Getting Married, Sort Of
I met my wife on the wards at Bethesda Naval Hospital during my surgical residency. She was a Navy nurse and it was definitely NOT love at first sight. She says I insulted her the first time I spoke to her. I didn’t see it that way, but given my personality at the time, it’s certainly possible.
Our mutual duties (she was the charge nurse on one of the main surgical floors) forced us into frequent contact and over time we came to trust one another’s abilities. She was a good nurse and a no nonsense leader.
By the end of my second year, I trusted her implicitly. She would often write routine orders during the night shift rather than awaken me for it, and then shove the charts under my nose before morning rounds and say, “This is what you did last night.” Of course, that meant that she trusted me as well to sign the orders. It could mean her license and a court marshal if I didn’t.
By my fourth year, she’d forgotten the insult (or at least forgiven it. She’s Sicilian. They never forget anything.) and we started dating. Within a few months, I’d asked her to marry me and she had said yes. That surprised both of us. My first marriage had left me with a cynical view of marriage and relationships in general. She had frequently said to anyone who’d listen that she would not marry a doctor, and most especially would never marry a surgeon. Sometimes God has a delicious sense of irony.
We planned a March 1984 wedding, as it fit into the surgical rotation schedule and we could get leave together for a honeymoon. I had started to badger my detailer in July of 1983 to get orders to Guam after my residency. By September I learned that Guam would indeed be my first duty station. Everything seemed to be going according to plan.
Then on the first of November I got a form letter requesting my spouses name, rank and service number so that accompanied orders could be cut. Accompanied orders meant that we would both go to Guam, rather than me spending two years alone there. It seems we had to actually BE married by the end of November, or the orders would be solo.
We scrambled around and got the marriage license. The 18th of November was a clinic day, which meant I had an hour and a half between morning and afternoon clinics to get married. Michele was off that day so all we needed was a witness.
I dragooned my junior resident, Rick Furman, a good friend from medical school and my best man at our church wedding in March, and we rushed up to the courthouse in Rockville, Maryland. Michele met us there. She was in a short red dress. Red is the Chinese color for good luck and she didn’t have a casual white dress.
We were ushered into the Justice of the Peace and he began the traditional civil ceremony. Then the pager went off.
Rick excused himself to go to the pay phone in the lobby to answer the page. This was pre-cell phone days. The JP waited until he returned. Michele and I struggled not to laugh. We weren’t taking this very seriously, I’m afraid.
Three more times as the JP struggled to get through the ceremony, Rick had to answer pages. By the third time, Michele was laughing out loud and had a hard time saying ‘I do’ with a straight face.
Finally the Justice said, “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride.”
Michele turned her face to me and I kissed her cheek. She was wearing bright red lipstick. I hate lipstick. To this day, I won’t kiss my wife if she’s wearing lipstick.
The JP signed the registry, but he looked a little reluctant. I’m sure he thought this was a green card wedding. But at least we had a proper marriage to show the detailers so they would cut our accompanied orders.
It’s been 31 years, and the adventure continues with love, passion, laughter and friendship.