I was introduced to Jimmy Buffett’s music on prom night of my senior year, twenty-seven years ago. The song was: Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw, and while the song may have been appropriate for the season (or not), it left an impression on me beyond the obvious lascivious attraction. I think it was Buffett’s happy-go-lucky outlook on life (or the fact that my date left me for another party) that made me an instant fan and wanna-be fraternizer. Whatever the reason, I’ve been listening and singing along to his songs for almost as long as he’s been playing in parks, bars and ballparks all around this naughty nutty world.
So it should come as no surprise that I look at life as any hopeless romantic would: with one eye desperately seeking to fill in whatever it was I’d left out. To be sure, over the span of any number of years there come noteworthy moments of missed opportunity to pursue what we want out of life with the same interest and fun Buffett’s songs and performance inspire. Setbacks. Detours. Undependable roadside assistance. They all contribute to the most common catch-all of all time: Shit happens. And it did. Marriage. War. Divorce. How many life stories do those three sturdy words sum up? Then comes broke, a couple of dead-end jobs, the perfect marriage to my best friend and a custody war waged in hell. With all that going on, often at the same time, it’s easy to see how the runaway train of reality could leave fun and interesting behind, like a pair of mistaken identities straddling the tracks of time.
The problem, I think, is not keeping the fun meter focused on what we want out of life, but knowing what we want out of life in the first place (clue: it’s not a big house, loving spouse, or great job). Which brings me to my second shameful admission (for the first, click here).
Franca and I have been married for over half of those years I’ve been listening to Buffett. Twice, in fact, to each other. Once in the beginning and again ten years later in a special ceremony overseas with her lovely Italian family. I was married once before her, as a young Lieutenant starting out in the Army. For varied and valid excuses, in none of those weddings did my wife and I go on a honeymoon. In only the first and the last with Franca’s family was there even any kind of after-wedding soiree to gather with friends, kick off your shoes and act silly, and getting married, I think, is all that. But the extended post-party frolic that every husband and wife should take by themselves never happened. Our fête, to put it mildly, was nothing to write a song about. Even Buffett himself would have trouble.
That hasn’t stopped us over the years though from gleefully experiencing a fair share of honeymoon-inspired activity — downhill skiing in southern Bavaria, a memorable gondola tour of Venice (remind me to tell you that story one day), a multi-day mid-summer hike on the Appalachian Trail, stolen moments of just the two of us locked away in our own house. But straight-lace-in-your face, honey bar-the-door, newlywed vacationing we have not. For that I blame myself. I used to think of our honeymoon as one of those things, like my reading of East of Eden, just a thing I always thought we would get to when we had more time, more money, more everything. There were back then, as I said, good reasons for us to postpone it, but eventually, like many events put on hold, the prospect of it too became just a joke, an obscure and unfunny footnote on our little golden nugget of history.
When a few years ago, just after I turned forty and the swift notion of Franca and I running a marathon together had come about, I was feeling what many other forty year olds feel, like I was sitting on a plateau of sorts with my job, my writing, and the humdrum routines that were involved in shaping my every day. It all just seemed so lacking a bit of the Buffett-trifecta of freedom, fun, and adventure. Where were the “good times, the riches, and son of a bitches” I’d one day sit down to recall? Was this my idea of growing older but not up?
I didn’t think so and thankfully neither did Franca. She agreed to the marathon and in January in the freezing cold rain we started the first of a rigorous four month training schedule. The experience when it had ended was truly brutal and beautiful, as anything worthwhile can be; and I guess that’s the point of all this, why our lost honeymoon has been on my mind now, at the halfway point in my life if I live to be ninety, nine short months after Lia’s diagnosis: At any moment things can change. It’s important every once in a while to take a break from the normal, remind yourself of the voyage you’re on and of the treasures that are important. Go on a long distance roadtrip. Discover some new port of call, dance a little, partake in the all night party, and if you find yourself on this journey in a race you never expected, know that it helps when you’re crossing the finish line if you’re holding on to someone else’s hand.
As for our honeymoon… well, as any of you other parents of young children with diabetes would likely agree: that will still have to wait.
But at least we can still train for it.