Happy university!

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The window by our bed in Havana.

TODAY IS our 18th anniversary. Congrats to us.

When we woke up in our Havana guesthouse in 2012, our 10th anniversary, which was why we went to the communist hellhole, my child bride, whose English was none too good and remains so, said to me: Happy university!

We’ve chuckled about that ever since. So now we do not have anniversaries. We have universities, and the entrance exam is strict. No snowflakes.

I was married to my first wife just over five years. I was married to my second wife for a decade, but we lived in sin about nine years before the Houston ceremony performed by a Unitarian minister. There was just the three of us, and we did it on her lunch break. One more year, and I’ll have been with this Mexican hottie longest of all.

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The groom, the bride, the sister, the Eggman (R.I.P.)

We tied the knot in the indoor patio of my sister-in-law’s coffee shop. There was a nice crowd, and we danced. A woman sent by the judge officiated.

You don’t say I do in Mexico.

You say I accept.

Wish someone had told me that in advance.

But it’s all worked out just fine, thank you.

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(Note: Here are more photos I took in Havana. I wish I had taken more and with a better camera, especially since we’ll never return. It’s a grim place.)

Getting it right, finally

MY FIRST TWO marriages failed, and maybe it was because of how I proposed to those wives. I don’t recall how I did it the first time though I do remember why. That was over half a century ago. But I do remember how I did it the second time.

We were in a restaurant on Westheimer Boulevard in Houston. I did not get down on one knee. I did not have a ring lurking in a champagne flute. There was no music. The waiters did not sing ‘O Sole Mio. I told her we should get married so she could get on my employer-provided medical insurance. She had no coverage.

She swooned. I was such a romantic guy.

We had been living together at that point for seven years.

Perhaps if ObamaCare had existed, we never would have wed, and I would have been spared lots of pain, grief and expense.

By the third time, I had learned, matured, wised up and sobered up.

I did get down on my knee, and I did have a ring. And where did I do it? Where these two pre-Hispanic pyramids join, right there at their base. You see it early in the video, the V between the two structures. That’s where it happened about 18 years ago.

And medical insurance had nothing to do with it.

Thinking back …

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YESTERDAY MORNING, after hard work in the yard, I was sitting at the dining room table after second breakfast, cereal. My child bride had returned to her pastry workshop, so I was alone, gazing out the window toward the distant Alamo Wall.

With elbows on the table, I placed my face into my hands, closed my eyes and thought. What a high pile of memories.

Three-quarters of a century of breathing combined with an adventuresome, sometimes reckless personality lead to all kinds of crap, most still alive in the cranium.

Three wives, two countries plus a Caribbean island, two languages, planes, parachutes, motorcycles, hot-air balloons, mind-altering materials, a number of jobs but only one of any duration. I did stick with that, which was good, and why I’m here right now.

Dancing in clover.

I wonder about people who live in a more linear fashion. Finish school, a real profession, marriage, have kids, grandkids, buy a home and stay put for decades. Take vacations every year to places like Paris, then head home again.

Yes, I know far fewer folks live like that these days, but many still do.

I ponder if I would have preferred that. Some moments of my life have been pure terror. Try two divorces for starters. Once I had a small plane spin out of control, but it got leveled off. Once I flew into a cloud bank with no training on how to deal with that. And once I overflew a rural runway and ended up in the weeds.

Drive a motorcycle drunk? Count the times. Other stuff so absurd I’m not even going to share. Yet, there I sat at the table, full of cereal, low-fat milk and chia seeds while my child bride was baking brownies, and the sun was shining in a cool, blue sky.

Thoughts in the night

TWO DECADES AGO when my mother was about 80, I asked her what entered her mind at night during those moments when she was awake, those intervals we all have.

I was curious about what old people with lots of history thought in the dark night.

New ImageIf we’re worrying about something before going to bed, that’s what we’ll be focusing on, of course, but at times we awake when there’s nothing worrisome in our lives. Usually, we slip back into our dreams easily, but not always.

I forgot what my mother told me, but I recall it was nothing notable. I thought she’d be remembering the Great Depression or the time she eloped at midday with my father in Athens, but she didn’t mention anything like that. I would have remembered.

Well, now that I’m pretty old myself, I know what old people think, at least what I think. I have a few set skits for those moments. I think, for instance, of a photo of me standing on Cesery Boulevard in Arlington, Florida, posing with a baseball bat as if someone were pitching a hardball at me. I was about 9. I have lost that photo.

But it lives in my mind.

I sometimes think of my very small bedroom in that Cesery Boulevard home, the twin bed, and getting up mornings, stepping across the narrow hallway, and opening the folding canvas door into the kitchen where my mother would be smoking a cigarette. Maybe she’d just downed a Miltown to get her through another day.

What I have thought of more frequently than anything the past 25 years is the moment my last wife told me she was leaving. I was standing in her office door in our Houston home one evening, and she was sitting on the floor going through files.

She mentioned fairly casually that she had found an apartment in Montrose and was moving out. She was shockingly nonchalant. She didn’t even look at me.

Since we had never discussed the possibility of divorce, this was like a meteor. I remember the moment in detail a quarter of a century later. And here is the strange part. Conjuring up that memory during an insomniac spell almost instantly returns me to sleep.

You would think it would be precisely the opposite.

But I’ve just recently noticed that I’m not using that memory anymore as a substitute sleeping pill. The 25-year-old habit has died. I do still think of the kid with the baseball bat, and mornings walking from my small bedroom into the little kitchen and seeing my mother, but not the moment my wife announced she’d had her fill of me.

A single Tylenol will also send me to dreamland, but where’s the drama in that?