Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Third great love inspires "Kiss" contemplation

The writer, left, and her partner, Bruce William Keller.
Secure in Cookie's love for him, he realizes that her
two late husbands, Bruce and Billy, are part of her life.
     PHOTOS vintage and By Bruce Keller
    THIS VALENTINE'S week, with "The Kiss" statue back in San Diego, I'm taking a cue from a holiday at the other end of the year, Thanksgiving.
       How fortunate am I to have had three great loves. True, I lost two much loved husbands to illness. "The B Boys," as my baby sister Robbie called them, were Bruce and Billy.
     No one thinks her love will drop dead.  If I'd known two husbands would die and disappear from the planet but not my heart, would I have said "I do" twice? I would. Damn straight.
Love is larger than life in "The Kiss,"
whose arrival in San Diego inspired
an homage to three men  Cookie has loved.

Better to have loved and lost (and other time- honored cliches.)  Besides, I'm one lucky dame. Lucky for having known these two magnificent men.  That we bumped into one another at all is a wonder.  That we romped, read, shared, danced, dined, traveled and teased together is a miracle.
     The "glass half empty" take would have me draped in black, a grumpy dowager in a wicker rocker tossing stale bread to birdies. Growing fat on cheesecake and cheap sherry. Reading Jane Austen for the fifth time.
The photo that inspired the sculpture
that inspired this column.
    BUT I AM a Montana girl.  I got back on the horse. First in 1992 after losing Bruce to an aneurysm.  Next in 2005 after Bill died of cancer. The first horse took me to Billy.  The second led me to Bruce William Keller.
     A little history:
      "Husband the first," as my family says, was Bruce Kemp Meyers, born in Ohio, only son of an only son of an only son.
     "Husband second not lesser" was William Dennis
Jones, native Arizonan, also an only son.
The writer with her second husband, William Dennis Jones,
 in Portugal. The pair commuted between Arizona and
Montana for 11 years before Billy's death in 2005.

 Bruce and I were married in the shadow of Woodstock and the Moon Landing.  We courted at a nightclub atop the Billings Rimrocks, shared a passion for cruising, hiked the Rockies, toured Europe multiple times on Eurail passes, took harrowing trips in his forest green Road Runner.  He drove "the green beast" (my nickname, not his!) 30 or 40 miles over the speed limit, including a two-day marathon to Cleveland one sweltering summer, making it to the shores of Lake Erie in 30 whiz-bang hours.
     WE HAD nearly 23 action-packed, theater-filled years together, traveling the world, acting and singing in plays and musicals to save a vintage Montana theater.  He was my poetry professor and I learned the craft from him. He played a mean Gibson guitar -- blues, country and original songs -- while I played saxophone, piano, violin and harmonica.  He was a brilliant photographer, illustrating my travel articles as Bruce Keller now does.  Billy wrote poetry, too, and was a fine watercolor painter.  Where Bruce encouraged my poetry, Billy urged me to take up the brushes.  We booked back-roads bike and painting treks in New England and conducted poetry and painting workshops in Provence, Tuscany and the Caribbean.  Both Bruce and Billy were fabulous dancers. Lucky for this lifelong hoofer.
The writer with her first husband, Bruce Kemp Meyers, on the QEII.

     Billy and I had half as long as Bruce and I -- just over 11 years together, also traveling, painting, cruising the world, writing music together. Making one another laugh.
    IN FREQUENT forays into the literature of grief, I read that if one has experienced a long successful relationship, one usually yearns for another. I have the ashes of "the B Boys" in two beautiful porcelain urns created by my brother Rick. I'm in no hurry to fill a third urn. There may not be a third "I do".  But I have a delightful partner in Bruce William Keller.
     If you've noticed the repetition of certain names, you're a savvy reader.
     Keller's full handle contains the names of both husbands.  Thus the "Keller" moniker. Or "Bruce the Second" as the clan says.
     Thank goodness his last name is a sensible two syllables, not some six-syllable, multi-consonant, tongue-tying moniker.
     When we were introduced in 2007, I nearly fainted.  "Really? Your first name is really Bruce?" I sputtered. "And your middle name is William. You're kidding." Cautiously, he confirmed this double irony. My knees buckled.  Noticing my pallor and collapse in the nearest chair, he
asked politely why his perfectly decent first and middle names upset me so. I told him. "Well, it looks as if Bruce and William are both taken," he opined. "Keller sounds great to me."
Cookie, Keller sailing -- he accompanies her to the theatre; she learned to sail. 
     WHAT A GUY! The rest is history. My family adores Keller.  None of us will forget our time with Bruce or Billy.  But this smart, secure fellow stepped into two tall shadows and made his own place in our hearts. While Bruce and Billy were professional writers -- a college professor and film critic -- Keller is an oceanographer and chief building contractor.  He creates art from lumber, paint and a vivid blend of imagination and horse sense. We sail Mission Bay together.  We've been to Europe many times and have more trips planned.  We explored the Middle East, where he spent two years diving and researching on the Red Sea. We've cruised the Caribbean, Far East and South America. We've collaborated on travel and arts articles. (His gorgeous photos
illustrate this website!  He has his painter mother's eye for composition and color.) He is kind, compassionate and loves yorkies Nick and Nora.  And, yes, he loves to dance, too!
KELLER IS responsible for getting my novel, "Lilian's Last Dance" out of a dusty box of floppy discs and onto bookshelves.
Keller's part in Cookie's novel
Cookie and Keller at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
     Taking a page from that great guru of the '70s, Baba Ram Dass, I'm trying to "Be Here Now."  To be grateful for my health, loved ones and this engaging man.  To appreciate the moment  -- right now, a splendid, sun-dappled San Diego afternoon with hummingbirds out the window and Yorkies at my feet.
     WHAT ARE the odds I'd find a third guy willing to see eight plays in five days with me?  We'll be soaking up a theater marathon later this month at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the puppies in tow, the dog-friendly Ashland Springs Hotel home for five days of play-going
      When "The Kiss" is dedicated in San Diego this Saturday, I'll be there.  This new bronze, inspired by the famous 1945 Life magazine photo of a sailor kissing a nurse, tells me that plenty of people out there want to honor romance and keep it alive.  The 10 a.m. ceremony will dedicate the bronze, and acknowledge the sentimental San Diegans who chipped in over $1 million after an earlier, much loved statue was returned to its owner. Keller and I will be holding hands, maybe having a wee smooch ourselves!
         Coming Saturday:   A tale of a beloved mother and sister love set against a rollicking European tour at  whereiscookie.com
We publish each weekend, remembering to explore, learn and live!


  1. Nashville Arts LoversMay 24, 2017 at 6:13 PM

    This touches so many hearts...... a friend just sent me the link and I am now signed up for these magnificent "Cookie and Keller" posts. What a gift.

  2. Somehow I missed this on the first go-round. Amazing life you've had -- and continue to enjoy! Thanks for inspiring me.

  3. You give me hope and make me laugh.