I keep wanting to write a book about my wedding day, or even my life in general. This is the title I always wanted to give it.
On this date in 1984, I married Perry Ann Stewart.
Why, you may ask, would anyone get married on New Year's Eve? Trust me, the reason is anything but romantic.
In 1981, I married an Amish girl named Bertha that I'd met and fallen in love with four years earlier. I was romantic then. They say love is blind. My love was deaf, dumb (meaning stupid), blind and stubborn. The girl had no business getting married, and she knew it. But I would not take “no” for an answer. So, after four tumultuous years of arm twisting – Way past the time I should have caught on – she agreed to marry me. I don't want to spend a lot of time on my anniversary talking about a past relationship; so I'll just point out that on our second wedding anniversary, she told me if she had thirty five dollars to eat on, she would leave me, hitch hike to Portland Oregon and move in with a guy that she knew out there. I gave her thirty five dollars, and she was gone.
I actually met Perry while I was married to Bertha. My cousin Tim worked at the same hospital where Perry's mother worked, so they were acquainted with each other. One night at a bar in Warrensburg, Perry had won a pool shooting contest with the prize being a pony keg. She had no idea where to go with the thing, so Tim suggested taking it to his cousin Bob's (that's me) house where there is always a poker game going on. So Perry, her cousin Pat and the keg all rode up to my house with Tim to the “Perpetual Poker Game”.
Tim knocked on the door and when I answered, introduced me to his friends and told me about the keg, which Bertha promptly ran out and grabbed. She wasn't very big, but she was brought up on a farm.
When I looked in Perry's eyes, it was like I knew her. Specifically, I could see us being together; that she would become very depressed, but that she would never leave. All of this scared me half to death. As did the thought that went through my mind that this woman would be the end of my marriage to Bertha.
Through the entire evening, I would not pay any more attention to her than was required to function in a poker game. I wouldn't talk to her. I wouldn't even make eye contact. This confused the heck out of Perry. The dynamics in the room being the way they were, she didn't even realize that Bertha and I were married. She thought Bertha was my sister and couldn't figure out why I wouldn't interact with her. After all, she was the hottest thing on wheels – and she knew it. Besides being beautiful, she was built like a brick outhouse and was used to being the center of attention in any room where there were men. Yet, I spent more time talking to her cousin. Pat cracked everybody up. He looked like the stereotypical Lounge Lizard. He had the hiphuggers, the loud shirt unbuttoned far enough to see the medallion resting in a sea of chest hairs. A freshly coiffed perm. To everyone playing poker that night, he will always be referred to as “Mister Disco”.
When they left, I worked very hard to calm myself down. I kept telling myself: “She's from Warrensburg and you live in Wellington.” “This was just a fluke meeting.” “You'll never see her again.” “Calm down!” I was really upset. As tortuous as my marriage was at the time, I didn't want to give up on it. I thought marriage meant forever. Besides, there's that whole stubborn romantic thing. I really needed to get a grip.
I don't even know what date that was, but I'm thinking it was in the spring of 1983. Then, on July 5th, Bertha left.
I worked for a small town butchery at the time and they tended to lay me off in the summer when things were real slow. So with nothing else to do, I moved out of the house in Wellington, put my stuff in storage, and just kind of wondered around looking for good fishing holes.
My brother Carl had just come back from 12 years in Australia and was living with my mother outside of Centerview, so I dropped by to see him. While there my car broke down and I was stuck.
Carl had met this girl and was absolutely smitten by her and kept asking me for advice on how to win her affection. I kept trying to point out that my wife had left me just a couple of months before – what did he think I knew about women? But he kept on anyway.
One day my cousin Tim stopped by and as we were talking, I mentioned Carl and this girl he wouldn't shut up about.
Tim asked: “Well, you know who it is don't you?”
“No. I haven't met her”
“Sure you have. Remember Mister Disco?”
I thought: “OH NO! SHE FOUND ME!!!”
Carl eventually arranged for me to meet this girl he wouldn't shut up about. As soon as our eyes met, the sparks started flying. I couldn't help messing with her. A sort of game developed between us to
see how subtly one of us could mess with the other and still have them know they are being messed with. We didn't want to actually start anything because Carl had such a crush on her and we were both worried about his feelings getting hurt. But the results were inevitable. Resistance was futile. Things got started.
In January of 1984, Perry told me she was pregnant. By this time I was working at the butchery in Wellington again, so on February 4th we moved into a house in Wellington.
I wasn't thinking about getting married. I had lost all faith in the institution of marriage. After all, I'd done it once. Look where that had gotten me. I'd also lost all faith in romance, for the same reason. Why Perry wanted to be with me so bad was beyond me. I was as cold as ice. Of course I wanted to get laid, but that was a long way from being in love. I was determined not to get emotionally attached to anyone again. I told her over and over again: “This is purely physical.” I also remember telling her: “Look, this is my life. If you want to tag along, that's up to you. Try not to make too much noise.” I'm sure anyone reading this has to think I was a first class jerk (That's the polite term). I'm telling you, you don't know the half of it. But if she was going to have my baby, I was going to be there.
On July 29th, Leo was born.
During the course of 1984, the butchery I worked at went bankrupt and the men that owned it and I all went to work for R.B. Rice in Lee's Summit, Missouri. By that Christmas, I was laid off again, couldn't afford to stay in the house in Wellington, and Perry, Leo and I ended up outside of Knob Noster, Missouri living in a double wide trailer with Perry's mother, step-father and her two younger sisters.
Now, for the touching story of how we got married:
Two days after Christmas, for reasons I don't remember, we found ourselves on the square in Clinton, Missouri eating lunch at a restaurant across from the court house. During the course of conversation, it suddenly dawned on me that if we were to get married before the year ran out, I could write Perry and Leo off my taxes and even get an earned income credit.
With not a moment to lose, I ran across the street to the court house and applied for a marriage license. As I filled out the paper work, I found out there was a three day waiting period from the time I filed the license to the time we could actually get married. This meant the soonest we could get married would be on the 30th. I started checking around to see where we could get the deed done and my former boss, Glen Nadler, managed to get the pastor at his church in Wellington to agree to do it on the 31st. All we had to do was pick up the license and get from Knob Noster to Wellington. This didn't seem like it was going to be a problem. It was only fifty miles North, and the weather wasn't bad – yet. It was cold and rainy, but for December 31st, I felt we were pretty fortunate.
Perry, her older sister and I headed up there in a '72 Impala. Her Mother, step-father and her other sisters headed up in an old Dodge van.
Right about the time we crossed I-70, the rain turned to snow. By the time we got to Wellington, it had turned into something of a blizzard.
The wedding was informal and strange. My former bosses, Glen and Larry were there with their wives. Glen was actually the best man. His wife took lots of pictures and then lost them. I didn't get to see them for 28 years. I suddenly got a phone call from her about four years ago telling me that she had found them.
We wanted to have music for the wedding, so Perry's little sister Nemy sang Bread's “If”; a beautiful love song that nobody knew how to play except me. I ended up playing the piano at my own wedding. The pastor bought us a cake, which was great. He laid out a little spread for us, so we had something of a reception. It may have been one of the strangest weddings he ever performed, but it was nice. My taxes were now taken care of and there was nothing left to do but find a New Year's Eve party to crash.
Everybody else headed back to Knob Noster in the Van. Perry, Carol and I went looking for a party...in the snow.
We first thought to check Stretch's house. He used to live across the street from me. I woke up one morning to yelling, cussing and gun fire coming from his place. Turns out he had become frustrated with his record player which he threw out into his back yard and emptied his pistol into it. He was a fun guy to party with. Unfortunately, he wasn't home. Then, when we left his porch, the car got stuck in the still falling snow where we parked it. I tried and tried to rock it out of there and ended up blowing out the differential. Now, we were in trouble.
It seemed no one that I knew was home anywhere in that town. Carol, who was thrilled to see snow for the first time in her life (She's from Mississippi), was in tears because the shoes she had on were not meant for snow and her feet on the brink of frost bite. We eventually ended up back at the pastor's house, banging on the door because they had already gone to bed. We eventually roused them, and they were nice enough to put the three of us up for the night in the spare bedrooms that they had.
That night, Perry discovered she was NOT pregnant again – if you know what I mean.
So thirty two years ago today, on a very strange New Year's Eve, a woman who does not deserve what I have put her through, officially agreed to spend the rest of her life with a man that does not deserve the joys that she has brought to me.
...And the whole world parties with us. She never has to worry about me forgetting our anniversary.