Donna and I were married May 15, 1983. This year will be our 35th year. This is from “Donna, A Photo Memoir of Love and Loss"
Early in 1983, we made plans for our wedding. We found a location, 65 Irving Place at 18th Street. In deference to Donna’s mother, we tracked down a rabbi. We selected a menu. The only thing I remember from the wedding was the flourless chocolate cake adorned with a bedazzled piece of art made by a friend. The bride and groom standing under a chuppah were Calaveras. It was us.
With a couple of weeks to go, I organized the blood tests and our birth certificates to take to the Marriage Bureau. Staring at her birth certificate, I realized her date of birth was February 14th. We had always celebrated her birthday on Valentine’s Day.
“I always thought that was an affect,” I told her. “You were actually born that day?”
She rolled her eyes and married me anyway. Well, almost.
I stood in line with my number at the Marriage Bureau which, like all NYC public offices, was plain, utilitarian, and drab. A clerk called me to his window, started checking through my documents, and tapped at his computer. Then he looked up at me.
“Do you know your bride is married? She never got divorced.”
Huh? I knew she was married once. I never asked if she ever got divorced. She didn't think about it, I guess. In her world, the marriage was over in her mind so it was over for everybody.
Donna spent the next week scurrying about to find her first husband, Jimmy, line up a lawyer, and get divorce papers drawn up. When I asked her about the marriage she delivered her usual mantra about her past: “There’s a reason they call it history. It happened then.”
But she gave me the thumbnail-sketch version. Her mother found Donna’s birth control when she was seventeen and told her she had to get married, so Donna did and she lived with Jimmy in her mother’s basement in New Jersey. One day Donna asked Jimmy if she could borrow his car. He said yes and she drove to San Francisco to start over in advertising.
Eventually, Jimmy found her in San Francisco and came out to see her and get the car. As he was driving out of the city the cops stopped the car and booked him on scofflaw violations. Apparently, Donna didn't consider parking tickets important. And that was her first marriage. I hoped that wasn’t foreshadowing for her second.
Jimmy came over to our apartment and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he brought their dog—Pippin, named after a hobbit—and both Jimmy and Pippin were chill. It was actually fun to meet him. Maybe that did bode well for her second round.
We were married on May 15, 1983. All during the wedding prep I would tease her about the word “wife.” I’d stutter it, “w-w-w-w-wife.” It was my way of dropping the baggage that came with the word. In fact, during our 28 years, I rarely said “wife.” It was always Donna. In my mind, a wife is a possession. Donna was a peer, a friend, a partner in my life, our life. She was simply Donna—so much more unique than a wife.