THE SONG IS YOU – Garry Armstrong

One of the great pleasures in my life these days is our car radio. Marilyn, in one of the most thoughtful of her gifts in this past year of discontent, signed us – me really – for Sirius Satellite radio, highlighted by the signature “Siriusly Sinatra” station.  It’s all Sinatra, 24-7.

Not just Sinatra. It’s all of the songs and artists from Tin Pan Alley’s swing halcyon days. Sinatra,  Dino, Sammy, Crosby, Ella, Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, The Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, Irving Berlin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Kahn, Cole Porter, Rosie Clooney and other legendary musicians who performed under the umbrella of “Standards.” It’s not just cob-webby LP music. The station also features contemporary artists covering the classics that span more than a century. You’ll marvel at the likes of Springsteen, Dylan, Lady Gaga and Pink riffing Mel Torme, Sassy Sarah Vaughn, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Doris Day, Ol’ Blue Eyes and other voices. Tunesmiths from our youth.

This leads me into the theme of singing in the throne room as I assume most of us do — far from the madding crowd of critics. I don’t possess the same musical talent as my two younger brothers. Hell, it’s a miracle if I carry a tune. Lately, I’ve been serenading myself as I shave (very steady hand!).

Usually, it’s older standard music on the Sinatra station. Or maybe something Marilyn remembers her Mom singing from her childhood.  Marilyn says her Mom usually only remembered one stanza from a tune and would repeat it over and over again. I chuckle along with Marilyn because I do the same thing. Maybe two or three lines repeated myriad times until I forget those lyrics or  I’m done shaving. Then, I move into the shower. The water covering more old songs with misremembered lyrics.

It’s all good for me. Surely, I am the winner of The Lipton Tea Talent Scouts Show with Arthur Godfrey smiling and congratulating me. I’m gonna be the next Nat “King” Cole.  As sure as the turning of the earth!  I just need to pick the right song to cover.

A song that’s me!

Decades ago (The early 70’s), I used to walk around singing the very somber love ballad, “All For The Love Of A Girl.” It was the flip side of Johnny Horton’s “The Ballad of New Orleans.”  I sang “All For the Love …” with deep, sorrowful emotion. On or off the melody? I don’t remember. A lady friend asked, “Garry, why do you always sing such sad songs”?

I replied, “Because I’m sentimental.”

My friend shot back quickly, “No, You’re NOT!” And, you’re also not romantic.”   I suppressed anger and the blemish to my sensitivity.

Years later, the same performance, different song and a similar conversation with Marilyn who echoed the “No, you’re not sentimental. You may like sentimental songs and movies. But it doesn’t make you sentimental or a romantic.” This would lead down a conversational road I didn’t like. The difference between musical tastes and my own personality and behavior,  especially with people who cared about me.  The singer, not the song. But, as usual, I digress.

I chose our Wedding Song.  It was Nat Cole’s “For Sentimental Reasons.”  Marilyn and I slow danced, as bride and groom, to the dreamy ballad. It was supposed to be the standard for my behavior as Marilyn’s husband and dependable mate through good times and bad. The song proved steadier than the groom in the ensuing years.

It’s difficult living up to the romantic lyrics of a popular song when you’re dealing with bread and butter issues like bills, home repairs, and health care and working in the news business which is about as unromantic as work can be. The song isn’t always you. A very hard pill to swallow when you carry yourself off as a romantic or sentimental fella. Recognizing the difference is part of the long road to maturity, awkward when your 78th birthday is just a few, short months away.

Maybe this is part of what Frank Sinatra was trying to explain when we met half a century ago — another story in a different post. I never asked, but Sinatra told me he often felt at odds with some of his sad songs, the love affairs which supposedly went sour in smoky three o’clock in the morning gin joints.  I was the twenty-something filled with the angst of old movies and songs about love found and lost.  I still didn’t have a clue about being a three-dimensional guy ready to take on responsibility with the sensitivity essential to any meaningful relationship.

It would take a long, long time and still hasn’t been fully achieved. I always label myself – “a work in progress.”  The old love songs don’t always cover that ‘sharing and caring’ stuff.  Play “Misty” for me!

Another time travel stop for me and music. Autumn of 1959. I was brash, newly minted enlistee at Parris Island, the legendary basic training camp for young gyrenes. I was one of a very few “boots” of color and a damn Yankee in the deep south where Jim Crow still prevailed. Most of the other clean-shaven Marine wannabees were from below the Mason-Dixon line, deep in the heart of Dixie. Their music was Rebel Rock ‘n Roll, tempered with obscenities and insensitivity to anyone who was not a card-carrying beer and grits lover.

The southern music dominated our downtime. I was off in my own private world, serenading myself with the likes of “Mona Lisa”, “Stardust”, “Too Young” and “When I Fall In Love.”  My musical choices bought me a lot of grief with the good old boys. A lot of reprimands from the drill Instructors who already didn’t care for my “attitude” and added my music to their list of things for verbal reprimand.  I just laughed at them when they screamed at me. No hits of the week for me.

I got lost in a time warp when hard rock, heavy metal, rap, and hip-hop took over popular music. I guess I began to sound like my parents and grandparents wondering what happened to the good music of my early years. What happened to lyrics and melodies you could understand?

My fallback in music is the same as it is in movies. My one and only public karaoke performance was our local Tex-Mex restaurant maybe fifteen years ago. It was not my best performance, even by local standards. The restaurant closed a few years ago but I am sure some people still remember the magical night when I got up on stage, decked in western garb, reaching for the stars as I grabbed the mic and the music began. My heartfelt rendition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” fulfilled a lifelong dream.  I sang for applause, free drinks, and some scattered “More, more, more.”

A musical homage to all my movie cowboy heroes.

That song is me, Pilgrim.

A GAY FIRST LADY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

A comment made by presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, caught my attention. He said that statistically speaking, the odds are that we have already had a gay president in America. Several presidents were unmarried, but in past times gay men often married and had children because they did not have the option of living an openly gay lifestyle.

While this was on my mind, I came across an article about a first lady who turned out to be a lesbian. Grover Cleveland took office in 1885 – a 50-year-old bachelor who apparently had fathered a child out of wedlock (this fact nearly derailed his campaign). The protocol called for him to appoint his sister, Rose, as First Lady. She was considered a ‘respectable’ single woman who was well educated, a former teacher at a woman’s seminary and the author of ‘serious’ books. She served as First Lady for a little over a year and then was relieved of her duties when her brother married his 21-year-old ward, Frances Folsom Cleveland.

Rose returned to the family estate in upstate New York and a few years later, when Rose was 43, she met Evangeline Simpson on the wealthy ‘social circuit’ in Florida. Evangeline was 33 and had inherited a fortune from her late husband who was almost 50 years older than she was!

The love letters that document their 30-year relationship, begin in April of 1890. Ironically, at that time there was no word in the English language to describe a romantic/sexual relationship between two women. The word ‘lesbian’ was only applied to the Greek poet, Sappho. The field of sexology only came into being in the 1890’s so the terminology would not exist for many more years.

Rose Cleveland

The concept of ‘romantic friendship’ was popular among women of the day but the relationships were often emotional and intellectual but not sexual. However, that gave cover for wealthy white women of the day and allowed them to have open relationships, often even living and traveling together.

The letters between Rose and Evangeline were discovered in 1969 when a cache of Evangeline’s family papers was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. When the love letters, some quite explicit, were discovered, a memo was sent out suggesting that they are kept from the public. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1978, following numerous complaints. The full collection of Rose’s letters were finally published in a book called ‘Precious and Adored: The love letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918.

Rose on right, Evangeline on left

Rose and Evangeline’s relationship spanned 30 years but had its ups and down. Initially, they enjoyed extended visits to each other’s estates and they traveled together in Europe and the Middle East. They didn’t try to hide their relationship and Rose even wrote to Evangeline’s mother about her love for Evangeline. It seemed to have been accepted – but I wonder how many people of the day understood that there was a sexual component to the relationship.

In 1896, after six years with Rose, Evangeline shocked everyone when she announced that she was marrying a popular Episcopal preacher from Minnesota who was 34 years her senior. She didn’t need to marry him for financial reasons and her diary indicates that she was sincerely fond of him. But why she chose marriage over her relationship with Rose is a mystery.

Evangeline with her new husband

After the marriage, Rose and Evangeline continued to correspond but the tone of their letters changed dramatically. No more intimacies and pet names or professions of love. Evangeline’s husband died five years later, in 1901 and the letters between the two women changed character again. The two resumed staying at each other’s homes for extended periods until 1910 when Evangeline’s brother became seriously ill in Italy. Evangeline and Rose rushed to his side and finally lived together in a small Tuscan town.

In Tuscany in 1918, at the age of 72, Rose died after contracting the Spanish flu. Evangeline lived for twelve more years but wrote of Rose’s death that “The light has gone out for me. The loss of this noble and great soul is a blow that I shall not recover from.”

Photo of Rose with Evangeline on right and book cover on left

In today’s climate, Rose and Evangeline would probably have moved in together when they first fell in love and would have shared a peaceful, happy and uninterrupted 30-years together. At least they never felt shame or ostracism or persecution for their love – which probably would have been the case if they had been men. It’s nice to know that women had an acceptable social ‘cover’ for lesbian relationships, even in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thankfully people don’t need to disguise or hide their love anymore, no matter what the sex or race of their chosen partner.

ROMANTIC ME – Marilyn Armstrong

LOVE AND MARRIAGE ARE NOTHING LIKE A HORSE AND CARRIAGE


I was 18 when I married for the first time. I was in my senior year of college, working at the radio station and beginning to get the hang of writing for people other than myself.  Jeff ran the college radio station. He was the Station Manager.

Garry, my once and future husband, was Jeff’s second-in-command — the Program Director. The two were coincidentally also best friends. Along with most of the people I count as friends all these long years later, we were having a great time doing weird and creative stuff … a permanent party, or so it seemed.

Gar and Mar in Dublin 2000

It wasn’t just the usual college hi-jinx. Aside from the stuff we did at the station, we were creative party givers. Our Fall of Sauron Day parties became the stuff of legend –scripted, costumed, with special effects. We were young and healthy and could party all night, yet still rise up and go the work the following morning — looking barely the worse for wear. Ah, youth.

I married Jeff in August 1965. I spent the next year finishing my B.A. and having my spine remodeled, so it was a few years before I got on with life. My son was born in May 1969. We named him Owen Garry, Garry being his godfather. Fast forward through a non-acrimonious divorce. I later realized if you just give up everything and walk away, it’s easy to be amicable. It’s also something you will probably regret — eventually.

Off to Israel, I went with The Kid. Not too long thereafter, I married in Israel. The less said about this mistake, the better. In 1983, a state visit from the ex and (now) current husband (they rode together), showing up right in time for war in Lebanon. It ruined our plans to visit Mt. Hermon and the Galilee but created great anecdotes which Garry and I tell after dinner around the fire.

I have one (fuzzy) picture of me, sandwiched between Jeff and Garry, all arm-in-arm, the Dead Sea behind us. The picture was taken by husband number 2 (the one I don’t want to talk about).

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

August 1987.

I’m back! Garry and I are an item. Having been apart for so long brought us closer together than we’d imagined possible. The previous decade hadn’t dealt kindly with either of us and we saw one another with new eyes. I think we’d always been a little in love, but there was an endless number of reasons why it wasn’t the right time to do something about it.  Now, shortly after my Israeli divorce from husband number 2 was finished, Garry and I got married.

And here’s how it really happened.

I’d been away for two weeks in California on business. I had come back early because I got sick and came down with the flu. Just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series — occurred the following day and if I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under the collapsed highway.

Garry was glad to see me … until I coughed. Then he wasn’t so glad. If you want to know the definition of “mixed emotions,” it’s a man overwhelmed with joy to see the woman he loves — but knowing the first kiss will include influenza. The definition of true love? He kissed me anyway.

And got the flu.

So after we both stopped coughing, Garry took me out to dinner. He was nervous. He was driving and we went around Leverett Circle at least half a dozen times. He kept missing the turn-off. Meanwhile, he was explaining how he’d had a conversation with his pal about real estate, and how prices were down, and how maybe we should buy something. And live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me?

So having listened for a pretty long time, I said: “So let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said and drove around the loop one more time.

“I don’t know about you,” I said, “But I definitely need a drink.”

Garry, now

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.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. Wouldn’t you think that was a proposal? I had to remind him about buying a ring, too but eventually, he got into the groove, realized all he had to do was tell me what he wanted and show up in a tux and he’d be a married guy. Piece of cake.

We got married 6 months later having known each other a mere 26 years.

I declined to have my first ex-husband as best man at my third wedding. We did, however, have the “real” reception at his house. There was the official one at the church, but the fun event, with all the friends, music, wine and sharing … that one was over at the old house where I used to live with Jeff.

Garry and I will celebrate our 29th anniversary in September. When you find the right one, time flies.

EDWARD AND ELEANOR: A ROYAL LOVE STORY SET IN STONE – Alli Templeton – Reblog

A love story out of olden times. Love lives on.

A royal wedding in medieval times was all about sealing alliances and striking political deals, so emotional entanglements didn’t usually enter the equation. Consequently, it was common for husbands in royal and elite circles to play the field, often enjoying a string of dalliances or even find lasting extra-marital love. But occasionally there was a true success story, and in 1254 a diplomatic marriage between two teenagers began a lifelong devotion between one of our most powerful warrior kings and his Spanish queen that has left its mark on our landscape to this day.

It started with a squabble over Gascony, England’s last remnant of its former Angevin lands. A new and ambitious Spanish king, Alfonso X, was laying claim to this territory of the English King Henry III and the stage was set for a fight. Alfonso backed a Gascon rebellion, and the province began to fall to the…

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BOOK REVIEW: CHRISTMAS EVE DAUGHTER – A TIME TRAVEL NOVEL by Elyse Douglas

The Christmas Eve Daughter: A Time Travel Novel
by Elyse Douglas

As a time-travel story, this is not quite it. The story absolutely includes time travel, but it’s what we in the science fiction world refer to as “tourist time travel” where there is no technology involved and no “other world” surprises, either. Time travel is not what the story is about, but rather simply a means of “getting there and back.” It’s just transportation, not the storyline.

In this kind of tale, the ‘traveler’ steps through a (suddenly appearing out of nowhere) wormhole or discovers a magic medallion, a lantern, a piece of clothing, a special page in a book … and miraculously finds her or himself in the past. After which, it’s time for romance.

Everyone lives happily ever after.

This being book two in the series, happily ever after is interrupted by the discovery that the man who came from the past has a previously unknown daughter. Will the magic time-travel lantern work one more time? Can the beautiful couple from modern New York go back in time and rescue the young woman?

This is not science fiction. It’s a romance novel with that includes time-travel. In fact, the formula for the book is identical to every romance I have ever read, except instead of traveling to a different physical location on Earth, the characters — all of whom are beautiful — travel through time.

As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I know a formula when I see one. As this kind of writing goes, the book is silkily written and well-edited. Very clean. If you are a fancier of romantic fiction, you will like it. It adds just a hint of “magic” to a traditional story.

Elyse Douglas is a good writer with a smooth touch. If I were still editing the library, she would get my vote.


About Elyse DouglasChristmas Eve Daughter: Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age and graduated with a degree in English Literature. Douglas began writing novels in college while studying music at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.  He traveled the world as a professional pianist for many years.  He has also worked as a copywriter and corporate manager.

Some of Elyse Douglas’ novels include The Christmas Eve Letter (A Time Travel Novel), Christmas for Juliet, The Summer Letters, The Christmas Diary, The Summer Diary, and The Lost Mata Hari Ring. They live in New York City.

Website: www.elysedouglas.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/douglaselyse
Facebook: www.facebook.com/elyse.authorsdouglas

Buy Christmas Eve Daughter: Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

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REMEMBERING THE FAR AWAY #WRITEPHOTO … Marilyn Armstrong

Thursday photo prompt: Faraway #writephoto

Long ago in a land far away …

I remember.

You could stand in the cove and feel the sands move out from underneath your feet. You could walk a little and feel the brush of underwater grasses against your ankles and see the tiny baby fish, schools of them looking for a tiny something to nibble.

It was warm there. Especially in the morning, when all you could see were the fishermen going out in little boats. Sometimes, they would come back with a lobster, smile at you. Then they would toss you the lobster. Just because they were happy and you were smiling.

The thing about that world was people were nice for no reason at all. They would give you things because you were there, the sun was shining, and the sea was warm. We didn’t need to talk, though we did urgently needed to dance.

Oh, how we danced. Steel drums beating so loudly in a cement basement, steamy in the heat of September on a Caribbean night. I’d like to go back now, even without the dancing. Just for the peace of that place — far away and long ago.

“I DO” OR “I DON’T” – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My 37-year-old son just got engaged. He and his fiancée were both married before and neither are in a rush to get married again. They probably won’t have children so they feel there’s no reason to ever get married. They’ve made a life-long commitment to each other and that’s enough for them.

My son, David and his fiancée, Katie

I’m fine with that – for them. I still want to be married. I believe that marriage is more than a piece of paper. It’s a socially and legally reinforced creation of a new family unit. Does the social and legal recognition matter? I think so, at least for me.

I’ve been married twice. Both times, the marriage ceremony marked a subtle change in the relationship. Calling your partner ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ carries with it an emotional punch. Social mores and rituals effect us on an unconscious level even if we fight against them intellectually.

I have found that even symbols matter in relationships. In my first marriage, I wore a wedding ring but my husband refused to. It bothered me for 25 years. Tom, my husband now, wore a ring when he got married the first time. So he had no problem granting my wish that he wear a wedding ring for me. That still means a lot to me. I look at the ring all the time. It’s a symbol of equal commitment and equality within the relationship. Something I never had before.

Tom’s wedding ring

In Tom’s previous marriage, his ex-wife refused to take his last name. This really upset him. He wanted to be ‘the Curleys’, not ‘Curley and Jones’. When I married the first time, I continued to use my maiden name professionally, when I practiced law. For me, that preserved my separate identity in the aspect of my life that was separate from my husband, but I took my husband’s last name for social, legal and all other purposes. We had children together so it was particularly important to me that we all had the same last name. To me that symbolizes a family.

When I married Tom, I naturally took his name. He was so thrilled! It has always meant so much to him. And I’m happy to accommodate his desire for a new Curley family entity.

One of our Xmas tree ornaments

To me, the ceremony and the legal document mark a different level of commitment and connection. The fact that my son decided to get engaged, confirms the importance of social customs. He got his girlfriend’s father’s consent, he designed a ring and worked out all the details of the actual proposal. He followed all the social ‘rules’ about getting engaged.

He did it, in part, to show another level of relationship beyond boyfriend and girlfriend. He wanted the world to know that they are now ‘fiancees’. That they have taken a socially designated step toward a permanent commitment in the eyes of society. Marriage is just the next step in that continuum.

My wedding invitation with Tom

When I married Tom, I had a small, inexpensive, at home wedding for only close friends and family. It was a lunch, not a dinner. It was buffet, not sit down. I wore what was technically a bridesmaid dress but in white. The event didn’t have to be big or fancy. But for us, the ceremony and the affirmation before loved ones, did make a difference. We felt different and were perceived differently by the world. Maybe less differently nowadays. But I submit that there is still a difference.

My dining room table at our home wedding in 2002

A high school friend celebrated 25 years together with her partner by getting married! How cool is that?

I’m a chill mom, so whatever my son decides to do with his fiancée is fine with me. But I want my ring and my marriage license, thank you! The Curleys forever! Till death do us part!

 

TOUGH QUESTIONS, EASY ANSWERS

I asked. He answered. He asked, I answered. We’ve been together ever since.

Here’s how it happened. It began on the ferry ride back from Martha’s Vineyard. We’d spent a magical week. It was obvious that Something Was Happening.

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From there, we moved on to living together. Sort of. We each had our own place, but were almost always together in one or the other. With a lot of driving in between. As both of us were working full-time, we didn’t get a lot of time to relax together. Things were bound to change, but there was in no rush. I had no plans for moving on.

I’d gone to California on business for a couple of weeks. I came back early because I got sick. Which was just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series on October 17, 1989 — occurred the following day. If I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under a collapsed highway.

A few weeks later, Garry had a few questions for me. He suggested we go out to dinner. Nice place on the dock in Boston. Garry was uncharacteristically nervous. I could tell because he drove around Leverett Circle half a dozen times on the way to the wharf . He kept missing the turn. As he drove, he explained he’d had a conversation with a pal about real estate. Prices were down. Maybe we should buy something. Live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me?

72-vintage-25th-cooperstown-anniversary_4

Having listened awhile, I said: “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said, and drove around the loop one more time.

This time, I said “Yes.”

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.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. I had to remind him about buying a ring, but eventually he realized all he had to do was give me a ring, set a date, tell me what he wanted in the way of a wedding (everything, really everything). After which he could show up in a tux and be married.

We got married 6 months later having known each other only 26 years.

I asked, he said “yes.” He asked, I said “yes.” Not so tough after all.

DISCOVER CHALLENGE | TOUGH QUESTIONS

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEYS

SENTIMENTAL AND ROMANTIC

My husband considers himself quite the romantic. He weeps at old movies and love stories. He always roots for a happy ending.

Golden Sunrise March 7, 2016

To me, that’s sentimental, not romantic. It’s sweet and that’s certainly an attractive quality in a man. Candy, flowers, candles, and music. All nice things to make a courtship memorable.

But, on the whole, sentimentalists don’t have a long game. No need to be a constant lover. The occasional grand gesture is fine and fun. Dinner and a good movie … with flowers on the side.

It’s fine. More than good enough. I doubt a relationship could get through the weary years wrapped in romance — not without a lot of financing to smooth over the lumps and bumps of the modern life.

72-sunrise-030716_05

Constant romance would make it difficult to take care of the daily dilly-dally, unsympathetic bosses, bills without money to pay. Growing children into good citizens. Making hard choices. Coping with loss. Illness and recovery. None of which are even slightly romantic.

Life is messy. Yet, if you do it for love, perhaps that is enough to make it a romance.

I think my romance synapses have grown mossy from lack of use. Hugs, kisses and a bouquet of flowers — and a nice sushi dinner — will do it for me. Throw in a movie with a happy ending? I’m stoked for at least six months.

sen·ti·men·tal (sen(t)əˈmen(t)l

Adjective
Of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.
“She felt a sentimental attachment to the place creep over her.”
Synonyms: nostalgic, tender, emotional, affectionate More
(of a work of literature, music, or art) dealing with feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, typically in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way, such as “a sentimental ballad”
synonyms: mawkish, over-emotional, cloying, sickly, saccharine, sugary, overly sweet;
(of a person) excessively prone to feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, as in: “I’m a sentimental old fool.”


In the opposing hand, we hold “romantic” stuff:

ro·man·tic rōˈman(t)ik

Adjective
1. Conducive to or characterized by the expression of love.
“A romantic candlelit dinner.”
Synonyms: loving, amorous, passionate, tender, affectionate; Informal: lovey-dovey: “He’s so romantic”
2. Of, characterized by, or suggestive of, an idealized view of reality, such as: “A romantic attitude toward the past.”
Synonyms: idyllic, picturesque, fairy-tale;
Noun
1.A person with romantic beliefs or attitudes: “I am an incurable romantic”
Synonyms: idealist, sentimentalist, romanticist.


yellow roses anniversary bouquet

Reality ain’t so bad. Add a few flowers and a night out? I’ll call it romance and be content.

BABY YOU’RE THE BEST

When I married Garry, it was my third marriage, his first. It wasn’t because he hadn’t had relationships. More than enough of them. Just never married any of them.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

So, there we were. Me at 43 and he at 48 years old. Really getting married. Wow. We had a not-so-small advantage in that we had been friends and lovers for more than 25 years, but married? I never thought he would marry anyone.

Scene: Epiphany Lutheran Church, Garry’s home church in Hempstead, New York. His brother was singing as were two of my friends. A bagpiper was there to pipe the guests in, open the ceremonies, and pipe us on our way.

Garry In Cong

Twenty-five — almost 26 — years later. We old dogs have learned a whole lot of new tricks. Garry — the fussy bachelor — has turned into a great husband and a pal. He shops, launders, and lots more. All the things I can’t manage, he takes care of.

But more than any tasks or work he may do, he has become my rock. As my health declined … I’d have thought I’d bottomed out, but apparently not … he was, is there. Always.

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How do you say thanks for that?

You’re my better half, so much better than I ever dared hope. Baby, you’re the best.

A FINE ROMANCE — PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

From Nancy Merrill come a challenge I can really wrap my head around. It’s possible I have a picture or two that might work in context.

I’m thinking, thinking, thinking. Meanwhile, a word from our sponsor.

From Nancy: IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO OR TWO (OR THREE…) THAT PORTRAYS ROMANCE.

Garry and Bonnie olympus

I will never ask him to choose between me and Bonnie. I already know she’d win, paws down.

ROMANTIC SNOBBERY

It isn’t just culture that divides us into classes. What we watch on television, see in the movies, and read also puts us into a category, often unfairly by people who don’t “get” why we like what we like.

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I read a post about how dreadful — yet gripping — romance novels can be. The not-so-subtle insinuation is that anyone who reads them is probably not too bright. While it’s true that romance novels are the potato chips of the literary world (bet you can’t eat just one) that’s not the point.

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As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I assure you that research showed readers of romance novels are better educated than most readers.

They read romance novels because they are pulp. These readers aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down, and forget. If life gets in the way, they can just never finish the story — without regret.

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I read each 3-book volume, every month. Three romances: 2 modern with a Gothic sandwiched between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would prefer people enjoy, people don’t always read good books. I often avoid “good” books. I don’t want to go where that book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it. Don’t enjoy the subject matter. Don’t need to be further depressed by the ugly realities of life or history.

Good books can be too intense, too serious, or educational for this moment in time. Too close to reality. I read to be entertained. I’m not seeking enlightenment through literature. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment through literature. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

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The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many. Enough genres, themes, and styles for everyone. An infinity of literature. No matter what your taste — low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.

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I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too.

Snobs suck the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s okay with me. I love reading about vampires and witches. I’d be more than a hypocrite to act as if your taste is inferior to mine.

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These days, I’m rarely in the mood for anything serious — except maybe a conversation. Tastes change over time. Life has been a very serious business for me. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I want to escape, Reality will still be there when I get back.

Finally, my favorite professor at university — a man I believe was profound and wise — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was a much truth in those books. I believe for him, there was.

HAPPY EVER AFTER – MOSTLY

HAPPILY EVER AFTER? GIVE OR TAKE A LIE OR TWO.

We’ve coming up on anniversary number 25, which is a big one. We have plans. These plans involve baseball. And a bit of traveling. I digress because I wanted to make sure I include all the facts and nothing but the facts.

A note from a long and much-married woman: No marriage is happy all the time. There are fights, times when one of you is snippy, snarky, unhappy, frustrated and you take whatever is bothering you out on your partner. Marriage is a never-ending negotiation to achieve perfection. Finding perfection is impossible, but trying to achieve it can be fun.


I was 18 when I married the first time. It was my senior year. I was working at the college radio station. Jeff was the Station Manager. Garry, my once and future husband, was Jeff’s second-in-command — the Program Director. The two were also best friends. Most of the people I came to consider real friends worked there, too. We were having a great time doing weird, creative stuff. Life as a permanent party … or so it seemed.

Gar and Mar in Dublin 2000

Aside from the stuff we did at the station, we held an annual Fall of Sauron Day party — scripted, costumed, with special effects. We were young, healthy, could party all night, yet rise up and go the work the following morning. Looking barely the worse for wear. Ah, youth.

I married Jeff in August 1965. I spent the next year finishing my B.A. and having my spine remodeled, so it was a few years before I got on with life. Owen Garry was born in May 1969, Garry being his godfather. Fast forward through a non-acrimonious divorce from Jeff. I later realized if you just give up everything and walk away, it’s easy to remain amicable. It’s also something you will probably regret — eventually.

Off to Israel I went with The Kid. Not too long thereafter, I married in Israel. The less said about this mistake, the better. In 1983, a state visit from the ex and (now) current husband (they rode together), showing up right in time for war in Lebanon. It ruined our plans to visit Mt. Hermon and the Galilee, but created great anecdotes which Garry and I tell after dinner around the fire. I have one (fuzzy) picture of me, sandwiched between Jeff and Garry, all arm-in-arm, the Dead Sea behind us. The picture was taken by husband number 2 (the one I don’t want to talk about).

August 1987 – THE RETURN

I’m back! Garry and I are an item. Having been apart for so long brought us closer together than we’d imagined possible. The previous decade hadn’t dealt kindly with either of us and we saw one another with new eyes. I think we’d always been a little in love, but there were an endless number of reasons why it wasn’t the right time to do something about it.  Now, shortly after my Israeli divorce from husband number 2 was finished, Garry and I got married.

Here’s the back story. Give or take a lie or two.

I’d been away for two weeks in California on business. I had come back early because I got sick, came down with the flu. Just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series — occurred the following day and if I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under the collapsed highway.

Garry was glad to see me … until I coughed. Then he wasn’t so glad. If you want to know the definition of “mixed emotions,” it’s a man overwhelmed with joy to see the woman he loves — but knowing the first kiss will include influenza. The definition of true love? He kissed me anyway. And got the flu.

So after we both stopped coughing, Garry took me out to dinner. He was nervous. He was driving and we went around Leverett Circle at least half a dozen times. He kept missing the turn off. Meanwhile, he was explaining how he’d had a conversation with his pal about real estate, and how prices were down, and how maybe we should buy something. And live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me?

So having listened for a pretty long time, I said: “So let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said, and drove around the loop one more time.

“I don’t know about you,” I said, “But I definitely need a drink.”

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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.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. Wouldn’t you think that was a proposal? I had to remind him about buying a ring, too but eventually, he got into the groove, realized all he had to do was tell me what he wanted and show up in a tux and he’d be a married guy. Piece of cake.

We got married 6 months later having known each other a mere 26 years.

I declined to have my first ex-husband as best man at my third wedding. We did, however, have the “real” reception at his house. There was the official one at the church, but the fun event, with all the friends, music, wine and sharing … that one was over at the old house where I used to live with Jeff.

Garry and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary next September. When you find the right one, time flies.

HE SAID YES

In late 1979, I walked away from my first marriage. It was a friendship which should have stayed a friendship. Regardless, it had yielded a son and in years to come would produce a lovely granddaughter. Clearly, it was meant to be, even if it were not meant to last.

Off to Israel I went with my son where I remained for 9 years. While I was away, Garry wrote me. Every week, 2 or 3 letters arrived in my mail box. Fan mail. As that second marriage fell apart, I lived from letter to letter, carrying the most recent one with me until the paper on which it was written fell apart.

I wrote letters to Garry too and when I got back to the States, I found he had saved them. He had a drawer full of my letters. I don’t think either Garry or I has written a letter to anyone else since.

August 1987.

I’m back. I landed at JFK Airport on August 11, 1987. Just a couple of days later, I headed north to see Garry. He would be on the Vineyard where he shared a place with work colleagues. I would join him there.

It was a magical week.

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There had always been something between us. That special something had been there before and during my first marriage. While I was overseas, that something had grown stronger. Apparently absence really can make the heart grow fonder. It did for us.

Last night, Garry and I were watching a new episode of NCIS. Garry is a devotee of the show and was enthusiastically looking forward to a brand new show on which Gibbs was rumored to reconnect with another of his former wives.

Gibbs is often described by Tony (in the show) as “a functional mute.” A man who can give a monosyllabic response to even the most complex question. Garry greatly admires this quality and last night, I had a revelation. Garry really IS Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Even though they do not look like twins, they are twins of the heart, manly men who believe apologizing is a sign of weakness.

We were on our way back from a magical week on Martha’s Vineyard where we had reconnected. Reaffirmed our attraction whatever that thing was — dare I call it love? — we had between us. Both of us had survived a horrible decade. Bad choices, bad relationships. Problems at work. The years had taken a heavy toll on us.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLAnd here was Life giving us a rare opportunity to “pick up each others’ option.” It had always been possible, but for one reason or another reason, including a whole host of hard to explain stuff, we had never done it. If ever an opportunity had “last chance” written on it, this one did.

On the ferry ride back from the Vineyard, we talked. Or, more accurately, I talked. He listened and occasionally commented.

I pointed out we had tried pretty much everything. Our relationships had failed. Some quite spectacularly. Remarkably, we had continued to find pleasure and comfort with each other. Despite the crap we’d gone through and having been separated for nearly a decade.

“We’ve tried everything else,” I said. “Maybe this time, we should try each other?”

Garry looked at me. “Yes,” he said.

One word. Gibbs would have been proud. Any woman worth her salt would have needed a full afternoon to respond to that question. I might have required a whole weekend. But he said “yes” and he meant “yes” and about a year later, we were married and have been ever since.

So I ask you — was that not worthy of Leroy Jethro Gibbs? I think it was. Give that man his own television show!

ON NOT BEING A CULTURE SNOB

I read a post about how dreadful (yet gripping) romance novels can be. It’s true. They are the potato chips of the literary world. Bet you can’t consume just one! Even if you don’t like them (and mostly, I don’t, much), they grab you and won’t let you go, even though you know in advance exactly what is going to happen, pretty much from the opening page.

That’s not the point of these books. If as a girl, you read the back of cereal boxes, romance novels are the next step up. I’m not sure what the literary equivalent is for guys, but I’m sure there is one.

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As the former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I can tell you our research showed readers of romance novels to be far better educated than average readers. Many have advanced degrees in the sciences. They read romance novels exactly because they are mindless pulp. They aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down. If life gets in the way, they can just forget them without regret.

I read each 3-book volume, one per month. It contained three romances: 2 modern with a Gothic sandwiched between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would like, people don’t necessarily read books because they are good. Me? I often avoid “good” books. I don’t want to go where the book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it.

Why? Too depressing, too intense, too serious, too ugly, too educational. Too real. I read for the same reasons I watch TV and movies. To be entertained. I am not seeking enlightenment. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many books. Enough genres, themes, and styles for anyone. Everyone. An infinity of literature so no matter what your taste –low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.

I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too. Snobs take the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s fine. Since I love reading about vampires and witches, I’d be a hypocrite to act like your taste is somehow inferior to mine.

These days, I’m rarely in the mood for serious literature. Tastes change with the years. Mine has changed more than most. Life has been a very serious business for me. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I am happy to escape from reality.

Finally, my favorite professor at university — a man I believe was profound and wise in every way that counted — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was a much truth in his books. I believe for him, there was.

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?”

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“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.