Tomorrow, my forever bride has a birthday.
In February, a most wonderful woman and her husband visited with friends in San Diego. Another couple, also from Oxford, Ohio, came with the them. The six friends have been getting together at least once a year for a number of years.
Maureen and i joined them for dinner on a Thursday. Sunday, i took this wonderful woman out for coffee at an incredible bakery, Bread and Cie in Hillcrest. i know it’s incredible because Maureen goes out of her way to get their bread. Kathy and i had a wonderful afternoon remembering old times and catching up on our families.
As i have mentioned earlier, Kathy McMahon Klosterman is someone who ran with me in Newport, Rhode Island in 1969. It was a wonderful, care-free, fun and laughing time, still one of the most joyous periods of my life. Ours was truly a platonic relationship. In the early 1970’s, we again met briefly one afternoon in Fort Adams Navy housing when her husband Jim met my wife Kathie and our infant daughter Blythe. Kathy Klosterman and i have recently reconnected on Facebook (so all of you naysayers about that social media can suck it up) and effected our get togethers when she visited her friends.
After we had about two hours of talking over our coffee and tea, i began my what-if game with myself again. A constant with my what-if game is it expands exponentially.
“What if i had stayed on the Hawkins and not gone to Vietnam. Could the platonic relationship with Kathy have grown into something more?
“What if i had read the signs correctly and not married my first and second wives? Who might i have ended up with in marriage or could i have stayed single as was my intent at the end of the two marriages? ”
“What if i had shunned writing and the Navy as careers and returned home to Lebanon and worked with my father? i would know a lot less about the world, business, management, and leadership, but would i have been wealthier or happier?”
“What if i had kept on driving into Georgia that summer night in 1961 and eloped with that beautiful Kentucky girl, instead of us mutually agreeing to turn around? How would that have turned out?”
“What would have happened if i had lost my inhibitions, and aggressively pursued my other platonic relationship, Sharry Baird Hager, who i loved since a fourth grade dream?”
“What if i had not heeded my father’s concerns and quit pursuing Kosyko, a beautiful doll-like woman, in Sasebo, Japan?”
“What if i had not backed out of my relationship with Angelina Judea Garcia Garcon? She was one of the most beautiful women i’ve ever met but had been married in the Philippines and consequently, couldn’t leave the country. She lied to me about her age by ten years and forgot to tell me she had two sons until late in the relationship. If i had not called it off, could i have gotten her to the states, and how would that have worked out?”
“What if i hadn’t gone down to Parron Hall to buy those office panels and not met Maureen, would i have pursued my college passion, Susan Butterfield, now Mrs. Brooks, and maybe made a match? Would i be living in Atlanta?”
There are more expansions of the what-if game, but i tire of considering such things. They are gone. They did not work out for many reasons. I remain close friends with a number of these women because we did have something special, and truly cared for each other.
But i did live my life and made my decisions. And it is what it is.
And…i met Maureen. i have raved about Maureen’s beauty, inside and out, her caring for others, the good fit we have on the practical side of things. i am still enthralled with her sense of humor and that beautiful laugh.
i have told stories about how we met, about how we decided to marry, about how we decided to have a second child, about many wonderful things given to me by Maureen. i have written love poems to her. i try to daily let her know how much she means to me.
Perhaps the most magical thing about her is she puts up with me. i think back on two failed marriages, two engagements that didn’t work out, a whole bunch of times i fell in love but no one pulled the trigger. i don’t think any of those women, most of whom i still love as special friends, could have put up with me.
Maureen and i are different. She is methodical in getting things done, financially responsible, sometimes frenetic in her worry about what could happen. i am haphazard, spur of the moment, unconcerned about finances, laissez faire about what is coming next. After all, being a single Navy commander in San Diego and sailing to the Western Pacific can spoil a man, make him act weird.
But we fit. We laugh often during the day. We stop, hug and kiss without notice often, every day. We enjoy going out. We enjoy staying home. We enjoy each other. We have become each other’s guardian. She finds what i’ve lost on cue. She helps me remember what i forgot. She makes sure i lock the door. i help her when she needs a stronger hand to open something.
She is a sophisticated perfectionist with a heart of gold. She worries too much, but she’s married to me who hardly worries at all. She is a planner. i am spur of the moment. She is thorough. i am, in this sense, a lot like my mother described my father: “a worm in hot ashes.” She is meticulous. i am sloppy. She is neat and orderly, always knowing where to find things. i lose something on a continual basis and can never find what i’m looking for.
She is beautiful. Oh lord, is she beautiful, inside and out, and she cares, is understanding, gets her feelings hurt easily, has an incredible ability to listen and care for people, and deeply loves her family, friends, and, of course, her two cats. She loves my jokes, and that laugh, that crazy laugh. It makes people start to laugh just to hear it, having no idea why they are laughing.
When i think about us and my chequered past, i think of the wonderful women i have met in my lifetime. i have loved many. There are only a few i shouldn’t have loved. i am close friends with many of them, and Maureen has become close to many of them. But upon reflection, Maureen is the only one i believe who would have put up with me for more than thirty-three years. i think i’ll keep her if she will let me.
The photo is from 1982. It was taken in the parking lot of Balboa Park. We were on our way to a concert in the Starlight Bowl, an outside amphitheater. Tommy Dorsey’s band, Sarah Vaughn , and the Modern Jazz Quartet were the performers. It was magic, even with the aircraft on the flight path to Lindbergh Field frequently interrupting the performances.
Afterwards, we went to the Hotel Del Coronado’s boat house on Coronado Bay adjacent to the yacht club. At the time, the boat house was an upscale restaurant. We bypassed the restaurant and moved up the stairs to the second floor, then a bar with Victorian furniture in the lounge area. We sat on a divan next to the bay window looking out on the Hotel Del.
She had an aperitif (and if i sit here long enough i will remember the name of it) and i had an Armagnac. i think i was in heaven.
Tomorrow, she celebrates her 64th birthday. During the day, we are going to the new San Diego Library, a magnificent structure, and afterwards will have lunch, probably on the bay. In the evening, we are going to our favorite restaurant, The Wine Vault and Bistro, with two of our most favorite friends, Pete and Nancy Toennies.
i will get her something nice and inexpensive. She frowns on expensive gifts for her. Even if the gift ran into six figures, it would not be enough. We met several weeks before her thirty-first birthday. i have told the story of our initial meeting. It was not love at first sight, although there was something in the attraction for both of us. It took both of us a while to figure out it was for real. We both had to make some major decisions about the rest of lives to commit to the change.
It was worth it.
We have grown into unconditional love, not just between the two of us, but for all of those folks we hold dear.
It is easy to love her. i thank her every day, but it’s not enough, never enough.
Happy Birthday, beautiful lady. i am one hell of a lucky man.