A WILD WEST WEDNESDAY – RICH PASCHALL

Not just a Soup and Sandwich lunch for Harold, a rather well-organized man

It had already been an uncharacteristically hectic week for Harold, so he looked forward to a relaxing Wednesday. After he finished his morning breakfast, he took the newspaper to a nice spot by the window and sat down to read. He was only distracted momentarily by the library’s copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone sitting on the table. It seemed to beckon to him to continue the journey of the boy wizard. There was a time set aside for that sort of reading and he imagined he would resume the fanciful tale at the library where it began.

The time idled by in a leisurely sort of way that was befitting of a man in retirement. With the completion of each article, Harold looked out the window approvingly. The sun was shining, the air was at peace and so was Harold. He continued to read right up to the noon hour when it was time to get ready for the twice weekly sojourn to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar. Harold would dress in his best sports clothes since he knew his appearance was important. All of the help and many of the patrons were well aware of the 1 PM arrival every Wednesday and Saturday of the well-organized man from the Midwest.

Harold arrived at the door of the restaurant precisely at 1. He thought he was the picture of sartorial excellence when in truth he was rather plain, but certainly clean and well-groomed. As usual, the staff greeted him with kindness and even enthusiasm as he headed to the same general area where he always sat for lunch. His seat by the window was taken but he chose another that was just as bright and allowed for a good view of a television. ESPN was playing for Harold, minus sound.

“Hello,” said a voice that startled Harold. “My name is Amber and I will be your waitress today.” The young woman had an armful of tattoos and maroon colored hair. Her jeans were a bit ripped on the backside. She did not look a thing like the sweet Tiffany who usually waited on Harold. “May I start you off with a drink? We have Summer Surprise on tap. It is a seasonal beer we have on tap for just four dollars.” Amber worked her chewing gum quite hard as she waited for a response from the average looking old guy from another one of the nearby retirement areas.

“Tea,” Harold proclaimed. “I will have an ice tea with lemon on the side and 1 packet of sweetener.” With that Amber was off without taking Harold’s food order. Things were not exactly routine but a little out of the ordinary would be OK with Harold. Amber soon returned, took the order and things were nicely on track for a peaceful meal.

As Harold watched the television without the sound, a noise came bellowing across the room. “Harold!  Why you old son of a gun!” It was Bill, Harold’s neighbor from down the street. “What brings you here, besides the cheap lunch?” Harold did not consider the lunch cheap, but rather as economical. He also could not imagine what he did to invite Bill into his life twice in the same week. With that, Bill sat down opposite Harold.

“I just stopped in for lunch, that’s all,” Harold exclaimed. “I like the food here and the people are nice.” Bill nodded in agreement and then a brilliant idea popped into Bill’s head.

“You know, Harold, we could ride over here together on Wednesdays. You can enjoy your,” Bill paused as Amber set down Bill’s lunch, “whatever, and I can try out their other items. It will be great.” With that, Bill got up, slapped Harold on the back and said, “See ya buddy, I gotta go. I’ll call you Monday to see if you are up for our little shopping tour.”

Bill was off as quickly as he arrived. He made comments to each of the waitresses as he headed toward the door and soon the place was just a bit quieter. Harold shook his head slowly as peace returned to the table in what was his favorite spot in the room. Having Bill enter his routine once in the week was quite a lot, but twice might be more than poor, old Harold could handle. He felt he just had to limit his time with Bill. “Perhaps,” he thought, “I should switch my Wednesday lunch hour.” It was not going to make a difference.

When lunch was finished, Amber wandered over and gave a disinterested smile and left the check. She did not write her name on the back or add a smiley face as Tiffany would have done. Harold paid with his favorite bank credit card that gave cash back rewards, including 2x points for restaurants in the current month, and smiled at Amber as she brought the receipt. Harold was to hope there would be no more unscheduled adventure for the rest of the week. He had no idea what the following days would add to his otherwise perfectly planned schedule.

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.

PRETTY IS AS PRETTY DOES

It’s almost fetishistic the way we over-value prettiness. Over the years, I’ve watched relationships — mine and those of friends — as they wax and wane. I was about as unpopular through most of my public school days any anyone could be, yet I had my share of dates and attention. Often from “popular” guys. Mass Broadcasters 12

I didn’t do much to get attention because I didn’t know how. I failed flirting but knew how to have a conversation. I could talk about books, ideas, history. Feelings.

In college I was moderately popular, but never the most popular. There were always women for whom the local lads were more swoony than they were for me.

The most popular woman were never traditionally pretty. Instead, they were friendly. Kind. Funny. Ready to lend a sympathetic ear, or laugh at a joke. It turned out these human qualities were more important to young swains than whether or not a young woman met some ideal of beauty.

Through the years, I’ve watched men break off with flashy women in favor of less well-favored women who they wished to court. And vice versa. The handsomest guys may have been highly sought-after for dates, but when it came to real relationships, other characteristics were more important.

It seems sensible people may date for beauty, but become involved and marry for other reasons. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. In the course of years, some men have called me beautiful while others thought I looked like a stump. I’m neither. That’s the point.

I will close with an anecdote. Garry and I were not yet married, spending the weekend — as usual — on the Vineyard. At the house Garry shared with a bunch of other single guys, all of whom worked in Boston television.

That weekend, someone had brought a guest, a gorgeous young weather person from one of the Boston stations. Smashing figure, skin like cream, and face to match. Garry made a sour face every time he looked at her, which puzzled me. I didn’t expect him to slobber over her, but he usually appreciated beauty just because. Then I realized none of the guys was paying her any particular attention.

“Why don’t you like her?” I asked. “And why does no one else seem to like her either?”

“She used to work at the station,” he said.

“And?”

“She made messes. The rest of us had to clean up after her.”

“But she’s stunning,” I pointed out.

“Pretty is as pretty does,” he said. And that was that.

No matter what anyone says, real life is less about how you look and more about who you are. Because pretty is as pretty does.

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!

A SMART USE OF TIME: CYBER FRIENDS ACROSS THE WORLD

What do you have time for?

Unlike my fictional character Harold (Soup and Sandwich), who I have brought by for a few visits, I’m not particularly well-organized. I wish my apartment could be as neat and clean as the one I attribute to the Commander of Clean, Director of Dishes and Lord of the Laundry. Instead I am King of Clutter. No matter how hard I fight, I am losing the battle against my possessions.

Even so, I try to effectively allocate my time. Certain times should be assigned to particular activities. Work and commuting take a big chunk of life. While I ride back and forth in my General Motors car which has miraculously escaped recall, I think about ways to fill the other hours including the topics I should let loose on Word Press. What adventure, or misadventure Harold should have next.

Entry to the College

When I sat down at the computer to coördinate all the thoughts running around in my head, I got a message on Skype.

“U there?”

It was a guy I’d never met in person, but had talked to often.

He lives in the middle east. I’d met him on the language learning site, Livemocha, when it was also a social site. Its members helped others learn the language they already knew by correcting exercises and chatting in text and voice.

During the past two years, we’ve become friends. Our talks have covered a wide range of topics. If you think you have it tough, talk with someone who lives where the power goes off each day at 6 am and stays off until 2 pm. Obviously, there is not enough power to go around in his homeland.

The differences of our personal circumstances is offset by the similarities of our ideas and concerns. We both can see futures we would like to have. It seems that when you have a computer and some power, no matter how fleeting, you can dream as big as cyberspace itself.

So instead of spending my Saturday evening creating great thoughts for this site, I spent more than two hours helping my friend study for his English competency exam. He sent me pages of text to read and questions to ask. He sent audio passages to go with the text. He reported to me in his timed responses what the text and audio where telling us. We moved past grammar, on to reading comprehension, then conversation. He has a week until his exam. That week contains his hopes of moving on as a language student.

Why would I give up my Saturday evening for this? Why would I spend hours reading passages and questions out loud to this young man? He is a nice person and I have enjoyed our talks, but I’ve never met him, maybe never will.  And I really wanted to do something else.  My mind was set on a particular activity, and it was not English grammar.

Yet, he is a friend. He reaches across cyberspace to ask me to lend a hand. Nice to know I can contribute to someone’s education. Education is the most valuable thing we can ever have. Even if you win the lottery tomorrow, your knowledge will remain your most precious possession.

If my friend benefited at all from the few intense English sessions we had recently, I think I got the better of the deal. He showed me what life is like in a culture different from mine. I am patient as he goes through his exercises. He is patient with me as I ask questions about his life. Some of my questions are no doubt naïve, but I’ve learned so much by asking them.

If he’s successful and becomes a language student, I hope we get to meet. He has taught me an enormous amount by asking me to read aloud and pose questions from an English textbook.

So, how did you spend your Saturday evening?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!

Today is Flag Day for those of a certain age. But in my family, it’s Esther Armstrong’s birthday. Mom has been gone seven years now. Gone but not forgotten.

Painting by Judi Bartnicki

Painting by Judi Bartnicki

Esther Letticia Armstrong was a special woman. Wife of William Benfield Armstrong. Mother of Garry, Bill, and Anton Armstrong. I get top billing because I’m the oldest. Mom and Dad were married 61 years until Dad left us in 2002. They were a handsome couple!

I called my parents Mommy and Daddy for most of my life and it always seemed natural. Even when I was a veteran TV news reporter with decades of experience it seemed natural.

One evening I was preparing to do a live news report in the TV studio. It was the lead story. A big deal. Breaking news! My thoughts were interrupted by a colleague who said I had a phone call. No way. Put it on hold. Garry, it’s your MOTHER!  The newsroom grew silent.

I took the call. The story waited.

My Mom was a force of nature. I had no sisters, so I learned to do household chores early in life. Whenever I objected, Mom stopped me dead in my tracks with a strong, clear voice. Baseball and other critical things were secondary no matter how strongly I felt about my manhood.

My Mother was always supportive of learning and creativity. We always had books and records. Lots of them. I read books that I wouldn’t fully understand for years. But somehow I felt comfortable with Eric Sevareid’s So Well Remembered.

Decades later, Mr. Sevareid was impressed by my adolescent tackling of his book. The books and music fired my imagination. Mom would smile when I played big band music or vocals by Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Sometimes she would sway in time with the music as if remembering a time when she was dancing.

I was Mom’s favorite movie date. Dad was usually tired. He often worked two jobs and just wanted to rest. So Mom and I went to the movies. Often three times a week. Yes, that’s how my love affair with movies was born and nurtured.

Mom seemed like a different person during our movie dates. She smiled and laughed. Those were the days of Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly and other legends who were still in their prime on the big screen. I remember Mom giggling when we scored big on dish and glass night events at our local movie theater.

I know we tend to look back on our youth with rose-colored glasses. It’s normal. But there were lots of good times.

So, today as I remember Esther Armstrong’s birthday, I wish I could crank up my hearing aids and hear it again …

Garry, your Mother is calling you!

OUTLIVING THE BITCHES

One Sunday in church, Pastor’s sermon was about forgiveness. He asked everyone in the church to stand up, then he asked those who had any enemies to sit down. Everyone sat down but one very old woman.

“You have no enemies at all?” asked Pastor.

“Not a single one,” she answered, nodding her agreement.

“Please, come up here and tell everyone how you reached such a great age without having any enemies,” said Pastor. A deacon accompanied the elderly woman to the pulpit and everyone in church applauded as she slowly made her way up the steps. Pastor adjusted the microphone.

“You must have done a lot of forgiving,” said Pastor. “Please, tell us your secret.”

The old lady smiled beatifically.

“I outlived the bitches,” she said.


cropped-75-sunflowernk-2.jpg

That’s how I’m beginning to feel. Many, if not most of the people who done me wrong and about whom I used to obsess are gone. I’m not that old — just 67 — but as you get older, you lose people. The ones with bad hearts, the heavy drinkers and smokers.

Chickens come home to roost. Crazy drivers meet their maker on a dark highway. Cancer, heart attack, and other diseases weed out others. The older generation passes away, one funeral at a time.

The biggest baddest villain of my life was my father. I stopped talking to him long before he died. I wrote about his death before it occurred. Most people who got to know me in recent years and read my book assumed he was dead. He wasn’t dead — not physically — but he was dead to me. By the time he died for real, it no longer mattered.

Other stuff? Time made it unimportant. When I look around, few of the people with whom I had a beef are still here. Time has made the rest irrelevant.

Forgiveness is not about repairing relationships so you can be friends again. It’s letting go, passing stuff to your “higher power,” whatever it means to you. Acknowledging you can’t fix everything and realizing it’s not your job to fix it.

Shit happens. Some of it — unfair and unforgivable — happens to you. You can make it the center of your world and spend your life brooding and obsessing over it. Or, you can decide you won’t be defined by the worst stuff that has happened to you — or the worst stuff you’ve done.

I know people who had wonderful careers full of honor and respect who lost their jobs and promptly declared themselves failures. As if that one really bad thing — getting fired — negated everything that had gone before. I know men and women who were abused as children who are still defining themselves as victims 50 years later.

If you like yourself, you can be pretty happy no matter what life throws at you. It’s that simple. And that difficult. When you start forgiving, forgive yourself first. For the mistakes you made. For the bad choices, the stupid decisions, the asshole(s) you married, almost married, allowed to mess with your head.

The jobs you screwed up, shouldn’t have taken, should have taken (but didn’t). The opportunities you blew. The people who stabbed you in the back (you should have seen them coming). The times you were totally wrong and didn’t apologize. Your failures as a parent, the novels you didn’t finish. All the “shoulda coulda woulda” you’ve accumulated.

If you throw the garbage out, you won’t eliminate all your problems. The money you don’t have won’t suddenly appear. Youth and health don’t come back. But you don’t have to haul the past with you into the future and you can enjoy what you do have without obsessing over what you missed or lost.

The sooner you do it, the better. I waited too long, wasted a lot of years. Sooner is better.

Then, with a little luck, you’ll outlive the bitches.

ZZZZZ

Mind Reader

Who’s the last person you saw before reading this prompt? Whether it’s a family member, a coworker, or a total stranger, write a post about what that person is thinking right now.


“Garry? Hello?”

“What?!” His voice is muffled, irritable, half asleep.

“Did you put the dogs out earlier?”

The body in the bed makes annoyed face, groans, starts to get up.

“Forget it. I’ll do it.” I do it. And I clean up the pool of pee at the top of the stairs because Nan is getting to the “what’s housebreaking” stage of being an old dog. I hope I never get to that point, but feel free to put me down if I do.

Back to the bedroom after showering. I need to dry my hair. I’m still peeved, but much cleaner. And there’s still no one to complain to. Just an unmoving sleeping husband. I don’t think he is doing much thinking.

Zzzzz.

BYE BYE SUPERWOMAN

Originally published last August, I thought this deserved a rerun. For all the women I know who are discovering they are human after all — this is dedicated to you.


Not long ago, I was Superwoman. I knew because so many people said I was, so it had to be true, right? Then life fell apart. I started to miss those leaps over tall buildings. I barked my shins and fell on my head. Finally what was supposed to be a single bound turned into a crash and burn.

Superwoman

Thus I learned I couldn’t do it all and shouldn’t try. Superwoman wasn’t so super any more.

The thing about having a superwoman image is, it’s flattering. Sweet having folks tell you how much they admire you. Great hearing them say they wish they had your courage. Even if you don’t believe it, it’s nice to hear, isn’t it? The words provide validation. You feel appreciated. Loved, even.

Unfortunately, flattery has strings. Having told you how great you are, your friends feel free to tap into the strength they admire. They know, by some instinct, you will help. It’s a reflex. You see need, you try to help. If you think about it, you almost never say no to anyone. It’s remarkable how popular that makes you.

Since retiring my cape, I’ve learned a few things. Strong people, especially women, attract needy people. It’s as if we have “free help” tattooed on our foreheads. Everyone can see it — except us.

It took me the better part of a lifetime to accept my limits and understand in my heart I don’t have endless reserves. If I fail to pace myself, when those closest to me need me, I have nothing left. It turns out emotional energy is like a bank account. You can’t keep making withdrawals unless you also make deposits.

I can’t fight every battle or support every cause. The first time I said no to someone who asked for help, I felt so guilty I thought I’d drown. Years later, I don’t say no easily or lightly, but I say it. Remarkably, the world keeps turning.

Superwomen are easy to manipulate. Guilt and an over-developed sense of responsibility makes us vulnerable to emotional blackmail. We do the hard things others can and should do for themselves. It’s a trap no less for them than for us. Most people are not too weak to do what they need to do. Strength is not DNA, it’s choice. Most “weak” people are lazy, fearful and don’t want to make hard choices. They don’t look for solutions. They look for help. Big difference.

The Superwoman (along with Batwoman and Superl...

Plenty of people have serious problems including me. I’ve wondered if I have pissed off a malign deity or am working off some terrible Karmic debt. I don’t really know how I’ve gotten through but I’m still here. It wasn’t valor; it was desperation.

People say when things get bad, you find out who your friends are. From the dozens of people I helped over the years, to whom I offered a place to live when they were homeless and much more, when life turned on me, fewer than a handful were anywhere to be found. All the rest went missing.

That was when I put my cape in mothballs. Now I take care of close friends and family. And for the first time, I take care of me.

Thirty-five years ago, my mother asked me a question. She asked: “If you were to list the people in your life that matter, who would be first, second, and third on the list?”

I listed my son, my husband and a close friend.

She said: “You’re wrong. The first name on that list has to be YOU, because if you don’t take care of yourself, no one will. You won’t be able to care for anyone else, either.”

I thought it a strange thing for her to say. Her own life had been taking care of others. She was dying then. I suppose it changed her point of view. She was right, of course. We are responsible for ourselves. Only when we make sure we have what we need can we take care of anyone or anything else.

God — and maybe Superwoman — will have to take care of the rest.

Gallery

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT AND FOREVER AFTER

First Sight

Whether a person, a pet, an object, or a place, write about something or someone you connected with from the very first second.
Sharing is caring.


She was so tiny, a little bit of fur and bone and two black button eyes. I knew we were meant to be together.

Bonnie, light of our lives, a Scottish Terrier. Mischievous, funny, strong-willed, patient and full of love.

WE’RE ON OUR WAY!

Pick Me Up

What is the one word or phrase that immediately cheers you up when you hear it?

 


“Friends are coming to visit!”

That does it every time. Since I’ve been out of the hospital, now more than a month, visits from friends and family have totaled zero. Lots of promises, but I haven’t seen anyone in the flesh. No smiles or hugs except electronically. A few phone calls, a handful of emails, a couple of cards.

I guess everyone is busy.

If anyone out there feels like dropping by, hey, I’d love to see a smile on a face I love!

SKIN LIKE SILK

He’s (She’s) So Fine

What was it that drew you to your significant other? Their blue eyes? Their ginger countenance? Their smile? Their voice?

- – - – -

Garry-HOF

Lunch hour. 1968. Manhattan. A restaurant with a view of Central Park. Garry and I are sharing a big plate of excellent fries as we both snatch a little time from our respective jobs.

Our hands meet as we simultaneously reach for a French fry.

“Wow. He has,” I think, “The silkiest skin I’ve ever touched. And such beautiful hands.”

And that was it. I’d already known Garry for 4 years. He was my son’s godfather and we worked together at the college radio station, but that touch was the start of something.

We’ll celebrate our 24th anniversary this year. He still has skin like silk. And a voice like velvet.

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!

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

YOU’LL NEVER OVERHEAR ANYTHING GOOD

Daily Prompt: Talking in Your Sleep

by Krista on March 5, 2014 – Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation you weren’t supposed to? Tell us about a time when it was impossible not to overhear a conversation between people who didn’t know you were there. What was the conversation about? How did it make you feel?

I dislike eavesdropping. It’s a major cause of serious misunderstanding and conflict. Consider the story of Heathcliff and Cathy. If Heathcliff hadn’t heard only half of what Cathy said, gotten angry and stormed off without waiting to hear the rest of the story (context, context!!), generations of literary misery could have been avoided. This is a tale that has been aggravating me for more than half a century both as a book and on film. I don’t care how romantic it is. It’s stupid.

If my plastic pals could talk, what tales they could tell!

If my plastic pals could talk, what tales they could tell!

You seen, that’s the fundamental problem with eavesdropping. You never hear the whole story. And you don’t hear it in context, just pieces which inevitably don’t mean what you think they do.

When I bump into someone else’s conversation, especially if it happens to concern me, I run. Literally. I do not want to hear it. Sure, they could be telling each other what an amazing human being I am and how much they admire me, but the odds don’t favor that. For reasons best known to the Fates, we will only overhear conversations that reflect poorly on us, that seem to show our friends as disloyal backstabbers … whether or not they really are. And having heard what we heard illicitly so to speak, we don’t feel we can confront someone about it.

Which mean they never get to explain the context or even apologize, if that’s appropriate. We keep those ugly, overheard words tucked in our souls. We burn with outrage, sometimes for a lifetime.

There’s no percentage in it. Eavesdropping can make you miserable, but I’ve never heard of it making anyone happier. Not ever. Remember Heathcliff. You could find yourself roaming the heaths forever calling in vain for your beloved because you couldn’t resist listening in to a bit of private conversation.

When you find yourself within earshot of someone else’s private communication, block your ears and run for the hills. You’ll be glad you did.

Other Entries:

  1. Perspective & The Daily Prompt | The Jittery Goat
  2. Daily Prompt: Talking on Your Sleep-Psychology behind gossiping | Journeyman
  3. DP Daily Prompt: Talking in Your Sleep | Sabethville
  4. Being A Mentor | Daily Prompt: Talking in Your Sleep | Being a Huntress
  5. The Door Opens Hard | Mara Eastern
  6. Human vs. Humans | Rose-tinted Rambles
  7. Chest-speared: poem | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  8. layered | yi-ching lin photography
  9. “You can be so annoying” | Hope* the happy hugger
  10. we can call it an | y
  11. Daily Prompt: Talking in Your Sleep | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  12. Remember where you came from… | Rima Hassan
  13. DAILY PROMPT: Accidental listening | cockatooscreeching
  14. Getting to the end and realising you’re way off topic. Again. | thoughtsofrkh
  15. Daily Prompt: Talking In Your Sleep | CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS