Monday, May 27, 2024

How I Met Your Grandmother

So, my grandchild, you want to know how I ended up marrying such a beautiful, intelligent, loving, caring woman, when I am… well, me. I’ll tell you the story.

Once upon a time, I went to Northwestern University. What I did not know was that your grandmother was there at the same time. We never met there. However, I did meet Phil, with whom I started a band, and who became my roommate in junior year. While we were at college, we went to parties, and at one party, I met her sister Mary Beth Cregier, whom I learned Phil liked. Nothing much came of that then, but several years after graduating (it was October 17, 1987), we were at the Beaumont, a bar in Chicago. Phil was ready to leave but I wanted to hang around a bit longer. Some minutes later, I nudged Phil and said “Don't look now, but Mary Beth Cregier” is here. I pronounced it Cree-ger, only learning later that it rhymes with Kier (which rhymes with beer), like “Creh-geer”. Mary Beth was there with her other sister Donna. I had not heard the term “wingman” before, but that's what I was doing. I tried to keep Donna entertained, who at the time was a gorgeous model and was sporting that bored, unimpressed look that so many beautiful women show when they are not interested. Phil and Mary Beth talked about her career in commercial photography, and his career trading options at the CBOE. Through some idea he had about making a calendar of the girls of the CBOE, he eventually started dating Mary Beth. I did not see Donna again for a long time. 

In the meantime, I dated some other women. At some point, Mary Beth tried to fix me up with a friend of hers. She, her friend, Phil, and I had a double date dinner. But we weren't really a match.

Phil and Mary Beth were a match and continued to date. When I was between girlfriends, I would be a third wheel out with them. Mary Beth would try to get me interested in her sister Cathleen. Sometimes it was a funny story. Sometimes it was how we were similar, or how I’d like her. But I wasn't very eager for another blind date. 

After another failed relationship, I was living in Chicago, on Broadway at Wellington, and decided to have a party. 

I invited friends, band members, and co-workers from Chicago and Evanston. I thought, here's my opportunity to meet Cathleen in a less pressured blind non-date situation. It was May 14th, 1988. She was gorgeous, which I don’t remember being told before. It should have been obvious because her sisters Mary Beth and Donna were too. Long, naturally curly reddish-brown hair, bright blue eyes, and a beautiful face accented by an effortless smile. What we talked about, I can't recall. She did later tell me that my long hair and interesting outfit made an impression. I was still in a rock band, so I had some interesting clothes. Anyway, the next thing that happened was a double date with Phil, me, and the sisters Mary Beth and Cathleen at the Charleston bar in Chicago.

When we met, I was working in Evanston as a typographer, reverse commuting via El train (with no car or place to park it). I was in a band named Friendly Fire. Cathleen had a Psychology degree from Northwestern, had worked as an ER unit clerk and a dispatcher at Regional Emergency Dispatch, then went to Rush University to get a Nursing degree. She was working as an RN at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, commuting in her used Dodge Aries K Car. (She would eventually get a Masters, then a Doctorate in Nursing, becoming a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Geriatrics.) 

Anyway, that first date went well, so we had some one-on-one dates, such as dinner at No Hana or Shiroi Hana. We went to movies. We had dinner with Mary Beth and Phil. My cousin Aaron was in Chicago, so we ate at The Yugo Inn and went to Max Tavern. Later in June, she took a longed-planned vacation to Ireland with her parents. For that, I made her a mix tape to miss me by, then I missed her for nine days. 

On my calendar for July 3, 1988, I wrote "Navy Pier" and "Love". We went for the fireworks. The next day, we went to Grant Park for a picnic with my cousin Aaron and Cathleen's sister Donna. Here we are:

Kier & Cathleen, July 4, 1988

By her birthday, July 12 (less than two months after meeting), she was ready for me to meet her parents. We went to their home in Harwood Heights for a birthday party. I don’t remember much about it, so it wasn’t a disaster. 

Sometimes I found myself looking for flaws in her beauty to try to explain why she was with me. Eventually, I learned that stunningly beautiful women attract narcissists and pathological liars, and otherwise normal men who will lie to impress someone they feel is out of their league. I was apparently not one of those, except for the out-of-their-league part. Or as my friend Neil, who was my roommate at NU freshman and sophomore year, said later about why our respective wives are with us, “because most men are a-holes.”

In time, I found myself writing “The Way I Do,” a love song for Cathleen. You can hear it on the Internet, assuming the website is still there. Just in case, here are some of the lyrics:

Is this feeling an illusory notion?
Do all my traumas fade away?
But they're the building blocks of my emotions
The past is always here to stay

The way I love you
I love you the way I do

Finally, an equilibrium of desire
An ideal intersection of our space
A symmetry in what we require 
Emotional progress at a logical pace

The last known romantic in a world full of cynics
Where everyone survives on his own
You're never more alone than when you've been together
You're never more together than when you've been alone

Okay, it's not a Shakespearean sonnet. I was in my twenties. One year later I wrote another song for Cathleen called "One Year Later," followed over the years by "I Still Need You," "Far Above Rubies," "Silver Lining," and the forthcoming "Nothing Can Separate Us." We even wrote songs together, such as “Healer of Our Hearts” and “Hope for You All.”

After we had declared our love for each other, I wondered if we should marry. I was somewhat leery because my parents had divorced. I mentioned that to my mother, and she said not to let that sway me, that anyway they had almost 20 years good years, plus three wonderful children to show for it. “Besides,” she said, “you’re not going to do better than her.” Neil echoed that sentiment. “You’re not going to meet anyone better who gives you the time of day.” 

Later I would marvel at how we had not met at Northwestern. Were we fated to meet? Was I always looking for her, but didn’t know it? Such is the romantic thinking of young lovers. 

So, I proposed to her in May of 1989, a year after we met. I knew she would say yes because we had already discussed who we would invite to a wedding if we got married. And planned the restaurant where I would propose. And the engagement ring. We then planned the wedding for the following year, on May 27, 1990. By the time of our rehearsal dinner, Neil said he had thought Cathleen was “one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, but that’s the least of her qualities.” We were wed in Chicago at the 2nd Unitarian Church on Barry Avenue, by a Catholic priest and a Unitarian minister. We had a wonderful two-week honeymoon in California: Half Moon Bay, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Yosemite National Park, and visiting my father Barry, his wife Yvonne, and my half-brother Brendan in Nevada City. 

Conor was born in 1992 and Liam in 1996. Your parents know the rest. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I enjoyed that reminiscence. I remember that part about Cathleen's beauty being during a toast at a lovely garden party Mary Beth threw for you two, and being a little more drawn out — something along the lines of, "When I first met Cathleen, of course I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. But as I got to know her better, I discovered that was the least of her qualities..." Or words to that effect.