Although more than fifty years have gone by, the magic moment that Mary Patricia came into my life is as fresh as the morning dew, as clear as spring water, and yet just as warm as a mild fever. In my freshman year at Columbia College, with the pressures of final exams upon me, as I looked for a secluded spot to study I found myself in Avery Hall, where the music practice rooms were located. Mozart's magical music flowed from one of the rooms; it was the adagio of Piano Sonata No. 12.
Of course I learned that bit of information much later, since in those years I had no idea who Mozart was. Noticing that the pianist was repeating the adagio over and over I sat on the floor right outside the door and listened to it. Two hours later, the budding and determined concert pianist stepped around me, for I was glued to the spot, and gave me a quizzical look.
"I didn't want to disturb you," I said. "What is the name of that song you played for two hours?" "It's not a song, and you've been here two hours?"
Oh, heavenly bliss! Her voice was even sweeter than the music I had just heard. My musical ignorance, my heavy Spanish accent, and my less than imposing appearance gained her trust, for from that magic moment on Mary Patricia and I became inseparable lifetime sojourners.
Today as we enjoy our golden years, three children on their own, and two grandchildren to lavish love and gifts on, I feel that --free will notwithstanding- the touch of an angel nudges us humans in different directions. When Mary Patricia and I discuss the statistics that more than half of the people who get married end up divorcing, we are seized with infinite sadness.
I cannot imagine for one instant life without my beloved partner.
This is a story narrated in first person voice, so I cannot tell you what other people's feelings, thoughts, and attitudes toward life are. What follows are some of the canons that have guided my life in my marriage.
Because Mary Patricia likes to eat fruit every day, I made it a point to always bring home an apple, bananas, grapes, or cantaloupes. Of course I knew she went to the market and picked her own fruit. My gesture, though, was more spiritual than nutritional-never come home empty handed. Early in our marriage I learned that Mary Patricia wished to be consulted in all my decisions, no matter how petty or insignificant. So, I made the promise to myself that not only would I consult with her, but I would over consult.
Over consult I did. Except for that one time when I impulsively bought her a second piano. Not that she wasn't appreciative, but she let me know that had she been consulted she would have told me that she was pregnant with our third child and that it was time to save rather than to spend.
"With three children to support and put through Barnard College, you need to earn more money," she said.
Having already two girls, she was looking forward to a third one. "Why not Columbia College?" I asked, sounding like the ever macho-man from South America.
At that point in my career (30 years ago) I had been promoted to corporate controller and was earning a little under $ 100,000 a year. To my accountant's mind, that was a pretty good darn amount. And I considered myself a good provider. Yet hubris overcame my good sense and for a couple of weeks I chewed on the cud of resentment at the implication that I wasn't earning enough money.
Then one good day, Mary Patricia noticing my moodiness, said, "Money making will come easily to you when you think of those about you-not yourself. If I can see that you can, too."
That did it! I had been thinking of my own wonderful self and not of my loved ones. So I told Mary Patricia I would give up my job and I would become an investment banker. Without hesitation she agreed. That same day she went to the Coliseum Bookstore (Columbus Circle, long gone by now) and purchased all the necessary textbooks for me to study and pass the registered representative exams.
That evening she handed me the books and I handed her a colorful dish of juicy, sweet, diced cantaloupe, honey dew, and water melon--all laced with Merlot. To cap the evening she played for me the Mozart's adagio that had sent chills up my spine that fated day when I saw her for the first time. What did I see in her? Did I see the face of an angel, or the face of my mother whom I had left behind to come to this country? God only knows. If every man has an ideal image of a perfect woman, Mary Patricia was and is my "imago."
Today Mary Patricia no longer plays the piano, for her arthritis has invaded her legs and arms. The good Lord smiled on me and made me an even bigger provider, for my career blossomed and I retired a wealthy investment banker. We've sent our children to Ivy schools, have college funds for the grandchildren, and we live in a grand neighborhood with fine neighbors. Mary Patricia -a child of an old patrician wasp family from Boston-- reassures me that she married up when she married me - "a poor immigrant boy from the Andes."
Last Sunday after church we went to the street fair on Madison Avenue, not far from where we live on Park Avenue. To tell the truth, I can't think of a better way to spend a glorious afternoon in New York City than at a street fair.
And I pushed Mary Patricia's wheel chair the whole length of the fair-all twenty blocks.