Over a game of darts at Kittens, a romance begins

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 7:45am

My parents first took my sister and me to Block Island in 1977 to vacation with some family friends who were renting a house overlooking Old Harbor. Over the years, it became a tradition that they and two other families from our hometown in New York would plan rental trips that coincided every summer, until we had grown older, and our parents finally decided to purchase their own getaway at Southwest Point.

I moved around a bit after attending college in upstate New York — first to North Carolina, then South Carolina, and then New Jersey where I found work doing PR and graphic design for the mayor of a small town straddling the Turnpike, and for the businesses that comprise its Chamber of Commerce.

By this point I was in my 30s, and twice a year, usually in May and September, I would bring a group of my New Jersey friends, including an old fraternity buddy of mine from Colgate, on a guys’ fishing trip to my parents’ Block Island retreat.

We began this tradition in 2004. In May 2011 we returned, and on the day that the Mayans had predicted the world would end, we struck out on all of the striped bass, bluefish, and mackerel we thought the Coast Guard Channel would offer us, and finally resolved to do what we believed most would, with the pending apocalypse upon us, and grabbed a few beers and some clam chowder at The Oar. We had intended to grill out back at the house, but since it was such a pleasant evening, we had dinner at Poor People’s Pub instead, and then went to Yellow Kittens for some darts.

While playing we were approached by a group of ladies our age who were on the island enjoying their own annual escape. They joined our game. We bought each other drinks. The most outspoken struck up a conversation with my old friend and he told her that I was single. She mused that she had a friend on the Rhode Island mainland, an elementary school librarian, who was single as well.

It evolved into a playful fantasy in which they would introduce us, we’d hit it off, and they would be Best Man and Maid of Honor at our eventual wedding. The yarn and our game of darts continued until the Yellow Kittens staff announced last call, and we went our separate ways.

Weeks later I was cleaning my small apartment in New Jersey when my friend called and said, “You’ll never guess who’s asking for your number.”

“Who,” I asked, preoccupied with cleaning.

“That girl’s friend — the one we met on Block Island.”

By this point I had accepted that I would remain single for the rest of my life.

“You know what? Just give me her number,” I said. “Nothing’s going to come of it.”

He did and I called her immediately, with no reservations, assuming that the call would be brief and that nothing indeed would come of it.

The friend of hers, who was surreptitiously introducing us was with her at the time, but urging her not to answer my call, evoking the hard-to-get strategy.

Donna did answer, believing as I did that at best the conversation would consist of some trivial fun and that would be that.

“Hi Donna,” I said when she answered. “This is Ron. Your fiancée.”

Donna and I spoke for three hours or so, laughing and offering each other a synopsis of our lives going back the past 40 years. We exchanged email addresses, and in the evenings, weeks, and month that followed, we communicated routinely, sharing favorite movie lists, pictures of ourselves, and a mutual zeal for life and experience that our age had not dampened.

She suggested we meet in person some time. I told her that, as fate would have it, I had a friend who was getting married in Asheville, N.C., and that she could come with me. She kindly pointed out that a more casual venue might make for a more comfortable introduction, and so on June 18 I drove to Rhode Island and joined her for a night on the town in Newport.

We had a great time together, and felt so natural and relaxed in each other’s company that she agreed to come with me to my friend’s wedding. So I booked the best hotel room I could find at The Bohemian, across from the Biltmore Estate. Over that weekend, amidst the serene Blue Ridge settings and quaint downtown area, and among my old Charleston friends who immediately found her endearing, it felt as if there had never been a moment in my life when I hadn’t been with her.

We were dating.

From that summer in 2011, through the end of 2014, Donna and I sustained what would otherwise be an arduous routine, were it not for our tacit determination to be together — driving back and forth every weekend, one or the other, between Rhode Island and New Jersey. But amidst the difficult commutes we gradually introduced each other to our favorite eateries, landmarks, attractions, taverns, and downtown areas — and to our friends. Over time we became integrated with each other’s families, and shared holidays at their homes and at our family escapes — my parents’ on Block Island, and her family’s cabin in Speculator, N.Y. We treated each other to weekend escapes at Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, and in Brunswick, Maine — in Boston, Manhattan, Florida, Washington D.C., and Virginia. She virtually destroyed a Jeep Liberty. I absolutely destroyed a Ford Explorer.

In 2014, we knew that we wanted to live together. With no real plan agreed upon she applied for three teaching jobs in New Jersey and was offered all of them. I asked if she genuinely wanted to uproot herself — to leave her family and friends in Rhode Island, and she said no, so I told her I would move to Rhode Island, with little more plan than we had started with.

My employer, upon learning that I was leaving, told me he was willing to keep me on as a consultant, and that I could continue to work part-time for the town as a graphic designer and promoter from my new home in Warwick, R.I., to which I moved in January 2015.

Once I had become settled there, Donna and I wasted little time in adopting a dog, Tucker, our beloved 125-pound Great Dane/Coonhound rescue. He is family now. He sits with me while I do my work for the administration and businesses of Carteret, N.J., and has joined us on all of our adventures including several to Donna’s cabin in the Adirondacks. We bring him to our neighbors’ backyard barbeques and to my parents’ house in Somers, N.Y. when we visit them. He was with us when I asked Donna to join me for a walk out to Sandy Point, Block Island, where I knelt and finally asked her to be the chorus to the song of my life — to be my wife — on Nov. 7, 2015. She said yes, with Tucker as my witness, and the North Light serving as our backdrop.

Donna and I were married on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Providence. Chubs (Eric Chubenko), my Colgate buddy, was my Best Man, Donna’s brothers my groomsmen, and Anne Clawson, Donna’s friend who helped introduce us, and who is now one of my closest friends, was a groomswoman. Donna’s sisters, sisters-in-law, and niece comprised the bridal party.