A while back, at David’s request, I told the story of how I met my wife, hugely embarrassing as the story is. I promised to tell the story of how she threw herself out of her house when she turned 18 and didn’t speak to her mother for a year.

After I had been going out with my wife to be, she told me that she was going to San Francisco to spend time with her favorite older brother, a bohemian artist whom she idolized at the time. (In the long run, things did not go especially well for him, but that’s another story.)

I think she was not sure she wanted to see me any more, so she left the impression she might not be coming back to Los Angeles. However, I sometimes drove “accidentally” across the route I knew she walked to and from high school, and sure enough I one day saw her walking home from high school and stopped to talk to her, telling her I had accidentally driven that way. I learned that without telling me, she had returned home from San Francisco.

I convinced her to go out with me again.

I began to spend time at her house with my wife to be and her mother. I worked diligently at sucking up to her mother. It was not easy to do for two reasons:

1. Her mother was a very difficult and insecure person.

2. My wife to be, now in adolescence, had begun the difficult process of finding and expressing her own individuality as a person.

Her mother had many admirable qualities. After her divorce, working as a secretary, she had, by herself raised and supported five children. She was a splendid cook and mistress of many other household skills, which she taught to my wife.

However, her mother was full of resentments and grievances. Just as I am the oldest of my parents’ five children, my wife is the youngest of her parents’ five children.

Each of my wife’s siblings had left the nest already, not always on the friendliest of terms, leaving their mother feeling angry, unappreciated, and lonely. As my wife had been a very obedient and unchallenging child, her mother had come to depend on her, the youngest of the five children, for a feeling of security and success as a parent.

Also, her mother had a bit of a drinking problem. I don’t think she was an alcoholic, but she tended to drink more than she should and usually became more and more angry as she became intoxicated.

Often I would have dinner with my wife to be and her mother. Her mother was a splendid cook, and tended to interpret people eating and appreciating her food as appreciating her, so she would offer me more and more food.

At these dinners, my wife to be would offer some innocent opinion and her mother would take serious exception and they would bicker and snarl at each other as I sat in uncomfortable silence.

A focus point of these arguments became my wife to be’s black pants. These events occurred before the word “hippie” came into wide usage, so her mother used the word “beatnik” to describe depraved children rebelling against their parents’ values. The black pants symbolized in her mind how her daughter was rejecting her values, much as children today reject their parents’ values with piercings and tattoos.

(Random Granddaughter gets to wear transfer tattoos that wash off after a few days. I don’t know if this little indulgence by the mommies is meant to inoculate her against getting real tattoos when she gets a little older. I don’t know if Anne Elise will reject them or end up with her body covered over every square inch of skin with real tattoos by the time she is 15.

On the other hand, I don’t know if there is a similar way the mommies can let her have “pretend” piercings in her nose or such now.)

As my future wife neared the age of 18, I helped her buy a Citroen (the cars my family adopted at the time following the lead of my eccentric uncle Donald), and began teaching her to drive. I don’t remember the exact sequence of circumstances that precipitated the crisis. It involved her getting a “learners’ permit” to prepare for taking her drivers’ test. She did not have auto insurance yet. Her mother refused to let her get a learner’s permit.

Up until that point, I had been a quiet and polite observer to many scenes of bickering and argument, desperately trying not to alienate her mother. As this disagreement escalated into hysterics, I lost it. I told her mother what I thought of her. Finally, we stormed out of her mother’s house. At that time, I was still living at home with my mother.

(I had flunked out of college at the University of California at Berkeley a couple of years earlier and was attending a community college in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles to restart my college career in the college equivalent of kindergarten. Also, my father had died recently, so I was the “head” of my broken and incoherent family.)

With no other place to go, I took my wife to be to my mother’s house. I explained the situation to my mother and asked if my wife to be could stay at our place until the situation was sorted out. My mother, always complaisant agreed.

We were sitting around awkwardly a couple of hours later, when there was a furious pounding on my door. I opened it to see Mrs. Random’s mother and one of her brothers, L. L had just left the navy. He was always the “responsible” one in her family, eventually becoming a corporate lawyer.

At this time her mother demanded that Mrs. Random come home. She refused. At this point her brother seized her and began dragging her out of the house kicking and screaming. I remember thinking (in a absurd and ridiculous fashion) This is just like a scene from an overwrought Italian movie.

 

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When I was a child, it was clear to me that

A) My father was a very intelligent (perhaps brilliant) man.

B) He was unable to get and keep (until late in life) a decent job.

C) My parents’ marriage had been a very bad idea.

One thought that has occurred to me only recently is that my father got my mother pregnant before they were married and that they had to get married. No hint of this was ever spoken to me by any of my relatives, but it might account for their ridiculous and pathetic joining together as a couple.

As I was growing up, I had the impression that my father had started attending the University of Chicago as a young man, but had dropped out about a year before he was to graduate because

D) He got married.

E) I was born.

F) He joined the United States Army (during World War II) and was assigned to serve in India.

I can’t remember if they ever specifically told me that sequence of events. I remember some college textbooks around published in the 1930s around our house. I remember my father talking about finishing his degree by distance learning. A lack of a degree (or so I understood) was one of the main reasons he never seemed to be able to get or keep a decent job (until the very last years of his life).

Quite a while after my father died, my extended family had a couple of family reunions on the East Coast of the United States (paid for by my “Chinese” millionaire cousin, Joanna Nichols).

At the first reunion, my father’s three sisters, Diana, Naomi, and Henriette sat around reminiscing about their childhood in Chicago in the 1930s and answering questions from the rest of us (the younger relatives).

I asked about my father dropping out of the University of Chicago.

My three aunts looked astonished. “Michael never attended the University of Chicago,” my aunt Naomi said in a definite manner. “He might have taken a class or two at the community college in Chicago, but that would have been the most college education he ever had.”

I was astonished. I looked at my mother in puzzlement. At that time, my mother was aging and failing fast but she was still coherent (though none of us realized that she was in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s Disease). However, whether she was very weary that evening or chose to act as she was too tired to follow the conversation out of embarrassment, she acted as if she didn’t understand what we were talking about.

So I don’t know. Did my parents intentionally create a myth (mainly aimed at me, as the oldest of their five children) about my father dropping out of college when no such circumstances were in fact true? I will never know, I guess.

 


 

The Friendly Neighbors left town to go on a scenic train ride to the Rockies. My wife wants to go on a scenic train ride across Canada, something we may do one of these days if we live long enough.

I put the neighbors’ trash out for them and went wood splitting without them. I told the other splitters, “The Friendly Neighbor told me to watch you carefully so you work productively and safely, but I know you will do whatever you want and pay no attention to me, so you will have to deal with him when he returns next week.” They did fine. Mostly.

Although they have a volunteer team leader, they mostly work in polite, happy anarchy, each person doing the job he is best suited for and without needing to be told what to do by the non-bossy team leader. They are all older than I am. It is no surprise to me that they are more skillful in using tools such as chainsaws and splitters, or that they know more about the different kinds of wood or how to place the “rounds” of wood under the splitter blade so they split most quickly and efficiently. Although they are unpaid and give the wood away instead of selling it, they work with furious efficiency that would do a lumber company proud.

However, as they are older and even though they are more knowledgeable than I am, and even though they are all stronger than I am, they all have older bodies that are breaking down. Joints are wearing down; knees, hips, and shoulders need to be replaced; one or another of the participants will miss a few sessions because of an operation or to recover from a strain or sprain.

As we worked yesterday, each person worked at a job without being told what to do. However, each person kept working at it too long and made himself sore with repetition at the same job, and moaned about it at quitting time. Each person should have changed tasks in the middle of the session, but everyone was too polite to ask someone to switch with them.

Next week I will diffidently suggest to everyone that they take turns at different jobs so they do not make their joints and and muscles more sore than they need to be. Or maybe, I will suggest it to the Friendly Neighbor and he can suggest it to them. There are times when polite people are a little too polite and considerate.

 

 

After we got to the church for coffee and cookies, we talked about marriage. After everyone else had left, J, one of the volunteers, told me about a friend of his. “I went to all three of his weddings,” he said.”My friend is a very free spirit, very humorous and spontaneous. He married a woman for his second marriage who was very rigid and predictable. Neither would change a bit to suit the other; so it was no surprise to me that the marriage did not last very long.”

The church secretary, a very pleasant woman probably in her seventies, came out to refill the coffee container and to put out more cookies. She listened to this story and quietly said, “I have been married for 50 years. My husband never listens to me and never wants input from me.” She spoke in a restrained, discreet way, conveying patient resignation and she displayed little or no rancor as she spoke.

“I have often been this close to leaving him,” she said, holding up two fingers to show a short distance between them. “However, as the minister said in one of his sermons recently, ‘marriage is a commitment.’ It is part of my faith and my values to honor that commitment.”

She then said, “I better get back to work. I don’t usually spend this much time out here talking.” She quietly returned to her office.

J looked at me. “That is a very sad story,” he said. I did not ask him how many times he had been married or for how long.

When I got home I kissed my wife and told her I loved her. There is a time to be a sentimental old fool. Also, we got through the entire day without fighting. We have good days and bad days. I think this is true of every married couple. We should probably take that train ride sooner rather than later.

Story #2 is about his wife’s family. About the time he was laid off, his wife’s parents became unable to care for themselves. One parent had Alzheimer’s Disease and the other had Parkinson’s and they both had to be institutionalized (initially against their will) for their own protection.

Mark’s family owned a large, run-down house on the beach. Mark started working on the house to sell it. It had potential to bring in a lot of money once it was fixed up. Mark started working on the house to fix it up to sell it. His intent was to pay himself a reasonable salary for the time he spent working on it from the sale, but the bulk of the money would go for his in-laws’ institutional care. Mark indicated that he was not trying to keep a lot of money from the sale and I believed him.

Mark’s brother-in-law (wife’s brother) is a carpenter who works on remodeling houses and he offered to help out. At first, Mark thought this would be a wonderful stroke of good luck, but as he worked with the brother-in-law, he discovered that the brother –in-law was the kind of remodeler who works on your house and does a sloppy, terrible job that leaves you angry for years. He did hit-or-miss careless work, he drank on the job, and he came and went as he pleased. It was also clear that he expected to make a wind-fall profit from the sale of the house, regardless of his parents’ needs.

So Mark was fighting two battles at the same time, trying to get the job done as his money ran out, and trying to get the job done in spite of the incompetent and predatory “help” of the brother-in-law.

 

Recently, the Friendly Neighbors invited us to go with them to a Valentine’s Day concert at their church. The singer is a professional musician who recently joined a moderately well-known musical group founded in the 1950s. His music could be described as a mixture of pop, folk-rock, and light rock from the 50s and 60s. The musician’s wife (a successful writer of children’s books as well as a decent singer herself) joined him in a couple of songs. A couple members of the congregation (reasonably good musicians themselves) also joined him in a couple of songs. The performer played piano and guitar. The median age of the audience was around our age (mid-60s). My wife and I had a good time with the other old fogies, just as some of today’s rappers will some day sit around with other old hip hoppers and quietly beam at favorite lyrics insulting “ho’s” from the first decade of this century.

However, that is not my story today. The Friendly Neighbors, and in fact, the entire church congregation, were all abuzz about a “surprise Valentine’s wedding” held at the church service that day.

I don’t have every detail of the story, but it runs something like this. B, a member of the church, is a man of part-Navajo descent (though not much in touch with his heritage) about 40 years old and unmarried. About ten years ago he joined their church, suffering from alcoholism and other problems. His participation in the church helped him overcome his problems and today he is the sales manager of a large auto dealership. (As my wife and I have been seeking a newer used truck as we consolidate down to one vehicle, we had some contact B in his sales manager persona; not entirely successful but reasonably described as “no harm-no foul.” It’s part of a larger, rather irritating experience involving our vehicle purchase I won’t discuss right now.)

B has been seeking a wife in Russia, apparently using one of those lonely-heart services that match up lonely American men with attractive poverty-stricken Russian women seeking a better life by marrying an American man. This somehow involved a trip to Israel. I don’t know the whole story. Also, apparently a few years ago, B had married a Ukrainian woman but it didn’t work out. Romance is a difficult and dangerous business, but ever-optimistic, B was willing to try again, this time with M, a Russian woman.

B brought his Russian prospect to the United States and they became engaged. The wedding was set for late March. However, B apparently has a taste for the dramatic-romantic, and launched a plot to have a surprise early St. Valentine’s Day wedding (actually at the Sunday after St. Valentine’s Day, but close enough, don’t you think)?

 

As the Friendly Neighbor told us the story at dinner before we went to the concert, I asked, “You mean she got married without a wedding dress?”

“No,” said the Friendly Neighbor. “He told M that it is an American custom for the bride to wear her wedding dress a month before the wedding for good luck.” Deceived by this amiable instant legend, M wore her wedding dress to church that Sunday.

B had also clued in the rest of the congregation on his plan. He had already secretly brought her relatives to the United States, and scattered them in edges of the people listening to the sermon where M could not see them from where she sat.

The minister and the rest of the congregation were in on the plot. The Friendly Neighbor has a Navajo basket which he brought to the wedding; a friend brought an eagle feather.

In the midst of the regular church service, apparently B said something to the effect of, “Surprise!” “We are getting married, right now, right here!” Everyone then launched into the wedding. The minister, apparently an eclectic and flexible sort of cleric, worked some sort of Navajo rituals involving the basket and the eagle feather into the ceremony.

The wedding had occurred earlier that day. (My wife and I had not been there.) That evening, at the Valentine’s Day concert, the congregation were still buzzing about the surprise wedding. Apparently a scheme such as this represents pretty exciting hi-jinks for the members of this church. Everyone chuckled and muttered about it in a combination of lively delight and grave concern whether or not it will all work out for B this time.

My wife had an innocent childhood. This is strange to me because her family was full of conflict and turmoil. Apparently she created a bubble of innocence around herself as a child. As a child, she was fond of her family’s dog, George, and she loved her personal cat, Perry, quite dearly. Perhaps George and Perry helped create the bubble of innocence around my wife when she was a child.When she became a teenager, reality began to leak into her bubble of innocence. Some of the experiences that caused leaks in her bubble of innocence included:

1) She met me [in a ludicrous fashion I already related].

2) She demonstrated independence toward her mother, a person of many good qualities, but a very insecure and easily threatened person, who reacted very badly to her “innocent” daughter starting to grow up. For example, she wore black pants, which her mother interpreted as beatnik behavior and rebellion.

3) She moved out of her mother’s house and into her own apartment and got a job as a file clerk [story of 2 and 3 still to be told].

4) She discovered the world is rather a nasty place, in part by watching the news, and became depressed.

5) She married me.

In general, my wife avoids getting depressed most of the time. As far as I can figure out, she is too ornery to get depressed. If I figure out a way to get a few hundred dollars not needed for our survival, I will buy her a chainsaw and a pellet rifle, providing a couple of outlets for her orneriness.

Also, she is a very aesthetically sensitive and tidy person. She arranges her environment to her satisfaction. Seeing beautiful things in order helps keep the glooms away.

Finally, she is always trying to keep me in order. This is a never-ending project, something like rolling a stone up a hill, and keeps her quite occupied. For example, she frequently notices that I disordered something, and tells me to put it back in its proper place.

On our honeymoon, my wife and I engaged in an activity that occasionally produces children. I confess producing a child was the last thing on our mind at the time. We even took precautions. Who would have thought we would have been so lucky?

We thought that we would produce a child who would have a happy childhood. Probably my daughter’s childhood qualified as close to Not that bad, which is probably as good as it gets.

Pass Me Your Medicare Card

November 29, 2008

When I was a kid, my best friends Frankie, Scotty, Kenyon and I would go to the high School football field a few blocks from our homes in the small town of Brea in Orange County, California to play a pickup football game.In our huddle of two, Scotty would say to me, “Hike to me on the count of three, run about five yards and turn to the right.” I would clumsily hike it over Scotty’s head and try to block Frankie. After cursing me for my terrible hike, Scotty would run back and pick up the rolling ball one step ahead of the pursuing Frankie . In the meantime, I would run a few steps forward; Kenyon would bump me to interfere with the pass. As Frankie grabbed him in the backfield, Scotty would desperately hurl the ball in the air in my direction. Kenyon and I would both fight for the wobbly ball and after we both batted the ball around clumsily, we would  we would all fall to the ground without catching the ball.
None of us made the junior high football team. None of us made the senior high football team. I did not make the college football team. I did not become a NFL player; I suspect none of my friends did either.
Not only did I lack the Terminator brawn, speed, and coordination required to be a professional football player, I also lacked the cyborg brain power to understand the complexity of NFL plays. It’s no wonder that scores of NFL football players in their spare time are taking MBA-level business classes at Harvard Business School, Wharton, and similar distinguished university business schools. Anyone who can understand a NFL playbook is probably more than competent to run the typical American investment bank.

As my wife has already stopped working for a paycheck at the age of 62, and as I will retire at the end of January, we are enrolling in Medicare, and making choices for Medicare A (hospital insurance), Medicare B (medical insurance), and deciding whether we want to sign up for Part D, the Medicare prescription drug program. We’re not sure whether there is an advantage to signing up for Part C, the Medicare Advantage plan. There may be a benefit to signing up for my retirement health plan, instead of going to a Medigap program. My wife is considering a Catastrophic Coverage program, but could for more money become a dependant on my retirement program. The above information covers perhaps page 1 of the 30-page handbook we received to help us figure out our choices.

Last night, after a pleasant and healthfully spare Thanksgiving dinner for two of turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, peas grown in our garden, and for dessert, pumpkin pie made from a squash grown in our garden (which this year overran the zucchini from outer space in a one sided triumph of Mothra over Godzilla) , we gave thanks to each other for reaching 43 years of marriage without killing each other. (Monday was the official anniversary day).

Although we have been studying Medicare materials in bewilderment for weeks, after dinner we began reviewing everything one more time to prepare ourselves for a counseling session scheduled for Friday morning (this morning).By the time we went to bed, we were indeed close to killing each other once more.

When we met with Jack, the volunteer for the state who taught the seminar we had already attended and conducted our individual counseling session, we learned that he is neither an NFL player nor a marriage counselor, though he told us the prescriptions that keep him alive cost over $10,000 a year, only a small portion of which is covered by his Medicare drug prescription coverage.

In any case his training as a volunteer seemed equivalent to going through a NFL training camp; his experience as an elderly person who has survived serious illnesses seems equivalent to being a quarterback who has survived blitzes and sacks by NFL linebackers.

As we went through the meeting and listened to his counsel, we concluded that the choices we were making after hours of reading, listening, and study seemed reasonable and affordable (once we get used to our retirement menu of organic carrots and potatoes from the ground, organic apples from our tree, and cat food we sneak from Sylvie’s dish while Random Granddaughter is distracting her) and that the decisions most in dispute seemed headed for peaceful resolution after no more than three or four hundred more phone calls.

PS

I left one last message on Angelica’s voice mail. Since we never seem to get close enough to her to give her any money, I can not figure out how her elusive behavior can be a scam. My conclusion is that she is a flake and that David’s advice (from whichever alter is offering the advice) to kick her to the curb is sensible.

She has until Sunday morning to call us. I fear for the future of Chile and I am sighing at starting over from scratch on Craig’s List.

 

 

 

This is another Canterbury Tale from my classes. I’ll warn you right from the start; there’s nothing funny about it. In fact, it’s downright depressing. If you’re not in the mood for depressing, move on to a post on someone else’s blog.
The class was one of a series I teach for computer beginners. Three of the students had taken the previous class from me; one was new to my classes.

I am using initials now because my employer is terrified I will bring some poor student to public notice; I am terrified I will get fired before I retire in three months.

C and D are a married couple in their fifties. D had worked for the post office, been laid off, and is looking for another job. He was hoping that I would help him with his Internet skills so he can find and apply for jobs online.

 F is an Iranian woman in her fifties. Although she has lived in the United States for a number of years, her English is not very good. She asked me to find her a tutor to help with her English. She is sure she can get a better job if she can read, write, and speak English better. I am working on finding a tutor for her, though it’s not really part of my job.

R is retired after working on a ground job for an airline. Although he told me he owned two computers, a desktop and a laptop, within a few minutes of the class, I could see that his computer skills were close to nil. His demeanor was rather dour and serious, which I attributed to his anxiety about computers (a common characteristic of students in my classes). I am usually pretty good at getting anxious students to relax. One of my tools for doing so is using a bit of comedy to get students to relax about their fear and embarrassment of computers and to convey points about how computers work and don’t work very well (which is one of my points).There are days when this technique works well. On this day, things headed in a different direction.

To break the ice and get the class warmed up, I had been talking a little bit about children and grandchildren, telling a joke or two about my granddaughter (the famous Random Granddaughter-RG as I call her on my blog). C and D told me that they had several adult children and several grandchildren. R said he had one adult son.

Suddenly R said with some force, “It’s been 105 days. It has not gotten any easier at all.”

I looked at him inquiringly.

“It’s been 105 days since my grandson drowned. He was five years old. He was on a boat with his father on a fishing trip. They weren’t watching him closely enough. I don’t know how I will ever get over it.”

Awkwardly, I expressed my condolences.

R continued, “My no-good son caused his my grandson’s death” A heavy pall hung over the room where I was teaching. I felt as if I had just read a tragic memoir, conveyed in a few minutes of conversation.

D (the husband of the married couple) said, “Our son was 15 days old when he died. He was born with a birth defect. I have not gotten over it, either.”

I mentioned that the death of my cousin Joanna from breast cancer, who had become a millionaire from learning Chinese, had affected me rather strongly. I was on a grim wave-length with R. He told us that his wife had been Chinese. “She died of lung cancer. She had never smoked a day in her life. Actually, she had breast cancer. At first they thought the treatment was successful, but the cancer went to her lungs, so that was what she died of. ”

As Iran had come up during the class because F is from Iran, C and D mentioned that a close friend of theirs (no longer alive) had been a tutor to the children of the Shah of Iran. F, the student from Iran, indicated that that the Shah of Iran was not a favorite topic of hers. As she is very polite, and her English is not very good, she did not elaborate.

Despite the general atmosphere of being at a United Nations sponsored wake, I did actually get on with doing some computer instruction, which went quite well. However, I taught in a very sober and subdued manner, my usual comedic approach completely put to rest for the remainder of the class.

As we reached the end of the class, R had a last few words for me. He told me that he was not very well, either. His lungs are failing (though his ailment is different than the lung cancer that killed his wife). He provided a technical explanation of his illness, which I forget. I think my capacity for taking in depressing information had reached its limit.

 For more cheerful posts, contribute to David’s pledge drive.

 

My Wife and I Finally Meet

October 26, 2008

 

When I was young I was so afraid of young women I could hardly bring myself to even speak to one. I’m not quite sure exactly why that was, but probably I thought of myself as so worthless a person no woman would want to have anything to do with me. This must be one of the reasons I feel a bond with David and his tales of being harassed and bullied by other children and feeling worthless as a child.

I wasn’t bullied as a child in the same way he was, but in a sense I bullied myself.

When I was a teenager, the thought of asking a girl for a “date” seemed more terrifying than climbing Mt. Everest without a scarf. I had no idea how other boys had the courage to approach a girl. I never went on a date with a girl while I was in high school. Aside from my timidity and terror, not knowing how to drive a car, not knowing how to dance, and always being an introvert in a new school (my father worked for a defense contractor and was always being transferred to help install computers at a new Air Force base for the Strategic Air Command, so I attended six different high schools in three states) also did not help.

In college, I did go out on two very timid and chaste “dates” with young ladies I considered so unattractive that I figured they would even go out with me. I am kind of disgusted with myself when I consider my thinking at the time. I hope the ladies involved eventually encountered someone in their lives who was a little more respectful than I was, even if I was perfectly polite to them and never laid an improper hand on them.

My brother was still in high school and already had gone through several girl friends. He was far less timid and inhibited than I was, not to mention so immature he would do any fool thing that came into his head.

One day after I retreated home in disgrace after flunking out of college, my brother and I were home alone. We were bored. As an introvert, I would have just buried myself in a book. As an extroverted immature person, my brother started flipping through the phone book and decided to call people with peculiar last names and make jokes about their names. I went along for the ride, listening on an extension phone.

After the first two victims quickly hung up in disgust, he hit gold, reaching a teenage girl sitting bored at home with her hair up in curlers. Even though she was bored, and even though she was only about 15 years of age, my WTB (wife to be) was already a cautious, strait-laced person, not the type of person to stay on the phone flirting with a couple of boyish pranksters.

Nevertheless, she even laughed when we made fun of her eccentric last name. (She was quite happy to change it to my last name when we got married. On the other hand, my daughter was quite happy to change her last name to her out-of-law partner’s last name after they had been not-married for a few years and Random Granddaughter joined the conversation.)

Actually my brother quickly grew bored with the conversation, but I started to improvise a comedy routine and she started to laugh. I don’t remember exactly what I talked about, though I do remember extemporizing some sort of pathetic routine about elves living under toadstools. I am sure it was exactly as bad then as it sounds now.

The funniest thing about this exploit is that my wife is generally not much amused by my sense of humor; much less so than the typical reader of my blog. But somehow or other I got her laughing that night and she not only laughed, she agreed to talk to me if I called her again. Well, I did have her number.

Well, you already realize I was a youthful loser-dork. What was my wife’s problem? It was her bra size.

My wife’s mother was quite buxom, as is her older sister. As my wife became a teenager, her bosom never developed much bux. She apparently figured this physical handicap meant that no men would ever be attracted to her, forcing to her succumb to a fate of being a lonely old maid. Intellectually, even then, she knew this was nonsense, and in fact, another teenage boy, named Bruce had actually asked her out on a date, but emotionally she considered herself as an unlovable flat-chested reject in a breast-obsessed society.

As two people who each felt ourselves utterly unlikely to ever find love, I guess our love was meant to be.

At the time we met by telephone I was attending a junior college in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles (after flunking out of the University of California at Berkeley) and volunteering in the news department of KPFA, the Pacifica listener-supported radio station in Los Angeles. My wife-to-be was still attending high school, where she took a drama class with Sally Field. However, my WTB is quite unlike Sally Field. Her real soul sister in the world of entertainment stars is Carol Burnett. My wife can do a brilliant Carol Burnett imitation.

I had gone on two tepid dates in college. My wife-to-be had gone out with a boy named Bruce. Bruce, the daring rake, planted a timid kiss on her lips at the end of a date. According to my wife, no sparks ensued, and her hormones yawned. I hope Bruce found his own true love somewhere whose fire he lit.

At that childish time in my life, I did not even know how to drive. After my WTB and I had talked on the phone a few times, I asked her to go out with me. Our “date” (which my father drove us to as I couldn’t drive) was a real dork-fest. On weekends, as a volunteer, I wrote and read a 15-minute newscast at the listener-supported radio station KPFA (part of the Pacifica network).

Probably seven people listened throughout the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, six of whom were probably confined to their beds, and one of whom had already called the radio station and asked why the news sounded so amateurish on weekends. Evidently fancying myself a fascinating and alluring media star, I asked my wife-to-be if she wanted to watch me do a radio broadcast and see the inside of a radio station.

My wife told her mother that she had met me at a party at one of her friends’ houses.

We went out on a couple of other equally exciting dates. I think we took the bus to go bowling with my brother and his girl friend of the time.

My WTB (the youngest of five children as I am the oldest of five children) adored one of her brothers, L, who lived in San Francisco and pursued a life as an artist. The rebel in her family, L stirred my WTB’s inner non-conformist, though at the time he caused me to lose her.

One day I called to ask her out. Her mother told me that she had gone to stay with her brother in San Francisco. The implication-or so I interpreted it-was that my WTB did not want to see me again. I figured love had been glimpsed and then lost forever from my life.

Match-Making

October 21, 2008

This is my second “Seinfeld” story,  that is a story about nothing, though something or other happens even in a story about nothing, so this story describes a bit of happy matchmaking.

I don’t know if I have ever matched two people romantically. By accident I once put two people in touch with each other and they fell in love and got married (which had not been my intention) but they later divorced bitterly, so I am relieved that it had not been my intention for them to marry.

Anyway, matchmaking can involve just introducing two people to each other because they will like each other or have an interest in common or can be useful to each other. I have successfully done that sort of matchmaking, and I had a good experience in this regard a couple of weeks ago.

I have talked about our friends S and B before. S grew up in Sri Lanka at a time when the terrible civil war was just getting started. As a child she saw people burned alive in mob violence. Her father had been a “rascal” (involved in petty crime such as changing currency illegally) and a Catholic, so S had attended a Catholic school where she had been taught by nuns. An older sister was already a college student in the United States. When the Catholics closed the school and sent the nuns back to Europe, because Sri Lanka had become too dangerous, S’ father decided Sri Lanka was too dangerous for his daughter as well, so he sent S to live with her sister in the United States.

S and my wife used to work together in Portland and they became good friends.

I don’t know how she met her American husband B, who works for a power company in Oregon. I will have to ask them one of these days.

They plan to retire to Washington. We hoped they would move to lot #4 (we are on lot #3) on our island. Each lot is about five acres in size because my wife and I love lots of separation from our neighbors. We love our neighbors more when we are not cheek by jowl with them.

S  and B decided not to move next door to us. S has a bad knee and can’t walk very far. They don’t mind living next door  to their neighbors as my wife and I do. S hopes to get an artificial knee to replace her failing natural knee before she retires. My wife’s other best friend has had two artificial hips installed. All of us are getting older and turning into cyborgs. My wife and I still have our original parts, though they definitely creak.

So S and B have been having a house built on the mainland. It is almost done. They will retire and move into the house in about a year.

Our neighbors on lot #1, whom I call the Friendly Neighbors for blog purposes, have been extremely helpful to us. We all garden, which bonds us together. Mr. Friendly Neighbor is a very handy person. He especially loves wood working, and makes many beautiful objects out of wood, both furniture and works of art. He is, in fact, a woodworking nerd (a term I use out of admiration, not disparagement).

He loves to talk about woodworking. He will show me a beautiful piece of furniture he is working on and talk about a joint is going to fashion and ask my opinion. He will point at a couple of other joints and ask my opinion about which to use.

I will say something such as, “That one looks very nice. But that one also looks very nice as well.”

He is a very kind and gentle person, so he says nothing unkind to me, or even cast a look of disgust at me, but it is clear I am of no use to him whatsoever in this regard. I feel like I have let him down terribly. Although he and his wife built their house together-and it indeed a splendid and beautiful dwelling-she is not a woodworking nerd either.

B, is also a woodworking nerd. When S and B visited us a couple of weekends ago, they noticed a sign in front of the Friendly Neighbors’ house advertising eggs for sale. (Their chickens are now producing eggs lustily, though probably that is not the appropriate word, as the Friendly Neighbors do not have a rooster.) They are now selling eggs to neighbors and friends such as us to help pay for feed for the “girls,” as they refer to the hens.

S said to us, “I would love to buy some fresh eggs.” She and my wife had a happy conversation about the difference between fresh organic eggs from the farm and fresh organic eggs in the natural food store. The difference is night and day they agreed.

I said, “I will walk down to the Friendly Neighbors and buy a dozen eggs for you.”

B said, “I will come with you.” S stayed at our place with my wife because the quarter mile walk would be too hard on her bum knee.

When we got to the Friendly Neighbors’ house, I introduced B to Mr. FN. “He is another woodworker,” I said to Mr. FN.

B looked at a table that Mr. FN had built. “What kind of wood is that?” he asked. I don’t even remember the answer (clueless  as I am), but within a few minutes they were deep in conversation about different kinds of wood and a few minute later Mr. FN was taking B on a tour of the house, showing him all his woodworking projects, and they were deep in  happy woodworking nerdish conversation. It was clearly love at first sight, as I had expected it would be.

Mrs. FN and I talked about chickens and gardening. After about half an hour, Mr. FN and B came up for air, and I told B, “We have to get back to our wives.” He obediently followed me, though it was obvious he could easily have spent many more hours in happy conversation with Mr. FN.

As we walked back, carrying the eggs, B described some beautiful piece of furniture Mr. FN had made. “I wanted to make something like that, but I didn’t.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“As I talked about it, S said she saw no need for us to have it. It didn’t go with our other furniture, she said. ‘Why do you want to make that?’ she asked me. ‘We don’t need it.’ She didn’t understand that I just wanted to make it,” he concluded mournfully.

As far as I can tell, B & S have a very happy and successful marriage. Yet as David has said, even in a successful relationship, one partner cannot meet all the needs of the other partner. There has to be space for other relationships even in the happiest marriage.

These other relationships do not always need to be alternative romantic relationships in every case. Probably in very few cases, though I have known some relationships where such relationships did occur.

However, David certainly needs to have at least one romantic relationship no matter how eccentric it may be. Even perhaps with someone as far away as Australia. Maybe that’s how much space he needs for a relationship to flourish. In my next post I will talk about the very high level premiums for those who contribute to the pledge drive.