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