Forty Years, Actually Forty-One and Five Months, Plus

But who is counting?


All the time.

You see, i remember every detail of when we first met. She does also, but her memory is a little faulty. Of course, she thinks the same about mine, and in the short term, she is nearly always right. Of course, i allow her to think i have acceded to her claim she’s right all the time, except for this one particular moment. A man would have to be bordering on, if not steeply mired in crazy to claim his rightness with his wife.

40 years.

For many. years, i have posted the story of how we met. i am undeterred this year and that story is at the end of this long winded explanation about us, you know, the forty-year folks.

Sunday will be our fortieth anniversary.

We were not what many people would consider alike.

Maureen is a San Diego native, born in Coronado, and growing up in Lemon Grove. She spent four summers in Europe, a couple with a Parisian couple in a VW van speaking only French. She lived in Monterrey for two years after college, and spent a year with me in Jacksonville, Florida, during my last operational tour in the Navy. She is high fashion, gourmet dining and cooking, refined, experienced in interior design, and an incredible mind and eye for detail. Oh yeh, did i mention beautiful. And that beauty may have changed a bit, but she remains one of the most beautiful women i have ever met.

Me? i am a small town, country boy, from Tennessee. i am into sports, loved life at sea, once chewed tobacco twists and drank beer at the same time, cuss like a sailor because i was one, clumsy, forgetful, overlook the small, and sometimes important stuff.

Oh yeh, she was fluent in four languages. i spoke Tennessee Southern.

It’s a wonder she agreed to go out with me to the Belly Up Tavern to see John Lee Hooker that Saturday night after we sealed the deal on the partitions she sold me for my ship. Then, she actually agreed to go out the next Monday to the Belly Up again to see Doc Watson.

That first night, she made fun of the plaid inserts in the seats of my RX7, and probably turned up her nose at the rust red color, too but didn’t tell me.

A somewhat disinterested Maureen and me in my Coronado Cays condo i shared with JD Waits, my shipmate, and his sailboat.

She spent a lot of time in the RX7 that summer. i would leave my ship at liberty call, change clothes and clean up. Then, i would drive across the bridge, maneuver onto the 94 freeway, and exited on College Avenue. She and two other young women shared a small home a few blocks off of College. i would pick her up and we would drive to La Jolla. This seemed to happen about two to three times a week. We ate a numerous restaurants in La Jolla.. The one that was my long gone favorite was the Blue Parrot. It was in the lower level of a shopping and dining complex on Prospect Avenue. The menu was good, the Caesar Salad was terrific, and a jazz trio played most evenings. We would talk after we ate and i would drive her home. That’s when she would turn on a classical FM station, and promptly go to sleep. i usually got back to my apartment after 11:00 and went aboard my ship the next morning about 0600.

Another difference she turned up her nose for beautiful interiors at my old pea green couch that was very comfortable and cost $100 when i bought it in College Station, Texas in 1977.

That was the basics of our first spring and summer: lunches, dinner, a few concerts, and an occasional sailing on my shipmate’s sailboat. That September 1982, JD and i moved into the photo condo with my daughter Blythe’s approval. JD got engaged in December to Mary Lou. Maureen and i became engaged in February. He and i moaned and moaned how we had screwed up one of the greatest bachelor pads ever.

Then, there was one night we had dinner in Kensington. We were headed to Hotel Del Coronado’s Boat House. It had been converted into a restaurant downstairs with a small bar upstairs. The room next to the bar had couches, chairs, and occasional tables. Hors d’oeuvres, and desserts were served. We would have a dessert and a liquer for Maureen and an after dinner drink. But for some reason, i pulled over the curb and stopped in a nicer section of down. We were on an overpass with a canyon with plush vegetation below. We were talking about life, philosophy, and all that stuff. i don’t know why. But i do know that it was the first time i realized we thought alike in the most important things. It was a big moment for me.

In another six months, we were engaged.

We were married in her father’s backyard, Saturday, July 30, 1983. Maureen had rejected some beautiful venues for weddings because of the cost. So she spared no expense on the catering. There were tables set up around the yard with each having their own special hors d’oeuvre. i have included the menu at the end of this post. My brother Joe, a Methodist minister, came from New England to perform the service.

Maureen and i wrote our vows. Several days ago, i reread them. A particular segment stood out for me:

It has cast the light of clarity on relations with other people important in their lives, redefining and deepening those relationships.

It struck me how we both have a plethora of friends of almost every kind. We have friends across the political spectrum. We have friends of many of the religions in this world. We have friends who are just few steps away from homeless. We have friends who are pretty close if not already independently wealthy. We have friends that cover the racial and sexual preference spectrum. We have friends who are Hell’s Angels. We have friends who are deep into spirituality. We enjoy them all. And they all have made our two lives together enriched.

As i have said many times and deeply believe, “I am a lucky man to have her enter my life.”

Forty years, actually forty-one years, and 137 days from the day we met. But who’s counting?

The annual repeat of how we met is below:

It was early March 1982. i was the Weapons Officer of the USS Okinawa (LPH 3) home ported in San Diego. The Weapons Officer billet was titled “First Lieutenant” on other amphibious helicopter carriers. Regardless, it meant i was charge in pretty much everything not aviation, engineering, operations, or supply related.

One of those responsibilities was being in charge of the quarterdeck where all visitors entered the ship. From previous regimes, we had a large red torah that spanned the entrance into the helicopter deck below the flight deck. It was impressive, but Captain Dave Rogers called me to his cabin one afternoon. “Jim, I want our quarterdeck to be the best quarterdeck on the base. I want it to be the most impressive and known to be the best by everyone home ported here.”

I, of course, replied, “Aye, Aye, Sir!”

i discussed how we could make the quarterdeck renowned  across the waterfront with my division officers and Boatswain Warrant Officer 4 (CWO4) Ellis. The Bosun had a bit of a beer gut. He was married to a wonderful Filipino woman who created a lovely macramé lanyard for the boatswain pipe the bosun gave me when i was transferred. She was about 4’8″ and almost that wide. Great lady, just a bit wide.

My team came up with the idea of a sitting area next to the quarterdeck. At the time, when guests or visitors came aboard, they had to wait for the watch to contact whomever they were there to see. That sailor or officer would have to come to the quarterdeck to escort the visitor. Often, the time it took to get to the quarterdeck was lengthy.

So we decided we could create a sitting area with panels, some chairs, maybe a sofa, and hang framed photographs about the Oki on the walls. That way, the visitor wouldn’t have to stand around in the working bay of the helicopter deck. Great idea.

We had to decide where and how to get panels. Since the Bosun and his first class were going to make a supply run Friday, the next day, i asked them to check out panels while they were on their run. Liberty call was early and the Bosun and his first class left around 1300. They were dressed in their standard liberty civies. The Bosun had on Levis with a blue tee shirt with his thick black hair combed back as much as it could to resemble a ducktail. His first class had on his biker’s jeans, white tee shirt with a leather jacket and a silver chain dangling down from the jeans. He had straw blond hair also combed back and the gap of a missing tooth was the final touch. They left for their mission.

i had a bunch of paperwork to work through and continued on after liberty call. The bosun came into the office with several boxes of toilet paper (i never understood why he didn’t get it through supply).

“i didn’t think you would be coming back to the ship, Bosun,” i remarked.

“Well, i didn’t want to keep this stuff at home over the weekend,” he replied.

“Did you find any panels?”

“Well sir, we went to Dixieline (a local lumber and home center). They didn’t have them, but they told us to go to Parron-Hall.”

“Parron-Hall?” i puzzled.

“Yes sir. They’re an office furniture place downtown across from the county admin building. We went there, but that place was way too classy for us. They had desks in the showroom worth more than my house.

“You are gonna have to go down there and see about them panels.”

“Aww, come on, Bosun, i have a lot on my plate.”

“No sir, you are gonna have to go down there. It’s on Ash Street.”

Then he added, ” You know sir, the woman who waited on us was really pretty. i noticed she didn’t have a ring on her finger. i’m pretty sure she’s single.

“And she’s way too skinny for me.”


Maureen, 1983

Midday on Monday, i drove down to Parron-Hall Office Materials. i asked the receptionist to see the person who had given her business card to Bosun. i stood at the entrance to the showroom. Maureen came walking across the show room with the sun shining in the window behind her (think Glenn Close in “The Natural,” only prettier). She claims i had my piss cutter on my head. That, of course, is not correct: i am a country boy from Lebanon, Tennessee raised correctly by my parents, Army ROTC at Castle Heights, a Naval career and, by the way, an officer and a gentleman. My hat was off.

We had numerous discussions about the panels, which required about four or five “business” lunches over the five or six weeks for the panels to arrive. When the deal was done, i asked for that date to see John Lee Hooker at the Belly Up. We attended several events over the summer including sailing with JD in the “Fly a Kite” race where we became (or at least JD became) a legend. We went out to dinner too many times to count.

And, as i have noted before, one night up in Mission Hills, i was driving and just pulled over and parked in a residential area overlooking one of canyons. We talked. And i realized we thought a lot alike. It took until early February before we determined it was, as they say, it was meant to be.

Tomorrow, we will go to the zoo and probably a Balboa Park museum or two, and like eat and Artifact, a great dining experience in the Mengei Museum. And on the day of the 40th, we will go back to the Wine Vault and Bistro, one of best dining experiences ever. i even posted a photo of us there on a previous anniversary.

i would emphasize that the amazing thing about all of this is her putting up with me and my antics for 40 years.

Oh, by the way, i love her…even more today.

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