Before I begin today’s story, I need to finish some old business from a previous column. A while back, I told the story of the Cornerstone caper: the theft of the giant 1917 cement block from the old St. Mary’s Elementary school around 1972. Mrs. Carolyn Gayde, who not only taught school at St. Mary’s, but also was friends Monsignor Easton at the Shrine Parish, (who was known as Father Bill when he was young priest as St. Mary’s) promptly contacted me. Monsignor Easton, who sadly passed away recently, solved the mystery of what was in the small tin box he found below the cornerstone. As larcenous youths we had conjectured the box contained holy relics that consecrated the original church, or maybe some rare old coins.
Mrs. Gayde reported, “Monsignor told me that he did find the box, but there was nothing in it.”
So, the mystery was solved, quite unceremoniously, but accurately, as you would expect from a teacher who had the Carolyn Gayde Math Award named after her. I was also instructed by Mrs. Gayde to make sure I gave her attribution when I publish the The Cornerstone Caper in my next book. You can count on it, Mrs. Gayde.
Although what happened to the actual cornerstone is still unsolved!
Around this same time, I met one Mrs. Gayde’s sons, Chris, at a conference and heard the family history. Carolyn and Bill Gayde have been married for over 57 years, a true-long lived marriage. They raised four children, Peter, Barb, Chris and Julie on Irving Street down the street from the Villerot and Sadlier families. Mrs. Gayde taught 5th and 6th grade at St. Mary’s for 30 years. While Carolyn taught, Bill also worked and was the Scoutmaster of Troop 1614. They both are still active at St. Mary’s.
Like so many of our parents, the Gayde’s present the example of love that survived and thrived and extended into a network that extends and benefits so many lives in and outside of their family. As I celebrate the beginnings of my marriage in today’s column, the examples like the Gayde’s, lead the way.
As my 36 wedding anniversary approaches next week, I happened to notice….that I’ve also been married a very long time! You would think this might make me knowledgeable on the subject. I’m not quite that arrogant.
Beyond good old-fashioned love, honor, respect and libido; marriage over decadesgets very complex. Because outside the cocoon of love, real life is…everywhere! Children, employment, unemployment, in-laws, out-laws, health and sickness, grandchildren, more in-laws, bills, budgets, debts, savings, retirement…ha, not yet, deaths, celebrations, defeats, hugs…are just the beginnings of an endless list of stuff getting in the way of love between two people. There is not a finish line.
Those that manage to juggle both love and conjugality through the years are nimble marathoners.
It may be that when a couple emerges through a certain period, the sheer magnitude of what they have accomplished is absorbed and what is found is a human balance beam where humor and history of a life together provides endless entertainment and satisfaction that only the two of them can fully appreciate.
For example, the lovely Kathy and me were having dinner at a local spot and a Tiger’s playoff game was on TV. I was half watching, knowing from decades of dinners that Kathy believes that sports and dinner don’t mix. I couldn’t help myself, though, when Victor Martinez hit a home run.
I half-shouted, “Martinez!” Kathy face lit up, surprising me.
“Martini’s? You’re ordering martinis? It’s miracle!”
We can’t hear the words, Martinez and martini’s without laughing. Ok, I agree we’re easily entertained, but I think you see the point.
Case two: Kathy walked into the home office we share and announced: “You bastardized the cords.”
“Pardon me?” was all I could muster in response.
“You bastardized the phone cords. The black cord is connected to white charger, the ipad cord isn’t anywhere to be found, one cord is for three generations ago of phones, our entire digital world is a mess of mismatched cords. You bastardized the freaking cords!”
Flummoxed and befuddled. I hoped for the best and said, “Well, I’ll untangle the bastards, if that will help.”
“That would be a start,” replied the lovely Kathy.
I celebrate several anniversaries with the lovely Kathy. The first is the day we met in June 1978 on a whirlwind and epic trip beginning with series of flights beginning at Metro airport with stops in Buffalo, JFK, Ljubljana and Belgrad, Yugoslavia followed by overland bus travel to Sarajevo with stops in Titovo-Uzice and Kragujevac. Before our international study program was over, coinciding with both of our last terms in college, we visited Mostar, Dubrovnik, Venice, Athens and the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini, all on about five bucks a day. It was pretty romantic stuff…or at least I thought so. Yet, when I asked Kathy what first clued her in that I might be the guy for her she said:
“When you tipped the waitress and extra buck in the restaurant in the Buffalo airport because she looked like she was having a bad day. I knew you for about 15 minutes and the thought struck me…I like this guy. What if…”
I would have never guessed that.
But I understood it. For me, the moment was on the bus trip and we had been talking non-stop for hours, learning that we both came from big Irish Catholic families and had a lot in common and a lot not in common, as the craggy Yugoslav scenery sped by us. I remember she laughed out loud at something I said. It was a boisterous, full laugh.
I knew right then.
I wish I had a clever answer for why we’ve made it this far. I do know this: From the first moment on that bus ride to Sarajevo I knew this woman was way, way out of my league. Thirty-six years later as I see her across a room and a smile is returned, I know this to still be true. Even through the temple pounding moments when life isn’t running smoothly between us.
And one thing I learned along the way: I am a far better person than I ever would have been without her. I cringe at thinking where I would be if this life together hadn’t started or become unhinged at some point of the journey.
Where would I be if I didn’t have this woman to look me square in the eye in the middle of an intense debate as I wove yet another circular argument and calmly say, “Bite me.” I love her for just that.
The best part of me is she.
So I try to remember I’m a lucky lad who convinced a lady to join me for love and life and the result is I’m a better man for it.
Happy Anniversary, Kathy.