weddings

September 14, 2003

September 14 2003

I strongly considered skipping this diary entry; I prefer the impression I have a perfect marriage and this entry shows the cracks. I decided to publish it anyway because – while I can’t see behind anyone else’s bedroom door – I strongly suspect most long-married couples suffer through periods when they are less than enchanted with each other – when one of them is so unhappy that walking out the door is an option.

John absent for this big family shot.
John absent for this big family shot.

I was miserable enough to fantasize about divorce more than once but I never followed through. I realize now that I blamed John for my deep dissatisfaction with myself and my life. This was particularly true early in our marriage, when I was stuck at home with a baby and a writing career looked like an impossible dream.  I told myself I’d leave him as soon as I was self-supporting but when I became self-supporting, I was happier with myself so I no longer wanted to leave.

There were difficult times in the early days too.
There were difficult times in the early days too.

In 2003, we did separate – for a week. I think the reality of a split scared both of us; it scared me, I was a basket case. Things were significantly better when we got back together because we both chose to be there. That’s a big part of marital happiness, I think – the knowledge you chose and have been chosen.

Have things been all sunshine and rainbows since then? Of course not, we’re human. We disagree about many things. We can get on each other’s nerves. We know each other’s weak spots so we’re masters at sticking the knife in – although we do it far less often than we did when we were young. We’re old enough to know that most of the things we fight about aren’t worth it but that doesn’t always stop us. Both of us want it our way, all the time. Neither of us get everything we want.

Kathleen & John

That said, we get enough. We’ve been married 42 years and counting and I don’t see either of us filing for divorce anytime soon. If any young marrieds read this, don’t give up too soon. There are times when your relationship might look hopeless. That doesn’t mean it is hopeless. You’re not the first or last couple to feel broken. That doesn’t always mean it’s over.

 

May 3, 1980

May 3, 1980

Mary Bennett Denove, the bride
Mary Bennett Denove, the bride

Mary and Jack’s wedding was fun, which isn’t the first word I’d use to describe most weddings. Beautiful, moving, magnificent, and interminable, sure. In my experience, relatively few are fun.    

Joyce and John Salter, John and I dance
Joyce and John Salter, John and I dance

As a pastor’s daughter, I was privileged – or required, depending on your point of view – to attend more weddings than most people see in a lifetime. My father married hundreds of couples and our family was usually invited.

The groom, Jack Denove
The groom, Jack Denove

I wasn’t one of those little girls who dreamed about my future wedding day. Bridal magazines bored me even when I prepared to be a bride myself. Although there was zero possibilitiy my parents would divorce – divorce was almost unheard of on either side of the family – I would have predicted I’d get divorced and remarried several times.

Kathleen

Why? Because at the age of ten or twelve, fifty years of marriage sounded like an eternity. I was becoming aware – not proud, but aware – I could be  capricious (all right, fickle) in matters of friendship and, later, romance. It wasn’t always a liability. I dodged some bullets and learned a lot from failed relationships.

Robert Lovenheim, Joyce and John Salter at table #6
Robert Lovenheim, Joyce and John Salter at table #6

By the time I married at a relatively young (for today) 24 – I was beginning to understand what makes a relationship work. (In a nutshell, it takes work.)  The multiple marriages I imagined in my future never materialized. In a real sense, given the changes John and I went through in our 42 years together, we experienced mutltiple marriages with each other. Some better than others, of course. But we never wanted a divorce at the same time, so we went the distance.

Wilkie Cheong, far left, Mary and Jack Denove
Wilkie Cheong, far left, Mary and Jack Denove

So did Mary and Jack. Happy anniversary, Denoves. It’s been a blast.

Mary Bennett Denove

 

 

 

 

April 30, 2005

April 30, 2005

Jack and Mary deNove, my sister Janet, me and John
Jack and Mary Denove, my sister Janet, me and John

I met Mary Bennett my first quarter at UCLA, when we both snuck into an encounter group for depressed Sproul Hall residents. (Neither of us were depressed enough, according to their survey – we must have hidden it well.)

Mary Bennett, Cowgirl. in the Sand, circa 1969
Mary Bennett, Cowgirl. in the Sand, circa 1969

Ten minutes into group, we cured our depression by deciding to be roommates. I did take the precaution of checking out her LP collection first. When I discovered that – like me – she owned Mason Williams’ obscure first album, it was a done deal. I’ve never regretted it.

Mary (bridesmaid) and Jack at my wedding in 1975
Mary (bridesmaid) and Jack at my wedding in 1975

Mary met future husband Jack Denove before I met John but they married five years later. Apparently they weren’t quite as impulsive. Since Mary and Jack went to Loyola Law School and J was in law school at USC, they were one of the first couples we socialized with. Mary and I served as bridesmaids in each other’s weddings and John eventually joined their law firm – now Bennett, Cheong, Denove and Rowell.

Jack & Mary

I didn’t know Karen Stuart well but I liked her. John worked for her husband, Tony Stuart, before joining Mary and Jack. In this instance, my first instinct was correct. I shouldn’t have let Karen read my book without doing a rewrite. Since writers generally get only one shot – one read – I should have made sure it was as good as it could be. This is Not My Beautiful Wife, the novel in question (title taken from the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime)  wasn’t ready.  Karen was kind and gave me  useful notes, but this once in a lifetime opportunity was over.

John, Jack, Mary, Becky Miller Cheong (Wilkie Cheong's wife - Wilkie must be behind the camera - me)
John, Jack, Mary, Becky Miller Cheong (Wilkie Cheong’s wife – Wilkie must be behind the camera – me)

Maybe one of these days I’ll pick it up and try again.

April 4, 1975


April 4, 1975

 Even as a child, I tried to get out of housework – so much so my mother warned me I’d better be rich enough to hire a maid or I’d live in squalor. John’s chivalry with regard to the mop notwithstanding, he wasn’t exactly Mr. Clean around the house either. My mother almost fainted when his mother expressed relief, “that John finally has someone to keep him neat and organized.”  If I was supposed to play Felix to his Oscar, we were in big trouble.

Rare shot of myself doing something similar to housework - stripping paint off a desk, to be specific.
Rare shot of myself doing something similar to housework – stripping paint off a desk, to be specific.

Domestic situations aren’t the only ones where I feign ineptitude to avoid doing something I just don’t want to do. Almost anything technical or complicated involving computers or electronics qualifies. My children and husband accommodate me, more or less, although lately my daughter’s exasperated sighs are more pronounced. “Is it plugged in?” she always asks. It’s embarrassing how many times that turns out to be the problem.

Kathleen taking a break

I recognized my own “learned helplessness” in 2001, when I lived alone in New York. My laptop broke down and because I needed a laptop for my job there, I couldn’t afford to be without it. Basically, the hard drive needed to be replaced.

Kathleen laboring in the yard

If I’d been at home, I never would’ve attempted such a feat but J and my children were in California and I was in New York. My back against the wall, I followed instructions, removed my old hard drive and replaced it with a new one. When push came to shove, I could perform and I was proud of it.  I fully intended not to default to learned helplessness when I went home.

You may or may not "Seymour" pictures of me actually working in future blogs. Most likely not.
You may or may not “Seymour” pictures of me actually working in future blogs. Most likely not.

But of course, I did. Some habits die hard.

 

March 18, 1975

March 18, 1975

My face betrays a trace of doubt here - or maybe I'm just worried I'll spill the punch all over my dress.
My face betrays a trace of doubt here – or maybe I’m just worried I’ll spill the punch all over my dress.

 There were plenty of reasons both John and I felt uncertain about the future. He was in his first year of law school, finding his place in a highly competitive environment. If anything, my future was even less assured.  At least with law school, odds are you’ll find work as a lawyer assuming you pass the bar. My MFA was in Professional Writing and there’s no guarantee you’ll make a living writing, ever. If anything, odds are you won’t.

Cutting the wedding cake

Speaking strictly for myself, I was sick of dating. I spent entirely too much time obsessing about the state of my relationships. There wasn’t a snippet of male-female behavior, subliminal messaging, or secret motivations I didn’t ponder for days. A relationship I could rely on – i.e., a husband – freed hundreds of hours previously devoted to relentless analysis about how he really felt about me, what would happen next, what he really meant when he said I’ll call you later.

J & K having a bite of cake

What about love? Isn’t that the reason to get engaged and married? We were very much in love, at least insofar as either of us understood what love meant, which is to say – not much. Realistically, we were in the grip of mad infatuation. We thought we knew each other but we didn’t really, not as we’d come to know – and love – each other over the next 42 years.

Exiting the church

IMHO, love is nothing but illusion in those starry-eyed early days when you can’t see past the glorious magic of the other. Love becomes real when you realize your partner isn’t perfect – that is to say, she or he isn’t exactly the way you want them to be all the time – and you stick around anyway. Real love requires patience, compromise, forgiveness, compassion, empathy. It hurts sometimes. It changes both of you.  It’s not easy – but it’s worth it.

The bride and groom

That said, if I knew then how not perfect – how difficult and sometimes painful – love and marriage would be – would my answer still be yes? Absolutely.

March 9. 1969

March 9, 1969

This wasn’t my first – or last – fantasy about taking drastic measures to escape my life. I didn’t follow through on this brilliant plan or any of the others which didn’t stop me from devising new schemes to start over someplace else whenever I’m overwhelmed where I am.

Flying away to Sweden
Flying away to Sweden

Before my wedding, I thought about hopping a plane and disappearing in Sweden (because I took Swedish at UCLA, as if that would do me any good.)  Thank God I lost my nerve – or regained my senses – and showed up at the church on time. Sticking around and seeing things through was always the right choice.

Hop a train to a new life, new name, new city.
Hop a train to a new life, new name, new city.

The fantasy of running away – starting a new life with a new name – is probably impossible in our high-tech surveillance-happy world. Even if I could, there’s no reason to believe my new life would improve on the one I’m living. As the saying goes, wherever you run to, you take yourself with you.

Go where?
Go where?

And of course, “myself” is the problem. The only way to change my circumstances is change myself. It’s an inside adjustment, not an outside one. I didn’t know that in ’69, as I sank into a bottomless clinical depression. I find solace in the fact that no matter how much I wanted to leave this life, I stayed – and you know what? It got better.

These boots are made for walking - incognito woman of mystery somewhere far north of here
These boots are made for walking – incognito woman of mystery somewhere far north of here

March 7, 1980


March 7, 1980

My favorite bridesmaid dress - for the Mary Bennett/Jack de Nove nuptials in 1980
My favorite bridesmaid dress – for the Mary Bennett/Jack Denove nuptials in 1980

I served as a bridesmaid six times – all after being a bride myself – and this was by far the best dress. I was far crueler to the five women who participated in my wedding (below). The lace overlay, garden party hats, puffed sleeves – any one of these might be an unpardonable fashion sin – put them all together and this is what you get.

The dresses I forced my bridesmaids to wear (l to r - Joyce Knutsen Salter, Sandy Walker Hegwood, Janet Knusten McCann, Mary Bennett deNove, Denise Gail Williams) Picture on the left
The dresses I forced my bridesmaids to wear (l to r – Joyce Knutsen Salter, Sandy Walker Hegwood, Janet Knusten McCann, Mary Bennett Denove, Denise Gail Williams) Picture on the left

In my defense, the year was 1975 and I’d go with five different colors again today. I doubt my bridesmaids wore their dresses again aside from the occasional costume party.

Me as bridesmaid, Sam as flower girl, in emerald-green themed dresses.
Me as bridesmaid, Sam as flower girl, in themed dresses.

While it’s an honor to be asked to serve as a bridesmaid – and I don’t mind admitting I was miffed on a few occasions when I thought I’d be an integral part of the wedding party only to find myself seated on the brides’s side with the rest of her friends who didn’t rate – it’s not all fun and games.

Wedding

Engaging with the bride
Engaging with the bride
My sister Joyce put me in this dress for her 1980 wedding (with Denise Gail Williams)
My sister Joyce put me in this dress for her 1980 wedding (with Denise Gail Williams)

Standing up for your friend as she/he exchanges vows with the person they plan to spend their lives with becomes uncomfortable when you’ve got a strong intuition this union won’t survive the sniffles, forget until death do us part. I’ve been there and I’m usually right.

Other pictures of me in Mary Bennett's bridesmaid dress
Other pictures of me in Mary Bennett’s bridesmaid dress

Not always, though. No outsider can fully grasp another couple’s relationship because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. One of my cynical writing professors told me not to bother justifying why two mismatched people stay together in misery all their lives. “The same reason most relationships stick together. Inertia and fear of change.” Dramatically, he’s probably right. Realistically, he’s probably right about a lot of couples – but not all. I’ll never give up on the romantic ideal of people who promise “till death do us part” and mean it with their whole heart.

February 2, 1975

February 2, 1975

PHOSPHORESCENT WAVES
PHOSPHORESCENT WAVES

 Usually, I don’t realize a particular day or night was auspicious – in terms of exerting a major influence on my life – until long after the fact. Not this time. Everything about meeting John for the first time felt intense, heightened, dramatic. At the same time, there was a quality of recognition – like, “There you are. I knew you were coming into my life.”

Not the real Law House - but kind of like I remember it looking. Formerly a fraternity house, it stood on Fraternity Row, within easy walking distance of the campus.
Not the real Law House – but kind of like I remember it looking. Formerly a fraternity house, it stood on Fraternity Row, within easy walking distance of the campus.

I have some corroborating evidence for my romantic premonitions. The next day I met my friend Denise Gail Williams for lunch. She said I looked happy, glowing. I told her, straight-faced, “I met the man I’m going to marry last night.”

Me in 1975
Me in 1975
John Rowell
John Rowell

I can’t explain how I knew this with such certainty and – in the interest of full disclosure – I must add that John did not know any such thing. He was in his first year of law school at USC and marriage was not on his mind (although it would be, a mere six weeks later when we got engaged, and six months later when we got married).

Around the time we got engaged
Around the time we got engaged

None of our fellow residents at Law House gave us a chance. Someone started a betting pool about how long we’d last. No one predicted forty-one years and counting. And after all these years – he’s still the One.

Still the ONE
Still the ONE

January 30, 1977


January 30, 1977

CD's Baptism

 

Because I’m a pastor’s kid (PK), my father confirmed me – married me – and baptized my children. Every time I stood in front of the congregation and looked into his eyes, tears welled and I teetered on the edge of complete meltdown. I wasn’t sad, just overloaded with emotion. The same thing happens when I think about him now. The memory of my father officiating at CD’s baptism makes me reflect on unique aspects of life as a PK.

CD with my father.
CD with my father.

 When I was two years old (before the Alien Baby[1] emerged, and ruined my life), my father took me with him to give communion to rural parishioners. Halfway through the ceremony, his communicant’s eyes wandered so he turned to investigate what caught their attention. It was me, toddling behind, imitating his words of blessing and passing out imaginary wine and wafers.

CD with me.
CD with me.
CD meets Joyce's dog Kuala or vice versa.
CD meets Joyce’s dog Kuala or vice versa.

We acted out Bible stories to amuse ourselves. The Good Samaritan was a favorite. My father played the battered victim near death by the side of the road. I took on multiple challenging roles ranging from a snooty priest to a snotty Pharisee and a self-absorbed Levite.  Basically, I pretended not to see the dying man by the side of the road. At this point my sister Janet, bobbing with excitement, took center stage in the starring role of Good Samaritan. Between you and me, a monkey could have played her part.  All she needed to do was hoof it as far as the kitchen and ask Mommy for a glass of water. When she accomplished this feat, dramatic tension peaked. Invariably she paused –  and guzzled most of the water, saving a few drops for our dying dad. And I’m the one who got typecast as being selfish?

CD finds this all a big yawn.
CD finds this all a big yawn.

Sometimes Janet and I played Israelites in search of manna. Confused about what constituted manna  – was it vegetable, legume or dairy product? We agreed it probably resembled chocolate chip cookie dough and hid globs of it in the sofa cushions for the Israelites to discover and devour. Who knew about salmonella in the fabulous fifties?

(Future blogs will explore other aspects of growing up P.K.)

[1] See Kathy Vs. the Alien Baby footnote

December 31, 2012

december-31-2012

Bill Connell directing traffic (center) before the wedding - Carly Salter Govind in purple to his right.
Bill Connell directing traffic (center) before the wedding – Carly Salter Govind in purple to his right.
The Bride and Groom
The Bride and Groom
Another romantic and very happily married - for 66 years! - couple, my parents.
Another romantic and very happily married – for 66 years! – couple, my parents.

The day was almost perfect, aside from the fact my sisters and I knew our father wasn’t feeling well. (I’m not sure anyone else noticed – being Norwegian, he did a masterful job of putting everyone else at ease by pretending he was fine.

It was the following day – January 1, 2013 – all hell broke loose.

Gil Gundersen provided magical music.
Gil Gundersen provided magical music.
Geo Ackles kills with a poignant and hilarious toast/speech
Geo Ackles kills with a poignant and hilarious toast/speech
All eyes and ears were on Geo Ackles as he took us through years of his friendship with CDR
All eyes and ears were on Geo Ackles as he took us through years of his friendship with CDR
Alex and Chris
Alex and Chris
Chris and Sam
Chris and Sam
CDR with Yolanda
CDR with Yolanda

My father was hospitalized and diagnosed with prostate cancer after a trip to the ER. Bill Connell, who helped set up for the ceremony, was hospitalized with heart problems. Yolanda Hernandez, virtually a member of the family for 30 years, discovered she had an aneurism and was hospitalized to await brain surgery. What are the odds? Three people, all essential to mounting the wedding, immobilized 24 hours later.

Rowells came from far and wide....
Rowells came from far and wide….
Tables full of Rowells
Tables full of Rowells

Aside from the collective health crisis, everything went as well as it possibly could.  It was a pleasure to get to know Jerry and April Ekins, Serena’s father and stepmother, as well as her brother and adorable niece and nephew. A large contingent of CD’s aunts and uncles – the geographically extended Rowell side – showed up to lend their support. CD was thrilled his oldest friend Geo Ackles and newer friends from UCLA’s film school were there to celebrate with him and his beautiful bride.

Chris Varaste gets in front of the camera
Chris Varaste gets in front of the camera

On a purely selfish note, it was a great opportunity for me to catch up with some of my dearest friends who moved out of state (or at least out of my zip code). Weddings have a way of bringing people together. Christmas and the holiday season don’t hurt.

The Ekins family
The Ekins family

After one of the longest courtships on record – 21 years, I kid you not – it was clear to one and all that Chris and Serena are as romantic and madly in love today as they were when they met. So, here’s to love and the future!

Parents of the groom
Parents of the groom
The Happy Newlyweds
The Happy Newlyweds

 


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