Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How I Met My Husband and What Kept Us Together for Better or Worse

When my husband and I married in 1982, Joe was 42 and I, Mary was 33. We were no spring chickens. We met while both teaching at Anchorage’s West High School. Joe taught Biology and I’d started teaching Spanish there in the fall of 1980. That October I was nearly killed in a car wreck. It was late January 1981 when we first met. I was still in shock and just happy to be alive. Not that Joe wasn't, but he was the "quintessential bachelor". He spent his free time in Seldovia on the Alaska ocean building a cabin and was on his way to becoming a bit of a hermit. That January we were working at the West High’s winter registration table. Joe broke the ice by asking if I was going to do the crossword section of the newspaper and if not, he said he’d be happy to take it off my hands. That was fine with me since the only newspaper puzzle I worked then was the crypto-quote (still my favorite).

We didn’t see one another for two or three months until almost the end of the school year, when one Friday we both ended up at La Mex in Spenard. In those days, many West High teachers would meet there for margaritas on Fridays after work. That particular evening Joe and I started talking and decided to move the party on to the Midnight Express (now Organic Oasis) to shoot pool. I was never good at pool and Joe won the games hands down. However, I knew a game that I could beat Joe at. It was a video game called Missile Command at White-key's Fly By Night on Lake Spenard. We headed there, where we played game after game of Missile Command for 25 cents a shot. This was in the days before even Pac Man and I was able to out-missile Joe nicely that evening.

A day or two later, Joe called to ask if I’d like to go see "Popeye" with Robin Williams at the old Denali Theater, where the Bear Tooth is now and where we had our beloved bookstore. When we got to the ticket booth, Joe discovered he had neglected to bring cash and had to hit me up for admission, which was all of a buck each. He said, “Can I borrow a dollar?' And I thought, oh my God, I've got a hot one here. Joe likes to say he has been paying ever since, if so, it was a darn good dollar investment on my part.

Eventually our friendship grew into a marriage. We were at a little Chinese restaurant in Spenard when Joe popped the question. It closed up right after the proposal. I told him I had to think it over. I said, 'I don't know, Joe.' I was recently divorced in 1979 in Oklahoma and I wasn't certain I wanted to try marriage again. I was always a little eccentric and odd, a woman who really wasn’t the marrying kind, not into cooking and domestic life. I remember when growing up in the fifties and sixties, women were asked regularly when home from college when they were getting married, not when they were graduating. It was like women went to college to get their Mrs. So, I was hesitant, but Joe was so stable and moreover he was fun to be with. He loved the outdoors like myself and he too was a free spirit. We started hanging out together and we've been hanging out together ever since, like Siamese twins for 30 years as of Oct. 9th, 2012.
My grandfather approved of Joe right away. Grandpa Robert was an Oklahoma cowboy. After meeting Joe he took me aside and said, 'Now Mary, that's a good boy”. Joe was 43.   Joe’s cat, Julia was another story. She didn't think much of me moving in at first. Every night I’d find her laying on my side of the bed at bedtime. She'd see me coming and go Rrrrr and then stomp off. Julia thought she was married to Joe. Over time, we worked out our pecking order and grew fond of each other. Julia lived to be 22 and is now buried in our front flower bed in the same house we were married in on Wendy‘s Way in 1982.

After we married I quit teaching and went back to school to study business. I always wanted a bookstore. Joe taught until his retirement in 1987. In 1983, we launched a summer mobile food business called the Renaissance Cafe, We sold food at the Talkeetna Bluegrass Festival, the Girdwood Forest Fair and many other outside events and had many grand adventures. We finally opened the Alaska Renaissance Bookshop in 1988, featuring out-of-print, small press and Alaska books in the same mall as we saw “Popeye“ in 1981. Five years later we took the bookstore on the road to the Saturday Market and other venues including the Internet.

The remnants of our bookstore live on, on the shelves of our downstairs museum and home library. Our books include out of print Alaskana, such as "How to Get a Job in Government Without Really Trying; Or How to Write a 140-Page Book in Just Five Days." by Walter J. Hickel. It's a joke. Inside are pages from the subcommittee hearing regarding Hickel's nomination as secretary of the Interior during the Nixon administration. Nearby it is an out of print first edition 1973 copy of Duke Ellington’s Music Is My Mistress which I’d be happy to sell if anyone is interested.

For several years we’ve worked as tutors, adopted a puppy who wanted a boy, Moonshine and eventually adopted an older child. The adoption chapter was a nightmare but we survived with counseling, the F word, forgiveness and the help of our trusty dog Moonshine. She was the one special dog of a lifetime. Moon passed June 17, 2010 with cancer after 13 years of wandering the roads with us between Alaska, Canada, California, the Southwest and even Oklahoma. She swam in every river west of the Mississippi.

These days we've introduced a new chapter in our lives of being Vegans.  Having always been a wantabe Vegetarian, it is an easy transition for me and easier for Joe working to escape the return of stomach esophageal cancer.  We also are caring for our new pet family, Pogo (bow-wow) and Wiley (meow- meow) that give us great joy in the day to day grind of life. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Growing Old, Like it or Not

A couple of years ago, our home alarm system went off accidentally. Our thirty nine year old neighbor across the street immediately rushed over to check on my husband, Joe and I to see if we were ok. She said, “I was worried, because I know your guys are “old“.“ I thought to myself, is she joking or really talking about us? Well, I’ve since forgiven her, but that day started me wondering, are we indeed getting “old”? So I checked on the internet to see if we were and I discovered old age begins at different ages for different people. Some, say 60, others 68, and some 75 or even 80. It just depends on when you want to think of yourself as old I concluded. 
It wasn’t many years ago that the popular saying was “never trust anyone over 30”. I just figured that the people who felt that way were kidding too and definitely didn’t know my Granddad DeLozier who would have set them straight about that fallacy.
So much has been said about old age and growing old for so long that I’m sure there isn't much I can add, plus I‘ve can’t remember it anyway. Thus my mini essay begins and ends with some of my favorite quotes regarding aging:
Oscar Wilde said: "When I was young, I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I’m old, I know it is.”  Actually I've discovered the most important thing in life is one's health and sanity.  No amount of money can replace either.
"Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the Hell happened." Anonymous
“Growing old is compulsory; growing up is optional.” Anonymous also.
William Somerset Maugham: “What makes old age hard to bear is not the failing of one's faculties, mental and physical, but the burden of one's memories.”

“People grow old only by deserting their ideals“, Douglas MacArthur wrote. “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope as old as your despair. In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer and courage, so long are you young. When your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and then only, are you grown old. And then, indeed as the ballad says, you just fade away.”
The quotes aside, the three primary problems I have with aging are:
1) not being able to get the hair on the right side of my head to grow and without an explanation. I do not like being lopsided but that is the way it is, so be it.
2) I do not like out living so many friends and family that I finally became accustom to.
3) Change, as soon as one gets use to something it is replaced by a new model, new word processor, new computer, new cafĂ©, new car, shoes, styles, TV shows, you name it. It just doesn’t pay to be too attached to anything. But the good thing is the bad stuff fades away just as fast and often that change is for the better, even when not looked forward to.
In conclusion my two favorite old age quotes are one by the crime writer, Joe Gores (1931-2011): “Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs you wanted to.” The last is “the older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight because by then, your body and your fat are really good friends” author unknown.
My final words and advice on aging are it is those things that one does not do, that they often live to regret. So to live without regrets, leave no stone unturned.