A while back, I was perusing one of Bouncing Barb's many stories of her beloved late husband, and in my comment I mentioned that, while I couldn’t top her heartwarming and hilarious tales, I had a pretty good tale to spin about my first “wedding”, and the first anniversary that followed. Sweetheart that she is, she suggested I spin the tale here someday. Lucky you, I’m finally getting around to it.
Just to get everyone on the same page, Michele and I were together for about six-and-a-half years. I don’t know for sure who was going to be driven insane first, but I did hit the breaking point before her. But this story goes back to happier times, before I finally got it through my head that the reason her whole family called her “Bear” was NOT a) because she put out forest fires, or b) she liked honey, or c) she ran around in teddies.
We’d been an item for, I suppose, three our four months. We were at the usual place on Monday night, Lortie’s bar in downtown Zulu, for the shuffleboard tourney. This was an event that not only drew many from our age group, but their parents and grandparents as well. The bar itself, under previous ownership, I had gone with my dad to since I was a toddler. Pat was the epitome of the perfect bartender- fun-loving, boisterous, the ringmaster of any circus. The clientele, one big extended family tied by bonds formed in beer, ‘board, and B.S. And one night, they decided we’d pissed around long enough and should be married. (Though I hadn’t got around to bending the knee yet, I did have the ring on layaway, and she had our son on lay-away as well).
The “Reverend Ken,” father of one of my buddies, took the lead, and asked for the “Good Book” from Pat. Naturally for Pat, he handed him a copy of Bobby Knight’s Biography (At Lortie’s, one of the neat things you could buy and not drink was a ball cap reading, “The Lord is my shepherd, but Bobby Knight’s the COACH”). His wife Sandy volunteered for maid-of-honor, and I really can’t remember which drunken soul ended up being best man. The Rev began to read the vows with his eyes closed from the book, which he held upside down. Suddenly, we figured out the best man had no ring to hand me. A clever groomsman took a rubber band and tied an imaginary diamond into it. Soon afterwards, I kissed the “bride” and we were pelted with the closest analogue to rice at hand- popcorn.
Now, a smart man would’ve stopped right there. Which I of course was not. And so, 10 days after Valentine’s day, with the temperature an unseasonable 75 degrees, we were married in the JOP’s office under much less entertaining but much more legal circumstances. And if this was a fairy tale, we’d all have lived happily ever after. But because we’ve never done ANYTHING without momentous disaster to mark it- for example, KC’s graduation starring a tornado, hurricane winds, and horizontal rain- our first anniversary was nothing like the event it commemorated.
It started a bright, actually-winter like day, and we decided to spend it at Wrigley Field bar and grill. Then as now, the benchmark by which Ft. Wayne Sports bars are measured. We were feeling pretty good when all the sudden one of the TVs showed a winter storm warning that advised everyone “Not to travel if you don’t have to.”
After sharing a WTF look, we decided that smart people would go home now, and we should follow them. Now, we lived out in the country, and the weather was deceptively calm all through town, all through New Haven as well- until we hit Minich Road, the eastern boundary of civilization, as it were. To say we dropped off the face of the earth at this point was not unfair. As soon as we crossed the road, we were in the most total whiteout conditions I’d ever seen. The road was so icy, I had to drive with the right side of the car off the road into the stones of the berm to go anywhere. The crunching of the frozen stones was the only way I knew I was anywhere NEAR the road. Headlights coming towards you were only visible when the other car was at your corner. And, there was no turning back. If we were doing 5 MPH, it would have been a miracle. About half way down this 5 mile excursion into white hell, we could barely make out a huge shadow in front of us. No, we were still on the road- but so was something large and horrible, creeping along in front of us. We speculated on what it was to take our minds off the certain conviction we’d never make it home alive.
(On the bright side, it was a great way to sober up FAST! Doubt the FDA will approve it for OTC, though.)
Eventually we reached the road which we had to turn off the highway and into some lower territory (Don’t ask me how we found it). With the moving monolith still leading the way, we headed down the last mile. The whiteout began to ease, and soon we found out that the looming shadow was one of the old timey Trolley style PTC buses, stopping off at our nearby church to pickup a wedding party. (Which, as I had never considered before tonight, probably gave that couple a wedding story to top mine- not to mention a “moment to remember” for the driver). We could actually see where we were when I pulled in what was left of the driveway, up the sidewalk, and got out to shovel away the 4-foot drift in front of the garage so I could put the car away before it froze solid (Because that’s what we did before global warming).