I was 18 when I got married the summer between the junior and senior years of college. I was working at the radio station. Jeff, my first husband, was Station Manager. Garry, my now and forever husband, was Program Director. The two were best friends. We all met in 1963 and there it began.
Thirteen years later, I walked away from my first marriage. It wasn’t horrible. Merely empty. A good friendship. As a marriage, nothing much.
Off to Israel I went with my son. I was in Israel for just under 9 years and for all the years, Garry wrote me letters. Every week, two or three letters, always typed in capital letters and mailed special delivery arrived in my mail box. I began to think of them as my fan mail. I lived from letter to letter, carried the most recent one with me until the paper on which it was written fell apart.
No one writes real letters anymore. Email has eliminated personal mail. But those letters were so wonderful. I carried one or two of them with me wherever I went. Garry told me I was wonderful. He reminded me someone thought I was an amazing woman.
I wrote letters to Garry too and when I got back to the States, I found he had saved them all. A drawer full of letters. Obviously something was going on. I’m sure we both had known for a long time, but had not been ready to deal with the implications. Now, we were ready.
I don’t think either Garry or I has written a letter to anyone else since.
I was back.
With a little help from a friend, I got a job in the Boston area. Garry and I became “an item.” The previous decade hadn’t dealt kindly with either of us and we saw one another with new eyes. We’d always been a little in love, but there always a reason why it was the wrong time to do something about it. Garry was 48 and had never been married, though he’d hardly been living a monk’s life. The time had come.
How did I finally get him to propose? It was all him. Really.
I’d been in California for a couple of weeks on business. I’d come back early because I came down with the flu. That turned out to be just as well, because the big earthquake — the one that stopped that year’s World Series — happened the day after I left. If I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under a collapsed highway.
Garry was glad to see me … until I coughed. Then he wasn’t so glad. What is the definition of “mixed emotions?” A man in love who knows that first kiss is going to give him the flu. Definition of true love? He kissed me anyway. And got the flu.
After we stopped coughing, we went to dinner. Our favorite restaurant, Jimmy’s Harborside, was only a mile away on the harbor, but it took nearly an hour to get there. Garry was nervous and kept looping around Leverett Circle, missing the turn off. He was telling me how real estate prices were down and maybe we should buy a place. Live together. Forever. Would that be okay with me?
So I listened for a pretty long time because this was the most unexpected speech I’d ever heard. I never expected Garry to marry me. I never thought he’d marry anyone. Finally, I said: “So you want to buy a house. Move in and live together? As in get married?”
“All of that,” he said and looped around one more time.
“I definitely need a drink,” I said.
The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said “Tell them what?”
“That we’re getting married,” I said.
“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”
“Yes,” he agreed
“So we’re getting married. You proposed.”
“That’s a proposal?” he asked. “I didn’t think it was a proposal.”
“You want to buy a house with me and live together forever. If it’s not a proposal, what is it?”
“Just an idea,” he said.
“It’s a proposal,” I assured him. A couple of weeks later, I suggested a ring might be in order. And setting a date. He moved through these steps looking like a deer in headlights, but eventually, he realized all he had to do was show up in a tux and he’d be married. That he could do. We were living together anyway, so …
We were wedded 6 months later having known each other a mere 26 years.
Garry and I celebrate our 24th anniversary today. We have both mellowed. We know each other so well. We know each others faces. I know when he hurts. He knows if I’m upset. It doesn’t mean we don’t squabble, but it does mean we never stop caring and loving and being there for each other.
The man who was never going to get married has become as close to a perfect husband as a woman has any right to hope for. I often think, with my endless health problems, he’s gotten a lemon and should return me to the dealer. Get a wife with a warranty. But he likes this model, however decrepit.
It doesn’t seem like 24 years. I don’t know where time has gone. Turns out, when you find the right one, time flies.