When I first began to blog I wrote an account of Jerry’s and my late life courtship. I only had a few readers then. This is part I of 2 posts written almost 2 years ago. I thought it would by interesting to re-post it as a contrast to the story of John. I think it shows that you can be foolishly headstrong and sometimes get lucky.
Jerry and I met via the internet. In my long life I have had some romantic misadventures and 3 failed marriages. When I signed up for Match.com I was not looking for a husband, but I had been entirely alone for the 3 years since my quite reprehensible part time partner had died of cancer. I thought it would be pleasant to have a companion for trips, theater and dinners. I have to admit, I met some weird and not wonderful elderly guys through the internet.
When I took the ferry to a distant island to meet Jerry, a recent widower, I was ready to give up. His experience with internet dating had been similar. We had exchanged a few emails, and he said he would meet me on the mainland and take the ferry over to his island with me. I told him what kind of car I would be driving, and he said he would wear his orange hat. Right there I felt a qualm. Orange hat? A guy who wears an orange hat? As I locked the car in the ferry parking lot I saw, lurking by a telephone pole, a tall, lanky slightly stooped old man wearing an orange baseball hat.
It was a long day. I was feeling nervous and blue, and he was guarded and subdued. He was nice, and he tried. After lunch (hamburger, no wine) we toured the island, and then I went with him to his house for tea. He had built his house entirely by himself on top of a doublewide trailer. He and his wife lived on the newly built second floor while he removed the trailer bit by bit from the inside of the first floor and then finished that floor.
His wife had had a passionate interest in collecting things, and she was in an Arts and Crafts phase when they furnished the house. Many of the things she accumulated had value, but I was not familiar with the period and didn’t relate to the décor. His politics, libertarian/conservative, were different from mine, classical liberal. He was not interested in travel. He said his marriage had been a good one, and his wife had died only 3 months before. I thought, he’s looking for a replacement wife. I thought, not me, babe.
I went back to the mainland on the 4 o’clock ferry. It was a long trip, 1 ½ hours, then an hour drive to my ferry. I felt tired and discouraged. I had an email from Jerry saying that it had been a good first meeting and that we should meet again. Here is, in part what I responded:
“I want to tell you what a nice day I had with you. You are an intelligent and gentle man, and we had lots to talk about. But I have to say that I do not see romance for us in the future. A friendship would be a thing I would value. I’m afraid that isn’t what you are looking for, and I know that I would not fill the real need you have for an intimate life companion.”
I told him I thought he should spend more time mourning his loss before making any life changing plans.
He responded, in part:
“I am of course disappointed. I also thought it was unlikely that we would have a future. For my selfish interest I need to be with a lively woman, do a few things with her . . . Then think more seriously about the future. I need something between my recent past life and what ever the future is going to be. I expect that you do not see how you fit into this. What else can I say?”
His reply to my suggestion that he wait before changing his life was:
“I have come to realize that I am not going from one marriage right into another. I do not need to mourn anymore. I need to do some living. After you left….there is a real live woman.”
Flattery often works. I wrote back:
“Let me think this over. I like you very much. We might try again, but I couldn’t let you hope for anything long term, and I had no idea that a fling would be your cup of tea. Falling in love would be a bad idea.”
We negotiated a visit to my island. I wrote “…not sure when, but soon. You come here, have dinner and we’ll see what’s next. No promises of anything but good food — and some wine for heaven’s sake!”
It was a fine summer evening in late June 2006 he arrived at my door without a bottle of wine because I told him I would provide it. I didn’t trust him to choose the wine. I judged him to be a meat and potatoes sort of fellow. Sometimes I like to cook fancy food, but steak and mashed potatoes makes me happy too, and that’s what we had.
It was a lovely evening.
A week later he said he thought he should go home to mow the lawn.
Here’s some of what I learned during that week. He had started flying when he was 14. He paid for his flying lessons with money he earned repairing radios. While he was in college he homesteaded in Fairbanks, Alaska, and made his own airstrip. In his 40’s he flew solo from Victoria, BC across the Atlantic to London, England, and back, in an air race. In Alaska he flew commercially as a bush pilot. He had taught physics at the University of Alaska and done research on the Aurora Borealis. He owned an electric company, which he ran single handed in Manley, and he started a telephone company there as well.
During that week I was designated driver for his colonoscopy, although it turned out he didn’t need a designated driver. When the Doctor offered him sedation he remarked that the last time he had done without. The doctor said, “We can do that,” so Jerry walked out of the exam alert and hungry.
My 14 year old British granddaughter was coming to visit and I thought this was an appropriate time for a break from my new romance, so Jerry went home to mow the lawn. I planned to take my granddaughter to Vancouver to see some Shakespeare plays in tents by the river. My British grandchildren love Shakespeare.
I kept finding reasons to telephone Jerry. In the end he came to Vancouver with us, but because his hearing is not what it used to be, he had trouble following plot twists and understanding Shakespearean English.
I began to think that falling in love was a possibility, and that marriage might not be out of the question.
What changed my mind? Was it partly some way in which our minds connected? We both had training in science; mine in biology, his in physics, and we thought the same way about the world and how it works. All four of Jerry’s grandparents were Finnish, and Finns are noted for thriftiness with words, but despite his Finnish roots we talked for hours. There was a lovable quality about him that I can’t define. What can I say? He is an adorable man. I am always comfortable with him, and he always seems to be so with me.
Jerry has been emotionally drawn to the north all his life. Perhaps it’s those Finnish genes. He grew up in California. In the army he was sent to Fairbanks, Alaska, and soon after he was discharged he went back. He went to the University of Alaska on the GI bill, and later became a researcher at the Geophysics Institute there.
On the side of his island house he had carved in the shingles the shape of a goose. “It’s flying north,” he said wistfully. I said, “Why don’t we take a trip to Alaska?” He had not been back for many years, but the next thing I knew we had a copy of the Milepost and were packing the van. We drove the Alcan Highway.
Before we left, having known each other for about 6 weeks, we had decided to get married, but had not decided on a time. I thought my 5 children would need a lot of convincing. I knew their collective response would be, “Oh God, what’s Mother doing now!” Perhaps next year, I said, since much planning would be involved.
I think it was somewhere in the vicinity of Dawson city that Jerry said “I wonder what you have to do in Washington to get married. The last time I did it in Alaska it took 3 days.” I said nothing, but I was thinking.
We stayed in Whitehorse, Yukon, on August 3, 2006. It was Jerry’s 74th birthday. In his youth, Jerry said, if he stopped in Whitehorse he would go out in the evening to watch the bar fights. Today Whitehorse is a modern, sophisticated town, with some of the old flavor nicely preserved in its architecture. We stayed in a comfortable Chinese owned hotel with the decorating oddity that each of the 2 queen beds in our room had identical paintings hung over them. Before going out for Jerry’s birthday dinner we had a celebratory glass of wine. I said, “I wonder if it still takes only 3 days.”
So it was decided. This would solve all the problems of arguments with children and unwanted advice from friends. I could do what I liked, no matter how crazy and risky, though I never had any sense that what I was planning was anything but completely sound. Jerry’s character so combines authenticity, honesty and caution that he always makes me feel safe.
We stayed in Fairbanks long enough to begin the paper work to get married. Actually, it turned out to be 3 working days, and with the complication of getting Jerry’s friend, Bea, appointed to perform the ceremony, it took a week. So we signed the papers and went to Manley Hot Springs, Jerry‘s Alaska home, 150 miles west on a gravel road.
We were married in Manley. We stayed in a cabin without indoor plumbing, so we had a bath in the hot springs before the wedding.
Bea officiated in her pretty yard, and the guests were old friends of Jerry’s. I didn’t know any of them. It was, for me, a brief few days of life without a complicating past.
I knew I would soon have to go home to face the children, and others, but I could put it off a little longer because Jerry had booked the Alaska ferry from Haines to Prince Rupert. Those days became our Honeymoon — the only one I ever had.