STAY CLEAR OF LANDMINES

Happy Radars – Are you a good judge of other people’s happiness? Tell us about a time you were spot on despite external hints to the contrary (or, alternatively, about a time you were dead wrong).


This is one of Those Prompts which I could answer it in one word. Or I could write book. I’m inclined to be one-word-ish on this. I think I’m an excellent judge of what is really going on if:

  1. I know the people intimately
  2. Spend more than a few minutes with them
  3. I have my radar turned on.

72-Geese_03

I’m not a particularly astute judge of strangers unless I have some urgent reason to be. Moreover, I prefer to avoid intruding on friends’ personal business unless I feel I’ve been invited in. Even then, I tread softly. Other people’s private lives are a minefield. You can get blown to pieces if you don’t watch out.

So mostly, I don’t intrude. Most especially, I don’t judge and I don’t take sides.

Taking sides is how you lose friends and body parts.

OUR STORY – 51 YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP, 24 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

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.

Gar and Mar in Dublin 1990

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.

August 1987.

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?”

Mass Broadcasters 12

“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 …

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.

THANK YOU, I THINK

It can be difficult to tell compliments from insults. You’d think it would be easy and obvious, but it isn’t.

As a child, my mother comforted me with her classic line. Somewhere in my head, I can still hear her. A lonely (probably weird) child, as a teenager, it took me a long time to find my social self.

But Mom could always reassure me in her own special way: “There’s someone for everyone,” she told me. “Even you.”

1970

1970

And then there was the clothing my mother made for me. It was gorgeous, fashionable and of far better quality than the other little girls wore. The Mean Girls (those girls have been around forever and live everywhere) just said “Eww! Where did you get that ugly dress?” It wasn’t ugly. They were ugly.

Nicer, kinder people (adults mostly) would say, “Your mother must have made that for you. It’s so … interesting.”

As a young woman, I put on a lot of weight. Before I eventually got rid of that hundred and fifty pounds, there were some great lines from “friends” who knew just the right words to make me feel good:

“You dress really well for a fat girl.”

“I don’t think of you as fat. You’re just Marilyn.”

Later on, no longer fat, but still me, compliments have streamed in nonstop:

“I thought you were a nun. Don’t you own anything that isn’t black?”

My all time favorite, from the woman who never managed to get my first husband to the altar (though had he lived longer, she might have worn him down — she just needed another decade or two) … and who couldn’t figure out the source of my continuing popularity with men.

“I’m very, very nice to them. I make them feel special and loved,” I said. There was more to it, but this was all I was willing to share.

“I do that too,” she whined. (No, she didn’t.) “But,” she continued, getting more nasal by the minute, “How come they marry you?”

And finally, after I published my book.

“It was much better than I expected.”

What were you expecting?

WHY, THANK YOU? Daily Prompt

 

ON THE ADVICE OF MY SPIRITUAL GUIDE …

Warning: This is a rerun — with editing — but it so precisely fits the requirements of today’s Daily Prompt: Discussion Enders, I could not resists doing a little revision and posting it. I quite like this little post. It makes me laugh every time I read it so maybe you will laugh too. We all need a laugh.


As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place. I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will make movies I like, though occasionally they release something I love (like “Quartet,” a movie Dustin Hoffman directed in 2012). I’ve stopped trying to adopt new music and most new television shows.

I’ve renounced trying to figure out what’s going on with the Red Sox.

Some stuff gave me up. Some people gave up on me Other things, I gave up more or less voluntarily. In the end it works out to the same result.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was for religious reasons.

UU Steeple 4

No one ever asks me what I mean by that. But just so you know, here’s my secret … obviously a secret no more …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. No one wants to offend me by asking for the details of my religious beliefs. Who knows? They might turn out to be embarrassing or merely bizarre. Thus my all-purpose answer to everyone is “on religious grounds,” “for religious reasons,” or “my spiritual adviser required it.”

What power these words hold. They can make pretty much any conversation vanish without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!” 99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

Because I’m fine. For religious reasons.

ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS

As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place.

I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will produce movies I like, though sometimes, much to my delight and surprise, they release something I like a lot (remind me to tell you about “Quartet,” the movie Dustin Hoffman directed last year). I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows.

Some stuff gave me up. Other things I gave up voluntarily, but in the end it comes out the same.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was on religious grounds.

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No one has yet asked me what I mean by that. But just so you, my faithful readers, know the secret …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. Since no one wants to offend me by asking about my religious beliefs, I can make pretty much any conversation go away without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!”

99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

I’m fine. For religious reasons.

SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT AGAIN — AND AGAIN

Think Again — Tell us about a time you made a false assumption about a person or a place — how did they prove you wrong?


Between pretty good marriage one and fabulous marriage three, there was unspeakable marriage two.

To explain it by saying it seemed like a good idea at the time, is not entirely true. I knew from the get-go it was bad. Not only did I think it was bad, but everyone who knew me thought it was terrible. 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 lower down and less rational.

bad-idea

Why did I marry someone obviously wrong for me?

I didn’t realize he was stupid. I thought he was just quiet. I had no experience with stupid people, after all. There were warnings. Like when his mother took me aside and said “You know, he isn’t really stupid. He just seems stupid.” His mother?

I overlooked the evil temper, ignorance and drug abuse. The lack of any ambition or profession. That he was courting me while his wife was dying of cancer. There were levels of wrong too many to count.

I figured he was merely a little stressed.

So, how did it work out?  How do you think?

Some crazy risks are fun. Just make sure, before you take a mad plunge, the price you pay isn’t beyond your means. When your brain, friends and  family, are screaming “DON’T DO IT?” Don’t. Do. It.

The real reason I did it? I was too proud to admit I was wrong. Pride will nail your ass every time.

WHICH NUMBER IS AGE?

Age Old Question — “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?


Are you serious or just young? Because no one over 65 would posit a question like this without also laughing hysterically, possibly falling down and breaking a hip.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

Age it isn’t a number, per se. But it’s a number which will tell you when you can stop pulling the plow and collect your pension. Otherwise, it’s more like an ache in your back, a bag full of medications, and more doctor appointments on the calendar than parties.

It’s being tired, but never sleeping soundly but getting to stay up as late as you want and sleeping in. Every day, if you choose.

It’s discovering you can’t do “that” — whatever that is — anymore. Your brain is fine, but your body persists in arguing about everything and worst of all, winning most of the battles. It’s finally having plenty of time, but being always short of money. Lots of time to travel, but not much motivation to tackle airports and long car trips. It’s also discovering the joys of being home. Of having a home.

It’s realizing you’re smarter, wiser, more experienced than the kids and grandkids, but they don’t want to know about it. So you get to watch them make exactly the same mistakes you made. If they are of a creative bent, you can watch them make a whole bunch of unique (and sometimes weird) mistakes you never imagined and which, if they weren’t so destructive (or it were some other kids about whom you didn’t care) you’d find hilarious.

And with an inevitability like day following night, after using their creativity to shoot themselves in both feet … they will ask to borrow money. (Note: Loans to children and grand-children are not loans. They are permanent grants-in-aid.) Or perhaps move into your guest room. Or leave their dog/cat/guinea pigs with you “just until they get their lives sorted out.”

Life does not prepare you for getting older. Nothing prepares you for getting older. No matter how smart you are, it always takes you by surprise.

The best part of oldness? Not caring what the younger ones think. And, if you are lucky, you get to say (or just think) “Ha! You’ll see! Your time will come.” If they are lucky.