price. I had no idea what he might be sending us now, but who else could it be? There was Jeff with a six-pack in his hand, grinning a very wicked grin, saying "hey man, ready to party?". Tina followed him in saying "I told him no, but he insisted." We all had a beer, well all except Cathy, she can't stand the stuff. After one, Jeff asked if I wanted another and I said that another beer was not exactly what I had on my mind, although not in so many words. Tina smacked at him and said "I told you, now let's go!" He replied "hell, we gave 'em 2 hours, how much time does someone need?", then laughed as he winked at me and headed for the door. He even left me the rest of the beer.

I know that no one expected us to last 32 years together. For a long time Cathy would call Emma Bowman every year on Sept 2nd. Emma is the mother of one of her closest friends, Jody. Jody had told Cathy that Emma had made a bet we wouldn't last a year. So Cathy would call and say "guess what? Another year. Hope you're still paying on that bet!" No, no one could have thought we would stay together. Certainly not "until death do you part". We were just kids after all. Who in their right mind would have thought that two people that young had already found the right person to spend the rest of their life with.

I did. I knew it as I looked in those gleaming eyes that evening in that small den.

"I could never love again, the way that I loved you. Where you end, where I begin, it's like a river flowing through" (dave matthews)

Happy anniversary, baby.

I miss you.