Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Tuesday, September 21:

Yesterday, September 20, twenty-nine years ago, Lorraine and I got married. Right now our lives are in their usual turmoil, adjusted upwards by the work and anxiety involved in trying to get new projects into the air, but yesterday we let the work and the anxiety go, in favor of the day. We gave each other funny cards. I bought her some roses. We went to breakfast at Starbuck's, which we do many days, but lingered over the NYTimes. We went to lunch at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor. Ted Conklin, who has owned the place for the last forty years or so, was there, and that was appropriate, because it was at Ted's grandmother's place in Westhampton Beach that we got married; Ted comped us a piece of chocolate cake in honor of the day but had to run, so we couldn't reminisce with him. After 29 years there's so much to remember, but that day was a standout. We had a band, the late Jim Chapin's band, and I stood up and sang "Sweet Lorraine" with the band backing me up. The whole group sang "Bye Bye Blackbird," the whole group being the friends and family who had gathered. My brother came with his wife and kids. It was one of the few times I ever really impressed him, because Ted's grandmother's house was grand, with a sun room, a billiard room, a third floor full of maid's rooms, an elevator, and it was right on the water, not the ocean but the bay side of Westhampton Beach. We danced, we ate, we laughed a great deal, my son was best man and toasted us--what was he, 16?--and did it beautifully, as he has done pretty much everything his whole life, and my daughter gave me a big big hug and danced and laughed and it was a joy to watch. Then we drove away in Ted's 1963 Bentley Continental, switching to our own car down the road where it was stashed.

After lunch yesterday, which lasted until almost three, I had to run a writing workship at a cancer care foundation where I'm on the board, but that's hardly work; and then at six I went next door with a drink and we had dinner there later and the evening was special and sweet, as time spent with these old friends usually is. Altogether a splendid day.

And what can I say about this marriage after twenty-nine years? Well, what do you say of your elbow, or your hand, or your heart? We are very different people, we like different foods, we don't often watch television together, golf bores her while I find it fascinating--to watch, that is--and she likes to go to the movies and I usually don't. We think differently; I'm slow and deliberate, she's quick, mercurial. But life is unimaginable without her. She is as much a part of me now as my elbow, my hand, my heart. And we do share a great deal: our political opinions, our general take on life, what you might call the emotional core. We both cry very easily at sentimental scenes, yet we recognize in each other a hardness at the core that is the hardness the Irish poet Yeats captured in his own epitaph: "Cast a cold eye, on life, on death. Horseman, pass by!" We both understand how much luck determines happiness. We are both totally committed to the work that sustains us, and gives meaning to our lives.

Next year will be our 30th. We fought for a year or more right after we got married, and it was partly about those differences I mentioned above but mostly about power, and who had more of it in the relationship. That happens with strong-minded people. For a long time I doubted we would make five years, much less thirty. But we weathered the turmoil. We each learned how not to be right, or rather how not to regard it as all that important whether we were or not. It took a long time, but here's the result. Us. A commonwealth of two. I lead in some areas, she in others. It seems to work. So far. If we can keep it up, we'll probably have another party. Ask all our friends, our families. Hire a hall, maybe. And I'll sing "Sweet Lorraine" again. I'm getting pretty good at it.