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FEATURES Nov 16 2012 8:38AM

How I Met Carol’s Son-In-Law

It was April 6, 1989 when I met my husband, Gordon at the 308 Bar, which at the time was located at 308 West 40th street between 8th and 9th avenues in New York. I was there to sing back-up for my friend’s, Bert, band, and in walked this man. He was tall, handsome and wearing a beautiful turquoise T-shirt. Something about him looked out of place. I imagined he had wandered into the bar, looking for a restroom. Outside, I was sure he had someone waiting for him. He was just making a quick stop before going through the tunnel to his home in Jersey. As my fantasy played on in my mind I saw my "married" stranger chatting with Bert, and I thought, "Oh, he knows Bert. Perhaps he isn't here for the restroom but here to see the show." I then began to wonder if he would be going outside to the car my imagination had given him along with the young pretty wife, so that he could bring her in to enjoy the show, but he began to remove his jacket. My old fantasy ended and a new one began as Bert and my hopefully single stranger approached me.

Through the sound of my heart trying to pump itself outside of my body I was able to ascertain that my stranger's name was Gordon and that he was Bert's brother. He was also introduced as a percussionist who may join the band soon. "Yippee!"  My stranger, oh sorry, Gordon, Bert's brother, the percussionist, smiles at me and his eyes literally twinkled. I smiled back. I shook his hand and had to tell myself to let it go. Once he walked away, I began to grill Bert.

Me - "He's your brother? I met your brother. That's not him."

Bert - "Yes, Lisa. I have two brothers. Is that okay?"

Me - "Oh, two brothers. Well, Jeffrey is married. What about this one?"

Bert - "Nope. Very single."

We spent the evening smiling at each other. I caught him checking out my legs more than once and felt so very proud of myself. I had recently lost some weight and had been going to the gym quite a bit lately. I didn't ask for a phone number and neither did he, but we took our time bidding each other farewell, and there was lots of smiling going on.

I met him at a time when I wasn't really looking. I was, but I wasn't. I remember being in my kitchen a few nights prior, standing in front of an open fridge, looking at a collection of diet sodas, trying to decide which "delicious" treat I would drink that evening and I looked up to God and said, "I know how to be alone. I don't need someone to be with me to have fun. I can take care of myself. I can go to dinner alone, to the movies alone and I am happy. But, this can't be all that there is. I want to share my life with someone. Can you bring him to me please because I need him, but I don't "need" him?" God was listening.

It was four days after I met him, and I was once again standing in my kitchen when I decided to call Bert and get Gordon's number. It was 1989, and it was okay for me to make the first call. I was done with playing games with guys and done with rules and codes and trying to figure stuff out. No more. I was going to be straightforward and upfront. So, I called. I was not totally bereft of all feminine wiles so I used the "I-was-wondering-if-you'd-like-to-play-percussion-for-me" ruse to start off our conversation. A conversation that lasted seven hours. We talked about anything and everything. Nothing was off limits. We have been that way ever since. Gordon and I can talk about anything.

We started to be best friends that night, and though I never wanted to admit it to myself, we started to fall in love. I was always the hopeless romantic who fell too hard too soon. My honesty would scare men off. I wasn't clingy, but I was open and that wasn't always a good thing. But with Gordon, it was perfect. On our first date, nine days after we had met, he whispered in my ear, "Je t'aime." I only had a little high school French, but I knew what he said and assumed he did not know what he had said. I asked him and just like that he looked at me and said, "I said, I love you."

With that, I knew something special had happened. I had been hurt too many times for my head to completely accept what my heart knew to be true. It would take time for me to accept, with head and heart, that I had found that person. The one you can relax with, be you with. The one whom you don't lie to and who doesn't lie to you. The one who makes you smile and laugh. Who brings you flowers because it is Wednesday. Who calls you at work just to say he loves you and can't wait to kiss you later. The one who brings you fresh orange juice, and chicken soup when you are home sick with a cold. The one you marry.

Throughout our 23 and a half years together, almost 21 of those as husband and wife, we have been through a lot. He lost his father. I lost my mother. And also grandparents, a sibling, and aunts and uncles. We became parents for the first time together and then again. We lost a baby together and we adopted a baby together. We built a business together; without Carol's Son-In-Law, there would never have been a Carol's Daughter.

We have fought, gone to bed angry, questioned our lives together during rough patches but have always fallen back into each other's arms. Now, we are too smart to even question whether we should be together. That is inevitable at this point. So, if we fuss at each other now, it is more about how long each other needs to be upset and when can the other one say, "I'm sorry."

I believe it takes time to get there and unfortunately, it takes some pain. Hate is the other side of love. You cannot have one without the other. It is like yin and yang. They must be in balance and each needs its time to be but should never overshadow the other. I suppose that one could call that the Tao of Love.

After almost 21 years of marriage, we never say "Good-bye" without saying "I love you." We love a good Scrabble game and we both find an extensive vocabulary quite sexy in a mate. He is my Captain Correction. I will be told if I have used an incorrect word or punctuation mark, even if it is in a love letter or a "Honey-Do" list. And, I love it. I know he is telling me because he loves me and he knows I will be mortified if I misspell something in an official document. Gordon used to proofread every Carol's Daughter catalog before they went out because I know he would find something I missed.

Even though we have a lot in common, we are so very different. I am super-organized and he is NOT. I am calm and a bit of a homebody and he has ADD and needs to be on the go. I don't like heights and he adores rollercoaster’s—the higher, the better. We both love to read. I read romance books about vampires and witches and mysteries that keep me on the edge of my seat. Gordon reads non-fiction and car magazines and multiple newspapers. I run from current events and he cannot get enough. After 23 years I watch at least one newscast a day and have been found enjoying a lively discussion on world issues in CNN, and Gordon has watched a few Cary Grant films and even sat through Brigadoon, one of the best musicals ever.

The more time you spend together and the more you listen the more you rub off on each other and share your life. Through mistakes we both had made in previous relationships, we knew how important it was to respect each other and allow the other person to be who they are. You cannot change anyone who does not wish to change. And, you cannot survive in a relationship that requires you always be on "good" behavior. A good and strong relationship should give you the freedom to be bad. Remember, The Tao of Love. Good and Bad. Love and Hate, co-existing in balance.

Gordon and I try to remember to have fun. It is difficult because we have three children, I am just a little bit busy being Carol's Daughter, and Gordon has his own career as an audio technician. Life interferes on our time always and we have to be forceful and take it back. We tell each other "I love you" all the time. Gordon still buys me flowers just because it's Wednesday. We have done silly, impromptu things like going to Chinatown for soup late on a Saturday night, then driving to an all-night Indian market in Jackson Heights to buy spices. We got home at 2 AM, everyone was asleep and we had fun because we could be just us and still enjoy one another's company.

We also try to have date night from time to time. They are great even when the night doesn't go quite as planned. Throughout our relationship Gordon holds the record for picking, shall we say, interesting films and about a month ago we decided at the last minute to have a date night. It was a bit of a mess and the movie was, "interesting," but it was a great night because after the rain, getting lost, no ATM, popcorn concession being closed and a film that disturbed us and made us feel like we wanted to take a bath because the film was so dirty, and I literally mean dirty, muddy, and sweaty, we could still laugh. Still smile at each other over a bowl of noodles at Wo-Hop, just like we did 23 years ago.

He's my best friend, and I love him.

—Love, Lisa


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