Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Married and Buried, Period

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 9:06 am on Sunday, September 4, 2022

by Robert M. Katzman © September 4, 2022

A Bob and Nancy story from their upcoming book:

Bob’s ‘Eve’ Odyssey: His Search for Nancy

We first began to look for a wedding planner in Racine, mistakenly thinking that small town Racine had small town prices in it for wedding planners. We weren’t certain we could do whatever we were gonna do without some professional help. Of course, as we soon learned, the State must be fed first before mere people can get married. 

So on a cold winter morning, Nancy and I went into the tall, layer cake style Art Deco style building where the State lives in Racine. As an artist and photographer, I have long thought that in any other sizeable town or city, this beautiful building would be a celebrated tourist attraction. But this town is mute on some of its beauties, so to everyone else, I guess it’s a tall grey stone structure out of the way in Downtown Racine, blocks away from Main Street.

After stripping to our underwear, almost, to get past the two stern security guards and their big metal detecting doorway, we then wearily reassembled all of our bits and pieces and asked the actually very nice guys stuck with a lousy sort of job about where we go to get a marriage license. That was when we first realized that we were now magically transformed into two cuddly, adorable old people, charmingly in love as we doddered our way through the empty hallway toward the door of the place where marriage licenses get issued. 

This was going to happen to us over and over. Something about old people choosing to actually getting married instead of continuing to live in sin, though slower now, captured all sorts of people’s imaginations. It was fascinating.

When we reached the license window and announced our intentions, all the women in the little office came over to look at us, like we were new puppies in a window. Then they all smiled at us. We asked what we had to do, the youngish woman behind the counter very slowly and in a slightly louder voice, so we could both hear her, of course, told us we had to pay $100 in cash money to get our license. No bit coin, freshly tanned opossum skins or fat rolls of Wisconsin Chedder Cheese for these dedicated State employees. We nodded that we heard them and also understood every word she said to us.

Then she showed us a list of judges who we could pick to marry us. I noticed that none of the ten names were Jewish-looking, which remained an ongoing surprise for this life-long Chicago boy. It was true of everything here, where guys like me were one tenth of one percent of the five million Wisconsin people. But I said nothing because no one present would have a clue about my past exposure to a quarter million of such people fifty miles south of them. Did it matter?

I don’t know. Makes me feel lonely sometimes, that’s all.

Nancy and I looked over the list, murmuring to each other that we’d like a woman to marry us. There were several among the ten. So I looked up into the expectant eyes of the woman watching us, and asked her who she liked, like we were picking which horse might be a winner in the fifth race that day. Gotta hot tip, lady?

The woman pointed to one name, said she was very nice and that we’d like her, then she gave us the judges phone number. Wow, small towns. Now we have the phone number of a judge. The woman behind the glass told us that there was a customary fee of around $200 or something like that, because this was part of the revenue a judge gets when they are appointed to the bench. Even after years of law school, in Wisconsin, judges are partially paid in chickens and ham hocks. Yeah, that’s why there ain’t no Jewish judges here in hick-town, man.

We thanked her, went outside into the cold, got into our car, started the engine with the heat on, then dialed the number—ok, no one dials anything anymore, but it was so nice to look at in my silent typing machine.

We called her, and the judge answered immediately: 

No waiting, folks. We got judges standing by, ready to receive your calls, anytime at all

The judge asked us a few questions, when we wanted to come to her chambers, what our names were, our birthdays, and then she began to laugh.

We had to wait. 

When the nice judge was composed again, her tone was completely different.

She told us there would be no charge for us. She rarely married people our age and it made her feel very happy that older people would formalize their remaining lives by deciding to marry. We gave her a date, thanked her effusively and said good-bye. Then we looked at each other. Maybe this ‘old people getting married’ thing was filled with nice surprises. And we kissed.

A couple of weeks later, with a few of our friends standing up for us, we gathered in the judges chambers to get married. We were very spiffy with flowers and everything. Then the judge turned to me and asked for my marriage license, which would show her we had the State fee. 

I replied no, that I didn’t have it.

She looked at me curiously and said,

“You’re kidding me, right?”

I said, 

“No, your Honor, I’m not. No one told me I was supposed to have it in order to get married”. 

I told her I had no idea, and she began to laugh. I told her the last time I bought a marriage license was 1978 and I didn’t remember exactly everything I was supposed to do forty-four years later, in a different state, too.

Our friends looked a little disconcerted. Nancy more than a little bit. I asked the judge should I go home and get it, because I knew exactly where it was.

She smiled, looked around, asked me to promise to bring it to her immediately after the marriage ceremony took place and I promised. I ain’t lying to no judge, not me, man.

She married us, I kissed Nancy, we all took pictures and shook hands and then I raced home to get that license, which the judge then signed. We were legal now. Married people.

After saying good-bye to our friends who came there for us, we then drove about three blocks and walked into the largest non-denominational funeral home in town. Nancy was surprised at this one-two punch sort of thing, but I told her what the hell? Let’s kill two birds with one stone.

Ok, I didn’t say that. I told her both parts were very important, and the dying part was closer for us than younger people getting married, so let’s deal with it and not have to think about it ever again. Married and buried within one hour. I am the soul of efficiency.

I knew the man running the place because we had arrived at a price when it was pretty certain Joy was going to die. He was fair and reasonable, aware of my limited resources and that with Joy dead, half of my income went with her. I was paying him every month, but Joy died before my monthly payments to him were finished. But I kept on paying him, because I promised to do that. I believe it impressed him that my word and a handshake still meant something.

However, her funeral, with its cremation and the use of nice room for an hour cost too much for my present circumstance with Nancy, and I talked to the man before I went there that day, so he knew what my intentions were.

I shook hands with him, told him it was important to me to not let my children have to figure out what to do with us when we died, and we wanted everything resolved right then in his office if the offer I made to him, which was a chunk each less than what Joy cost, was acceptable to him. I doubled the smaller number it to cover both Nancy and myself at the same time. I wanted no funeral plots which I believed no one would ever come to visit, no concrete liner, no casket, no headstone. All of that was a massive money pit to me and I wanted no part of it in death.

Nancy and I agreed that cremation was best for both of us and the Planet, too. It wasn’t the Jewish way, but God could talk about that with me when the time came. I’ve never been too keen on asking permission to live my life.

I told Nancy if I went first, I wanted my ashes sent into the wind in the Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado. I’d been there when I was a teenager and that incredible impact of a kind of beauty beyond belief was permanent within me. Nancy replied that she wanted to have her ashes spread over water someplace beautiful, like maybe Lake Superior.

He was a kind man, younger than me, perhaps appreciated my business-like way of dealing with something inevitable under less than perfect circumstances. I felt that in his world, it might be that the more glorious funerals covered the shortfalls in offers like mine. Or maybe he was just being a good Christian, which I mean in the best sense of those words.

He agreed immediately, not causing me to squirm while he thought it over, which was a classy way for him to be, and we firmly shook hands on it, sealing the deal like both of our grandfathers, Christian or Jewish, would have done a century before either of us. He had the papers drawn up, Nancy and I looked them over as it was explained to us and then we signed the two contracts and made the first payment for both of us. Married and buried, period.


Comment by Nikolaos

September 4, 2022 @ 10:01 am

Heartfelt congratulations to both of you!

Bob, I like your down-to-earth realism and your sense of humor.

Comment by Jim Payne

September 4, 2022 @ 3:21 pm

Bob, thank you for another excursion through one of your life adventures visible to us only because you guided us. Your stories tell more than a tale. They visit the mind of an amazing man to share your unique view of life.

Comment by Kumari De Silva

September 6, 2022 @ 2:26 pm

Oh my god, I found this piece fascinating. I don’t have parents (my mom died when I was 20 and my dad. . . well let’s just say that didn’t work out) and so I find this kind of information useful, interesting, and wow. Just wow, who knew?

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