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bila-3Tribute to Diana ...
 (copyright © 2012 by Towne Square America™)

A Celebrating a Life Together
by: Bil. Alvernaz (05/02/2010)

What follows is my twofold gift and tribute to Diana for her birthday on May 2nd and our wedding anniversary, coming up on July 11th ... both stories really do just fit together in a perfect juxtaposition ... and, especially now, with everything “in transition” as far as what comes next for us, it just seemed like a great time to “put it all into perspective” ... who Diana is, how insightful, perceptive, clever, intuitive, realistic, caring, helpful, creative, and nice she really is, and how, together, we are having this most amazing journey together “as one” in a relationship that, to me, sets the standard for the way two people should walk together, finding their way, hand in hand, on the serpentine pathway of life.

And, so on your birthday, Diana, I give to you this Rosy Bouquet of Words (all ten thousand of them), brimming with our most favorite photos, right here, smack dab, in the middle of the Towne Square America Pavilion Bandstand (which also happens to be the exact Center of the Internet and the interaction of the “play of words” in your intellect) for one and all to see ...

“ving been some days in preparation, a splendid time is guaranteed for all!”
- Being for the Benefit of Mt. Kite - The Beatles

There are three parts to all of this saga:

I first heard her name on May 2, 1964, in San Jose, California. It was her 15th birthday. I was going steady with her older sister, Kitty, and she said her family was going to be “celebrating Diana’s birthday” so we couldn’t go out that night. I had heard the name Diane before, but never Diana ... It just had a ring to it. Then, after I was no longer going steady with Kitty, I saw Diana at the Santa Cruz Beach Board Walk late one afternoon during Easter Vacation Break. The multicolored lights of the merry-go-round back lighted her silhouette in a golden glow. Her blue eyes seemed even brighter in the fading light of day. And, that smile ... if there is one special aspect of Diana, it is that warm and wonderful smile. We talked there at the Board Walk for hours, just walking around, and from then on, we were together all the time.

Diana - high school graduation JUN67 a-thFrom grabbing Me-n-Eds’ Pizzas after I would get off work from Purity Grocery Store and being together on the day of her graduation from high school in June of 1967 to the 36 hour nonstop marathon of driving from San Jose to Disneyland and back (700+ miles), just in time for me to get to work (and go nonstop for another 24 hour straight hours that including going out with Diana and taking her to the movies), Diana and I spent as much time together as we possibly could ... until I headed off for the Air Force (on a military Texas serial number). From that point on, we wrote letters to each other all the time and, because I had “connections” with communications guys in the Air Force for WATTS lines, I was able to call Diana two or three times a week from Syracuse, New York (at no cost) ... to talk for hours on end (thanks to the local Air Force “installation” at Monte Umunum in the Los Gatos Foothills where I was “linked in” to local phone lines).

Diana in Corvette - closeup APR67-thI went into the Air Force on July 19, 1967, after spending two straight days with Diana. Her cousins dropped me off at the Alameda Induction Center (near Oakland, California) where those of us “going in” that day had to step over Joan Bias and her group of war protesters. I was then processed and ready for my first ride on a jet airliner (TWA), but there was some sort of issue about where we were going to be sent for basic training. There was a meningitis outbreak, so we were delayed a day in leaving. But, the very next day we were on our way, late in the day, landing in Austin, Texas. We then got “herded” on to a bus and headed to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas ... we arrived late in the evening where we were promptly put on another bus and then shuttled way up to Amarillo, in the northern panhandle of Texas. Because of the Meningitis problem, we ended up at an officer training facility where we were “bunked” three guys to a room with air-conditioning (something unheard of for basic training). Actually, we never really had basic training. It was more like Boy Scout Camp where we usually watched movies in the afternoon. I still look at this “turn of events” as the real beginning of this enchanted life I have led.

Bil in his room OCT68 a-thAnd, that’s where Diana truly enters the picture as that special of all special people in my life. When I was finally able to “call out” after settling in to the “grueling schedule” of slapstick-like “Army training” in the mornings (if you have seen Bill Murray’s movie “Stripes,” then you know exactly what my “training” was like), the first person I called was Diana. And, when I heard her voice after not seeing her for what seemed like a million years (when only it had been less than a week), I just knew she would be a part of my life from then on. The key point here (and probably of my entire life) is that I knew at right then and there that Diana was ”the one” ... that special person you can only hope to find in a lifetime (if you’re lucky and I know I was definitely the lucky one) ... that one person you know you were meant/fated to spend the rest of your life with. From what I’ve seen, so many people either “blow it” in their opportunities to be with “the one” person for them ... or they just never are lucky enough to find that special person. And, over the years, Diana and I have come to believe that we have been together (and always managed to find each other) again and again, over several lifetimes.

Diana in the park 070203-thDiana is one of those rare individuals whose gentle spirit warms your heart, mind, and soul. She can ease your mind just by smiling when she knows something is bothering you. And, when the sun backlights her hair, she is a vision of the Greek Goddess that she once was (and still is). Diana is a Crossword Person, something I somehow just can’t “grasp hold of” or understand ... although I can do just about any crossword puzzle in less than a minute by simply scribbling in any combination of letters (even though Diana scoffs at that, it still makes her laugh). I have always made sure Diana has all of the Crossword Puzzle magazines and books (as well as the required monster dictionary) that she needed, so she never runs out.

Before we go any further I need to explain that most certifiably Diana is, in fact, a witch. Well, actually, the reality is that all women are witches. Some just don’t know it or even have a clue about how to use such powers. Many women, however, use their special Witchery Craft Powers for evil, sinister purposes tied to “C” word (i.e., Contemptuous, Condescending, and Crappie all rolled into one package of pure, unmistakable evilness). Now, as for Diana (along with a certain select few, including her sister, the Lovely Linda), Diana is most certainly a Good Witch who uses her powers in special, magical, mystical, mysterious, enchanting, intoxicating, and simply, delightfully, wonderful ways! Once you meet her, you are under her spell ... and that is definitely a good thing!

DSC00288-thDiana and I have forever loved doing jigsaw puzzles together, spending hours just talking and “finding pieces” to go into place. We have exercised and worked out on a regular basis since the 1970s, and we truly believe that is why we are haven’t had any health issues. We loved living near Yosemite National Park for two decades, where we trekked “less traveled” areas so many times I couldn’t even begin to count them. The thing about Diana and me is that we have always worked together on whatever we do. We’re such a team that we intuitively know what each other is going to do ... without the need for even “planning things out” or much discussion ... and we always, always, always work together instead of against each other (like we have seen so many people do, many who feel marriage is more like a competition than working hand in hand with each other). When I needed my spirits picked up, Diana was right there to lead the way ... just as I did those times she needed to be uplifted. I never let her down and she never, ever let me down. We’ve never worked against each other. Everything we have done and accomplished has been a team effort!

Ian - professional photo OCT79-thHere’s what I wrote to Diana when our son, Ian, was born:

May 23, 1976 ... On the matter of having a baby. Yes, I wanted a girl. No, I am not disappointed.

Ian is our baby. You and I made him, like everything else we do together. And, that’s beautiful!

He is healthy, happy (though a bit grumpy looking, but I’m sure that will pass), and he is, quite simply, the joy of our life. What more could we ask for?

d-bday050200-thSo much of that Monday morning, on May 24th, 1976, in Ukiah, California, when I drove home from the hospital with Diana and “a bundle” of Ian on her lap, is still vividly etched in my mind. First of all, the “hospital” was a house that had been converted into a hospital in the 1930s. There were six beds. Forty hours or so earlier when I had driven Diana to the hospital after her water had broken on Saturday evening, the 22nd, it was just the two of us (with Ian inside of Diana, ready to take “center stage”). Now there were three of us! We wondered how our two dogs would react to a “newcomer.” It was interesting that one of the dogs, Pasha, wanted nothing to do with “the kid.” Amy, Pasha’s daughter, who was somewhat of a grumpy dog (the one we thought there might be some problems with), she took up permanent residence near Ian and became his “protector!” She carefully watched every move anyone made anywhere near Ian.

Diana Ian porch Ukiah 77-thThe Friday before Ian was born, Diana had gone to see Dr. Cook for a checkup. She had told him that according to the biorhythm calculations I had done, my prediction was that Ian would be born Sunday morning, the 23rd, at around 8:00 a.m. Dr. Cook just laughed and said, “Having a baby is like when fruit ripens on a tree. When it is ready it will drop off. And, well, it looks to me like you have two more weeks to ... at least.”

Diana hardly slept Friday night ... she didn’t get out of bed Saturday, because she just felt so bad. By evening, she felt like getting up so Annette who worked with me brought over a Mexican Casserole. Diana ate a little bit of it, but you could tell she just wasn’t feeling well. So just after Annette and her logger boyfriend, Wilber (who could eat a dozen eggs for breakfast in one sitting), Diana was sitting on our sofa ... and she quietly said to me, “My water broke!” I still get goose bumps thinking about this moment because it was right then and there I knew, “This is frickin’ it, folks! We’re having a baby!!!!!”

Ian with lamb 1980-THSo I called Annette and she and Wilber met us at the hospital ... Diana would then “go through the night” in labor; all while Annette, Wilber (who absolutely hated “playing this game,” but was a good sport and just kept playing with us), and I played Scrabble ... we played until 6:28 a.m. when Ian’s screams ran out as the first rays of sunlight penciled their way across the floor in the waiting room. There had been another “father to be” waiting that evening with us, but he was nervous as a cat and hardly talked with us. He said, “NO!” to joining us in Scrabble and really kept to himself (we just looked at it like it was his problem, not ours!) ... oh, and it was the best Scrabble night of my life. I had a seven letter word (worth 50 extra points) in three different games. I think we played about a dozen or so games, all while I kept going back and forth to see how Diana was doing ... or, as the nurse said, “resting!” Yea, right, that was a point in time where Diana could really rest!

Ian - first photo - 138 pm 052476-thSo when I saw Dr. Cook right after Ian was born, I said, “So, my biorhythm prediction was right on money, only 90 minutes off target, huh?” He just scoffed and, as he scurried down the hallway (without even looking back at me), said, “Lucky, lucky guess!” Maybe it was luck, but I now have a track record since then of predicting births by charting biorhythms.

Sadly, six weeks later on the 4th of July, Dr. Cook died instantly of a massive heart attack that no one saw coming. He was in his late 30s, playing basketball on the holiday (the first holiday he hadn’t been “on call” in a long time). This was just a few days after the new Ukiah General Hospital was opened. The one Ian was born in was demolished shortly thereafter. I was fortunate enough to run into Dr. Cook just a few days before the tragic day he died and he went out of his way to say, “You know, I’ve looked into Biorhythms and there just might be something to it” ... and, I though that was pretty cool that he did some “homework” to find out more about something I had done that pinpointed the exact day our son would be born. I was also glad to have had a conversation with him about, well, just life in general ... he was a great guy and I’m so glad he was the one who brought into this world ... well, Diana did most of the work!

I took the very first photo of Ian at 1:38 p.m. the day after he was born. He was in the bassinet I had made out of reeds. I mean we are talking about soaking the long strips and then forming them to make the bassinet. It just added yet one more special touch to everything about Ian now being a part of our lives. We still lived in Fresno when I made the bassinet. We had moved to Ukiah not long thereafter, just after Diana’s birthday in 1976 (she had a kidney infection during the final month of her pregnancy so that made the 300 mile move a very interesting experience of making sure we could find “pit stops” when we needed to!). Less than three weeks after getting to Ukiah, Ian was born.

Ian portrait OCT81-thOur life together, for Diana and me, is the essence of a love story ... that is how we both look at it. But, that doesn’t really say it all, because all that we have accomplished and done together, well, we both feel each of us could not have done what we did without the other one being “right there” with support, encouragement, enthusiasm, and optimism every single step of the way. Our life together has been extraordinarily “ordinary,” in that we have done incredibly amazing things, but still we have stayed grounded in “just being happy together,” living life one day at a time and thankful for each additional day given to us as one more gift of yet another day to be together. I truly feel I have led an enchanted life, because of being in the right place at the right time to do so many things most mere mortals never get the chance to do ... but I couldn’t have done any of it, from meeting the President of the United States and being part of the Windows95 Team that quite literally changed the world to helping make TurboTax #1 and the voice of income tax software, without Diana being right there with me.

ian_ed1-thAnd, so, on this occasion of Diana’s birthday and our upcoming 40th wedding anniversary in July, I wanted to “say a little something” about Diana (and us, our life together). I wrote some of what follows for previous anniversaries, but I felt I needed to “fill in some gaps” (as well as “dig out” a bunch of amazing photos) that would then put it all into perspective, here in one place, complete with lots of our most favorite, fabulous, and some even infamous photos.

The bottom line is that I am nothing without Diana ... and I feel so fortunate to  have gotten to live my life with this most amazing and incredibly wonderful person (and enchanting, charismatic Witch) ... who is definitely “the one.”

So, then Diana headed to Spain ...

Diana passport 031370-thIt was one of the most unlikely and probably one of the bravest things Diana Lee Brinkerhoff ever did in her life ... but if she hadn't shown such bold determination, there is no telling what would have happened - for her or “that guy” she was going to see in Madrid, Spain.

Diana - Retero Park Madrid 050770 a-thOn Monday, May 4th, 1970, just two days after celebrating her 21st birthday, Diana boarded one of PanAm's brand new jumbo jets at San Francisco International Airport (after a “wild ride” on the way to make the flight). Twenty hours later, after a long layover in New York and a quick stop in Lisbon, Diana stepped into the bright sunshine in Madrid, Spain ... and into what was about to be a whole new, completely unplanned for life. It was close to noon on Tuesday and I was there to meet her. This just happened to be that infamous and tragic weekend of the Kent State National Guard shootings where four students died.

Just a little over two months later we would be married. But, there is MUCH more to this story in terms of how a marriage that would endure got started ... even from the minute I first saw Diana step off the PanAm jet at the Madrid Airport (there was no jetway). As soon as I saw Diana I just knew I didn’t want her to leave. I wanted to be with her. It was like a bolt of lightning hitting me ... one of those moments in life that you just know exactly what you want, along with what you just know you need to do, even though you have no idea how you will make it happen ... and the odds were definitely against us to “pull off” just having Diana stay in Spain, let alone all that had to be done to “put the pieces of the puzzle together” to get married  ... but we figured it all out each step of the way.

Diana on our apartment balcony AUG70 a-thA couple of days after Diana arrived we were driving to Torrejon Air Force to have lunch with some friends of mine. We were riding in Jim Crow’s 1968 Power Blue Mustang and that is when I matter of factly said, “Diana I want to marry you.” I realized, as I looked over to see a look of shock on Diana’s face (her mouth open just enough for her lips to form a perfect “O” shape), that I hadn’t really asked her to marry me. So I said, “Is that what you want?” She turned to face me, smiled warmly, blinking a few times, and said in the strongest, most convincing and determined voice I’ve ever heard her use (before or since), “Yes, absolutely.” With the help of Susanna Barrio, we found a cozy, furnished apartment in Madrid (for $65 a month that included everything including all utilities, except the phone which we never used).

Now at this point I need to disclose that there are two versions to this story ... you can choose whichever one you want to believe. One version is that I kidnapped Diana so she would have no choice but to stay and marry me. The other version is that Diana got off the plane with a mattress on her back ... I’m sure you can figure out just who is telling which version of the story. But, anyway ...

During all of the planning for Diana’s trip, we had arranged and calculated things for Diana’s visit to be three weeks. Olga, who worked with me in Air Force’s Staff Judge Advocate’s Office (where we worked in offices at the Air Base as well as the American Embassy in Madrid), had told me for weeks that she just knew I wasn’t going to ever let Diana go home once she got here (somehow Olga just knew this!). Perry Foster, one of the lawyers I worked with and became good friends with, immediately “jumped in” to help make everything happen ... it was amazing, because between Perry, me, Diana, and Susanna, we just made it all happen.

And, then I’ll never forget when Perry looked at me, paused, and then said, “You two simply must get married in Buitrago!” It was the most perfect of perfect ideas! Now, Buitrago Del Lozoya was a tiny village in the mountains 60 kilometers to the north of Madrid. Perry rented a house there where we spent weekends and holidays. It was a picturesque, ancient place where everyone got their water from the fountain in the town square. So, to me, it seemed like just the thing to do ... for Diana and I to have a wedding that, to this day, we still feel no one can touch in terms of how magical and unforgettable  the entire experience was. Anyone who attended our wedding still talks about it to this very day. And, any wedding Diana and I have ever attended, well, we don’t really say it out loud, but we just know nothing could ever come close to just how storybook-like and amazingly incredible our entire wedding day was.

Wedding 071170 m - Santa Maria del Castillo-thWe were going to be the first Americans to be married in this village that was over 2,000 years old. And, we were going to be married in the Church of Nuestra Senora del Castillo (built in the 12th century) that was right next to the Roman castle in the heart of the village. And, this scene looked out over the Lozoya High Basin River, across to where many of the bulls were raised for the bull fights in Madrid.

But, in early May of 1970 there much work ahead of us, if we wanted to get married on July 11th (which was the only day the church in the village was available. First, we had to get Diana a visa so she could stay. Fortunately, working in the Legal Department for the Air Force made that task an effortless breeze!. There were several major paperwork obstacles against Americans wanting to get married in Spain, but we tackled and overcame each one. The most interesting aspect of the entire “Diana, stay here and let’s get married in Spain” saga was the final step at the Office of the Bishop of Madrid. I had gotten notarized permission from Diana’s mother to married her. Diana had just turned 21, but the legal age for women to get married in Spain (without parental permission) was 22. I also had to have a notarized statement from my parents saying (and this is the truth!) that they had known me more than ten years and that I had never been married. It would have been effortless to get married at Torrejon Air Base or at the American Embassy in Madrid, but we were determined to actually get married in Spain ... in Buitrago del Lozoya.

Official documentation 071170-thOkay, so we’re at the Office of the Bishop of Madrid. All of the paperwork has been approved and accepted (and rubber stamped several times). So this Brother (or Monk or Priest-in-Training or whatever/whomever he was) with big bushy eyebrows, dressed in an uncomfortable looking brown robe looks at Susanna Barrio over the wire rims of his glasses and in a very animated way, with bushy eyebrows almost dancing above his eyes as he talked, goes into an extremely long explanation about something ... something that Diana and I have no idea about because we didn’t speak Spanish. Susanna,  who was helping and interpreting for us finally turned to me and said, “All of your paperwork to get married has been accepted and now all it needs is approval from the Bishop of Madrid. So he wants to know how much you are going to donate to the church.” Susanna smiled and then looked to the bushy eyebrowed man and then back to Diana and me. This guy just kept smiling politely as he awaited our response to the “matter of the money.”

Libro_de_Famila-thI actually took a step backwards (and I even think some of the air in my lungs found their way out in a long sigh) as I contemplated the fact that our paperwork had been accepted, that we had done everything we needed to do (in such a short period of time) ... and, yet, it came down to the question of money. So, I said, “Okay, well, ask him what he thinks we should donate.”

Susanna smiled again, turned to the man behind the counter with the caterpillar eyebrows, who controlled our destiny at this point and asked the question for me. Again, with bushy eyebrows moving in an “up & down” manner (we were captivated by those eyebrows) like waves as he took his time to explain what he had to say.

Book of Family-thHere is what it came down to for us to get the Libro de Familia (“Book of the Family”) which would be our official record of getting married (one that made it really interesting for me to get the GI Bill once I got out of the Air Force, along with the official document of our marriage that was labeled “Certificacion en Extracto de Inscriptcion de Matrimonio” ... The VA had a real problem translating this Certificate of Marriage Inscription that would allow me to get the GI Bill, but I finally was approved for the $210 per month ... but that would be many months “down the road”). We were then told that the man we passed on our way to this desk as we entered the room had just gotten his paperwork. He had waited three weeks to get it ... he had only donated 50 Pesetas to the church - roughly less than a dollar. Now, to put this all into perspective, this was the Friday before the Sunday that Diana and I were going to be married. There was no room for margin of error at all! But, it turns out, Susanna was told that a man earlier in the day had brought in his paperwork and gotten it approved while he waited. That man had donated 1,000 Pesetas (close to $20.00).

Certification en Extracto Matrimonio-thIt didn’t take me long to “get the point” so to speak and quickly “calculate” exactly what I needed to do so there would certainly be no doubt about us getting our paperwork taken care of right then and there. I looked at Diana and then Susanna in a sly, whimsical kind of way, then leaned over the counter and in my best Spanish (which was really “American-BAD,” but quite understandable) told the man, while moving my eyebrows up and down, Groucho Marks’ style, that we would donate 2,000 Pesetas to the church and handed a “stack of bills” over to him.

It was the biggest grin I had ever seen in my life that he flashed as he quickly pounded one more rubber stamp on our paperwork, signed it with a quite elegant signature, and handed it to me, saying in perfect English, “God bless you, Senior!”

But, it turns out we weren’t quite done yet. Right there at the very last minute we found out (from the dude with the enchanting eyebrows) that we would also need to “take care of things” for the Civil Ceremony. We hadn’t heard anything about this. But, since we were getting married in Spain, we would be having a religious and a Civil Ceremony. That meant one final stop to the Provost Marshall’s Office where we paid the outrageous sum of 50 Pesetas to have a state official attend our wedding as a witness to validate it (for which he handed us this pink official looking certificate, hand typed to the point of the “o” letters actually poked holes in the paper). And, it is worth noting, that right after our wedding ceremony, we had to go into the Priest’s Chambers at the back of the church, BEFORE doing anything else, to sign the paperwork to “seal the deal” for the Civil Ceremony that this man, of course, witnessed to make it all legal ... and which, we were told, there was no “getting out of it” after that point. The real upside of having this state official attend our wedding (besides him being the life of the party at the celebration “up on the hill” at the Meson Inn after our wedding) was that he offered to bring our wedding cake from Madrid.

The four layer wedding cake, by the way, cost $6.00 and it was enough for the big crowd of people who attended our wedding (including many from the village and surrounding area who came to see “what those Americans were doing getting married” ... it surprised us just how many people were interested to see just what was going on ... and, they certainly enjoyed the feast, too). The cost to feed everyone a hearty meal with the definite medieval touch we “added in” to make things even more special (we had beef, chicken, venison, pork, and everything else you could possibly imagine, along with all kinds of heavenly, tasty, tasty breads) came to a whopping $137! The owner of the Meson apologized for the “cost overruns,” because he had originally told us he could do it for less than $100 ... when I gave him the equivalent of $200 and hold him we were very, very happy, I swear at first he almost had a heart attack, but then as he thanked us (complete with a kiss on the cheek and a bear hug that quite literally took my breath away as he shook me like a rag doll), he shook my hand so vigorously that I was sure he was going to dislocate my shoulder ... all as he quickly stuffed the money in his pocket and offered to pour us a glass of wine! Diana’s miniskirt, laced wedding dress (that had come from the most expensive Bridal Shop in Madrid and that Father Don Francisco absolutely loved!) cost the grand total of $12. My handmade Edwardian suit was the “outrageous sum” of $45.

When I asked what Father Don Francisco wanted as a fee for the wedding, he said only that we wanted us to send him post cards from “around the world” ... which we did!

But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself in this story ... let’s get back to the “real deal” about this wedding in Spain, 60 kilometers to the north of Madrid in Buitrago del Lozoya ...

NEXT: A Marriage in Spain ... Two Lives Become One