Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's not how you start, it's how you finish


As Sheri and I considered how to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary, history was hardly on our side. We rarely celebrate our anniversary or Valentines' Day for that matter. I'd tell you why, but you'd think it was corny and/or I was making it up, so...

We thought about restating our vows, but we wanted it to be private, without even a minister around, so that wasn't going to work. Besides, when it comes to writing those types of things, she's much better than I am and I didn't want to start off our 19th year with a resentment.

Given my recent concern over losing my sense of humor, I probably ought to address the old joke that many of you old joke fans probably have running through your heads right now: A guy is sitting at the bar of his favorite drinking spot and says to his cronies, “Yeah. I probably should be getting home. It's my wedding anniversary.” One of the guys asks, “How many years?” Our guy answers, “It's been nine happy years... Nine out of 23 ain't bad.” Bam!

Anyway, we kicked around some ideas before finally agreeing we should go to the Glimmerglass Opera House in Cooperstown, NY, the scene of our first date.

Now, some things you should know about that first “date.” First of all, we didn't call it a date. We were both 44 years old, which seemed like way too old to each of us to be going on a first date. Also, she and her husband were getting divorced after 26 years while a nine-year relationship I had been in ended about three months earlier. Dating hadn't been on the radar until I happened to get these damned tickets to the damned opera. So, we called it an outing. Yeah, I know, but since the whole thing felt like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, let's just give us a pass on the fact that outing and date, in this case, are the same thing.

The morning of the outing, I tried on almost every shirt/pants combination I owned, some of them twice, looking for the right outfit. I gave up and just settled for what looked the least wrinkled. I subsequently found out that Sheri had done pretty much the same thing.

I wanted to be on time, but not too early because that would make me seem overeager. So, I made the 25-minute drive to her house with 15 minutes to spare. So I went to a nearby drugstore, bought some Tic Tacs and ate the entire box while I killed so much time I was almost late anyway.

I got to her house, knocked on the door which was answered by her daughter Kristie who was headed out on a bike ride. “You be nice to my mother. She's a nervous wreck.” Well so was I, but I didn't know if nervous plus nervous equaled calm or if nervous plus nervous equaled complete disaster. Oh well, too late to worry about that.

Here's another thing you aren't going to believe but it is the God's honest truth. I had only seen Sheri dressed for casual occasions, but she always looked lovely. She came to the door that day dressed to go an... “outing,” and virtually all of my nervousness left me immediately. She was stunning. I mean... whatever comes after incredibly beautiful in the lexicon of beautifulness. One look and I knew there wouldn't be a second date. I mean, it wasn't necessarily the Beauty and the Beast, but it certainly was the Beauty and the What's That Gorgeous Chick Doing with a Guy Who looks Like That? So the pressure was off. There couldn't possibly be a second outing.

Anyway, we got in the car and she noted that my windshield wipers were tied on with two different colors of yarn; one was orange and one was black. Did I mention that Sheri has immaculate taste? Yeah, she does, so it was only normal that she would notice this and ask me about the yarn. “My windshield wipers keep flying off and I don't know how else to keep them on.” “But why is one tied on with orange yarn and the other black.”

I wanted to come up with some cool design concept to explain it, but I figured lying was no way to start a relationship. So, knowing I would lose an inestimable number of style points, I said “When the one flew off I had a piece of orange yarn in the car and when the other one flew off I had a black piece in the car.” Oy.

She was a bit guarded about men touching her, so I had admonished myself all the way over, “Don't touch her. Don't touch.” As I eased the car into reverse to back out of her driveway, I released the clutch too quickly, the car jerked, and I reached out and put my hand on her knee, as we used to do with our kids, pre-seat belts. It seemed like this would actually be a good point at which to stop the outing, especially after she yelled, “Are you out of your mind, touching me like that?!?!?!?”

But God obviously had a plan that even we couldn't screw up, because we made the two-hour drive, loved the opera (“Cosi Fan Tutte”), and spent about three hours sitting on a hill overlooking the opera house, talking about all kinds of things which somehow led to us living happily ever after, or at least happily ever to this point.

The opera house was closed, but we were able to walk all around the grounds and remembering that first outing. How could we possibly know what the next 21 years would bring? I would say we were just as unprepared for the extent of the happiness we would share as we were unprepared for her to develop type one diabetes and need an insulin pump and me to contract multiple myeloma and need a stem cell transplant.

But, I guess, that's the real truth behind happily ever after. You don't ride off into the sunset leaving any possible problems behind to live a silly fairy tale life. No. You join hands, trust and respect each other, face things, good and bad, head on and move through life daring anyone or anything to even think about trying to spoil your happiness.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”