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This morning I mailed a Valentine’s Day card to a woman I haven’t seen or talked to in 40 years. I added a personalized inscription, “Do you remember where I put the car keys?”

The woman was once my wife. I married Rachel because I liked her family…

particularly her dad, Homer. Don’t get me wrong, I was enormously fond of Rachel and enjoyed being with her. We were comfortable with each other. But, I was a restless 21-year-old male and had as much business being married as a dog has running a bank.

We met at Foothill Junior College. Might have spotted her in my economics class, although I’m not sure. Looking back, I don’t remember why I took an economics class, but I did.

Rachel was small, slender, with shoulder-blade-length black hair, and a chip on her shoulder covering a big soft spot. She and her younger sister, Gretchen (auburn hair, great tits, broad hips, someone I frequently fantasized sleeping with), lived with their parents in Los Altos Hills, California, a town of 7000 exceedingly rich white people near Stanford University. Saying that, it was a house, not a mansion. No servants, only three, albeit oversized, bedrooms, living room, family room, dining room, big kitchen, big garage, wine cellar, on a two-acre lot.

My marriage wasn’t about dad’s money. I was oblivious to money then; in fact, I never thought about, much less received, money from Rachel’s family. It was drinking French wine and arguing politics with Rachel’s dad that hooked me. We sat in front of a huge, adobe-styled fireplace and watched oak logs blaze. Dad was a doctor, back in the days when general practitioners were respected, earned enough money to live in a rich person’s town, and drove, in this case, a Jaguar XKE.

Homer was one of those men who seemed taller than he was. He couldn’t have been more than five-nine, but that was packaged in a stocky linebacker’s torso. He had wide shoulders for his height, thick neck, and a shiny, egg-shaped, bald dome. This was set over an oversized, immaculately trimmed, white beard. The beard was simply magnificent. As bonus, Homer’s cheekbones were set high, causing raven eyes to squint mightily, which, in turn, begot the visage of a jolly, trustworthy St. Nick. Nothing could be further from the truth.

He wore a bowtie to work and Brooks Brothers leisure clothes at home. I have never seen, before or since, a more meticulously dressed man. He always looked as if he’d stepped out of a hot shower, skin pink almost to scalding, wearing just-out-of-the-box pants and shirt and sweater, finished out with perfectly shined shoes.

On weekends, and more than a few weekdays, Homer and I took our positions in front of the mock-adobe fireplace, listened to classical music on his multi-thousand-dollar stereo, drank expensive wine, and goaded each other. I laughed. He cackled. Politically, Homer was Generalissimo Franco-right-wing-fascist and read a lot. I was commie-youth-anarchist and read a lot. He had a wine cellar. I had an appreciation.

I can remember Homer’s voice, especially his cackle, as clearly as if I had spoken to him yesterday. I don’t remember Rachel’s voice, and I don’t recall how it was we agreed to marry. I do remember the wedding. It was held at Homer’s house, in the rarely used living room, the room with a wall of windows on the south side looking down on a protected forest.

None of this seemed odd to me at the time. If you asked, I would have told you I loved Rachel — I would have said all the right things — and further, if you observed that I seemed to like Rachel’s family, particularly her father, more than I liked Rachel, I might have decked your impertinent ass on the spot.

My father was sick, needed care from my mother. They lived in Georgia. My two brothers and sister lived on the East Coast, too, so, to my great relief, no family member of mine attended the wedding. There were, say, 30 people there: Rachel’s family members, cousins, and a few friends. I liked, and to a certain extent, knew, everyone there. It was a party like many I’d attended at Homer’s house, except, on this occasion, the festivities were celebrating me and mine. I regarded that as a good thing. There was a soft-spoken minster, who did his duty quickly, pocketed the 40 bucks I handed him, and left.

Now what?

The Vegas Line can be found at SDReader.com, click on “Sporting Box.” The line will return to the print edition when the NFL season begins.

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jmr1944 Feb. 14, 2008 @ 2:01 p.m.

Now what, indeed? I can only hope for more. I can appreciate -- indeed, you make me relive with you -- the lure of marrying a gestalt rather than some damp young person who has only recently pecked through the eggshell. Now in my case of me and my bride, our tribes were in many ways similar, starting at the dysfunctions and right on up to ... yet more dysfunctions. We did not really like one another's families. That was not the attraction. I suppose she wanted to rescue me from my family and I wanted to rescue her from hers. What came after would take more than this comment box to describe. But we're still together, so I suppose it was a creative tension.


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