Today walking in to school, I saw Marty, and we greeted each other cheerfully. "How are you?" I asked, falling into step. "Better," she said. We talked about the difficulties of the early days of separation. She decided to re-enroll as a full time student, and I told her, "Maybe it's what you need right now. Maybe you need to feel competant and smart. Maybe you need to reassure yourself that you can accomplish great things. And you can!" I assured her.
In our lifespan class, we got into a spirited debate about health care reform. There is no right or wrong answer, but we talked about people making poor choices for themselves. My take on it is that many people make poor life choices because they are discouraged and do not see the possibilities. Not at all. If children are raised in that sort of hopelessness, the cycle tends to repeat itself. No answers came from that short class, of course, and the debate threatened to roll on far longer than the alloted class time. The class walked out, but interestingly enough, although we are virtual strangers for the most part, people were talking about this situation. A farm boy said that he felt people did not know how to be self sufficient anymore. A single mother said she knew a lot of parents who were not trying hard enough to do right by their children. The debate continued as we walked downstairs and out the door. We were still at it in the parking lot. I like that. People need to think, to have opinions, to say what they think.
An elderly man watched me walk up the step, and when I knocked on the door, he came to the door, his elderly wife right behind him. "This will be the strangest question you get today, I imagine..." and I launched into how I'd taken a picture of their garage door and I was dying to know how a painting of Sydney Harbo(u)r wound up on a garage door in Jamestown NY. That a number of you were just as curious as I was.
And quite happily, without hesitation, they came out to their porch and unfolded a lawn chair to sit in to tell me the whole story.
Joann spoke first and animatedly, and then Peter spoke. I looked at him, and said, "You're Australian," and he made a face and gestured at the garage door. It made us all laugh. It turns out that Peter is actually a Pommie. His story begins in Yorkshire, UK. He moved to Sydney and lived there for 35 years. He was married, the father of a grown daughter. He was left a widower.
Joann was a widow here. She had a hard time adjusting, and her son gave her his old computer to entertain herself with. Laughing merrily, she said, "I played a lot of solitaire at first. Then he introduced me to ICQ, (an internet chat group)." She entered a profile, and one of the people that she began to chat with was Peter. This was in 1998, Peter told me, and Joann interjected, "He's very good with dates." They found that they had an awful lot in common, both of them having been in management, and both very much animal lovers. Before long, Joann was confiding in her brother that she thought Peter was quite wonderful. Her brother said, "Well, you'd best ask for a picture, because for all you know, you're corresponding with an aborigine with a bone in his nose!" To which Peter quipped, "I should have taken a picture of meself with a boomerang up me sleeve and a spear in me hand!"
In 1999, Peter made a trip to America to meet Joann, who moved a relative into the house for his visit, nervous to be alone with a person she'd met on the internet. Peter must have enjoyed his time with Joann, because he made a second trip over the same year. He finally moved here May 31st, 2000, and they married the second of August before his visa expired. Even their wedding was unique. There was a talk show host, Paul Hoeffler, that Joann listened to. "Oh, he was a very intelligent person!" she said, and Joann would call to take part in the on air discussions, and as a regular, she and the host got to be friends. She told him that she was engaged to be married to a man who was moving from Australia. "Get married on the air!" the talk show host said, and he set it all up. They were married by Mayor Teresi who gave Peter the key to the city. "What for?" I asked interestedly. "I guess because I was from Australia," Peter said in honest confusion. "And weren't they afraid you'd head right on back with the key?" I asked, and we all laughed some more. But Peter did not go back. In fact, the marriage was working out so well that in 2002, they married again in a church wedding.
Peter and Joann are two of the most joyous people I've met in a long time, content in their neat as a pin house with Purr-Purr, a huge tiger cat (with the greenest eyes I've ever seen), and Annie, a small white Chihuahua who listened to the story right along with me. The painting on the door was done by a local artist, Vicki Reding, from Randolph, NY. She also painted vines and humming birds on their kitchen cabinets, and they invited me in to see. We sat down in the livingroom to visit some more. There was a painting of Sydney on the wall, and I commented on it, rising to go take a look. Much to my surprise, it was stitchery, and it was done by Peter himself as a gift to Joann. It was exquisite. Peter allowed modestly that he was not very good with long stitch. I turned to stare in amazement. "I cannot imagine how this would have turned out had you actually known what you doing. It's beautiful!" We visited comfortably, the three of us, as I petted Purr-purr and listened to them. We talked about dogs and cats and life and cancer. Joann has dealt with it three times, and beat it each time that it's come up. She's a corker, and Peter listens to that part with great pride in his wife's courage.
I stepped out the door to their cheerful farewells. "Thank you, Debby!" they called, and promised to see if they can e-mail a picture. (Joanne was having a bad day and was shy about having pictures done.) You know sometimes how you just meet people and it just sort of magically works? 12 years ago, they met on line. It worked. Today, visiting them, I can tell you. There is still magic there. I know it for a fact, because I felt it myself.
Thanks, Peter and Joann, for the rest of that story.