The moon. The swoon. The wedding in June. For my husband and I there were 10 years between the moon and the swoon. The wedding in June was accidental. By the time we tied the knot, we were both past our half-century birthday.
We met when I moved into the house next door. He was trying to bandage a hemorrhaging marriage and I was recovering from a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress after a series of personal tragedies that included the end of my marriage. If we had picked our song, it would have been Lean on Me. We were more kindred wounded souls than soulmates.
Certainly mismatched would describe us best.
I wore skirts, he wore track pants.
I wore pumps, he wore cowboy boots (thankfully not with his track pants).
I thought things were amazing or impressive, he thought they were slicker than snot on a doorknob.
It didn’t seem like a friendship destined to last.
We became each other’s listening post, but often days or weeks went by without either of us speaking to the other. We were busy fixing our lives, accepting divorce.
Then one evening while we talked beside my garden gate, he asked me if I would consider going out on a date with him. Hmmm.
“I’ll think about it,” I said. I closed the gate and walked away.
He took me to see a Lucinda Williams concert, I invited him to a Mary Pratt exhibit at McMichael gallery. He suggested canoeing in Algonquin Park, I suggested a stroll on the boardwalk in Toronto’s Beaches. We discovered we both enjoyed the music at the Silver Dollar and the Rex downtown, and both loved coffee and decadent cake at a local bakery. We started going to Maple Leafs baseball games at Christie Pits. He loved hot dogs, I preferred sushi.
Sometimes we wondered what the neighbours thought; the song lyric “Let’s give them something to talk about” seemed to describe us. Although he often argued for “I’ve got friends in low places.” I shuddered at the thought.
He began to travel in earnest, I continued to work and spend time with my kids.
One June day, 10 years after our first date, he called to tell me he had given his notice of retirement. He wanted to talk to me. If I was interested, we needed to get married by the following Thursday, otherwise I would not be eligible for his pension.
I’m too romantic, I know. He’s unequivocally practical. I hesitated.
“Don’t think for too long. If we aren’t married by next Thursday, there’ll be no point in getting married at all.”
He’d already booked the minister and the church. What was I holding out for? Flowers? Violins playing? Him popping the question while we vacationed in Mexico? It was never going to happen. Wasn’t the fact that he’d included me in his retirement and pension plans romantic? I know – it was a stretch.
We eloped to the local Presbyterian Church. I wore a white suit and beautiful matching shoes by Donald J Pliner. He wore a white shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows and dress pants, for which I was grateful. I carried a red rose posy, his boutonniere clung to his shirt. I had spent two weeks’ pay on an 18-carat gold wedding band, engraved. He gave me a gold band, channel setting, that he proudly told me after the ceremony he’d “got a great deal on” bartering with a local jeweller.
The wedding was followed by dinner for our party of six at a restaurant for which my sister had given me gift certificates for Christmas. After a lovely dinner I was dropped off at my house; he was going home to work in his vegetable garden. I wasn’t surprised, although our wedding party was. I changed and later drove over to his house to have a drink with him.
It would be two more years before I moved in, shortly after he finally told his three kids what he’d done (he’s a procrastinator extraordinaire) and just as my kids were beginning to wonder if my marriage was, well, a marriage.
He still wears track pants, goes away for weeks at a time cycling in Europe and the United States, and keeps a vegetable garden. I wear skirts but not as often now, travel with women friends, go to the opera and write. Once a year we hitch his Ford to the trailer and head out on the open road, Johnny Cash and CBC providing the soundtrack. We’ve been to California and Wyoming, southern Alberta and Canada’s East Coast, including the north shore of the St. Lawrence and the Magdalen Islands.
Our shared grandchildren number six, from two months to 19 years old. We watch Maple Leafs hockey together, rarely going to Christie Pits or the bakery now. He still loves hot dogs and he’s discovered the joy of baking. I bird watch.
In June, we will celebrate our ninth anniversary. We have lived together for seven years. We’ve known each other for 19 years. According to the actuaries we have about 20 years of togetherness left. We’re counting on 30.
He is not my Prince Charming and I am not his Belle. But we are glad we looked past each other’s idiosyncrasies to find a good friend and an interesting companion. We’ve shaken up each other’s world and we’re still having fun together.
Patricia Montgomery lives in Newmarket, Ont.