Saturday lunches with Joanie.
Even before we were married, Saturdays were the day when we went for late lunch. This was the time we took for each other, and we’d usually go somewhere after the usual rush was over, that meant 1:30 or 2:00 in the afternoon.
This was our time together, a time for us to talk about what was going on in our lives, what we wanted to see going on in our lives, and of the future.
Our favorite place was the Ground Round. We’d usually find a high top near the windows that made the place seem warm, and there were even servers who came to know us over the years. We’d order something to drink when we sat down. For me, a beer, and for Joanie, depending on the time of year, it could be a gin and tonic, at other times, a glass of Chardonnay.
I think we enjoyed these Saturday lunches, because we liked each other’s company, and it would not be unusual for us to spend anywhere from an hour and a half to over two hours sitting, talking and nibbling on appetizers.
“I Wish Lunch Could Last Forever.”
That is the first line of a chorus, and the title of a song written by Jimmy Buffett, one of our favorite performers, and the words of that song described how I felt about those Saturday lunches, and possibly, in a most romantic sense, how much I thought of our lunches the same way.
“Make the whole day one big afternoon”
There were days when we’d go for lunch, when we’d spend most of the time dreaming about what we’d do if we won the lottery. I think a lot of people do that. We did it even though we knew it would never happen, but it was fun to imagine all of the good things we could do if it happened.
“We’ll begin with dessert a little coconut tart”
Lunch with Joanie always included talk of what was happening in politics. She had come from a political family, and had always been involved. That involvement got ramped up when she went to work for Ed Schafer, as director of the Schafer Volunteer Committee, and later for John Hoeven as director of the Hoeven Committee. So, you can see there was always something political to talk about.
“Mm, tastes as sweet as a piece of your heart”
There was always talk of family, both hers and mine. She had such a strong sense of family, and her family was a close family. Bud, Phyliss and her sister Ann and brother Richard. Later her sense of family would grow, when she found her natural family, and got to know her sister Ginny in St. Paul, and her natural mother’s sister, who she referred to as Aunt Del.
A close family tie was something we had in common, and it was something that made her a part of my family as well.
“Cafe Au Lait beneath the Paris moon”
We never got to Paris to sip Cafe Au Lait, but one of the things we did talk about, after we were married, was how much she wanted to go to Ireland. There was Irish in her blood, and I used to tell her that if we went over there, they would think you were a native with your thick, black hair, and fair complexion. Her adoptive parents, Bud and Phyliss were both full blooded Norwegians, and there was no way she could have been seen as a Norskie.
“I wish lunch could last forever”
Those lunches were often places where we did make decisions. It was one Saturday afternoon when we were planning our wedding in 1989, or more precisely, when Joanie was planning our wedding, when part of the ceremony was decided. Joanie wanted me to write something about the people who wouldn’t be there for our big day. Her dad, Bud Wigen had died in 1987. My dad Wes, had died in 1986, and my mother Marie had died in 1987. A younger sister of mine, Judy, had died in 1984. So I did as I was told.
“Make the whole day a first time love affair”
Joanie had this thing that happened to her after she took only a few sips of wine, and that is her cheeks would turn a bright red. They never got any redder if she had more than a few sips, but some days, when I would be drinking wine as well, we’d order another bottle, and while her cheeks never got any redder, her face took on this look, as if I was seeing her through a soft focus lens. The only way I could get her cheeks to redden even more was with some suggestive comment that would cause her to blush and smile.
“We’ll begin with a kiss, such a warm place to start”
After she was diagnosed in 1996, the lunches continued and became even more important. While there were many good years, interrupted by some difficult times, we kept our Saturday lunch dates with each other. Talks often now would include what was going on medically, and instead of wine, on many occasions, Joanie would have Diet Coke. There were other times, when wine was still the order of the day, depending on how she was feeling.
“Let me into your life, let me into your heart”
It was on some of these lunch dates, during difficult times, like the ones we were experiencing in the summer of 2007, when I would let her lead the discussion where she wanted it to go. I had always done that, since the beginning, and she would inevitably get around talking about something we needed to discuss. I never pressed, I just let it happen. It often told me more about what she knew about what was going on without me asking her if she really knew.
“Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa carnival’s in the air”
On such time happened that summer that made it clear to me she knew more than she ever talked to me about what was going on. We had found a booth in the back of the Ground Round ordered a sandwich we could split, Coke for her and beer for me. We sat there for a while, just chatting casually about what was going on, and what had gone on since the June 8th meeting in Minneapolis. She was back taking chemo again, and handling it well, but obviously there was something on her mind.
When she looked at me and said, “Do you think we should talk to an attorney about doing something about Power of Attorney?” I tried not to look surprised when I heard that question, and not give away how shocked I was to hear it from her. I just quietly told her that was something to think about, and if she felt strongly about it, we could sure contact someone to talk about it.
She told me she didn’t know what made her think about it today, but it told me she knew more about what was going on than I was aware. It told me that in her moments alone, at night before sleep came, she was thinking about what was happening to her body, and she looked smaller and more vulnerable than ever, and I loved her even more.
We never got to Paris, nor did we get to Rio for Carnival, but we did have our Saturday lunches, and whenever I hear that song, I think about those days and how much they meant to both of us.
Whenever I played that song at home, and it was just Joanie and I, with some wine and bread, I could see the sparkle in her bright blue eyes, and I knew she felt the same.
Thanks to Jimmy Buffett for giving voice to my wish, and what could have been.