Today, Dec. 7, 2011, Bryan and I are celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We are happily married and share a wonderful life with our teenage daughter Mariah. Our relationship has defied the odds. I have told our unusual story many times and it remains one of the most popular narratives on the internet. Here it is:
Living Rooms and Leaky Roofs
Instinctively, I knew something significant was about to happen this Saturday morning November 16th, 1985, but exactly what, I wasn’t sure. I climbed the ladder leading to the top of my inner-city cottage in a noble attempt to repair my leaky roof. Raindrops rhythmically filled the buckets in the back room as the biggest storm of the year began to descend upon San Francisco. My financial situation was bleak; I could not afford a professional roofer. Armed with ebony tar and plastic sheathing I attempted to hoist myself over the gutter. Unfortunately, I wasn’t tall enough. I never liked being short. And that day, I hated it. I also didn’t much like the fact that I was a single woman and must attack this task alone.
I combed the block to borrow a taller ladder but none of my neighbors were home. Then, I noticed the front door was open to the second story flat in the building directly across the street. I knew at least two guys lived there. Earlier in the summer they had flirted with me. I remember thinking how young they were compared to most of the folks who had been in the neighborhood forever. With trepidation I climbed the worn stairs to the apartment in the azure painted Victorian. I let myself in, walked down the long corridor to the main living room, and introduced myself to the stranger lounging on the sofa. He was shocked; he didn’t recognize me either.
Without hesitation I said, “I know you don’t know me, but will you please help me fix my roof?” There was a lengthy silence. I came to my senses and felt the flush of embarrassment. “Oh, I’ll understand if you don’t want to. I’ll wait for your roommates to get home. What time do you expect them?” They were the ones that had ‘come on’ to me, not this sandy-haired fellow who was now staring at me with a bewildered expression. After an excruciating wait he said, “I’ll help you.” Slowly he got up from his relaxed position to change into coverall work clothes.
As he lingered in his bedroom I thought to myself, “Am I crazy? Am I pre-menopausal? Does this happen in middle-age; you lose your mind?”
As he walked out of his room he told me his name was Bryan and I told him I was Kay. He then proceeded with my eccentric request as though the labor was routine. He hauled the supplies to the roof while I frantically tried to straighten up my house. After some time he told me he needed more tar. I agreed to make the trip to the local hardware store.
What I neglected to tell Bryan was I didn’t have a car; the trip to the store was to be on foot. I was in a bind; I had less than $20 to my name and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make the purchase. Luckily I had just enough with a few bucks left over to buy each of us an apple fritter.
When I returned, my new acquaintance said, “Where have you been? The ladder fell away from the house and I have been waiting for hours!” He was stuck on the roof. It kept going from bad to worse. What could I do to thank him for his generosity? Lunch was out of the question; my refrigerator was empty, with the exception of ten bottles of nail polish. Varying from shades of mauve to darker mauve (they basically all looked alike) the bottles were lined up neatly in the portable vegetable crisper. There was no food! It was then I remembered the pastry. As Bryan washed his hands, having finished the repair, I offered the apple fritter. He said, “Sorry I don’t like apples.” I felt dejected and thought, “Who doesn’t like apples?”
Self-consciously I replied, “Well I wanted to do something womanly for you.” By the look on Bryan’s face I knew I had contracted ‘Foot in Mouth Disease.’ I’ll never forget his expression! I practically choked trying to cover up such a major faux pas. Something womanly indeed! What I meant was something involving baking, but you can’t make brownies with nail polish. It didn’t seem to matter that I had nothing reciprocal to offer. We talked in my kitchen for over an hour. I found him attractive and virile and I remember thinking, “What a nice guy; too bad he is at least a decade younger than I.”
When it was time for Bryan to leave, we paused at the front door. He said, “We have pizza parties at our apartment every week, would you come?”
I was flattered and at the same time a little sad. My answer was, “I am probably older than your mother.” I wasn’t kidding.
He replied, “That’s ridiculous. How old are you?”
I knew I would never need to tell my age because surely he wouldn’t pursue me after today. Shyly I responded, “I’ll tell you the next time we get together.”
He quickly said, “We don’t have to wait for pizza parties. Will you have dinner with me Monday night?”
I was dumbfounded. My answer was yes but I felt uneasy about my decision. The minute I heard Bryan walk down the steps I ran to the telephone to call my dear friend Rosemary. She gave me ‘thumbs up’ and encouraged the date. She said, “Go out and have fun; you don’t have to marry him!”
Monday morning I found a sopping note from Bryan on the front stoop. It said he was called to work on the ship and he had to cancel our dinner. I was disappointed and I am not sure I believed him. I thought he might have reconsidered because I was an older woman.
The phone rang Tuesday while I was giving myself a manicure. It was Bryan. He wanted to come over and hang out. Hang out? I wasn’t sure what that meant. I said yes and put away the polish. When he arrived I was fanning my wet nails in the air. He told me to finish the job; I didn’t have to stop to entertain him. The subject of my age came up. The words were stuck to my throat and I hesitantly coughed the answer, “I’m 44.”
“You are older than my mother but I’ve always dated older women.” I felt the floor sink beneath me. Bryan was 25 years old.
Our first official date was the following Saturday evening. As we sat on velvet paisley cushions on the floor of an authentic Moroccan restaurant, eating with our fingers, a tidal wave of energy flowed between us. Our feelings were raw and primitive yet noticeably familiar. We felt our connection was distinctive. After dinner we walked a few blocks to Ocean Beach. Luminous stars were dancing over the swell of the waves surging to the water’s edge. With our feet in shallow sand, Bryan kissed me for the first time. I was swallowed by passion, lost somewhere between confidence and panic. I was falling in love. Do I dare?
Within six weeks Bryan moved across the street to my house. I remember thinking, “If it doesn’t work out it will be easy for him to move; his inventory consists of a few clothes and a TV.” Almost immediately we began talking of marriage and sharing the rest of our lives together.
Before we could announce our engagement Bryan was adamant that he would tell his mother of our plans. The first time he flew to southern California alone for a weekend visit. When he returned Sunday morning I said, “Did you tell her, did you tell her?”
“I couldn’t,” was his reply. My heart sank. “You will have to meet her first.”
The very next weekend we both drove to Laguna. On the way there Bryan told me how he was going to break the news to his mom. He planned to take her shopping the next morning while I stayed with his aunt. I had a wicked stomach ache the entire eight-hour trip. I didn’t sleep a wink that night and spent time in the bathroom vomiting. This was one of the most fretful days of my life.
Returning from their shopping trip Bryan’s mother looked like she had been to a funeral. She took the news hard but was gracious to me the rest of the weekend. When we were getting ready to return to San Francisco she said, “I remember telling Bryan he would never meet anyone sitting in his living room. This could be interesting having a peer for a daughter-in-law. At least we’ll have the same taste in music.”
Today Bryan’s mother and I have a great relationship as I do with his siblings. No one seems to be the least concerned about our age difference, just as it is with Bryan and me. I can honestly say we don’t even think about it, only perhaps when writing an article or seeing a celebrity couple in the news. Sixteen years ago we adopted a beautiful baby girl at birth when I was 54 and this year we are celebrating our 25th Anniversary. We both feel fortunate I needed my roof repaired that rainy day many years ago in San Francisco.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MY DEAREST HUSBAND BRYAN