Happy Anniversary, Woody

Today, October 10, marks our 25th anniversary. Not our wedding anniversary, that hits 19 today, and who celebrates 19?  Not us.

But 25 years ago (yes, we chose our wedding date so we could keep celebrating the same date we’d been celebrating) Woody and I met face-to-face for the first time. 

I remember it clearly. It was a Monday and I had spent the weekend at my college’s homecoming in Westchester County, NY.  That was the last year they’d be on that campus AND it was my 25th reunion (I’d graduated in 1968 with an Associates Degree).

So, off I’d gone to that reunion in Westchester County and on the way home I’d planned to do some sniffing around in Trenton’s public records to see if I could find my father’s second wife, the one I remembered from his funeral; the one who had been so kind to me, a mere seven-year-old. I thought perhaps she could tell me something more about this man of whom I knew so very little.

Before I’d left, it had seemed only practical that I also set up a meeting with the man I’d been chatting with via the Internet for the past two months, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and an expert in stuttering, something in which I’d recently (and finally) become quite interested. You see, I’d lived my life up until the year before with the primary goal of hiding the fact that I stuttered.

I’d come out of the closet — to steal  use a familiar phrase — in the summer of 1992 and had since then absorbed as much as I could find about this disorder I’d previously wanted nothing to do with. I had been getting to know my stutter and was more than curious; I was a dry sponge.

One of my resources was Woody Starkweather — C. W. Starkweather, PhD., as he was more commonly known then. 

Woody ran a ListServe out of Temple University for people who stuttered and the professionals who treat them. I’d learned about this in July of that year (thanks John Harrison) while attending my first convention of the National Stuttering Project (now the National Stuttering Association).  Yes, when I take on a topic, I tend to go all in.

I came home from that convention and found out how to join STUTT-L, the ListServe Woody had begun in 1987 or 8. Newly joined, I introduced myself. He responded “off line” — meaning separately from the ListServe — and that began a separate conversation “off line” nearly every day until October when I knew I’d be close to his turf. Could we meet for coffee? I asked. “Bring your own coffee mug.” I needed to know what “this” was.

Internet conversations are different than face-to-face ones. They go faster; they can be more intense; and they leave room for all sorts of projections and misunderstandings in the absence of body language and other non-verbal cues.

We all know that now. But back then we were in the infancy of the world wide web. Had I not been a student at Kent State, I’d not have had an email address. But I was and I did and so we met and we wrote and on October 10, 1993 Woody pulled his green Jeep Grand Cherokee into the parking lot of the Knight’s Inn in Lawrenceville, NJ where I was staying. I watched from the balcony as he climbed out of the car, coffee mug in hand.

I had never before been interested in what car anyone drove. But that green Jeep Grand Cherokee was gorgeous. As was the man who got out and carried his coffee mug up the stairs to my room. 

I made him a cup of coffee — this was before hotel rooms came with automatic coffee makers; and I always traveled with my coffee fixings back then. I remember sitting across from each other at the table in the room and talking. The conversation flowed, effortlessly, seamlessly. I loved how his mind worked, pulling seemingly disparate ideas together into a well-formed whole. The coffee was also good; we both took it black.

A quick excursion to see nearby Washington Crossing, then lunch. I remember our waiter stuttered. Do I tell him I’m a stutterer? Do we tell him my companion is a world famous expert in the treatment of stuttering? We chose to let the man be.

Soon it was time for Woody to get home and I had investigative work to do in Trenton. I found the office buildings closed. I’d stay an extra day.  So, I drove east until I came to the ocean and sat on the sand and pondered my future. 

That’s what I’m celebrating today. That I pondered well. 

Here we are in 2007. 

Stuttering, the bane of my existence for over forty years, brought me directly into Woody’s world. I think it was my attitude of curiosity about stuttering that brought him into mine. But it was talking that kept us together. Conversation, I called it in my memoir of our years in the Peace Corps. Talking. Communicating. We could practically finish each other’s sentences. 

I wasn’t thinking marriage back then. I’m of that ilk that believes marriage is best for people who want to have children and I’d had mine. Instead, here was a man I could learn much from; a man eager to learn from me.

Soon the madness came, but still, I learned to love the single life once again. I believe the extent to which one is a good companion for someone else can be predicted by the extent to which they are a good companion to themselves.

And then, best of all, the madness went away and we decided that we were better together than we were apart. 

Why did we marry? That’s another story, for another time, and the “how” is even more interesting. 

At our wedding, 1999, run like one of our workshops, this one for 150 people. A Quaker license allowed us to marry ourselves. Chuck Staples sang the Andrew Lloyd Webber song, Love Changes Everything, accompanied on the guitar by Irene Kolker. A story for next year. Memories are like that: some stay; others go away, seemingly unretrievable.

How about you? What’s your story of love?  Woody and I will be off for our bi-annual find-a-card excursion (we also do this on Valentine’s Day).  We’ll go to a local store with a large card display, find the cards we want to give each other, exchange them in the aisle, read and enjoy them, then put them back and go to lunch. I usually buy a candy bar before we leave just to thank the store for their inventory.  We’re also going to buy ourselves new flannel sheets. 

Do we know how to have fun or what? 

And off we go. Metaphorically, anyway.

I’ll pop in over the next week for those of you who wish to leave a Comment.  You know I love to chat. 

27 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I love all the details here, the madness and the gladness, including the crazy jump off the deck! You probably know I began my graduate studies at Temple . . . didn’t see Woody though. 🙂

    Congratulations!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Fall Foliage and Blog BreakMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Marian. Thanks for starting us off, especially this week when you are off enjoying the colors. Do orange trees turn orange; lemon trees, yellow? I loved your “madness and gladness” — just rolls off the tongue.

      Woody moved to Temple in 1976 (from Hunter). His Speech Path department got moved around quite bit though from school to school. Where did you live when you went to Temple?
      Janet Givens recently posted…Happy Anniversary, WoodyMy Profile

      • Marian Beaman
        | Reply

        It was a different decade, and we drove, trained, subwayed, and walked to the Temple campus from Rheems, PA at 4:30 in the morning for 8:00 classes. Terrible!
        Marian Beaman recently posted…Fall Foliage and Blog BreakMy Profile

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Ouch. When I first started at NYU, they had no dorm room for me. So I lived with my mom in NJ and took the bus and subway in for a few weeks, but never starting at 4:30. Shows your dedication.
          Janet Givens recently posted…Happy Anniversary, WoodyMy Profile

  2. Pamela S. Wight
    | Reply

    I LOVE romance – and this is the best kind. Intelligent, meant-to-be, long-time romance that just gets deeper and brighter with each year. Your post here is riveting, Janet. So many questions I want to ask (like, did you ever find your father’s second wife?). And why did it take six years before you got married, which goes with the answer you promise us in another post of WHY you decided to marry.
    Yes, I have a story. Cut quick, I was a single mom with two children under the age of 3 , as determined as a mother elephant that I would never date/marry again, when I met my guy. A freind introduced us (secretly deciding we were perfect for each other) on a road trip, and when that door opened, it never closed. 34 years and better than evah.
    Happy Anniversary!
    Pamela S. Wight recently posted…Marshmallow SuspenseMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I think the best love comes when we are not looking; indeed, being in a relationship was the LAST thing I wanted to do. At that particular time anyway. I had all the rational reasons why we “shouldn’t” and the relationship just kept on growing. We were just saying yesterday that life has gotten better with each decade. The important parts of it anyway. And what’s important does change, doesn’t it? I’m so glad you stopped by, Pam. (and I’ll be over to last week’s post to catch up with you there as well).
      Janet Givens recently posted…Happy Anniversary, WoodyMy Profile

  3. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    What a fun post, Janet! That final photo made me laugh.
    Happy Anniversary to you both. Enjoy the new sheets, the lunch, your memories, and all that is yet to come.
    Merril Smith recently posted…Circles, Cycles, and Loops: Monday Morning MusingsMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Merril. I’m glad the photo brought a laugh. I’ve used it before and I’m also tickled by how many folks think it’s actually Woody and me. We could set up a photo like that; we certainly skinny dip here in the pond often enough. I’ll look into that. 🙂 Sheets turned out to be fleece, not flannel. Never knew there was such a material for sheets. And tonight it’s 80 degrees! Where is this thing called autumn? I’m ready; it’s late.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Happy Anniversary, WoodyMy Profile

  4. C.A. Morgan
    | Reply

    Happy Celebration of Love Day! No matter how many years, you two are beautiful together! <3

  5. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    I love, Love, LOVE it! Happy anniversary!
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Bursting with JoyMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks bundles, Laurie. It’s been a grand day. Congratulations on the new babe. Life is truly magical if we know where to look.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Happy Anniversary, WoodyMy Profile

  6. Joan
    | Reply

    Happy Anniversary, you two! Here’s to many more years together!

  7. susan scott
    | Reply

    Happy anniversary Janet and Woody! Here’s to another at least 19 or 25 years together. Loved your story … mine would take too long to tell, but third time round I got lucky. By that I hasten to add, two prior engagements … and 5 years of courtship before we decided to marry much to my parents relief …
    susan scott recently posted…#WATWBMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I like your thinking, Susan. We toasted to the next 25 years tonight too (with our bottle of water and a funny twinkle). You certainly have a story to tell. Woody’s short story is that after three tries, he finally got it right. Mine? I may be Woody’s fourth wife; I just say he’s my last.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Happy Anniversary, WoodyMy Profile

  8. Clive
    | Reply

    Happy Anniversary! A lovely post to celebrate it 😊
    Clive recently posted…World Mental Health Day 2018My Profile

  9. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    A wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. I hope you had a fabulous getaway!

  10. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    Happy Anniversary! I think you nailed it with “we decided that we were better together than we were apart.” That’s the essence of a great relationship– and once you realize it, you’re golden. I like your card exchange idea [+ candy bar], and might give it a go with my husband next Valentine’s Day.
    Ally Bean recently posted…#ThursdayDoors | Visiting A County Park On An Early Fall AfternoonMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Welcome to the cheapskates’ card exchange gang; a great excuse to buy an Almond Joy. I appreciate your good wishes. Thank you. When my hubs and I married, we ended our vows with, “I put my hands in yours because together we can do what I cannot do alone.” Brings tears to my eyes. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…Happy Anniversary, WoodyMy Profile

  11. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Happy anniversary, Janet. Here’s to many more. Cheers! – T

  12. Woody
    | Reply

    For once, I think, I am speechless, or typeless, whatever. Many thanks to everyone for all the beautiful comments. And to Janet for, well, everything that’s good and beautiful and sexy and inspirational and thoughtful and intelligent and challenging (in a good way) in my life.

    Woody

  13. Anindya Rakshit
    | Reply

    Yes, sure you know how to have fun :)….enjoyed your post reading it. Happy belated Anniversary to both of you.

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