JUST AN OLD MARRIED COUPLE

Long Exposure – Among the people you’ve known for a long time, who is the person who’s changed the most over the years? Was the change for the better?


Garry and I at President Clinton's party on Martha's Vineyard

Garry and I at President Clinton’s party on Martha’s Vineyard

All the people I’ve known a long time have changed, me and my husband in particular. Better? For whom?

I am far less sociable and hugely less outgoing. I was quite the party-maker with a wild and crazy social life and now I’m a virtual recluse.

1970

1970

Much of my life centered around work … and I don’t work any more. I’ve gone from being gregarious to being a loner, being work-centric to being survival-centric.

Good? Not good? If I hadn’t changed in response to the realities of life, I’d probably be dead or living on the street. I guess that makes them good, right? I read less, write more.

I keep taking pictures. It’s now more than forty years of photography. That’s consistent, anyhow.

Garry was shy, solitary. He was so driven by career and work he didn’t have time for anything, anyone else. Like making friends, building a personal life. Yet … when I came back into his life, he began to emerge. He started to pull back from work, become more sociable. Now, he couldn’t be paid enough to go back to work.

1990 in Ireland

1990 in Ireland with Author Gordon Winter

He used to be the kind of guy who always looked like he’d just stepped out of the pages of GQ. Now, he wears sloppy shorts and old tee shirts or pajama bottoms and sweatshirts.

He remains passionate about sports, but can miss the game and watch a movie without having a crisis.

Both of us eat less, don’t drink at all. Our world centers around each other and a few close friends and family.

You know what? I think it’s good. And appropriate.

Image

LOVE ME, LOVE MY TRACTOR

You may have noticed the old tractor in the middle of the garden. When we were trying to sell the house some years ago, a couple of potential buyers commented how they’d have to have it towed away. I put a mental black mark next to their names because I love that tractor. If you don’t appreciate the tractor, you won’t like my house (they didn’t)

72-Tractor-29Jun_13It’s a rusty 1928 Fordson. Not a rare vintage; it was common farm equipment in its day. I loved it the moment I saw it, sitting on a lawn up the road a piece. I wanted it. I knew it didn’t run and never would, but for me it was the perfect garden accessory.

Some people put flamingos in their garden. Deer. Ducks. Around Halloween, anything goes and for Christmas — well — we’ve all seen the lengths to which some people will go.

One family just up the road from here has a crèche, a wishing well, several gnomes and a lighthouse almost large enough to use as a real lighthouse, except it’s hollow plastic. I believe they also have several types of small animals tucked in between the other statuary et al. It’s a very busy garden and half the size of ours. Only careful landscaping has allowed them to fit quite so much garden bric-à-brac in so small a space.

And this stuff’s not cheap. If you’ve ever gone and priced garden statuary, a nicely done piece – cement not plastic — can cost you as much as remodeling your kitchen. Well, almost as much. Okay, about half the price.

The tractor wasn’t cheap. It was (is) a real tractor, not some phony doodad. Someone farmed using that piece of machinery. It was, in its day, a serious investment. So I don’t understand why someone would think a fake lighthouse looks cool while yearning for a bigger bogus wishing well, but find our antique tractor odd. Maybe they’d like it better if we’d bought it at Walmart?

tractor with daffodils

Garry bought it for me as a tenth anniversary gift. Now that is a husband who gets his wife. He knew to whom he is married. And that’s why we are still married and likely to remain so forever (or as close to forever as we may).

As we approach our 25th anniversary — now a mere 10 weeks distant – I love my tractor more than ever. It has stood the test of time. In another 13-1/2 years, it will have its hundredth birthday. In its second life, during the past 15 years we have planted around it and vines have grown over it. It is as much a part of the garden as the earth on which it stands.

Love me, love my tractor.

Image

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, MOM AND DAD!

I intended this to be a Father’s Day tribute to my Dad. But my youngest brother, Anton, just reminded me it’s a double celebration. It’s William and Esther Armstrong’s 73rd wedding anniversary!

Dad has been gone twelve years, Mom seven. But I’ll bet the house they are celebrating right now.

We were never big on talking about our feelings. Maybe it’s a family thing, maybe it’s generational. Whatever, my two brothers and I never doubted our parents love. We tested their patience many times and were duly rewarded.

Dad was from the John Wayne school of conversation. Brief chats and meaningful looks to make his words (or silence) crystal clear. He was handy; I wasn’t. Remember what I said about patience?

One of our most emotional moments came after I enlisted in the Marine Corps. It was one of the rare times I saw Dad cry.

75-edited-GarryMomDad-WW2-300

Mom, Dad and baby me

My Father was a World War II veteran and like most vets, he didn’t talk much about his combat experiences. He kept it to himself for decades. Near the end of his life, Dad talked a little about some truly horrific war experiences. After he died, we found medals amongst his stowed away possessions.

Mom was always the voice of the family. She was the classic strong woman, but it came at a price. It was our last lucid conversation before dementia began to take its ugly toll. Mom, who always seemed estranged from Marilyn, asked how things were going. Before I could finish, she interrupted and quietly but firmly told me I should show Marilyn my love, to make her feel wanted and appreciated. Mom had a funny look on her face.

I just listened. Mom talked about the courtship years with Dad. It was fascinating. I never could picture Mom and Dad as young adults with all the ups and downs of dating. Those were the days when you wrote letters to your loved one.

It wasn’t easy for them. But, finally, loved conquered all.

75-edited-wedding-2

Perfect wedding

Their wedding in 1941 was something out of Hollywood. Bigger than big. Lovely women, handsome men.  Mom and Dad never looked happier.

My parents never talked about their dreams. I think they were put on hold — permanently — after I made my début the following year. Dad was off to war. Mom was beginning six plus decades of molding our family. I guess their dreams wound up in the lives of my two brothers and me.

I still see Mom and Dad in my dreams. Dad in his uniform, Mom looking like a cover girl. I’m the kid from central casting.

Here’s looking at you, Mommy and Daddy!

GROWING OLDER

Marilyn and I are watching a “NCIS” episode involving Gibbs and his dad. Mark Harmon and the late Ralph Waite. We’ve seen it before but it’s an especially poignant show because Waite died just a few months ago and the story deals with a difficult father son situation.

It also touches home on aging and health issues. Gibbs’ dad, his driving license just revoked, is desperate to find an old war buddy who is dying. Gibbs is preoccupied with a case and impatient with his dad. Conversation is awkward. It reminds me of another father and son.

My dad was never big on intimacy. We’d talk about sports and men’s clothing. Towards the end of his life, My dad talked a bit about frustration with his health. He was a big, strong man who was very handy for most of his years. Now, he mostly sat in the dark as his strength ebbed. Conversation was even more difficult. Even sports and men’s clothing drew little interest. The award-winning TV news journalist was having difficulty talking to his father. The image of my father, the younger man, kept flashing through my mind as we sat in silence. I made a silent vow that I would not become my father, wrapped in silence.

Almost 20 years later, that vow is still flashing through my mind. For one thing, I’m no longer the perennial young man whose pictures adorn our home. Mortality has made its presence known. Marilyn is fighting to regain some semblance of quality of life after complex heart valve surgery. She is a proud, fiercely independent woman who doesn’t like asking for help. It’s awkward for both of us. We make jokes about our so-called golden years but we don’t really laugh.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

It’s funny because we actually look younger than people our age a generation ago. But it doesn’t help when we hear our bones creaking. It’s certainly no joke to Marilyn who wonders if she’ll be able to do some very basic things to re-establish her independence.

Marilyn has had health issues most of her life so she is no stranger to pain. Fittingly, she sometimes looks at me wryly when I complain about aches. Who do I think I am? Well, I am that vain guy who burned through a lot of prime years with little regard about paying the piper.

The dues are coming in. But the reporter in me must acknowledge there are so many others who have more serious health issues. That’s probably an understatement if you just flip through today’s news stories. Still, growing older isn’t the picture perfect stuff of those old movies.

Print the legend!

DOCTORS DON’T LISTEN – GARRY ARMSTRONG

One of the things I’ve discovered about blogging is you can say stuff that you might be reluctant or timid to share in normal conversation.

I’m talking about myself and Marilyn. About the medical profession and patients. Marilyn is an aggressive advocate. I’m passive. I usually try to be diplomatic, relying on the quiet, persuasive approach honed over 40 years as a TV news reporter. Marilyn’s learned you can’t always be pleasant or nice in dealing with the establishment. Be it doctors, lawyers, politicians, merchants or your affable cable company. Nice guys often finish last. Even worse, in the medical profession, their lives are often in jeopardy.

I’ve sometimes thought Marilyn was too judgmental with doctors, nurses, medical technicians, medical office managers or HMOs. Color me naïve and maybe stupid for all my years in the news media spotlight. The past dozen years have been almost a continuing nightmare for Marilyn who has been through myriad operations including at least two near death experiences resulting from one botched surgery. No “Law & Order” vindication in real life.

One of Marilyn’s big problems is pain management. She is in her second week of recovery from complex heart valve surgery. She’s in almost constant pain, 24/7. Mornings are kind of okay when she has bursts of energy and can do some writing. The rest of the day is downhill. She has limited pain relief options. Her intestinal system, after two gastric bypasses (one botched), is ultra sensitive to medications. Moreover, she has reached the limit of surgical fixes to her gastrointestinal tract. If she ulcerates again, it’s over.

Marilyn has been trying to explain this to her doctors. They don’t get it. I’ve been there and witnessed these conversations.

Most of the doctors who’ve seen Marilyn treat her as if she doesn’t know anything about her own body. Even after she explains the details of which medications work and which wreak havoc on her system, they merely nod as if she’s stupid or they know better — without so much as checking her records. They prescribe drugs Marilyn knows will make her sick, ignoring her protests.

We hoped today would be different. A first visit with a new primary care physician (the old ones’ network would not make a deal with Medicare or Medicaid, so all their poor or old patients are screwed). I intervened before the session began. I explained I’ve known Marilyn 50 years. I gave high or low lights of her past dozen years of medical hell. I explained the difficulty Marilyn has had communicating with doctors who’ve often been arrogant and dismissive. In essence, I was giving our new PCP a heads up if Marilyn appeared angry, hostile or anxious. I emphasized pain control was our major concern with Marilyn’s limited venue for such medications.

I thought I’d set things up to succeed. I was wrong! Marilyn’s worst fears were confirmed. Our new PCP said she was unable (unwilling, really) to prescribe Marilyn the medications she needs. “Not,” she said, “In my comfort zone.”

My passive take on the situation has dissolved into anger. I managed to retain my nice guy demeanor but if thoughts could kill, I would be in lockup right now. Somehow, Marilyn has reached inside and grabbed another chunk of fortitude to search for another doctor.

I have new admiration for my wife. I wish I still had the clout to help, to make things right. All I can do is be here, offering support that, maybe, tomorrow will be a better day.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GARRY ARMSTRONG!

Kind of a sucky day for your celebration. Even though I bought your present before I went into the hospital, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough, saying enough to tell you what you mean to me, which is everything. You’ve saved my life, literally and every other way. I wish there were enough words. Or at least more and better words.

happy birthday from google

You’ve earned, at the very least, a medal for grace under fire. Now, it’s your birthday. You deserve a lot more and better than I can give you right now. Maybe ever.

Happy birthday Baby. You should have traded me in for a model that actually works while I was still under warranty.

As each day wears on and everything starts to hurt, I know I have to struggle through another night and then one more day. Even though each day is a bit better than the previous one … it’s hard. If I was tired before the surgery; I’m depleted since. You have kept me alive, kept me going, put up with all my crap.

You look tired.

You deserve much better. I hope knowing how much I love you and appreciate you will partly compensate for this nightmare I’ve put you through.

Without Benefit of Clergy – Marilyn Armstrong

I was Jewish when I married Garry in a Lutheran Church. I said then … and I say now …  any God I am willing to worship doesn’t care what ritual you use, what language you speak, what color you are or whether you put cheese on your hamburger. I really DO believe that everyone has the right to live the life they want to live, to have or not have children. Spend whatever day you consider the Sabbath doing whatever you want: attend a church, synagogue, mosque or sleep late and read in bed.

Travel your path and be glad.

All prayers are good prayers. Goodness is goodness, whether you believe in God or not. Faith is a choice, decency is a requirement. You don’t need a church to know the difference between right and wrong. Some of the worst people I’ve known were ardent church goers and some of the best were skeptics or atheists. I’ll bet that God knows who is who and is not fooled by how often you attend church.

Garry and I were married in his church on Long Island because he had a strong emotional attachment to it and I didn’t have any particular attachment to any religious institution, though I had and still have a strong emotional attachment to Judaism as a philosophy and as a moral compass … and as an ethnic identity: Yiddishkeit, as it were.

When we renewed our vows the first time, it was in front of a notary, but the next renewal was under the sky in our backyard by a minister of the Christian Reform Church. Maybe we’ll do it again and who knows who will officiate? We intended to renew our vows again for our 20th anniversary, but I was sick that year and I had other things on my mind. Hopefully, we’ll both be available for 25th. That seems like a good number for another renewal.

Marriage is a contract between two adults. It doesn’t require benefit of clergy. Any religion is okay and no religion is okay too. Unless you live in a theocracy and thank God we do not … yet …you don’t need to believe in anything but your partner to get married.  I hate the theocratic trend this country is taking. I’m baffled as to how God and religion are suddenly the arbitrators of what constitutes a family.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness …”

That last part, that bit about pursuing happiness seems to have been lost. Pity about that because it  is not less important than anything else and may be the most important of all. What good is life and liberty if you can’t be happy too? Gay people, straight people, old people, young people … we should have the right to marry who we choose and be as happy as we can manage.

If we start defining the meaning of marriage, if we declare that marriage is sacred and exists entirely  for the creation of children, what about people who don’t want children? Are they the next group who won’t be allowed to marry? And people past the age of  baby making … can they no longer marry? For too many years in a lot of states, people of different races were forbidden to marry … was that okay? They said that it was God’s decree too. Funny how it’s always God’s plan … no individual ever seems to be responsible.

You can interpret “God’s teaching” however you like. If it was so clear what God wants of us, what was the point of all the theological discussion, debate, Biblical interpretation and everything else for the past few thousand years? What was that about?

The best and the worst things done on this earth have been done in the name of God, Allah, Yahweh … whoever, whatever. Horrors like the Holocaust, the Crusades and so much more … and God was always on the side of the every combatant. If I were God, I’d abandon the human race in disgust.

Gay, straight, or not entirely clear on the issue, marry if you want or not. Have a good life. Maybe you’ll be one of those couples that has a great relationship. Maybe you’ll wind up in the middle of a bitter divorce, but whatever you choose, it’s YOUR right to choose. I’ll never demand you live your life my way. Be happy.

I have no opinion on afterlife or not, reincarnation or not. I don’t know.  And neither do any of you. You can believe whatever you like but you don’t know anything for sure because God doesn’t talk to you or me. He (or She) does not confide his or her intentions to us. Moses was the last one he chatted with face to face and the world has turned a few times since then.

Enjoy this life. It’s the one you’ve got. Maybe you get another shot at it, maybe not. I think it behooves us all to live in the moment and let everyone else do the same!

OVER AND OUT

A short story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

It was not like Billy’s dad to just walk into his room. At 17 years old he really expected his parents to knock first. He quickly closed out of his chat and turned around to see what his father wanted.  “What’s up, dad?” Billy began.

“Son, I think there is something you should tell me.” Billy’s father paused and waited for a response. Billy was clueless. He could not think of a thing he should say so there was this long awkward silence as the two of them shot puzzled looks at one another.

Billy’s father had noticed over the last two month’s the nature of his son’s friendship with a handsome young classmate named Josh. They went everywhere together. They studied together and they spent hours on the phone together. Going to the movies on a Saturday night was just like the dates Billy’s dad had with his wife when they were teenagers. Billy would spend a lot of time getting ready. He picked out his best date-night type clothes and he absolutely lit up when Josh appeared at the door. Dad felt he could not be mistaken.

empty chairs

“No, dad, I can’t think of anything,” Billy finally said in his best “I’m innocent” voice. “Are you gay?” his father shot back. All of a sudden something heavy fell on Billy’s chest. It must have been the weight of reality hitting him. He was unprepared.

“Yes dad,” Billy responded as boldly as he could after the truth was already out there anyway.

“And this Josh fellow, is he your boyfriend?” Billy did not want to out Josh to his father but he figured that he somehow knew so he gave up that truth too.

“Yes, dad.” Once again they stared at one another until Billy could finally throw that weight off himself and speak up.

“So, it’s OK then?” Billy asked. His dad did not want to say “yes” because it was not alright with him, but he did not want to say “no” because he recalled how difficult teenage love could be and just figured that gay teenage love was even harder. After a few moments deep in thought, Billy’s dad had a course of action in mind.

“Son, I want you to tell your mother this week. Am I clear about that?”

“No dad, please,” the boy replied in horror. “Can’t you tell her?” If his dad was not all “open-arms” about this he could not imagine his mother’s reaction. She was far more right of center than dad.

“Billy, if you think you are old enough to be making out with another boy, you are certainly old enough to man-up and tell your mother exactly who you are.” At that, Billy’s dad left the room and quietly closed the door on the way out.

For the rest of the week, Billy was a nervous wreck. Every time he saw his mother he could feel a knot in his stomach. His father started shooting him angry glances for failing to tell his story. Billy did tell two people though, Josh and his sister, Mary. The latter was a tactical error, to be sure.

One night when they all happened to be at the dinner table at once, a rare occurrence for two busy parents and two teenagers, Mary could not hold her brother’s secret any longer.  “So, little Billy, did you tell mom yet that you’ve been kissing boys?”

Billy’s mom immediately looked like she had seen the ghost of her dear departed mother glaring at her. “Robert, did you know about this?” Billy’s mom shouted across the room at her husband. He did not respond but she could tell after twenty-three years of marriage what the response would be. “How dare you!” she screamed at either Billy or her husband, neither was quite sure, and then she stormed out of the room.

Over the next few weeks Billy parents argued often about why the boy was gay. Each thought the other had a hand in it, but only mom was mortified and angry beyond reason.

“If you had been a stronger father,” she took to telling him almost daily, “this would not have happened.”

To which he frequently responded, “I tried to discipline the boy but every time I did he would run to you and get off the hook. I would say you are the reason he’s a mamma’s boy.” From there it only got worse.

After one particularly stormy session, Billy’s mom finally declared she was through. “I want a divorce.  We can not continue these fights in front of the children.” Robert agreed and went to their room. A stunned Billy, eavesdropping in the next room, began to cry.

Robert called his brother and asked to stay a few days. He packed a bag and prepared to leave when Billy ran into his room. “No dad, please don’t leave. I am sorry, it’s all my fault.  I’ll change, I promise. I won’t be gay any more. Please.” Billy buckled at the knees and went down to the floor. His dad helped him up and sat him on the edge of the bed.

“Look son, my marriage was over years ago. It took something like this to point that out.  You can not change this anymore than I can change who you are.” At that he reached over to hug the boy. He planted a kiss on his forehead, got up, grabbed his bag and walked out the door.

HOW IT BEGAN, HOW IT CONTINUES

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 were having a great time. Young, creative, a radio station to play with, life felt like a party that would never end.

Gar and Mar in Dublin 2000

Honeymoon in Ireland

I married Jeff in 1965, finished my B.A., had the first surgery that put me on the D.L. for a few years. When I pulled myself together and got on with life, I promptly got pregnant. My son was born in May 1969. We named him Owen Garry, making Garry his godfather. I wanted to be sure Garry would stay part of the family and my life. I couldn’t see the future, but I knew I wanted Garry in it.

Thirteen years later, I walked away from that marriage. It wasn’t horrible. It was merely empty, a good friendship, but as a marriage, it was nothing much.

Off to Israel I went with my son. I married in Israel, a mistake that even today I find hard to accept. I know why, but my behavior baffles me. It’s as if my brain was off and something else ran my life. 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 letters. I lived from letter to letter as the marriage which started as a mistake morphed into a disaster.

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. I read them over and over, until they fell apart. Garry kept telling me I was wonderful and it reminded that someone thought I was fantastic, an amazing woman. The rest of my life didn’t exactly support that.

I wrote letters to Garry too and when I got back to the States, I found he had saved every one of them. A drawer full of letters. Obviously something was going on. I’m sure we both knew. We just weren’t ready to deal with the implications.

75-GarryAboardNK-30_0225

I don’t think either Garry or I has written a letter to anyone else since.

August 1987.

I was back. Depressed. Poor. For the second time in my life, I’d abandoned everything and bolted. My aunt Kate had died and left me a little money, enough for a plane ticket to the states with a few hundred dollars left. I stayed in Jeff’s guest room a couple of weeks while I reconnoitered life.

With a little help from a friend, I got a job in the Boston area. Garry and I were 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 had been an endless number of reasons why it wasn’t the right time to do something about it.  Now, after my Israeli divorce — and Garry’s extraction of his live-in girlfriend from his apartment and life — we got married. About time, too.

Garry was 48 and had never been married, though he’d hardly been living the monk’s life. So how did I finally get him to propose? The truth is, 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.

“We are?”

“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 …

Marilyn againWe were wedded 6 months later having known each other a mere 26 years.

Garry and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary next September. 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 any woman has a right to expect or hope for. I often think, with my endless health problems, he’s gotten himself a lemon and maybe should return me to the dealer and get a wife with a warranty. But he like this model, however decrepit.

It doesn’t seem like 24 years. I don’t know where the time has gone. Turns out, when you find the right one, time flies.

Daily Prompt: That’s Amore

Other Entries:

  1. Swirling in the Time of Internet | Kosher Adobo
  2. Daily Prompt: That’s Amore – The Psychology of Changes in Love | Journeyman
  3. Princess | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  4. Missing that tune | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  5. Too Good To Be True | Musings | WANGSGARD
  6. passion | yi-ching lin photography
  7. Love And Linger – A Vibrational Experience | Shrine of Hecate – Ramblings of a New Age Witch
  8. you leave | y
  9. DP Daily Prompt: That’s Amore | Sabethville
  10. Daily Prompt: That’s Amore | seikaiha’s blah-blah-blah
  11. Daily prompt: Amore | The Wandering Poet
  12. This one is easy. | What?????
  13. Daily Prompt: That’s Amore « Mama Bear Musings
  14. Michael [Poem] [reblog] | She Writes
  15. Daily Prompt: That’s Amore | cockatooscreeching
  16. how we met, fell in love, broke up, got back together, had a baby & got married | the hilarious pessimist
  17. Love Story? What Love Story? | jigokucho
  18. She Loved Me First ::E.N.Howie’s Motivational Moments
  19. My non-relationship relationship related entry! | thoughtsofrkh
  20. If One Day Love Comes Along… | B.Kaotic
  21. ‘I’ve got a safety-pin stuck in my heart…’ My Amour since 1977… | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  22. Daily Prompt: That’s Amore | CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS

THE WORST DECISION

Daily Prompt: Let’s Go Crazy

Sometimes, we act on impulse: it could be something as small as ordering that special dessert on the menu, maybe asking out that cute boy or girl, or as large quitting your job and selling everything you own to become a shepherd in New Zealand. What’s the most crazy, outrageously impulsive thing you’ve ever done? If you’ve never succumbed to temptation, dream a little. If you gave yourself permission to go a little crazy, what would you do?

Between good marriages one and three, there was unspeakably awful marriage number two. To say that it seemed like a good idea at the time is not entirely true. I knew from the get-go it was a bad idea. Not only did I think it was, but everyone who knew me thought it was terrible idea, from my mother to my new friends in Israel , to my old friends back in the states. No one said “Follow your heart!” because it was clear whatever I was following, it wasn’t my heart or my brain, but some part rather lower down and significantly less rational.

So why did I marry someone so blatantly unsuitable and mismatched?

  • He spoke English. Never underestimate the power of communication when you are in a foreign land and have no one to talk to
  • I was on the rebound from a divorce
  • We were using lots of drugs
  • Sex
  • Insecurity, loneliness and being a stranger in a strange land.

All the aforementioned combined. Voila. A marriage easily entered into but not so easily escaped. I should have known when his mother took me aside and said “You know, Tony isn’t really stupid. He just seems stupid.” His mother?

He had an evil temper. He didn’t read books. He had no visible means of support. He was courting me while his first wife was dying of cancer (red light flashing, siren going off, why don’t I notice?). The levels of wrongness were too many to count.

very-very-bad-idea

So, how did it work out?

How do you think?

I went crazy and I paid. I paid big, long and hard. There are crazy risks that are fun. Go ahead and buy the lens you want. Take an extra ride on the roller coaster. Learn to sky dive.

Just make sure, before you take a mad plunge, the price you may pay for your wild decision isn’t beyond your means. If your heart and mind are screaming “NO, NO DON’T DO IT” whilst everyone in your life for whom you have an iota of respect agrees with that assessment … don’t do it. Admit you are wrong.

Because in the end, the real reason I went ahead with a marriage I knew was absolutely wrong? I was embarrassed to admit I’d made a mistake.

Ye olde sin of pride. It’ll nail your ass to the wall every time.

Other Entries:
  1. A Supposedly Fun Thing I Should Never Have Done in the First Place | AS I PLEASE
  2. Tea for two | The Bliss of Reality
  3. I Did Something Crazy | Lifestyle | WANGSGARD
  4. On being yourself | Attempted Human Relations and Self
  5. A Watermark, a Ford Falcon and a Creative Commons License walk into an alley… | Greg Urbano
  6. This Daily Prompt Is For Men Only & My Short Story For The Day | The Jittery Goat
  7. impulse | yi-ching lin photography
  8. the city is an | y
  9. Daily Prompt: Let’s go Crazy! | Raevenly Writes
  10. Unlucky | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  11. Comrades | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  12. DP Daily Prompt: Let’s Go Crazy | Sabethville
  13. Caramel Filled Chocolates | Miss Spicy Hat N’ Sugar Socks
  14. Wild Woman: let’s go crazy! | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  15. Let’s go with this. I suck at being impulsive. | thoughtsofrkh
  16. Daily Prompt: Let’s Go Crazy | CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS

HOW DOES SILENCE SOUND?

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

A while ago, I had the flu and my ears were blocked. One day, Garry took out his hearing aids and kept turning up the television until we could both hear it. “That,” he said, “Is my world. That’s how much I can hear.” I have never forgotten. Which is good because it’s all too easy to forget when it’s not your problem.

Many people don’t think of hearing loss as a “real” disability. Is it because it’s invisible? I can’t walk much, can’t lift, ride a horse or bend and am usually in some kind of pain ranging from “barely noticeable” to “wow that hurts.” None of which are visible to a naked eye. I once had a woman in the post office lash into me because I had a handicapped pass and she didn’t think I looked handicapped. Years later, I’m still angry. How dare she set herself up to judge?

People make assumptions all the time about Garry. They assume if they call to him and he doesn’t answer, he’s a snob. Rude. Ignoring them. If I’m with him I take them aside, explain Garry cannot hear them. “You need to make sure he sees you and knows you are talking to him,” I tell them. I consider it part of my job as his wife. It’s rough out there in a hearing world. Parties are the worst. When so many people talking at once , it becomes impossible for him to hear a single voice.

The hush of a snowy woods is silence

The hush of a snowy woods is silence

Mostly I can hear. Most things. Not as well as I did when I was younger. Background noise is more intrusive and annoying than it was. But I hear well enough for most purposes. I depend on my hearing to catch nuances, to interpret underlying meanings of what people say.

Garry used to be able — with hearing aids — to do that too. It was important in courtrooms and while interviewing people and of course, in relationships. It’s not only what someone says, but how he or she says it. Body language, facial expressions … it’s all part of the communications package. But his hearing is worse now and much of this ability to catch the subtler part of speech is gone.

When the hearing part goes, other senses have to compensate — but nothing entirely fills the gap.

I am forever asking Garry if he heard “it.” Sometimes “it” is me. He often behaves as if he heard me though he didn’t — but he thinks he did. Sometimes, he didn’t hear exactly what I said or notice I was speaking. It takes him a while to process sound, to put words in order and make them mean something. It isn’t instant, the way it is for someone with normal hearing. He has to pause and wait for his brain to catch up Sometimes, he puts the puzzle together wrong because he heard only pieces and what he missed was critical.

There’s also the “what?” factor. How many times can anyone say “excuse me, can you repeat that” before he/she feels like an idiot?

Human speech is not the whole story. There is music, soft and loud. The funny noise coming from the car’s engine, the scratching of a dog locked in the closet. Birds singing or a cry for help from down the hall. Garry can’t hear any of that. Once upon a time, he could and he misses it. He doesn’t hear the beep of a truck backing up. Or the sound of the water in our pipes that means someone’s using the shower. The little grinding noise of a hard drive going bad or an alarm ringing. The hum of the refrigerator. All the little noises are lost to Garry.

What does silence sound like? When you hear only the very loudest noises, but none of the soft sweet sounds? The explosion, but never a murmur? To be in that silence — always — is a different world.

- – - – -

* Answer: Three.You can ask someone to repeat something 3 times. After that you are too embarrassed to try again. This is true for everyone, not just people with hearing problems. We all encounter accents we don’t get, mumblers and people who speak too fast or too softly.

  1. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | A mom’s blog
  2. Media Blackouts Insult My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
  3. As Loud as Silence | Chimerical Chicanery
  4. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | carojesu
  5. yesterday’s snow lets | y
  6. A SILENT SONG | Diary of a mind
  7. A Common Baby Myth: Babies Should Sleep in Silence.. Ssshhh! | Peek-a-boo: Baby and You!
  8. Silence « mediumblackdog
  9. Never Give Up, Never Give In: My Epiphany! | Hope and Faith
  10. Brady’s Silence (explicit) | Stories From My Mind
  11. Coyote Hill | The Seminary of Praying Mantis
  12. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | Tales from the Motherland
  13. When The Silence Almost Deafens You | Unload and Unwind
  14. Classy Broad
  15. The Day I Found My Voice | A Path of Living Stones
  16. When you said “Nobody loves you” | So Not Simple
  17. Finding what you didn’t know you were looking for… | Crap I Blog About
  18. WWC: The Sound of Silence | Learning the Anishinaabe Way
  19. Who Said So? | Buzzy Beez
  20. Silence challenge | knovak616
  21. The Silence Welcomes Me | StormieSteele
  22. Weekly Writing Challenge: Have you seen me? | Life of A Fallen Angel
  23. Silence | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  24. Breaking The Sound Of Silence | At least we made it this far…
  25. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | Pop-Culture-Referenced

WE DON’T CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY

It wasn’t something we had to discuss. Neither of us has ever celebrated Valentine’s Day. To us, it’s a manufactured “Hallmark Holiday.” So we don’t participate. I have no problem with your participation, but I have a problem with what a big deal it has become. I have a problem with making people feel guilty for choosing to not join in.

96-pinkrosesa-NK-3

I love my husband and he loves me. We tell each other every day. Maybe, because this year is … different … perhaps we will tell each other more often. But not because it’s Valentine’s Day.

Because we love each other. Every day.

MY FAIR LADY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Weekly Writing Challenge: My Funny Valentine?

My Mother had a strange smile on her face as she spoke to me. It would be our last real conversation before dementia began closing the windows and doors on life as she knew it.

“Treat your wife decently”, Mom looked at me with her eyes growing larger for emphasis, “Marilyn is a good woman. Make sure you love her. Tell her you love her. SHOW your love!”. It was surprising because Mom never seemed to like Marilyn, never showed any real affection for the woman who’d married her oldest son 15 years earlier. Hey, I was 48 when I finally decided to try marriage for the first time. Mom wasn’t exactly losing her baby boy. But the divide was always there between my Mother and Marilyn until that last conversation. Too bad Marilyn couldn’t have heard Mom. Too bad because Marilyn has been part of my life for more than half a century.

Marilyn 1970

Marilyn and I first met as college students in 1964 when we and our world were young. We worked at the college radio station, seemingly a haven for shy, odd and eccentric people bound together by a passion for creativity.

I was shy. Very shy. I smoked a pipe and tried to look thoughtful. Marilyn didn’t seem shy. She was always talking, always full of life and laughter. She also wore her sweaters very well. I don’t know why but I found talking to Marilyn relatively comfortable. She put me at ease. I couldn’t do that with most of the other coeds I knew. But Marilyn was my best friend’s girl friend and very soon his wife. Somehow, our friendship continued and I became Godfather to Owen, Marilyn and best friend, Jeff’s son.

Matter of fact, the newborn son was named Owen Garry in my honor. Humbling stuff. Our relationships would soon change but remain in many ways. Marilyn would be the constant.

Fast forward across several decades. I pursued a career as a TV news reporter with a 31 year run in Boston. I was the free wheeling bachelor from central casting. The only constant was my relationship with Marilyn which had blossomed from friendship into something deeper. We had a frequent flier relationship between Boston and New York. The names and faces changed in my other relationships but there was always Marilyn.

Sometimes it got pretty complicated. Things got more interesting as Marilyn’s first marriage ended. She and Owen moved to Israel to find their roots which included marriage number two for Marilyn. Geography didn’t hamper my feelings for Marilyn. The friendship grew stronger through letters and phone calls. The names and faces kept changing in my life but Marilyn was my life line even if I didn’t realize it. As a regional “celebrity”, I popped up in tabloid gossip columns a lot. I was the carefree guy who would never settle down. Never say never.

I’m still not sure how it happened. (Editor’s Note: Yes you are. Liar, liar pants on fire!) Marilyn and Owen had returned to the States. Marriage number two was history for Marilyn. The revolving door in my bachelor apartment was slowing down. Marilyn was becoming my constant companion. There was a conversation one night about marriage. Apparently I said “yes”. It would be the best thing I’ve ever done in my life!!

96-CoupleCasual007-1Marilyn and I are now a year away from our silver anniversary. It’s hard to believe. It’s difficult to believe because of all the life and death medical crises Marilyn has endured over the past dozen years. As I write, Marilyn is staring down yet another potentially life threatening medical crisis. It might be trite to say she is a trouper. But Marilyn really is a soldier even as she grapples with fear of how I and the rest of the family will survive while she yields to the specialists and surgeons.

Marilyn has always put everyone else ahead of herself. Now, it’s her turn!! Marilyn has seen me through some very difficult times that I’ll never be able to repay. As a guy who has had a life time love affair with classic movies, I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated the best leading lady one could ask for in real life.

This is not the end. I am hoping, wishing and praying that this latest chapter will end in relief, smiles and laughter for Marilyn, My Fair Lady.

THEY SANG AT OUR WEDDING

Daily Prompt: The Show must go on

posted in Challenges by Pat Gerber-Relf
If you were involved in a movie, would you rather be the director, the producer, or the lead performer? (Note: you can’t be the writer!). Photographers, artists, poets: show us CELEBRITY.

Garry's Emmy -- and there are more. Celebrity? Yup.

Garry’s Emmy — and there are more. Celebrity? Yup.

When it came time for Garry and I to get married, we weren’t thinking about music. Not much, anyway.

I figured we’d do something simple, but of course, Garry’s brother is The Maestro. Dr. Anton Armstrong, internationally renowned conductor of St. Olaf’s Choir. He showed actual horror at my suggestion we go with Mendelssohn. He made it clear this was unacceptable. He was not going to stand by and let us have inferior music.

Okay, then.

Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves hiring a bagpiper, searching out music we liked and which would meet with The Professor’s approval.  Drafting vocally blessed friends — of whom it turns out I have a surprisingly large number — to sing at our wedding. It got a little complicated since one of them was my maid of honor — okay, matron of honor her being married and all. But we overcame the complexities of bouquets, microphones, speaker systems and acoustical anomalies and came up with what was deemed by all interested parties, an appropriate playbill.

Opening with Amazing Grace, starting with the bagpipe, then a segue to my friend Kit who had to keep from crying, but once she got that under control, it was all good. Fade to a duet, Kit and Anton — a folk arrangement of a bible verse and I dont’ remember the name — but I have the video.

Not the original wedding, but our second vow renewal. In the backyard, by the unfinished teepee. Seven years ago.

Not the original wedding. Our second vow renewal. In the backyard, by the unfinished teepee. Seven years ago. Taken by somebody — don’t remember who. We should have had a better camera available. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it!

Then, Mary handed off the bouquet and sang “Follow Me”, a lovely version of a favorite — and appropriate — song best known when sung by John Denver who was unable attend the wedding.

Garry and my show business roots began to show. While everyone else seems to concentrate on the reception, we really got into the “show,” that is to say The Wedding. That was our main event. For the reception, we figured if we had a DJ, dinner and a dance floor, everyone could hang out and be happy.

It seemed like a gigantic wedding to me but it was fewer than 100 people. I would have been happy with City Hall. Garry was in his prime and we could have gotten the Mayor to marry us. I would have thrown a bouquet and we’d have been on our way to Ireland. But nope. Garry wanted A Wedding. THE WEDDING. He’d waited a long time and if he was going to get married, he was going to do it right.

Which meant I was going to do it right. He was much too busy to do more than issue marching orders and tell me who I had to invite. Men and weddings. Clueless beings. That was when I realized if I could survive the wedding, the marriage was going to be a piece of cake. Wedding cake. I had to order one of those, too.

We had written vows and Garry memorized his, just like he memorized what he had to say in front of the TV camera every night. Well, he didn’t have to get his hair done, make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be, that the food showed up, the piper was piping, the flowers flowering. I forget my vows. Totally. Went completely blank. Stood there with flies coming out of my mouth.

Never mind. We moved on and got married.

Bonnie, our Scottish connection

Bonnie, our Scottish connection

Yay! Bouquets! Cheers! Confetti (raw rice makes the birds sick)! More music! Bring back the piper!Marching out to “Scotland the Brave” though neither of us is a bit Scottish. We have Bonnie, the Scottish terrier. It should count for something.

I have almost all of it on DVD. It was originally on videotape, but it disintegrated and we barely saved it onto disk. A lot of it wouldn’t play, much less transfer. I was so sorry we lost some of my favorite moments. Most of the soundtrack survived, but the visual part on  tape was badly damaged. Time ate it. A reminder for anyone who has important stuff still on tape to move it to a less fragile medium ASAP.

It was a great wedding. Sorry you weren’t there (unless you were, in which case — wasn’t it a cool wedding?). We’ve had a couple more since then, just for fun.

Maybe we’ll have one more, when year 25 years rolls around. Definitely. One more wedding to go. A year and a half from now.

Other Entries:

  1. Randolph’s Diet | The Jittery Goat
  2. Stardom | Sue’s Trifles
  3. Girl, On Film | Be Less Amazing
  4. Right Act | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  5. Daily Prompt: The Show Must Go On | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  6. Daily Prompt: Celebrity | Foto Challenge
  7. Last time I saw Mandela..he was going strong at 90 | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  8. Rihanna live in Concert | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  9. Daily Prompt: The Show Must Go On | Under the Monkey Tree
  10. Evil, Hilarious and a Star – Daily Prompt | alienorajt
  11. Daily Prompt: The Show Must Go On | Blog of the imaginator
  12. Daily Prompt: The Show Must Go On « cognitive reflection
  13. The Art Of Being An Artist | The Dragon Weyr
  14. One Man Show | The Number FiftyTwo
  15. story of our lives | fragments of life
  16. Daily Prompt: The Show Must Go On | Beefy’s House o’ Fun
  17. Daily Prompt: The Show Must Go On « Mama Bear Musings
  18. CELEBRITY | Francine In Retirement

STRAWBERRY PRESERVES

I was 46 when my homemade strawberry preserves jelled for the first time, probably because I finally caved and used enough sugar. I was sure I could get around using the huge amount of sugar the recipe called for, but I was wrong. Alternatively, I could have used tapioca starch or pectin, but  I was stubbornly determined to make them the old-fashioned way.

The day the preserves came out perfectly was the day my first husband finally died. He had been dying for a long time. It was Friday, a rare brilliant spring day in New England. Jeff had been effectively dead for the better part of a year, but effectively is not dead. A body who clings to a semblance of life is still alive. Now he was truly gone. I had not come to terms with it though I’d certainly had plenty of time. Probably no amount of time would have been enough.

75-strawberries

Other than Jeff’s dying, it was a good time for us. Garry and I were happy. We were good together. Busy with careers and active socially. Yet there was that underlying sadness that could not be avoided, the expectation that death was near. Happiness and sadness don’t cancel one another. Good things are not a balance against pain; feelings aren’t an equation. You can’t add columns of positive and negatives in your life and come up with a number in the middle. In the real world, joy and misery cohabit. Emotions are messy.

My head was a wheel of memories, a slide show carousel. Faces, places, good years, bad. Bittersweet, sad, joyous, funny. Strawberry jam that never jelled.

I married Jeffrey at 18 and thought myself very mature. He was almost 30, but he thought me very mature too. Both of us were wrong. Yet we muddled through. We were hard try-ers. When we had no idea what to do, we faked it. Eventually, we became the people we had long pretended to be and it turned out, not the people we needed to be for each other.

Though we went in different directions, we stayed friends. No matter where on Earth I was, I knew Jeffrey was there for me. We had a better divorce than most marriages. Decades passed. Jeff’s health deteriorated. He survived things that should have killed him, so it was a shock he should die of a thing which was supposed to extend his life. The valve replacement surgery should have given him years. Decades. When the call came late one August evening, reality upended and everything screeched to a halt. No, his body wasn’t dead, but his brain was. The future would be without Jeff. I would never again call to tell him about something funny  and hear his sarcastic, drawling response.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Someone rewrote the script when our backs were turned.

Fall passed and winter too. Jeff remained in a vegetative state. Someone who looked just like him was wearing his body. The shell remained alive through the seasons. We visited. I stayed for weeks to help care for him. Finally, as spring was nearly summer, the piper played and the ashes were scattered.

Just the other day, Garry caught a glimpse of someone in a crowd who looked just like Jeff.

THREE TIMES REALITY

In a science fiction universe, a three-way choice creates three parallel realities. One is the what I really chose — this reality in which I live. But two parallel universes exist based on the choices I didn’t make. I can’t help but wonder what became of the other two-of-me.

Our road is full of side trips and detours. We make choices, but rarely between a less or more traveled road. It’s more often picking the path which will take us where we want to go. And there’s a small matter of figuring out where we want to go.

75NK-Train-15

At 16, I started college and was required to choose a major. Clueless, I chose music because I loved playing the piano. I thought maybe I should pick something more practical too. In an elegant compromise, I became a music major with a comparative religion minor. Religion, the practical career alternative.

Except, I was really majoring in hanging out at the college radio station. Music was okay, but I wasn’t sufficiently dedicated — or talented — to make it my career. Religion was a dead-end. I already knew I was going to be a writer. Hanging out at the radio station gave me a chance to write and led to real writing jobs. Not to mention I met two out of three husbands to be. Not bad. None of my other courses were that productive.

Dodging and weaving through the first two years of school, there came an unavoidable day of reckoning. Even a dedicated procrastinator ultimately gets gored by the horns of a dilemma. The summer between my junior and senior year, I wound up at a three-way crossroads.

My old boyfriend — with whom I couldn’t have a civil conversation, but with whom I had exceptional sex — sent me a train ticket to join him at his summer stock theater on Cape May. A sexy summer by the sea was an attractive offer. Not a career maker, but it had perks, especially at 18. Meanwhile, back at the radio station, the guy I’d been dating asked me to marry him. I liked him. Smart. Educated. Employed. Good-looking in a waspy way. I could do worse.

96-BeachAtDawn-NK

And then there was Boston. Almost on a whim, I’d applied to Boston University’s Communications program. In 1965, Boston was as cool a town as a kid could want, short of San Francisco. Joan Baez sang at Harvard Square and the comedy clubs featured future kings of late night. Against all odds, Boston accepted me into the program. Nothing could have surprised me more.

I had a lot of deciding to do.

I married Jeff. Garry’s best friend. Four years later, there was my son, Owen Garry, because Garry is not only Owen’s step-father, but also his godfather. Don’t over-think it.

The old boy friend refused to stay gone. Like the proverbial bad penny, he would keep turning up for 15 more years. He would follow me to Israel when I dumped everything and emigrated there in 1978. Another story for another day.

Marrying Jeff gave me a son, a career, a chance to finish my B.A. and find my feet in a reasonably secure environment. I made friends, got a career going and figured out what I wanted to do. Not too shabby.

But somewhere there are two other universes. In one, Marilyn went to Boston. In the other, she went to Cape May. If I happen to bump into either of them, I’ll have to ask how it went. I bet all of us married Garry. Destiny is unavoidable.

Roads converge. Detours don’t change destiny. They merely delay it.